Statement by the Secretary General of the Parliamentary Assembly

Following numerous requests, I have decided to clarify for all those interested the situation in the Parliamentary Assembly with respect to the parliamentary delegation of the Russian Federation.

1. In April 2014 and subsequently in January 2015, the Parliamentary Assembly considered challenging the credentials of the Russian parliamentary delegation as a result of Russia’s annexation of Crimea. On both occasions the Assembly – following the debates and votes – decided not to deprive the Russian delegation of its credentials but to deprive the Russian parliamentarians of certain of their rights in the Assembly, including voting rights.

2. All national parliaments are obliged by the Statute of the Council of Europe to submit credentials of their delegations at the opening of each Ordinary Session of the Assembly, and in line with the current regulations, credentials have to be submitted every January. Non-submission of credentials in time before the opening of the Ordinary Session automatically eliminates a delegation from the Assembly during the whole year – i.e. until January of the next year.

3. Any “sanctions” imposed by the Assembly against a national parliamentary delegation may remain in force no longer than the opening of the subsequent Ordinary Session (i.e. the following January).

4. In 2014 and 2015 – following the Assembly’s decision to deprive the Russian parliamentary delegation of certain rights – members of the Russian delegation decided to suspend their participation in the Assembly’s work.

5. In January 2016, January 2017 and January 2018, the Parliament of the Russian Federation decided not to submit credentials for its delegation to the Assembly. Consequently – as a result of these decisions by the Russian Parliament - there has been no Russian delegation in the Assembly since January 2016. Since this date, there have therefore been no “sanctions” against the Russian delegation and the absence of the Russian delegation has been a result of its own decision.

6. Russian parliamentarians have in several statements declared that their delegation would come back to the Assembly only after the Assembly decides to delete from its Rules of Procedure all provisions which could lead to a challenge of credentials of national delegations and possible sanctioning of national delegations.

7. In the last report of the Assembly’s Committee on Rules of Procedure, prepared by Ms Petra de Sutter, provisions were included which, if adopted, would have required higher majorities for future decision of the Assembly concerning challenges to credentials. Furthermore, there was a proposal to exclude from the list of possible sanctions voting rights in relation to the elections of personalities by the Assembly (judges to the European Court of Human Rights, Commissioner for Human Rights, Secretary General, Deputy Secretary General, and Secretary General of the Parliamentary Assembly). However, in view of political divisions which became apparent during the debate on 9 October 2018, and once it became clear the text would not reach the requisite majority to pass, the rapporteur asked the Assembly not to proceed with the adoption of the report, but to send it back to the Committee with a view to reviewing the text. This proposal to send the text back to the Committee was adopted by a clear majority.

8. The next meeting of the Rules Committee is foreseen for 10 December 2018 in Paris. Its agenda will include the re-consideration of the report of Ms de Sutter.

9. During the last 70 years the Assembly has been extremely cautious when considering the non-ratification of credentials, and it has been extremely reluctant to turn down credentials. This has happened only twice – in respect of the delegations of Greece in 1969 and Turkey in 1981 – even if credentials of several delegations were challenged several times during this period. Deprivation of some of the rights of national delegations has happened only three times in the history of the Assembly – each time with respect to the delegation of the Russian Federation (2000, 2014 and 2015). It is also worth remembering that the parliamentary delegation of Cyprus was absent from the Assembly for 18 years from 1965 to 1983.