Speech in the Council of Europe about the crisis with Russia

Speech in the Council of Europe, Strasbourg
29 April 2009
Russia Should Honour Obligations on Georgia
One of the problems with our debates is that we do not listen to each other; instead, we read out speeches that have been prepared for us. I am all for inviting people to come to address the Council of Europe, but all the arguments that we have just heard could in past years equally have been applied to Chechnya or to the Kurdish people’s demand for a separate state within Turkey. We have to acknowledge a sad fact: one of the central ideas of parliamentary democracy is that a parliament is a place where people can speak and disagree and where business is conducted without recourse to violence, but we are not hearing any disagreement from any Russian spokesmen. There will be divisions between the delegates of every other country represented here even if their country is involved in conflict or has difficulties –and perhaps even between members of the same party – but that is not the case with the Russian delegates; the Kremlin has spoken and others must follow suit.
There is, indeed, a new Russian peace policy: "We will hold on to any piece of land that we want, if we can get our soldiers in there." It is disturbing that colleagues from the Baltic states have spoken out so passionately; the Finnish Socialist Party has done so. Countries that are geographically close to Russia are terrified; they are worried that that new Putin or Medvedev peace policy doctrine will now be enshrined. We must face up to that. This is not a problem for Russia; this is not a debate between Russia and Georgia. It is a debate between the values of the Council of Europe – the values of Europe – and a country that will not abide by them.
Last September, Mr Medvedev signed, with Mr Sarkozy, a peace agreement – not quite a treaty – that included the promise to withdraw troops, but that has not happened. There was a promise to allow OSCE observers to continue their work; that has been defied. It has also been said that the recognition of the two breakaway provinces as states would not enter into international law, but every Russian parliamentarian raised his hand to recognise them, just as every German parliamentarian in the Reichstag in 1939 raised his hand to recognise Sudetenland as part of Germany. We are in a deep, serious and enduring crisis. Let me make an appeal, not to Russian colleagues here, but through them to their colleagues back home in the Duma: surely there must be one man or one woman who will raise their voice and say that what Russia did was grievously wrong? If we are to have peace in this region, and if the values and culture of Europe are to be upheld, someone in Russia must start telling the truth.