An Invented History in the European Council or how Russia is Returning Having not Even Departed

In summer of the last year the name of Russia was mentioned almost in every sentence in the corridors of the European Council. The topic ‘Russia is back!’ outshined all other topics, actually even the main activities of the E…

In summer of the last year the name of Russia was mentioned almost in every sentence in the corridors of the European Council. The topic ‘Russia is back!’ outshined all other topics, actually even the main activities of the European Council.
Definitions of the European Council (EC) and European Union (EU) quite often are confused in Lithuania, thus we should make a few comments on what is what.
We are members of the European Union – one state of 27 states. We are an official member since 2004. All talks about the European market, funds, trade, ‘Schengen’ and Euro – all this is the European Union.
Almost all states of the continent of Europe belong to the European Council (Belarus and Kosov don’t belong there due to natural reasons). The EC is actually a forum of democracy, human rights and mutual understanding. Here the main conventions that we often call European standards are being developed. What we popularly call the Strasbourg court, is also a structural part of the EC. We were admitted to the European Council in 1993, thus we are already old-timers.    
The European Council was founded in 1949 as an intergovernmental organization represented by ambassadors of the member-states. Later the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) was founded, which is made up of the members of Parliaments of member-states. The members of the Parliament elect judges of the abovementioned European Court of Human Rights and elect the Secretary General of the organization, and what is very important monitor the democracy condition and observance of conventions in the states of the EC. 
For the reason it has a right to make assessments, it made assessment of Russia, too.
Lies of Russia
All this uproar relating to Russia is for a reason. In the future it might become a book sample of the propagandistic campaign and ‘trolling’.
Russia often violates human rights and has had quite a number of political sins on its account all the time. 
A list was supplemented a decade ago: Russia tore away two pieces of Sakartvelo and founded unlawful republics there. A few years later Russia annexed the Crimea and caused turmoil in Eastern Ukraine. Representatives of the Russian Duma who represent its country in Strasbourg, also voted for justification and incorporation of the mentioned injustices. It was too much for the Parliamentary Assembly. It passed several resolutions that restricted voting rights, becoming heads of committees and speakers to the Russian members of the Parliament. This was some kind of a yellow card – a warning that such behaviour is not acceptable in the civilized Europe.
Moscow got angry and decided not to let their deputies work in the Assembly for several years. In the Council of Ministers Russians as always actively protected their interests and used all working possibilities. PACE was working without Russians and kept asking if Moscow will allow Russians to go to Strasburg. It didn’t.   
And here 2019 came…
Russia presented several propagandistic lies in fighting for the honour interpreted in its own way.
The first lie was when it called the yellow card the red one – as if the Assembly kicked them out of the European Council, although it had no right to do so. It sounds like a lawful wail of the disadvantaged, although, as we know, nobody kicked them out and did not encumber to work in the already mentioned Council of Ministers. However, they appeared in the corridors of Strasbourg, tearfully asking to let them ‘come back’.
The second lie was continuation of the first one – since Russia was kicked out of the European Council, its poor citizens cannot apply to the European Court of Human Rights and other institutions. Thus, the PACE injures the opposition and all civil society. ‘Crying’ citizens also appeared soon. 
The third lie is that Russia, once kicked out, is entitled not to pay membership fees and thus ruin the whole accounting system of the European Council. By the way, the fees are paid not for maintenance of the ‘guilty’ Assembly, but for all projects of the EC, in which Russia is actively participating, but propaganda is just propaganda. Failure to pay had to poison the Secretariat of the Council mind against deputies of the Assembly who are already guilty for non-growing salaries (although, it was not the most important line of expenses).
Actually, there three lies went off well. The plan of Russia, as return of an innocent sheep to the flock, came to life. More and more members of the PAEC started to believe that maybe Russia had been punished too strictly and it should be given another chance. We should also remember our yard, too. Each Government of Lithuania told that it would manage to negotiate with Russia somehow, as if all the previous ones were too spastic. No wonder that new delegations of PACE members also think the same way. You have to understand that we will shame them and they will not do that any more…   
Trust and (mis) trust
Who trusts or mistrusts Russia and why?
It is obvious that the Baltic States – victims of the former USSR annexation – Sakartvelo and Ukraine do not trust it. More people did not trust it, either, however not all of them vote against Russia.
Every five years a critical mass of people emerge who think, as I’ve already mentioned, that we have not just negotiate with Russia, but we can even find an agreement. We will know how to do this…
Old-timers of writing reports and declarations of the PACE (it is unclear whether from trust or regret) helped Russians. The papers were drawn so that the Assembly as if had not forgiven it, but did not know how to behave since they had no some kind of political GPS. Thus, they returned Russians and started making guidelines for the future – how they should act if the situation repeated.
In my speech I called the mentioned guidelines a masterpiece of never-ending legal manipulations (like a famous Vasa ship in Stockholm – a beautiful ship but not sailing). When next time comes, other available guidelines could be used for the ordinary states, but something new will have to be made for Russia again. This is a plan of developers – no matter how many guidelines for sanctions and other penalties existed, they should not be used against Russia.   
So what will actually happen?
The previous history of Russia shows that this country has some kind of addiction to political euthanasia. It creates its own problems and each time goes to Strasburg with new and old troubles, however not with some kind of solutions. Russia wants other countries just to be afraid of it – not to solve problems of Russia but bear with them out of fear.  
So what will finally happen with the European Council?
The main issue there is not Russia.
The European Council that gorgeously commemorated its seventy years anniversary today is not the one it was founded for. Gentlemen had to meet there in order to settle common matters of Europe and come to an agreement. Nowadays they gather just for ‘pushing’ their own personal matters. Thus, we have become some kind of a battle field. Personally, I am managing a structure that should not exist at all (I am scarifying a position that should not exist!). I am in charge of the subcommittee that analyses conflicts between member-states. Actually, we have them: Cyprus, Nagorno-Karabach, Moldova, Abkhazia, etc.).   
I hope that solving matters of Russia we will actually solve more problems relating to identity of the EC. European countries did a good job for our continent to be the way it is – an objective to others. However, each day of our life brings new matters. Thus, it is likely that Europe will never be a project where we will be able to put a full stop.
Egidijus Vareikis
Author of the text is Vice-chairman of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

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