Setting the pace? PACE sets a (Crimean) precedent?

October 13, 2016

Much has been written in cyberspace with regard to how the international community should react to the recent Duma elections which included the illegally annexed Crimean peninsula (and its assimilation into the Southern District administrative and military machinery).


13th October witnessed the adoption of a robust text by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in which this issue is officially raised.

Among the prose, of particular note is the following paragraph:

“4.1. condemns the illegal Duma elections held on 18 September in occupied Crimea and considers their results null and void. The incorporation of Ukrainian sovereign territory into Russian federal constituencies and the creation of four single-member constituencies are blunt violations of international law and effectively compromise the legitimacy of the Russian Parliament;”

It appears to be the first official document from an internationally recognised body that bluntly questions the legitimacy of the current Duma as it now contains illegitimate parliamentarians from an illegally annexed part of Ukraine.

As such, PACE Resolution 2132 (2016) appears to set a precedent officially questioning the legitimacy of the newly installed Russian Duma.

It therefore has ramifications.

There are now questions for each State and every international institution as to whether they will unquestionably recognise the legitimacy of the current Russian Duma – or not?  Now that PACE has officially questioned the legitimacy of the Russian Duma, should they too formally do so?

Are PACE Member  States and international institutions to continue to entertain interaction with the Russian Duma if its legitimacy is questionable?  There are other Russian channels if disqualifying the Duma after all.

Should they end any or all inter-parliamentary cooperation with a questionably legitimate Duma?

How to wiggle?  Does their entry into the Duma not simply de-legitimise that entire rubber-stamping circus – and if not why not?  If not, is cooperation be withdrawn only from committees and delegations that contain those Duma MPs who entered the legislature from Crimea to otherwise justify interaction without having to address a broader issue of Duma legitimacy?

What of the expansion of sanctions upon those now representing Crimea in the Duma?  Should any individual sanctions also include those that organised the elections too?  It seems unlikely that this can be avoided.

Regularly this blog raises policy questions regarding Ukraine.  For the past 2 years the absence of an overt Crimea policy had been duly noted – it is only fairly recently that something approaching policy has become clear.

Clearly PACE Resolution 2132 is something of a diplomatic win for Ukraine and the Ukrainian delegation to PACE.  It has not occurred without their significant effort to include such text, and hard lobbying to get it passed by PACE parliamentary vote.

The blog is aware of the energy spent by those (such as Alexie Goncharenko, a Ukrainian PACE delegation representative and head of the Verkhovna Rada cross party committee on Crimea), to accomplish such a result.   Thus although recognition of a good job well done are something of a rarity, the Ukrainian delegation to PACE have achieved all that could be expected of them on this occasion and their efforts deserve recognition.

It now remains to be seen whether the precedent now set in this PACE Resolution will further resonate within PACE Member States and other international institutions – or not.

(Full disclosure, the blog is well acquainted with Alexie Goncharenko – albeit there are healthy areas of (friendly) disagreement on occasion.)

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