Today Russia had its voting rights restored at PACE, the parliamentary arm of the Council of Europe – a separate structure from the EU that focuses on democracy and human rights.
Russia’s voting rights were suspended in March 2014 over Crimea. It took Russia three years to stop paying into an organization where it didn’t even have a voice. By May 2019, its payments boycott raised the risk of Russia being ejected from the Council of Europe, joining Belarus as the only outsider on the European continent. So this issue had to be resolved in a hurry.
Reinstatement of Russia’s voting rights was driven by practical concerns:
- Russia’s payments amounted to $33 million Euros per year, or 7% of the organization’s budget. Not a critical consideration, but “nice to have.”
- The Europeans don’t want to drive Russia away from Europe, and as Macron warned, potentially sidle up even closer to China.
- Bryan Macdonald argues that many EU states are not so keen on the Ukraine (“seen as a US/NATO project”) and “Ukraine’s election of Zelensky/rejection of hardline Poroshenko path.”
I am personally not a huge fan of the Council of Europe, and question the utility of Russia’s membership in it. Russia cedes massive judicial authority and considerable cultural influence to a foreign body that answers to states whose geopolitical stances are not aligned with, and often opposed to, Russia’s (though the Russian Constitutional Court has at least made it clear that it retains ultimate judicial sovereignty in Russia). While one might argue that Russia benefits from European institutional influence in countering its own problems with human rights and a corrupt judiciary, there is nothing stopping Russia from solving those problems through pressure from its own civil society and by leaning on its (pre-Soviet) liberal-conservative philosophical traditions, which are fully compatible with rule of law and human rights. Meanwhile, it is absolutely irrelevant to the actually important question of European sanctions, which are completely outside the remit of the Council of Europe.
Yet if there is one silver lining to this, it is that the usual democratists are besides themselves, accusing the Europeans of “selling out” to PUTLER. While the Ukrainians were so triggered that they actually fulfilled their promise to suspend their own participation in PACE. The mad lads.