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Statement by Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on Russia’s membership of the Council of Europe

25.06.2019 - Press release

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas issued the following statement today (25 June):

Russia belongs in the Council of Europe – with all the rights and responsibilities that implies. I am pleased that the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has now paved the path for a compromise on Russia’s membership.
This is also good news for Russian civil society. Russians must continue to have the opportunity to seek justice at the European Court of Justice.
It is now important that we develop a mechanism that enables us to sanction countries in line with the Statute if they are in breach of duty. The Parliamentary Assembly plays an important role here. The new regulations will strengthen the Council of Europe.
Moscow is called on to play a constructive part in this compromise. We will continue to remind Russia of the obligations it undertook itself in joining the Council of Europe. This includes restarting the payment of its membership dues without delay. And it also includes Russia adhering to the standards that it has a duty to uphold under the European Convention on Human Rights. 

Background Information

At the meeting of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe in Helsinki on 17 May, the Council of Europe stated that it would welcome the participation of all delegations at the Parliamentary Assembly meeting in June and in the election of a new Secretary General. At the same time, the Ministers agreed to draw up a new sanctions procedure in cooperation with the Parliamentary Assembly for cases when Member States violate the Statute or fundamental principles of the Council.

Another reason why this is important is because Russia’s membership of the Council of Europe means that 140 million people in Russia have access to the European Court of Human Rights and that the Council of Europe can inspect in Russia itself whether the country is adhering to the obligations to which it has signed up (e.g. the European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and many other undertakings).

The German Government worked closely with the Finnish Presidency, as well as with France and other partners, to develop this solution. Foreign Minister Maas has lobbied intensively in recent months for a constructive solution. The topic was on the agenda of many bilateral talks between Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (including in May, September and December 2018, and in January 2019) and at meetings with Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland (in November 2018 and January 2019) and at the meeting of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on 17 May 2019.

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