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Transcript of Address by Sergey Lavrov, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, at the Spring Part of the 61st Parliamentary Assembly Session, Strasbourg, 29 April 2010

29-04-2010, 14:00



Mr. Chairman, Mr. Secretary General,

Members of the Parliamentary Assembly, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to express my deep gratitude to the PACE Chairman Mr. CAVUSOGLU for his invitation to address the audience from the high rostrum of the Assembly.

It is very significant for us because the current PACE session is taking place on the eve of the anniversary of one of the greatest events in the history of the 21st century that defined the future and the face of modern Europe as well as the entire world - the 65th anniversary of the Victory over Nazism.

The Council of Europe became the material embodiment of the strongest protest of the peoples of Europe who had looked into the abyss prepared for the European civilization by the ideology and practice of Fascism. The disaster of World War II became a powerful catalyst for the Europeans who came to the realization of the need to build a common home that would ensure reliable protection of human rights, success of democracy, rule of law and resolution of social problems.

The implementation of the European project over the last 60 years, which includes the Council of Europe, would not be possible in principle if not for the huge human sacrifices made by all the peoples of Europe and North America, but first of all by the peoples of the Soviet Union.

Russia has never divided the victory into its own victory and that of others. The war was won by all allies of the anti-Hitler coalition, and on the 9th of May we will honour their veterans on the Red Square. However, we, the Russia, will never forget that the Soviet Union with its territory, cities and villages took the burnt of the Hitler invasion. Three-quarters of the German troops have been sent to the Eastern Front and were crushed there.

For the future of Europe it is important that in those years the victors of the "brown plague" rose above ideological differences. Communists, monarchists and anarchists, representatives of left and conservative forces sacrificed their lives selflessly in the fight against Fascism.

It was very hard to reach mutual trust for achieving the common goal especially if to recall everything that happened before the war. And yet we succeeded in uniting our efforts. On 22 June 1941, the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill addressed the nation on the radio and stated: "The danger threatening Russia is a danger threatening us and the United States, just as the cause of any Russian fighting for his hearth and home is the cause of free men and free peoples in every quarter of the globe".

This is our common victory. The victory of those values that make us human. We all want the same for our children and grandchildren - peace, prosperity, mutual respect, free exchange of idea, the open society. In other words, we want a common future.

For the sake of this future, we should tell each other in all due honesty and clarity, that only the full knowledge of facts, historic truth without omissions and without any politicization for the sake of short-term considerations can ensure the strength of Greater Europe that we are building also with the projects of the Council of Europe.

Even when the veterans of World War II, participants and witnesses of those events lived on different sides of the Iron Curtain and quite often happened to be enemies in the Cold War, in their hearts they shared deep respect for each other, mutual understanding and brotherhood sealed by common trials and a common victory. These were the same feelings that led to reconciliation of former enemies.

The most vivid are examples of Franco-German and Russian-German reconciliation. What has been happening in Russian-Polish relations in the recent years has deep symbolic meaning. I share the sincere hope and belief of most Russians and Poles, that the grief of the two nations over the tragedy in Smolensk will become a turning point in overcoming common tragic past, thus contributing to the creation of a truly Greater Europe inconceivable without normal human relations between the states and nations and free from ideological constructions and political expediency.

Russia has always stood for the joint work of historians in the study of the most intricate periods of common history. And today we are ready for this. New Russia has officially condemned Stalinism and has never advocated its ideology and practices. At the same time we strongly reject any attempts to falsify history and to shift onto Russia all the faults of European politics.

Our duty is to convey the truth about World War II to the young Europeans. We propose organizing for them under the aegis of CoE the "European routes of memory of World War II". In Russia, just like in other CIS countries, 2010 has been declared the "Year of the veterans of the Great Patriotic War". Its motto - "We Won Together" - reflects in the best possible way our common approach to the Victory.

I am convinced, that the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly should state its weighty opinion concerning this question, particularly in the framework of the evolving dialogue between PACE and IACIS. The recent international parliamentary conferences held in Saint-Petersburg and dedicated to the 65th Anniversary of the Victory and to the future of European security (7-8 April 2010) serve as positive examples of such cooperation.

The lessons of European twentieth-century history should not pass into oblivion. Paradoxically, promises of a just society have become a reality only in the years of the Cold War when the United States and the Soviet Union, NATO and the Warsaw Treaty have maintained an arch of bipolarity over Europe giving West Europeans a feeling of comfort and allowing them to establish reliable parameters of their development: a socially oriented market economy and representative democracy relying on the middle class.

