Russia is playing on the differences between the European Union and the Council of Europe, which has the potential to cause considerable confusion, political scientist Karmo Tüür said on Tuesday, commenting on the decision of the council's parliamentary assembly to readmit Russia.
According to Tüür, the skill with which Russia has played one European institution against the other is very impressive. "Russia has considerable influence on the Council of Europe, starting with money, because member states pay a membership fee, and the whole organization depends on that," Tüür pointed out.
When after the illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014, the Council of Europe suspended Russia's voting rights, the latter opted for a tit-for-tat response—and refused to pay its membership fee of €33 million a year, tearing a hole into the council's budget.
In addition to the council and its officials' proper funding, there have been indications that Russia is influencing people in other ways as well, for example through business and investment schemes involving council and member states' officials across all political levels, Tüür said.
That Russia's voting rights on the council were restored on Tuesday means that its delegation can participate in the vote to elect a new secretary-general for the council. Russia promptly submitted a candidacy of its own in the person of Leonid Slutsky.
Slutsky was among the first Russian officials against which sanctions were imposed following the annexation of Crimea. As such, his candidacy alone has the potential to stir up considerable confusion, Tüür commented.
"Russia very skilfully has been playing on the differences between the Council of Europe and the European Union. As the sanctions [against Russia] were imposed by the EU, forcing its own man on the Council of Europe could cause serious confusion," he added.
According to Tüür, the fact is working in Russia's favor that the council has members as well that aren't in the EU. "The Council of Europe was founded immediately after the war to unite all of Europe's countries. It currently has 47 members, compared to the EU's 27. The EU was founded a good deal later. There are differences in the make-up of the organizations' members, aims, and also procedures," Tüür pointed out.
The two European institutions are completely different organizations. The only thing they have in common is that they both mention Europe in their names, Tüür said.
Editor: Dario Cavegn