Council of Europe (CoE)
Comment by the Information and Press Department on the upcoming visit of Secretary General of the Council of Europe Thorbjorn Jagland
On June 19-21, Secretary General of the Council of Europe Thorbjorn Jagland will be in Russia on a working visit. On June 20, he will hold talks with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
The officials will discuss prospects for cooperation between Russia and the Council of Europe. The agenda also includes the ongoing crisis in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), interaction between Russia and the European Court of Human Rights, the humanitarian aspects of the situation in Ukraine and the Baltic countries and Russia’s involvement in the Council’s international treaties and bilateral industry-specific projects, in particular in the spheres of law, education and sports. The unofficial meeting of the sports ministers held on the opening day of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia jointly with the Council of Europe deserves special mention.
Russia is ready to continue to work within the Council of Europe as an independent international organisation of European nations that is using its unique system of conventions to maintain the integrity of Europe’s legal and humanitarian space. Russia’s continued work within the Council is stipulated in Russia’s Foreign Policy Concept, which was approved by presidential executive order on November 30, 2016.
The priorities set out in President Vladimir Putin’s Address to the Federal Assembly delivered on March 1, 2018 are consistent with the goals of the fundamental treaties of the Council of Europe. These include improving social well-being and the quality of life and strengthening democratic institutions, local governments, civil society institutions and courts.
The main distinguishing feature of the Council of Europe is a ramified system of binding multilateral treaties. They set out European legal standards in a broad range of spheres, including guarantees of human rights and freedoms, a ban on torture, the rule of law, local governments, social well-being, the fight against terrorism and corruption, the protection of personal data, as well as culture, healthcare, sports and education.
Russia has ratified 65 conventions and protocols out of the 224 Council of Europe legal documents, including the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, the European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the European Social Charter and the European Cultural Convention.
In 2017-2018, Russia ratified six important Council of Europe documents, including the Convention on an Integrated Safety, Security and Service Approach at Football Matches and Other Sports Events, the Convention on Laundering, Search, Seizure and Confiscation of the Proceeds from Crime and on the Financing of Terrorism, and the Convention on the Counterfeiting of Medical Products and Similar Crimes Involving Threats to Public Health (Medicrime Convention).
The MEDICRIME Convention is a perfect example of Russia’s involvement in the development of norms and standards of concern to all European countries. The initiative on this convention was advanced during Russia’s Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe (CMCE) in 2006. The convention opened for signature in Moscow on October 28, 2011, and is unofficially referred to as the Moscow Convention. Russia completed the ratification of the MEDICRIME Convention on March 20, 2018, when Healthcare Minister Veronika Skvortsova presented the Council of Europe’s Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland with a document on the ratification of the Convention.
Russia has signed another 15 Council of Europe treaties but has not yet ratified them, including the Convention on the Manipulation of Sports Competitions, the Convention against Trafficking in Human Organs, and the Additional Protocol to the Council of Europe Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism aimed at tackling the problem of “foreign terrorist fighters.”
A unique geographical span is another major element of the Council of Europe. This truly pan-European organisation comprises 47 member states.
Russia joined the Council of Europe on February 28, 1996, becoming the 39th member state. Over the 22 years since then, Russia has covered a long path towards building a state ruled by law by reforming the national legislation and law enforcement practice.
Russia has regular contacts with senior officials from the Secretariat of the Council of Europe. Secretary General of the Council of Europe Thorbjørn Jagland has visited Russia on a number of occasions, including his working visits in October 2015, December 2016 and October 2017.
Russia is currently actively involved in all the entities of the Council of Europe, except for its Parliamentary Assembly (PACE). Unfortunately, CE’s parliamentary dimension was taken hostage by a rather small, albeit well-organised, group of people representing anti-Russia forces.
Seeking to express its concern over the deepening crisis within PACE, the Russian Federation decided not to pay its contributions to the Council of Europe for 2017 until the delegation of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation is fully and unconditionally restored in its rights within the Parliamentary Assembly. At the same time, the Russian Federation remains proactive within the Council of Europe, and continues to honour its commitments under conventions it has acceded to.
For more details on this subject see the Foreign Ministry Statement of June 30, 2017 and the Comment made by the Information and Press Department of July 10, 2017.
On March 29, 2018, the Foreign Ministry held the 21st regular meeting of the Inter-Agency Commission of the Russian Federation for the Council of Europe, chaired by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. The meeting brought together representatives of all branches of power, interested ministries and agencies. Those at the meeting reaffirmed their commitment to keeping up and enhancing ties with the Council of Europe.
Russia values highly the potential of the Council of Europe as a centre of expertise, and seeks to step up cooperation in a number of specialised areas, including legal training, fighting corruption, education, women’s rights, youth policy and in a number of other fields.
The Russian Federation is a proactive member of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, works with the Conference of INGOs, is active within the Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism – MONEYVAL and the Committee of Experts on Terrorism.
Russia takes part in nine autonomous sectoral organisations within the Council of Europe that can be viewed as satellite organisations: the Open Partial Agreement on the Prevention of, Protection against and Organization of Relief in Major Natural and Technological Disasters, Co-operation Group to Combat Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking in Drugs (Pompidou Group), the European Audiovisual Observatory, the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission), the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO), the Enlarged Partial Agreement on Sport (EPAS), the Enlarged Partial Agreement of Cultural Routes, the European Support Fund for the Co-Production and Distribution of Creative Cinematographic and Audiovisual Works (Eurimages), as well as the European Pharmacopoeia as an observer.
Russia marked the twentieth anniversary of its accession to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms in May 2018. The European Court for Human Rights (ECHR) is the cornerstone of the convention as its control mechanism. Russia has vast experience in executing its rulings, and maintains regular business-like contacts with ECHR.
Russia seeks to ensure that ECHR plays a subsidiary role with respect to the national judiciary, believing that strict compliance with its jurisdiction, making its rulings as well as decision-making politics-free, intelligible and reasonable should be at the centre of any ECHR decision.