At the same time the period between the two world wars was marked by hectic search that gave birth to authoritarian trends in most European states including trying on - to a greater or lesser degree - fascist ideas. That is why the notorious effect of "thawing" nationalist attitudes brought about by the end of the Cold War is extremely dangerous.

It seems relevant now to refer to Richard Coudenhove-Kalergi`s 1923 manifesto titled "Pan-Europa". At that time the founder of the European idea correctly assessing the catastrophic state of the continent spoke about the importance of federative relations and the necessity to start establishing relations, including between the "United States of Europe" and Russia, from economy without interfering in domestic affairs. He wrote that Europe itself can avoid the economic catastrophe it was plunged into by the war only through economic cooperation with Russia and participation in its reconstruction. Russia and Europe need each other in order to revive together. These ideas correlate with George Kennan`s behests.

The evolution of events including the idea of Atlanticism, the end of the Cold War and globalization gave us weighty arguments to speak about the whole space between Vancouver and Vladivostok. Today there is simply no reasonable alternative to this when the situation requires a radical review of the existing institutions and mode of actions, when it becomes evident that, as Robert Hutchings wrote in his April article in "Project Syndicate, any new global order is unlikely to be managed by a US-European condominium and when the global politics is undergoing regionalization.

The interests of common survival require pooling the forces, resources and comparative advantages of each country. In practical terms such joined movement could be initiated by establishing a Partnership for Modernization between the European Union and Russia which, among other things, will increase our aggregate national demand.

It is difficult not to agree with Tomas Gomart`s view (Vremya Novostei article "NATO and the Russian question" of 15 March, 2010) that for the West the "Russian question" is becoming a global one. In other words, irrespective of the name, principal thing is that within the US-Europe-Russia triangle qualitatively new relations should be established that would allow us to solve our common and global tasks.

In spring of 1923, Richard Coudenhove-Kalergi wrote that the constant looking back at the past is the main cause of European reaction and factionalism, that an indifferently reasonable neighborhood is no longer possible in our continent. Judging by the sentiments present in Europe the continent once again faces the same choice - "revival or decline".

It is a striking fact that Richard Coudenhove-Kalergi`s vocabulary is absolutely relevant. I am referring to convergence and synthesis - the terms that are the key to realizing the future of the European civilization and its decent place in the contemporary world that we can support only through common efforts.

I would like also to stress that a full-fledged - with legal obligations and mechanisms ensuring its compliance - and open regional collective security system should become an inalienable component of such synthesis.

After the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union, a new era seemed to have come that laid the ground for de-ideologized relations between the countries and peoples. A real opportunity emerged to make the OSCE a symbol of true European unity. Apparently, the "Berlin Walls" of consciousness turned out to be rather strong.

False ideas, instincts and bigotry of the past were brought into the new reality and have led to what Fyodor Dostoyevsky called "self-annulment of one`s true expectations" (The Gambler). As a result the European architecture that would unite each and every state without exception in the Euro-Atlantic region into a single organization based on clear and legally binding principles and providing equal security for all has failed.

The main problem is that the principle of indivisible security proclaimed in the Euro-Atlantic at the highest level in the 1990s was not embodied in international law no either within the OSCE, nor any other formats.

The initiative on the European Security Treaty (EST) put forward by President Dmitry Medvedev in Berlin in June 2008 offers a simple and clear solution to the existing systemic problem of European security. Our goal is to make the indivisible security a legally binding principle. It is n issue of practical politics. This is the only way to "turn the page" and come to a closure of "hard security" - the issue that Europe has been haunted by through its entire history.

After the illusions about "the victory in the Cold War" and attempts to act on the principle "the-winner-takes-it-all", we need to use our experience to collectively review the situation. It is necessary to understand what the end of the Cold War really and what was the essence of the compromise settlement that made it possible.

Firstly, we should get back to the traditional values of international relations such as moderation, self-restraint and reconciliation. There is indication to such positive turn in Euro-Atlantic politics. This is the way to overcome the confidence crisis that has recently grown into strategic misunderstanding which made many talk about "cold peace" or even "a new cold war".

For twenty years Russia has sought new relations with the West, sometimes unable to find understanding and appropriate response. Now a good opportunity has come to overcome this negative dynamics and to reaffirm European mission of Russia on the path of definite and pragmatic cooperation, thus, resolving the major problem that the European policy and Russia itself have been facing during the last three hundred years.

Equal, indivisible and assured security of all the States should turn from a catchy slogan to reality. Strategic assurances by word of mouth with no follow-up actions and changes are not only senseless but, taking into consideration the events of the last ten years, pose the danger of disappointment, which is only one step away from the politics of frustration and vexation. At stake is the future of the entire Euro-Atlantic region and its role in the increasingly complicated and polycentric international system of the 21st century.

