Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu condemned changes that allow Russia to return to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on Tuesday.
"The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe approved changes to its rules of procedure that would allow for the return of the delegation of the Russian Federation after it was banned following the occupation of Crimea. Unfortunately, restoring Russia's mandate in the current circumstances and in this manner goes against the values of the Council of Europe and does not serve the interests of Europe," Reinsalu said in a statement.
The circumstances leading to the decision by PACE to limit Russia's voting rights after the annexation of Crimea in 2014 have not changed, he said. Adding that Russian aggression has caused the deaths of more than 13,000 people in Ukraine.
"The delegation would reportedly include persons who have been added to the list of sanctions of the European Union. This is a clear provocation. In the past decade, as a member of the Council of Europe, Russia has attacked two other members of the Council of Europe," Reinsalu said.
MP Mihkelson calls PACE decision regrettable
Marko Mihkelson, deputy head of the parliament's foreign affairs committee, called the decision "regrettable".
"Unfortunately, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe last night made a decision which had been expected. Despite carving up its neighbors and continuing a war against Ukraine, Russia largely through blackmail (non-payment of the annual fee) regained its voting rights in the assembly of the organization that protects human rights and the principles of the rule of law," Mihkelson said on social media.
Mihkelson said Estonia now has to work on the European level to make sure that this does not lead to a weakening of the sanctions regime of the European Union.
Despite opposition from Ukraine, the Baltic countries, Poland and the UK, 118 MPs from 47 states voted in favor of a decision to permit a Russian delegation to take part in the vote on the new secretary general of the Council of Europe on Wednesday.
The restoration of the voting rights of Russia was opposed by 68 PACE members with ten abstaining. All three Estonian delegates to PACE voted against.
Editor: Helen Wright, Dario Cavegn