20 years of Russia’s membership in the Council of Europe: outcomes, controversies, the fate of the contributions to the budget of the COE
What is the Council of Europe?
The Council of Europe (COE) is the oldest intergovernmental organization in the region, founded in 1949 to promote cooperation in the areas of legal standards, human rights, democratic development, the rule of law and cultural cooperation. In the CE of the 47 States in which there are more than 800 million people.
The main bodies of the COE Committee of Ministers and the parliamentary Assembly (PACE).
When and how Russia became a member of the organization?
The Russian Federation has applied for membership in the Council of Europe on 7 may 1992. The procedure was stopped in February 1995 in connection with the conflict in Chechnya. In September 1995, the Russian Federation has begun the search for a political settlement of the conflict, the procedure was resumed.
In January 1996, PACE voted positively on Russia’s request for membership in the Council of Europe. On 28 February 1996 Russia became a member of the organization.
Negotiations and coordination of conditions of participation of Russia in activities of the COE took place, when the post of Minister of foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation was occupied with Andrey Kozyrev. The introductory signature under documents was put Yevgeny Primakov, who replaced Kozyrev in this position in January 1996.
What are the terms of Russia’s participation in the COE?
When joining the Council of Europe Russia has committed to bring its legislation and political system in line with European standards and have agreed to verification of those commitments.
According to the Chairman of the Federation Council Committee on international Affairs Konstantin Kosachev, membership in the Council of Europe responds to the national interests of the Russian Federation, but Russia accepted commitments were largely discriminatory and unnecessary.
Many of the CE States, unlike Russia, did not assume such wide responsibilities. For example, the country-founder of the COE great Britain and Belgium ratified some documents (in particular, the Protocol 6 on the abolition of the death penalty 1983 and the European Charter of local self-government 1985) only in the late 1990s – early 2000-ies.
How Russia interacts with the Council of Europe?
Since 1996 representatives of Russia actively participated in five major formats of cooperation with the COE: intergovernmental (Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe); inter-parliamentary (the parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe); inter-regional (Congress of local and regional authorities of the Council of Europe); judicial (European court of human rights), non-governmental organizations (Conference of international NGOs of the Council of Europe).
Russia joined 60 of the 219 Council of Europe conventions, including the Convention for the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms (with the exception of Protocol 6 on abolishing the death penalty; Russia has a moratorium since 1997), as well as to the conventions relating to the protection of national minorities, prevention of torture, local government, etc.
According to the Deputy foreign Minister Alexei Meshkov, Russia “joined the legal acts that represent our country’s real interest”, joining the Council of Europe gave Russia the opportunity to participate actively in the drafting of the conventions.
How were the relations of Russia with the parliamentary Assembly?
The implementation of the obligations entered into by the Council of Europe the country is following PACE.
Over the years, the Assembly has repeatedly expressed claims to Russia on different occasions – from a lack of legally abolishing the death penalty before the military operations in the Caucasus and Russia’s recognition of independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, the question was raised about the restriction or suspension of powers of the Russian delegation to PACE.
One of the most acute issues – the removal from Russia of the monitoring of obligations. Russian MPs believe that fulfilled most of the conditions of membership in the Council of Europe. At the PACE new demands and insist on checking their performance.
The relationship between Russia and the PACE intensified after the return of Crimea in structure of Russia. In April 2014 the Russian delegation was deprived of voting rights, excluded from the governing bodies of the PACE and was suspended from work in the missions of observers. In January 2015, the sanctions were extended until April 2015. The delegation of the Russian Federation adopted decision on termination of participation in the activities of the Assembly until the end of 2015, and then refused to participate in the January session 2016.
According to the head of the Russian delegation in PACE Alexei Pushkov, full cooperation with the Council of Europe cannot be achieved without establishing contacts with the parliamentary Assembly.
How much to pay Russia and many other members of the COE to the organization’s budget?
The activities of the Council of Europe is financed by the governments of all States members of the organization. The budget is at the expense of their contributions in proportion to the population and taking into account the level of economic development. Membership fees of the countries are financing the entire structure of the COE (Committee of Ministers, PACE, ECHR and of the Congress of local and regional authorities), as well as PACE programs aimed at the protection of human rights and adherence to the principles of democracy consisting in the Council of Europe countries. Russia is among the ten largest donors to the organization.
In 2015 the General budget of the COE was €373 million, Russia paid €32.2 million (France — €38 million, Germany and Italy — €35 million, UK — €31.8 mln, Spain — €21 million, Turkey — €13 million, the Netherlands — €11 million, Poland — €8.2 million, Switzerland — €7.5 million).
In 2016 the total budget of the COE – €442,2 million. Russia’s contribution is €32.8 million Euro. In previous years the membership fee was paid to Russia as a whole. This year it can be split into parts: it is expected that in February 2016, Russia will pay a third of the amount, and will continue to act on the situation.