5 Feb 2019 13:43

Finland ready to mediate between Russia and PACE, says both sides should look for compromise - Finnish MP

MOSCOW. Feb 5 (Interfax) - Finland, which currently chairs the Council of Europe (CoE) Committee of Ministers, will try to help find a way out of the deadlock in relations between Russia and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), but both sides need to be ready to compromise, said Matti Vanhanen, the chairperson of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Finnish parliament.

"During its Council of Europe presidency, Finland is trying to do everything it can to find some solution to this situation," Vanhanen said at a meeting with Russian Federation Council Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Konstantin Kosachyov and the chamber's deputy speaker, Ilyas Umakhanov.

"We tried to find a possible solution to this issue at the Geneva conference, and we will continue this work," he said in response to Kosachyov's remark that Russia hopes for assistance from Finland, to break the deadlock in relations between Russia and PACE.

Kosachyov also said that Russia insists on changing PACE's rules of procedure to prevent restrictions on member states' rights such as those that have been applied to the Russian delegation.

According to Vanhanen, the problem is that even if the CoE Committee of Ministers can find a way out, a final decision will have to be adopted by the whole of PACE, whose members have different opinions on this matter.

Finland is doing its best to sort out this situation, he said.

Another problem is Russia's non-payment of its CoE membership fees, Vanhanen said.

"I have been informed that Russia thinks that the Council of Europe should pay something to Russia, not the other way round. And I can only advise that it would probably be useful for Russia to approach the issue of these membership fee very pragmatically," he said.

"A deadlock is usually resolved by each side agreeing to some compromise," Vanhanen said.

The Russian delegation was deprived of its voting rights in April 2014 over Crimea's unification with Russia and the situation in Ukraine. In January 2015, PACE extended the sanctions, preventing the Russian delegation from participating in the Assembly's ruling bodies and monitoring missions.

The Russian delegation refused to attend Assembly sessions, which take place four times a year, and conditioned its return on the full restoration of its powers and on adjustments to PACE rules to prevent infringements of the rights of national delegations in the future. In that connection, in 2017, Moscow suspended the payment of its contributions to the Council of Europe.

State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin told Interfax that Russia will not return to PACE and will not resume paying its membership fee to the Council of Europe if PACE does not restore the Russian national delegation's rights in full.

CoE Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland said in fall 2018 that Russia's rights to be represented at the CoE's statutory bodies will be suspended in June 2019 unless it resumes payments to the CoE.