01. oct. 2009
Gross: How we are able to produce
better propositions which better respect
the point of view of the other party
Reconsideration on substantive grounds of previously ratified credentials of the Russian delegation (Rule 9 of the Rules of Procedure of the Assembly)
THE PRESIDENT. – The first item of business this morning is the reconsideration on substantive grounds of previously ratified credentials of the Russian delegation – Rule 9 of the Rules of Procedure of the Assembly – presented by Mr Gross on behalf of the Committee on the Honouring of Obligations and Commitments by Member States of the Council of Europe (Monitoring Committee), Document 12045, with an opinion presented by Mr Greenway on behalf of the Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs, Document 12051. I remind members that we have agreed to interrupt the list of speakers at about 10.45 a.m. in order to leave sufficient time for the replies and votes. I call Mr Gross, rapporteur. You have 13 minutes in total, which you may divide between presentation of the report and reply to the debate.
Mr GROSS (Switzerland). – In a way, this debate concludes the three hours of debate that we had on Tuesday morning and evening. I would not like to repeat anything, but I shall concentrate on three important elements that were not discussed. I listened carefully to all of you. In many speeches, you used words such as «we want», «we demand», «we impose», «we command» and «we expect». Those words invite us to think about the role of our Assembly towards governments and colleagues elsewhere.
Our Organisation is totally value-based. We hold the three most important values, which are based on the dignity of human beings; that is the foundation of our work. The resolutions that we make are the expression of how we think that those values can be applied best at any moment, in any place and in however difficult a context. They express our views but we do not have the power to impose those views. We have only the power to convince others that our views are right. We have to be aware of our limits and the potential of our soft power. Hard power means that you can attack someone and enforce things that he does not want but that you think are right, or that you can impose economic sanctions to make someone behave in the way that you think he should. Our soft power is only the power of communication. We can say what we think should be done, but that is only an invitation to those responsible to think about what they are doing and about our proposition. We can only convince others to think about change; we cannot impose a change or make it on their behalf. That nuance is not respected by many of us, who overestimate our power.
Even at home when we have a majority in our parliament, the government does not always do what we think it should. I sometimes regret that this Parliamentary Assembly was constructed in such a way that we have only soft power. We can regret that our soft power is not listened to and followed, but we have to think about what we can do better so that we are more respected.
Of course we are frustrated that the Russian Government did not live up to our suggestions, but we should not blame people for that. We have to think about the Russian Government and how much influence our colleagues in the parliament have on the Russian Government. Correctly, we often criticise Russia because that country is more influenced by its government than the government is influenced by parliamentarians. That is an element of the difficulty of Russian democracy, but it is the reality. When we think about what our colleagues are able to do at home we have to take that reality into account.
We have made some suggestions in paragraph 7 of the report, which are a midnight product. We put the report together on Monday evening between 7 o’clock and 1 o’clock in the morning.
This is important, but not only on this issue: we should establish a better culture for when we disagree. We are frustrated when the government does not do what we suggest, but we have the right to get an answer as to why the government thinks that our suggestions are wrong. We can build up a culture of disagreement in that we agree to disagree and understand better why we disagree. That will enable us to produce better propositions that better respect the point of view of the other party.
The alternative to sanctions and removing the right of participation is increasing and improving dialogue. We should at least be told why people think we are wrong. That would give us the chance to achieve better understanding. When you understand better, you can get closer and better overcome disagreements. To move on to the next element, our raison d’être – our main duty – is to face up to the obstacles before Europe today. Getting rid of Russia’s membership and getting rid of our Russian colleagues would prevent us from facing those difficulties. That is not the way to overcome difficulties.
Sanctions represent the easiest or most comfortable route in the sense that we would not have to do much more. However, that would represent a total failure to work on the real difficulty that this continent faces. No problem is easier to solve without Russia. It is not easy to find a solution to any problem without Russia. We have to find solutions with Russia. Europe and Georgia have a common situation; we have a common neighbour. You can never choose your neighbours, but there is no alternative to finding peace with, not without, your neighbours.
To conclude my introduction, it is interesting that at this time we have a new Secretary General. Meanwhile, a Danish liberal former prime minister is trying to introduce to NATO a Council of Europe-style culture. Here in the Council of Europe, another Danish liberal is trying to reinvent old-fashioned NATO confrontation. This we should not do.
We should stick to our culture, which is based on dialogue and soft powers. We should know our limits. We should improve our use of soft power but we should not exclude anybody. We need to be able to solve any important problem for this continent.
Mr GROSS (Switzerland). – I would like to respond to Mr Jensen and Mr Lindblad. Mr Jensen, we are not afraid and we do not forget anything, but we do not think that we would be living up to our values sufficiently if we simply made resolutions and thought that other countries had to submit to them. That is a misconception of the possibilities. It is only the European Parliament that has that power, not an interparliamentary, intergovernmental Organisation such as the Council of Europe. That is a wrong conception of the possibilities.
Mr Lindblad, I do not think that there is disagreement. I do not think that we have had real dialogue. The Russians did not really discuss the issue with us, because they think that, from the beginning, we had a misconception of how the war started, and because we had that misconception, we could not understand their way of reacting. This is the chance that you mentioned; today, we can read the most authoritative investigation possible into how the war started. That is why we now have momentum, and why dialogue is only now really possible. Given that momentum, we should react logically, and not send away the people with whom we need to have real dialogue.
Mr GROSS (Switzerland). – The debate was only a short one, and I apologise for that. That was not in our power, as you might say.
When you listened carefully to the arguments, you could understand why we did not have dialogue. Mr Saar labelled the views of those who disagreed with him as nonsense and absurd. That is how the Russians feel that they have been treated by us, and how the Georgians feel that they have been treated by the Russians. It is also how we feel that we have been treated by the Russians. When you do not try to understand why the other person disagrees, you cannot have dialogue and you cannot find better understanding.
I am very grateful that Mr Herkel did not deny the good will of those with whom he disagreed. That is a better base for our work, and we should continue to build on it. We need that approach in discussions not only in this Chamber, but in those between Russia and the Council of Europe and between Russia and Georgia. We can do that only when some of the Russians are here. We should continue to welcome them to continue the debate. We have not done well in the past 12 months, and that is why we can perhaps use ourselves as a small example of how we can do so much better for all of us.