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The Baltic States, Georgia boycott certain PACE events in solidarity with Ukraine, create Baltic + Group

By Natalia Kochiashvili
Thursday, October 3
Delegations of Georgia, Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania have released a joint statement in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on October 1st.

Delegations of Georgia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Ukraine have issued a joint statement. Five countries are protesting the return of the Russian Federation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) and the restoration of voting rights.

It is for this reason that the delegations of Georgia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Ukraine will not attend the official event marking the 70th anniversary of the CoE. They have released a joint statement in the PACE on October 1st.

“In this year of the 70th anniversary of CoE, we see that the standards and values of this institution have been seriously comprised and the authority of the Parliamentary Assembly has been weakened,'” reads the joint statement of the delegations of 5 countries.

The statement says that for 70 years the CoE has defended the rights of millions of people and firmly upholds the values for which the organization was created.

Unfortunately, June 2019 marked the beginning of another era. During the summer session, the PACE adopted Resolution 2292, unconditionally re-establishing voting rights and other procedural rights of the Russian delegation. In doing so the PACE majority has turned a blind eye to continuous violations of human rights, abductions, unlawful occupation and annexation of territories, illegal imprisonment of Member States’ citizens and war still waged by the Russian Federation against its neighbors.” - reads the joint statement of Georgia, Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

The 5-country statement also notes, that months after its return, the Russian Federation has not demonstrated any significant progress on its commitments under CoE Statute. Moreover, the statement speaks about Russia’s barbed wire fences illegally erected by occupying troops on Georgian soil along the occupational line of so-called South Ossetia, and also touches on so-called presidential elections in the occupied Abkhazia under the control of the Russian Federation, which violently suppressed the peaceful protest of citizens demanding open and fair elections.

Tamar Chugoshvili, the first deputy chairman of the Parliament of Georgia, signed the statement on behalf of Georgia.

The delegations of the 5 countries have agreed to establish a permanent group Baltic+ in PACE to hold PACE and its members to the fundamental principles on which it was once established. The group aims to denounce the policy of the annexation of Crimea, to condemn the occupation of eastern Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova. The Baltic + Group will be open to other delegations as well.

According to the head of the Ukrainian delegation Elizaveta Yasko, the next meeting of the group will be held in Kyiv. She also announced that the CoE has lost its authority over the millions of citizens of the member states. “We invite everyone into our group whose values and commitments are not empty words," Yasko said in a statement.

The official delegation of Georgia has refused to attend the opening of the Autumn Session of the PACE on September 30, in protest at the return of the Russian Federation to the organization. Through this decision, Georgia also expressed solidarity for Ukraine, which similarly refused to participate in the PACE Autumn Session.

“We have no plans to leave PACE. The refusal is related to Ukraine. The decision regarding Russia was unacceptable,” Chugoshvili said.

Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Ukraine also refused to attend the opening ceremony. The Ukrainian delegation said that they will not participate in the whole autumn season.

On October 1, the French president responded to the subject of returning to the Russian Parliamentary Assembly: “The decision to return Russia to the PACE does not mean that we have a double standard in the CoE. This decision does not undermine our resolve to end the frozen conflicts that are so painful on our continent - in Ukraine, Georgia, the Caucasus, Transnistria.”

According to Emmanuel Macron, this is not a gesture of relief, rather a firm decision to force Russia to fulfill its obligations.

According to the French President, if Russia were not returned to the PACE, it would harm the Russian population, since they would not have the opportunity to apply to the PACE.

On June 25, PACE adopted a resolution on changing the nature of the sanctions mechanism and invited Russia to return to work in PACE without restrictions on voting rights.

Members of the Georgian delegation and six other countries left a session of PACE in protest on June 26, 2019, as Russia regained its voting right after having lost it in 2014 following its annexation of the Crimea.

Russia, which earlier had declined to pay its membership fees, agreed to pay them, as well as fines, amounting to ˆ75 million before regaining the right.

118 MPs voted for the return of Russia in PACE, 62 went against and ten refused to vote.

The delegations of Georgia, Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Slovakia said that the PACE decision was unacceptable as Russia has not changed its attitudes and policy and continues to occupy the territories of sovereign countries.

The PACE autumn session is taking place in Strasbourg from September 30 to October 4, 2019.