Council of Europe: time flies, but nothing changes

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The Council of Europe, which is an international organization promoting co-operation between all countries of Europe in the areas of legal standards and democratiс development, was established 65 years ago with active participation of British PM Winton Churchill.

Today the council comprises nearly 50 countries; The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) are the best known bodies of the organization.

While creating the council, its founders pursued different goals. However, besides the noble aim of developing the European identity, there was also that of creating a body that would oppose the ideology of the USSR. The times have changed, the USSR collapsed more than 20 years ago. Nevertheless, the council’s policy of containment towards the USSR’s successor Russia has always been the same, though Russia became one the council’s members and main sponsors in the mid 90s. After the dissolution of the USSR, the Council of Europe entered a second phase of its development marked with admission of post-Soviet countries to the council.

The Council of Europe has always been a deliberative body and its role shouldn’t be overestimated today, Evgeniy Minchenko, President of Communication Group Minchenko Consulting, says.

The capabilities of the Council are restricted because Europe, while being an economic giant, still remains a military and political dwarf. Russia’s tensions with the EU are the consequences of Europe’s military and political dependence on the US. This makes Russia’s European partners follow the lead of the US politics, even if the latter sometimes contradicts Europe’s economic interests. The council is in deep crisis today, experts increasingly believe.

So, there is no wonder that the US is one of the most crucial observers of the Council of Europe. The council’s charter stipulated that it could comprise any European country that follows the principles of Parliamentary pluralistic democracy and the rule of law, guarantees the rights and the freedoms of people. However, the document was amended and its draftsmen emphasized the importance of several clauses of the document. Notably, it was stipulated that the countries that wanted to become the council’s members should have had public representatives elected, defended national minorities, provided media freedom and respect for the international law.

However, further actions showed that these criteria remained only on paper. In fact, the council admitted the countries that had serious problems, which contradicted the council’s aims and principles. The council of Europe admitted Latvia, Estonia and Georgia, though these countries didn’t provide, say, the right of national minorities. This step was made with one goal in view – so as to limit Russia’s influence on these countries.

The significance of the Council of Europe is sinking, Timophey Bordachev, Director of Center for European and International complex studies at the National research university “Higher school of economics”, says.

Primarily, the Council was created as an organization of ideologists, who wanted to create a united European state. It was being created as a federalist integration organization. However, it turned into an organization aimed at defending people’s rights. The quality of the council’s work changed after the end of the Cold War, when Russia and post-Soviet countries joined the organization.

People hoped that the organization would become a universal regional forum, like the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). However, this didn’t happen as the EU was turning the Council of Europe into its instrument.

Twenty eight members of the EU – more than a half of the council’s members – constitute the leading part of the organization. That’s why all attempts of Russia and other countries to propose a different agenda are always turned down. Moreover, the countries that don’t agree with the general point of view fall under sanctions. Thus, Russia was deprived of voting and working in the Council of Europe main body PACE allegedly because of Russia’s interference in Ukrainian affairs. At the same time, Europe makes no secret of the fact that it itself is directly involved in the Ukrainian crisis. These seem to be the double standards of democracy.

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