Despite the fact that quarantine requirements in France have been relaxed in connection with the country’s successful vaccination programme, a number of delegations were absent from this session. Namely, the Germans were busy with their federal elections, and the delegation of our aggressor state was afraid of France’s strict but justified COVID requirements for participants. So much the better: Russia has had no place in PACE since the spring of 2014.
The following themes were on the day’s agenda:
- The humanitarian implications of the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia
- Socioeconomic inequalities
- Gender representation
- Strengthening environmental protections and ensuring accountability for violations of international environmental standards
Finally, the Assembly debated the situation in Afghanistan and the crisis on the Belarus-EU border caused by the tyrant Lukashenko.
The Monitoring Committee, of which I am a member, had a very heated discussion on the so-called “Russian legislative elections”. The Statute of the Council of Europe forbids me from revealing details, but I would like to note that my own position is fully consistent with the statement of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine on this issue (Resolution 1773-IX).
I had the honour of speaking on behalf of the European People’s Party at the plenary session on socioeconomic inequality in Europe. After listening to two interesting but controversial reports which called for member states to raise taxes and roll out large-scale social security programmes, I proposed that we look at this issue from a different angle. Many Ukrainians still remember the communist period, and I reminded the Assembly that the equality which was declared during those times was a total sham. My own opinion on how to change the situation is that we can alleviate inequality by providing equal opportunities, protecting people’s fundamental freedoms and supporting the most vulnerable.
I also had the opportunity to speak on the topic of environmental protection and accountability for violations of international environmental standards.
In my speech I touched upon three anti-environmental projects of recent times:
- The illegal Kerch Strait Bridge and other contributing factors to the environmental disaster in occupied Crimea
- The nuclear power plant in the Belarusian city of Astravyets, built without any consultation with Belarus’ neighbours despite the proximity to Vilnius
- The Nord Stream 2 pipeline
I called on the Assembly to not merely talk about problems such as these, but also to put international pressure on those who violate environmental standards.
The Assembly rejected the list of Ukrainian candidates for the position of judge of the European Court of Human Rights. Unfortunately, procedural problems and a decision by one of the Assembly’s profile committees prevented the appointment of a candidate from Ukraine. We will have to launch a third contest to fill this important position. It is my belief that the position must be filled as quickly as possible, by a professional with a spotless reputation. We have plenty of people like this in Ukraine! The new judge must command the respect of his peers within the ECHR, and not be someone who will simply go through the motions. Remember that Mrs. Yudkivska’s term of office has been over for a long time by now.
Ukraine has unfortunately found itself in an uncomfortable position, as the Czech Republic, Moldova and the Russian Federation all had judges elected.
The topics which were really most important for the Assembly to discuss — such as protection against political persecution in Crimea, issues of democratic governance, yet another rigged election in Russia, and human rights in the context of the pandemic — went sadly overlooked in this session.
I would like to believe that in January 2022 at the Palace of Europe there will be an open and fruitful discussion of these issues