Russia starts procedure for exit from Council of Europe

Russia decided on Tuesday to leave the Council of Europe, accusing NATO and the European Union of making it an instrument in the service of “their military-political and economic expansion in the East”, on the twentieth day of the invasion of Ukraine. by Russian troops. “Notice of the withdrawal of the Russian Federation from the organization” was delivered to its Secretary-General Marija Pejcinovic Buric on Tuesday, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement. A report that was well received by Marija Pejcinovic Buric, confirms Daniel Höltgen, spokesman for the Council of Europe.

Only Belarus was not there

Founded in 1949, this watchdog of human rights in Europe brought together almost all the states of the continent, 47 in total, including Russia since 1996, and Ukraine since 1995. Only Belarus, an ally of Moscow, was not a theirs.

“Those who force us to take this step will bear full responsibility for the destruction of the common humanitarian and judicial space on the continent and the consequences for the Council of Europe itself, which without Russia will lose its pan-European status,” he said. the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

End ECHR protection for Russians

The main concrete consequence of this withdrawal is that the 145 million Russians can no longer benefit from the protection of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), the judiciary of the Council of Europe, the last resort against arbitrariness. in their country.

Moscow is indeed the main supplier of cases to the ECtHR: more than 24% of the cases currently pending before the judicial branch of the Council concern Russia, with certain emblematic cases, such as that of opponent Alexei Navalny. In its statement, Russian diplomacy rightly accuses the institutions of the Council of Europe, including the ECtHR, of having been “systematically used to put pressure on Russia and meddle in its internal affairs”.

Moscow already suspended since the start of the war

Moscow had already been banned from the Council the day after the invasion of Ukraine on February 24. And several Russian officials had hinted late last week that Moscow was preparing to leave the Council of Europe permanently, but no formal request had been made until then.

For example, the Parliamentary Assembly of the institution (PACE) still met on Monday and Tuesday to decide on the possible exclusion of Russia from the organization, given the “serious violations of the Statute of the Council of Europe” committed with the invasion of Ukraine. .

The Council of Europe deprived of 7% of its annual budget

Russia preferred to take the lead, announcing itself that it was slamming the door, before facing the humiliation of a lockout. As a not negligible consequence, this departure of Russia will deprive the Council of Europe of almost 7% of its annual budget, about EUR 500 million. “This announcement is cynical on the part of Russia,” said Lisa Yasko, a member of the Ukrainian delegation to PACE.

“They think they can save their reputation, but the whole world knows the crimes they commit. It’s so funny that this announcement comes hours before Russia is banned by the organization anyway. This should have happened sooner, but there is no tool powerful enough in this organization to stop Russia’s crimes. We are living a dramatic page in our history and my country is paying a very high price,” he said.

The second time such a scenario occurs

“It’s a crude maneuver to try to minimize what we vote on,” said Nicole Trisse, head of the French delegation and vice president of PACE. “Yet 46 nations are debating and there is unanimity for the exclusion of Russia: it never happened, it is unprecedented since the creation of the Council of Europe.”

This is the second time the institution has faced such a scenario: Greece had indeed acted in the same way and had left the Council before being expelled from it in 1969 under the dictatorial regime of the colonels. She had rejoined him in 1974.

As early as 2014, Russian MPs sitting in PACE were disenfranchised after Russia’s annexation of Crimea. After five years of intense tension, the Russian delegation was able to rejoin PACE in 2019, much to the chagrin of Ukrainian parliamentarians. The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe will meet on Wednesday to decide the situation.