MOSCOW, October 2 (Dan Peleschuk, RIA Novosti)
In a sternly-worded and wide-ranging report, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) accused Russia of arbitrary intervention in its neighbors’ affairs and eroding democracy at home, prompting an angry response from top Russian officials.
“The overall state of democracy in Russia raises concern and progress in the fulfillment of the country’s obligations and commitments is slow,” the draft resolution said. “A matter of particular concern over the reporting period was the restrictive political climate, which was harmful for a meaningful political dialogue and the free expression of public opinion.”
The report calls for the release of three imprisoned members of feminist punk group Pussy Riot and advocates the repeal of recently-passed laws upping fines for public order offences at rallies and defamation, which critics claim are intended to stifle dissent.
Highlighting Russia’s international obligations since joining the Council of Europe in 1996, the report condemns Moscow’s recognition of the Georgian breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. It also calls for the withdrawal of Russian troops from Moldova’s breakaway republic of Transdnestr.
This was the largest and most comprehensive review of Russian policy by the Council of Europe since 2005. It deals with developments over the past seven years, and covers a wide range of areas including domestic and international policy, civil society, rule of law, corruption, the economy and the media.
Even before Tuesday’s formal presentation of the report, top Russian officials had already lashed out at the draft text, claiming the council was more interested in reprimanding Russia for perceived shortcomings, than in real dialog.
State Duma speaker Sergei Naryshkin, who had been scheduled to open the council’s autumn session on October 1, boycotted the event, citing the organization’s “Russophobic” stance.
Alexei Pushkov, head of Russia’s PACE delegation and chair of the State Duma’s Foreign Relations Committee, on Tuesday said that Moscow would not satisfy some of Brussels’ resolutions. Not specifying which he had in mind, he added that the resolutions “will seriously complicate relations between the Russian Federation and the Council of Europe.”
He also expressed anger over the initiative to pass monitoring responsibilities from the parliamentary level to the PACE Council of Ministers, effectively imposing stricter oversight on Russian policy.
“It appears that Russia is the only country under monitoring that deserves special attention from the Committee of Ministers,” he said, adding that Russia has been made into an “outcast.” “This is discrimination against the Russian Federation and a shining example of double standards.”
The report was highly likely to anger Moscow, which has consistently been keen to position itself as an alternative pole of global influence. After President Vladimir Putin’s reelection this spring, the Kremlin upped its focus on strengthening its role across the post-Soviet space.
After examining the report on Tuesday, PACE delegates approved a resolution to continue monitoring Russia’s fulfillment of its PACE commitments. But they voted down the measure to make the monitoring stricter by referring it to the Committee of Ministers, PACE’s decision-making body.
Foreign policy analyst Arkady Moshes, of the Finnish Institute of International Affairs, told RIA Novosti on Tuesday that despite harsh words from the Russian side, this will not push the Kremlin toe-to-toe with Europe.
“If one or two EU member states’ parliaments pass the Magnitsky law, then that will be a very important indicator,” he said, referring to the campaign to impose visa bans on Russian officials thought to be implicated in the 2009 death of Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky. “Unless that happens, the parliamentary assemblies are free to continue” criticizing Russia with little or no meaningful reaction, he said.
Resolutions like the latest issued by PACE will not become a game-changer in EU-Russian relations, Moshes added.
In the meantime, the PACE report also praised Moscow for “some very positive steps” in opening up its political landscape. Examples given include reinstating direct gubernatorial elections and easing the registration process for political parties. These moves are widely regarded as the Kremlin’s concessions, however halfhearted, to the opposition, following unprecedented public protests in Moscow against alleged falsification in December's parliamentary elections.
The report also expressed “satisfaction” with the establishment of the Investigative Committee, a high-profile law enforcement body developed as an ofshoot of the General Prosecutor's Office. It has come under fire recently for what critics call its politically-motivated crackdown on opposition figures, including anti-corruption whistle-blower Alexei Navalny, and for a controversial death-threat made by its head, Alexander Bastrykin, against a Russian journalist earlier this year.
“However,” the report continues, “the declared openness of the authorities for change is too often contradicted by acts.”
Moshes believes the mix of praise and reprimand in the report reflects the divergence in EU member states’ approaches to Russia.
