ISSN 2330-717X

Kremlin Gutting Constitutional Provisions That Allowed Russia To Join The Council Of Europe – OpEd

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Adel Bashqawi, a Circassian activist and the author of such works as The Circassian Miracle, has pointed out something that most have lost sight of: Vladimir Putin by amending the Russian constitution as he proposes to do is eliminating the provisions which allowed Russia to join the Council of Europe in 1994.

In an open letter to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Bashqawi notes the Venetian Commission of the Council of Europe reviewed the text of the 1993 Russian Constitution and concluded that it corresponded to “the principle of a legal and democratic state” (aheku.net/news/society/obrashhenie-v-parlamentskuyu-assambleyu-soveta-evropyi).

That was one of the actions on the basis of which the Russian Federation was admitted to the Council of Europe. But now, the new amendments Putin wants to include “introduce ethnic segregation in Russia and discrimination against its indigenous peoples and national minorities” by elevating the status of ethnic Russians.

All the others are thus reduced to the status of second-class citizens. “These changes distance Russia from the principles of a democratic federative legal state with a republic form of administration, European constitutional values and democratic norms and also directly contradicts the obligations of Russia in the framework of the Council of Europe.”

Bashqawi continues: “We ask the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to send to the Venetian Commission a request for considering the changes of the Constitution of the Russian Federation” and whether they in fact continue to conform to the principles of the Council of Europe.

And he adds: “We also ask PACE to send a monitoring mission to Russia for assessing the status of the indigenous peoples of Russia and national minorities in light of the decisions in Russia about ethnic segregation and the discrimination of its peoples.” Bashqawi does not say so but his argument shows that Russia no longer should be part of the Council of Europe.

Because of the importance of this issue, a full text of Bashqawi’s open appeal is given below:

In 1993, the Constitution of the Russian Federation was adopted, recognized by the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe in 1994 as conforming to the principles of a democratic state governed by the rule of law. This conclusion was one of the grounds for Russia’s admission to the Council of Europe.

In January-March 2020, Russian President Vladimir Putin initiated amendments to the Constitution hastily adopted by the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, causing extremely negative reactions from Russian civil society, representatives of indigenous peoples of the Russian Federation, human rights defenders, and the expert community.

The proposed amendments to the Constitution of Russia, in particular the new version of Article 68 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation, establish “The state language of the Russian Federation throughout its territory is the Russian language as the language of the state-forming nation, which is part of the multinational union of equal nations of the Russian Federation.”

This norm, in our view, introduces ethnic segregation and discrimination of its indigenous peoples and national minorities in Russia, dividing the multinational people of the Russian Federation and granting a special status to ethnic Russians as a state-forming nation. Other indigenous peoples of Russia and national minorities are established as of non-state-forming peoples, if fact determining them to the status of “second-class” peoples and citizens. These amendments to the Constitution of the Russian Federation alienate Russia from the principles of a democratic federal state governed by the rule of law with a republican form of government, European constitutional values and democratic norms, and directly contradict Russia’s obligations within the Council of Europe.

We ask the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to send a request to the Venice Commission on the compliance of the amendments to the Constitution of the Russian Federation, in particular Article 68 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation, with Russia’s obligations within the Council of Europe.

We also ask the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to send a monitoring mission of PACE to Russia to assess the situation of Russia’s indigenous peoples and national minorities, in the light of decisions taken in Russia on ethnic segregation and discrimination of its peoples.

Paul Goble

Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

One thought on “Kremlin Gutting Constitutional Provisions That Allowed Russia To Join The Council Of Europe – OpEd

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    March 23, 2020 at 5:44 pm
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    Paul, get used to it. Russia has a sphere of influence over countries near to it. This includes your native country Latvia with a population of 2,000,000 with a sizeable Russian population. Russia does what it pleases and is for them. We Americans do the same thing.

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