The session started on Monday and concludes on Friday.
Question of Delegation
The Russian side did not take part in the session this year, or in 2017 and 2016, because it had stopped renewing its credentials.
In 2014 and 2015, PACE stripped the Russian delegation of its voting rights and banned it from participating in the work of its key bodies over the crisis in Ukraine and Crimea’s reunification with Russia. On its part, Moscow insists on the necessity of making amendments to the PACE regulations that would exclude the possibility of limiting the rights of national delegations.
In June 2017, Russia said it would suspend part of its payments to the Council of Europe until the complete restoration of the Russian delegation's rights in the organization. At the same time, Moscow continues to fulfill its obligations under the Council's resolutions.
Creation of Working Group
Nevertheless, the sides continue to maintain contacts, including through a new working group aimed at harmonizing the work of PACE and the main bodies of the Council of Europe. Its first session took place in Strasbourg on Tuesday. Russia was represented by Konstantin Kosachev, the chairman of the Russian upper house’s Foreign Affairs Committee, and Deputy Speaker of the Russian parliament's lower house Pyotr Tolstoy.
A resolution and report by Italian lawmaker Michele Nicoletti, who was elected President of PACE on Monday, served as a basis for the group's work. The report, presented at the Assembly's Autumn Session, suggested that two statutory organs of the Council of Europe engage in a procedure aimed at "harmonizing jointly their rules governing participation and representation of member states in their midst."
During the working group's session, the sides agreed on a work plan and developed a schedule of meetings. The next will take place in Paris on March 16.
Question of Payment
The financial crisis at the Council of Europe, sparked by Russia's decision to suspend part of its payments and Turkey ceasing to be one of the Council's major donors, has been frequently mentioned during the Winter Session.
Guest speakers at the session called on Moscow and Ankara to reconsider their decisions, while Thorbjorn Jagland, the Council's secretary general, reminded Russia of its obligations, stressing that Moscow should pay its membership fee in February.
Moreover, Roderick Liddell, the registrar of the European Court of Human Rights, confirmed at an annual session that the Council had not received a significant amount of money this year but stressed that it would not affect the legal process.
In a commentary to Sputnik, one of the PACE lawmakers stressed the need to hold meetings and discuss the issue in an effort to break the current stalemate.