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    PACE Closes Fall Session in Strasbourg

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    The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has closed its fall session in the French city of Strasbourg.

    STRASBOURG, October 3 (RIA Novosti), Daria Chernyshova - The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has closed its fall session in the French city of Strasbourg.

    During a five day session (September 29 – October 3), the Assembly has held several sittings devoted to urgent matters within the Council of Europe member countries, including the crisis in Ukraine, political developments in Georgia, the advance of the Islamic State (IS), counteraction to the manifestations of Neo-Nazism, the presidential election in Turkey, social and economic issues and the activities of the Assembly.

    The Russian delegation skipped the session since an earlier decision to curb Russia's voting rights over the conflict in Ukraine and Crimea's reunification with Russia. Moscow officially informed the Assembly about its decision to halt bilateral cooperation and bowed out of the summer session.


    The situation in Ukraine dominated most of the debate. Besides the usual anti-Russian rhetoric, a number of delegates urged members of the Assembly to take a different look at the unfolding situation in Ukraine and Russian interests.

    "Russia has legitimate security interests. In 1990 the Americans promised to Gorbachev that there will be no further expansion of NATO to the East, and if we are serious — NATO should give guarantee that they have no intention of offering full membership to Ukraine," British Member of the Council of Europe Lord David Anderson said at a PACE debate on the Ukrainian crisis on Wednesday.

    Another British member of PACE, Mike Hancock, stressed that it was the West who manufactured the crisis in the first place.

    "I find it absolutely despicable that the EU in particular did much to manufacture the crisis in the first place; has totally ignored the humanitarian crisis in the Ukrainian state," Hancock said, adding that the Ukrainians in the war zone have little hope and suffer from dire humanitarian conditions.

    Edward Leigh from the United Kingdom underscored the historical and cultural aspects of the crisis in Ukraine.

    "EU has persistently sought to push its boundaries eastward against Russia"s intentions; Ukraine has a complex historical situation and many people who articulate simplistic solutions about Russia invading Ukraine, have not made an attempt to look at Ukrainian history," Leigh said, explaining the historical division between the country's East and West.


    The Assembly also discussed the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in the Middle East and adopted a resolution on threats posed by the IS group, condemning violence against Christians and other religious and ethnic communities.

    "The Parliamentary Assembly is deeply shocked by the threats posed by the terrorist group known as "IS" ['Daish' in Arabic], which has been wreaking death and destruction throughout northern Iraq and eastern Syria," the resolution released on Thursday said.

    According to the document, PACE "firmly believes that the first priority should be to stop the ongoing massacres and that member States of the Council of Europe should do their utmost to contribute to bringing peace to the region."

    British delegate to PACE Mike Hancock warned that the Islamic State "will move across Africa if we are not careful."


    Speaking to the Assembly on Wednesday, Secretary-General of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Angel Gurria stressed that economies across the globe are facing slow growth, high unemployment and growing inequality.

    He stressed that in the interim economic assessment published in September, the organization downgraded every large economy in the world, "with the exception of India, which is a little better, [and] China, which is more or less holding steady."

    "But practically in every single large economy of the world we are looking at a downgrade of growth," Gurria added.

    He urged governments to use economic measures that yield long-term results, rather than focusing on solutions that only bring immediate relief.

    "Today, ladies and gentlemen, the medium in the long-term are the only way. And the politicians have to bridge the gap between the short-term and the results by explaining to the people what it is that we are trying to do, so that they understand," the OECD chief stated.


    On Thursday, the President of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) Suma Chakrabarti addressed the Assembly and expressed the bank's concern over energy security in Europe.

    Given the current geopolitical tensions and "the reliance of many countries on gas from a single source," EBRD has "invested in large-scale projects which can assure against possible interruptions of supply," Chakrabarti said at a PACE debate on EBRD activities in 2013-2014.

    "We actually began this work after the last energy crisis back in 2012, at the time of tensions between Russia and Ukraine," Chakrabarti noted, adding that the EBRD will be financing a gas transit system, including the one through Ukraine.

    He highlighted that the EBRD's investment in Ukraine would reach 1 billion euro ($1.3 billion) by the end of 2014, and said that the bank is involved in infrastructure projects in Ukraine in the private and public sectors, the energy sector and agribusiness.

    "We are ramping up our support for Ukraine, boosting our investments, including returning to the public sector," Chakrabarti said, adding that as of the end of August, the EBRD"s investment in Ukraine in 2014 stood at 620 million euros (about $782 million).

    "We are [also] supporting Ukraine … through policy dialogue and advice," Chakrabarti added.

    The rapporteur on the EBRD activities, one of the UK delegates to the PACE Cheryl Gillan told RIA Novosti that Russia and the European Union would benefit from an economic rapprochement.

    "There is no doubt about it — we will all be a lot stronger if our economies are moving in the same direction," Gillan said, adding that "we also have to recognize that we all have to behave by certain standards."


    Also on Thursday, the Assembly adopted a resolution introducing periodic issue-based monitoring across the region, including those which have never been subject to monitoring or post-monitoring procedures.

    "With a view to ensuring compliance by all Council of Europe member States with their obligations, including those which are not subject to specific monitoring procedures, the Assembly invites the Monitoring Committee to introduce a periodic overview of groups of countries in accordance with its internal working methods, and to launch issue-based, cross-country monitoring in close co-operation with the relevant Assembly committees as a complementary measure to the country-by-country monitoring," the resolution adopted on Thursday says.

    PACE currently monitors ten countries - Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Montenegro, Moldova, Russia, Serbia, and Ukraine. Another four countries — Bulgaria, Macedonia, Turkey and Monaco — are engaged in post-monitoring dialogue.

    European Union, PACE session, PACE, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in Europe (EBRD), Angel Gurria, Edward Leigh, David Anderson, Cheryl Gillan, Suma Chakrabarti, Mike Hancock
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