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- email@example.comFourth Reich20:12, 02/10/2012It is very good that they talk, but they should look at EU first:
- non elected officials
- corruption on all levels, from individual MEPs, bribing countries, officials
- attacking many countries, from Serbia to Libya
Officials of the Fourth Reich are giving lessons???
- mikaelforsberg(no title)23:01, 02/10/2012EU is of course not a democracy and the whole idea comes from the Bilderberggroup founded in 1954 by the former SS-officer Bernhard who later had to leave because police investigations showed he was taking bribes from airplane manufacturers.
They where all very rich after the war and started planning the take over of Europe by using what became the EU concept.
They where to a large extent zionist bankers. They want an undemocratic federation where they point out the president lika now Herman Rompoy who is not democraticly elected.
It is by no doubt The Fourth Reich they try to create, and we better try to get out of the whole project before they destroy Europe once again.
- gunshipdemocracyEU will fall02:43, 03/10/2012Like Napoleon before, like Hitler as well EU now fails to conquer Russia. But this time EU officials repetition of Nuremberger trials for Serb Kosovo shall take place. Europe democratized and dezionized.
With small difference - all EU officials can contribute build Siberian railways or Bielomor II to repay to society their deeds.
- bielecRussia should totally ignore this piece of sh*t04:10, 03/10/2012This is the biggest BS produced by any political organization in recent times. Let's look at the accusations:
1. Intervention in other states' affairs: - Europe was up to its ears involved in supporting color revolutions in Georgia, Ukraine, and othe Balkan countries. Europe directly invaded Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya. Europe actively supports criminal rebels and terrorists in Syria.
2. Eroding democracy and free expression: - We can see on TV the riot police attacking and dispersing protesters in many European cities.
3. Imprisoned members of the punk group Pussy Riot: - They were sentenced by a court of law, according to the law of the country. They were not held indefinitely without trial (like inmates in Guantanamo) and they were not transported to secret prisons in Europe to be tortured and waterboarded.
4. Withdrawal of troops: - Didn't Europe send its troops to Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya on a bunch of lies and false-flag operations? Didn't they aggressively attack these countries? Didn't they bomb military and civilian areas? Russia is not engaged in this kind of activity anywhere.
5. Recognition of Abkhasia and South Ossetia: - NATO has rushed first to recognize all the color revolution regimes, and later, recognized the criminal rebels and terrorists in Libya and Syria. Europe actively supported these criminals.
I am not surprised that the Council of Europe is fuming, after Russia had undone its plots and manipulations to destabilize Russia. Just imagine the money spent on it - all in garbage, now. Good for Russia!
- Wolfgang9Next Winter is coming12:26, 03/10/2012I wouldn't be surprised if Russia hits some "reset" button at their gas pipelines delivering gas to heat Western Europe. Just one week would be enought to remind those nuts in Strasbourg or Brussels that they very much depend on Russia. I would like to see those guys collecting wood in the forrests:-)
- Mikhail1228Double Standard!16:29, 20/05/2013I am an American and I am appalled at the double standard. I have to watch RT to see occupy protesters beaten, rounded up and incarcerated as mainstream TV conveniently avoids reporting on it. The Pussy Riot verdicts were handed out by Russia's judicial system, not by President Putin. What's alarming is when FEMEN protesters protested topless in St.Peter's square in Rome they were arrested. Had they had a Pussy Riot in the Vatican would they not have also encountered outrage from Roman Catholics? Why are Orthodox Christians off base for feeling this is a hate crime against them and their faith? Lastly the Foreign Agents Act in Russia was modeled after the US laws. Here is some background supplied by the FEC: The goal of the 1966 Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) was to "minimize foreign intervention" in U.S. elections by establishing a series of limitations on foreign governments and nationals. In 1974, the prohibition was incorporated into the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA), giving the FEC jurisdiction over its enforcement and interpretation.
According to the FEC, FECA "prohibits any foreign national or government from contributing, donating or spending funds in connection with any federal, state, or local election in the United States, either directly or indirectly. It is also unlawful to help foreign national or government violate that ban or to solicit, receive or accept contributions or donations from them. Persons who knowingly and willfully engage in these activities may be subject to fines and/or imprisonment."
Why does the US media keep referring to this Russian laws as deaconian and hearkeneing back to the Soviet days when it is virtually a carbon copy of US laws.