Austrian president urges caution on vote over PACE’s Russian delegation powers

Strasbourg, 09.04.2014 - Just one day before the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly is to consider a report on the powers of its Russian delegation, Austrian President Heinz Fischer told assembled members that “dialogue is the only way” to deal with the conflict. “It is fairly easy to close doors, but once they are shut, it is far more difficult to open them again,” he said.

Mr. Fischer said that he agrees with the assessment of the Council of Europe’s constitutional law experts, the Venice Commission, that “actions taken by Russia have been and continue to be in breach of international law”. He said that “further steps taken by Russia to destabilise Ukraine would be unacceptable”.

But he also called on Council of Europe member states to take into consideration the “historical background” of the crisis, respecting concerns of “all countries” involved. “It should not be a matter of drawing this large and important country [Ukraine] into one camp or an opposing camp, either to the EU or to the Russian Federation,” Mr. Fischer stressed.

The Austrian President praised the role of the Council of Europe as an essential multilateral institution that has proven to be an important basis for peace in Europe since the end of the Second World War, which – he noted – began almost 75 years ago. In his speech, he outlined important contributions of the Council of Europe, including the fact that the European Convention on Human Rights has the “same rank” as the Austrian Constitution. “Every new generation of law students learn the Convention as part of their own constitutional law,” he said.

Striking an optimistic tone about the current crisis over Crimea, the Austrian president said that, to many Europeans living 50 years ago, the realities of today’s Europe would be utopic. “That is a major incentive to continue to work together through open dialogue and to move to solutions, step by step.”

Speech [de]
Video of the speech

See also:
Austria and the Council of Europe