Goncharenko on Russia's Re-Entry to PACE


On June 26 the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) voted to welcome Russia back into the fold after a three-year exodus, re-ratifying the credentials of the Russian delegation, while imposing no restrictions, regardless of the violations of the Council of Europe principles. The decision didn’t sit well with many, especially with the delegations of countries that suffer from Russia’s policy of threat and aggression. Aleksey Goncharenko, member of the Ukrainian Rada, delivered a fiery and highly critical speech at PACE that soon went viral in both Ukrainian and Georgian media. GT spoke with Mr. Goncharenko in Kiev and asked him to elaborate on his sentiments regarding PACE’s controversial decision and its possible impact for our region.

“There are several reasons [Russia was welcomed back]: first being the work done by Russian propaganda, big money, influence and so on. Russia was working on coming back without sanctions for several years. Sadly, this year their attempt was successful. The second reason is that Old Europe is tired of all the Russian aggression stories. Many of them want 'business as usual' and they want to earn money with Russians. They are tired and they want to change the situation. Third, if we speak about Ukraine, the pPesident of Ukraine changed two months ago. Right now, new president is inexperienced in international relations. They also want to use this moment, this possibility, to change the situation." 

Many argued that Russia’s yearly payment to the CoE was also a determining factor, but then could not one of the European powers have taken on this burden and keep the CoE on moral high ground?

I don’t think that the question of 77 million Euros is so crucial for such an organization as the Council of Europe. Really, it’s not big money. I think for some people it was the reason but for others it was rather an excuse - that they need to do this because they need this money. But I think the Council of Europe is about values and is not about money. In another case, it looks like indulgence in the middle ages when you could just buy indulgence and do whatever you want. That’s absolutely wrong. In my speech in the CoE that with some 77 million Euros, it looks like that democracy was sold for 25 million, rule of law was sold for 25 and human rights for 25 million Euros.

Did any of the Western non-politicians actually support Russia returning to the CoE after your speech?

I spoke with some of them after the debates and they came to me with the words, you understand us wrong, we want dialogue, we want to see the cCuncil of Europe as a platform for dialogue, that’s why we need Russians here, and so on. The same argument was i"t’s better to have Russia inside the CoE. Following this logic, we need to call all dictators who are in this world beginning from North Korea and with Syria Assad to Council of Europe because it’s better to have them inside than outside. Many of these people feel that they did wrong, that they made a mistake and I am sure that in several months they will regret what they did.

You mentioned that Old Europe is tired of hearing the stories from Ukraine. Proof can be seen in the recent FT interview with Putin, which is 24 pages long with not a single mention of Ukraine or Georgia. How do we get back on the agenda, both your and my country?

All this story in the CoE showed once again that we need to be strong ourselves. It’s common sense and it’s absolutely clear but I think sometimes we forget that we more rely on our allies than on ourselves. It should be opposite. We should rely on ourselves and in that case there will be more allies. Certainly, we need to be very active in the diplomatic relationships on such platforms like the Council of Europe and be quite tough. I think it’s a very good story that our delegation, with the Georgian delegation, with Estonians, Lithuanians, Latvians came out and said that we will not tolerate such happenings. The people in Georgia did not tolerate the behavior of the Russian MP in the Parliament of Georgia and it was right that the people reacted to it. I think it’s a failure. It’s a failure for everybody: for the CoE, for Ukraine, for Georgia, for the whole civilized world. Certainly, there’s a part of failure of our diplomacy. But diplomacy can't always achieve the goal. It’s clear that sometimes you can and sometimes you can't. This time it was extremely hard to change something because it was like a big decision from Germany and France and it was very hard to change the situation. But in any case we should be tough because we should show them that it will not be easy and next time they will think not even twice before to do something like that. That’s why we should be tough. I think that maybe even the President of Ukraine or pPesident of Georgia should go to Strasbourg to ask the wordl, to ask for the possibility to speak and to try to convince the delegates from all over Europe not to do this. It needs to be an urgent action.

Russia is unlikely to settle with what is has just achieved. Are the EU economic sanctions their next target?

Definitely. Russia sees this comeback to the Council of Europe as the first step and the second step they want will be for the EU sanctions to be killed off because that’s a real problem for them. They hope to do this after killing political sanctions in the Council of Europe. That’s some point at which we should be very tough and we need to keep these economic sanctions.

I know you are a very outspoken politician inside your country and you debate with people who do not share your more pro-western values. What are you going to tell them next time they point the finger to the CoE decision and tell you that’s how Europe operates?

It’s a very good question. The path is absolutely clear. It’s like in case of democracy. It’s probably not the best way of leading people but all the rest are much worse. The same story is here. Europe is not ideal and there are many problems there, there are many people who can sell the values for money but we don’t have any other choice. For Ukraine, for Georgia we have two ways: either we can be part of Russian world, which is killing people, poisoning people, in which there’s no democracy, no human rights, no rule of law, or we can go to European world where there’s democracy, human rights, rule of law, absolutely other standards of life. Really, we don’t have any choice. Europe is our choice. We should go there. We should do everything to become better ourselves and to make better Europe.

 By Vazha Tavberidze


The article was prepared as part of the fellowship funded by the Institute of War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) within the Project “Giving Voice, Driving Change - from the Borderland to the Steppes.” The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting.

02 July 2019 09:15