Dáil Éireann - Volume 447 - 24 January, 1995

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Application for Membership of Council of Europe.

26. Mr. M. Brennan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs the Government's view on the criteria for Russia to become a full member of the Council of Europe. [1433/95].

Mr. Spring: The statue of the Council of Europe provides that every member “must accept the principles of the rule of law and of the enjoyment by all persons within its jurisdiction of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and collaborate sincerely and effectively in [1303] the realisation of the aim of the Council.” This is defined as being “to achieve a greater unity between its members for the purpose of safeguarding and realising the ideals and principles which are their common heritage and facilitating their economic and social progress”.

Any European State which is deemed to be able and willing to fulil these provisions may be invited to become a member of the Council of Europe. The criteria apply to all applicants for Council of Europe membership including Russia.

The Government strongly believes that Russian membership of the Council of Europe would be an important contribution to stability on the Continent and strengthen the cause of reform in Russia. We, therefore, welcomed Russia's application for membership in 1992. We expect, however, that Russia, like other new member states, should meet the standards for membership and that these standards will not be compromised by the process of enlargement.

The situation in Chechnya has given rise to serious concern over the extent to which Russia embraces Council of Europe values. The committees charged with examining the Russian application for membership have suspended their examination and requested an urgent debate by the Parliamentary Assembly at its session beginning 30 January. The opinion of the Parliamentary Assembly on membership applications is an important guiding factor in decisions taken by the Committee of Ministers on such issues. Ireland will, therefore, give due weight to the recommendation of the Parliamentary Assembly, following its debate, as to what action might now appropriately be taken with regard to the Russian membership application.

Mr. M. Kitt: I, too, welcome Russia's application for membership of the Council of Europe. Has the Committee of Ministers discussed criteria which will apply to Council of Europe membership for Russia, particularly having regard to [1304] the position in Chechnya and Russia's involvement in Moldova where the 14th army is in occupation of the South East? When does the Tánaiste consider Russia might be able to join the Council of Europe?

Mr. Spring: We welcome Russia's application, which is undergoing a process of analysis within the Council of Europe. It is clear that Russia's size and level of development present difficulties for Council of Europe membership and following its application a joint programme of action was instigated in 1993 aimed at preparing Russia for membership. Conferences, seminars, exchanges of view and training activities took place on a wide range of issues including constitutional reform, human rights, media, local government, legal co-operation and civil society. Obviously, what has happened in Chechnya in the last number of weeks has been seriously considered by the Council of Europe. The Parliamentary Assembly discussions on 30 January will have a significant bearing on how quickly the application will be processed and we should await their outcome, when we will be in a better position to make commitments in relation to timing.