I wish the European historical experience for which we paid such a dear price took shape in our broader and open attitude to different things. We should not settle for mere co-existence as during the Cold War era. The qualitatively new environment that has developed in Europe allows and even demands us to move much further, notably along the path to harmonization of interests within the framework of a single security space, cooperation and prosperity.

I believe it necessary to say this today in Strasbourg. I am well aware of the fact that, as it is stipulated in Article I of the Statute of the Council of Europe, the national security issues do not fall under competence of this organization.

However, due to globalization processes and new challenges related to them, the very concept of security has undergone qualitative transformation. The question is no longer about hostile States, against which old-style coalitions have to be created. New challenges and threats that we are facing are represented by transborder problems, which can be countered only by collective, unanimous efforts of all the States within the framework of the broadest international cooperation for ensuring personal security. And it is the unresolved problem of hard security, the relict agenda of the Cold War era, that hampers the effective development of such cooperation.

The Council of Europe has risen from the ashes of the World War II. Its activities in the humanitarian domain are aimed at ensuring security of every European in its broader meaning. The better the guarantees of the social conditions of the human life are, the better the rights record is, the stronger the economy is, the more protected the individual is in society, the less reasons he or she has to resolve problems using force. In the conditions of the current crisis this is felt especially strongly.

It is within this context that we consider the possibilities of the Council of Europe to be a humanitarian pillar for the new European security architecture. The primary task of the Council is to become an intrinsic part of the comprehensive solution of the European problem (Richard Nikolaus Coudenhove-Kalergi).

The pan-European structure represented by the Council of Europe was established and is well functioning in the sphere of soft security which is related to the security of person and human rights. A vast array of pan-European conventions have been drawn up here which unlike the OSCE political documents are legally binding and therefore form a common legal space of the continent. That makes a strong contrast to the sphere of hard security where there is no such a truly collective organization with international legal personality. By the way, why do not we encourage in the context of the Corfu process all the OSCE members to adhere to the law of the Council of Europe? This is a win-win situation.

The Russian Federation has interest in enhancing the credibility and role of the Council of Europe and its Parliamentary Assembly. We support the ideas to accelerate the reform process put forward by the new Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland at the meeting of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe held on January 20, 2010 which were approved by all the Member States of the Council of Europe. These ideas are the logical development of the decisions of the Third Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Council of Europe. The reform must result in the enhancement of the role of the Council of Europe as an establisher of a common European legal and humanitarian space.

The proposals to diminish the mandate and competence of our Organization are inadmissible, as well as the attempts to limit its independence, transform the Council of Europe into a subsidiary body of the other European structures. The Strasburg Organization must be the leading European lawmaker in the proper sense of the word.

The reform is aimed at strengthening the role of the Council of Europe in addressing new challenges. The White Paper on Intercultural Dialogue of the Council of Europe adopted in 2008 is intended to become an important instrument in our communication with other civilizations. We invite the Council of Europe to promote a series of discussions on the modern understanding of the European identity which should involve the best philosophical and political minds of our continent.

Cultural and language diversity is one of the greatest treasures of the Council of Europe. We believe that it should increase the use of Russian and other languages, in addition to the two official ones.

All Europeans need an effective Council of Europe, because the terms of reference of this Strasburg-based organization include a broad range of large-scale and topical issues affecting the most vital needs of the people. This is especially important with regard to the social and economic implications of the global crisis.

The Russian leadership has made it a priority to invest in the people as the key development resource. Despite the crisis, the Government has fulfilled, and will keep up with all of its social obligations for the benefit of people. The Russian President Dmitry Medvedev declared a policy of comprehensive modernization of the country based on the values and institutions of democracy and socially oriented market economy.

We will enhance our cooperation with the Council of Europe along these lines. In February 2009, Moscow hosted the first Conference of European Ministers responsible for social cohesion. We support the adoption of the CoE Action Plan in this field.

In the post-crisis period every country on this continent needs to make great efforts to collectively build a better Europe that is more fair, and dynamically developing. Owing to a more effective Council of Europe, our continent will have every chance to become truly integrated space with human rights promoted according to unified standards, where every citizen of the Greater Europe would benefit from real mobility realized in the free movement of ideas and people. It is quite hard to understand that the "visa iron curtain" is drawn, unlike during the Cold War, on the opposite side.

Ultimately, the level of mutual integration of European Communities, the strength of contacts between people define mutual understanding and trust - and we can build security only if we trust each other. In doing so, we would put into life the hopes and ideals of the founders of European integration, and of many Europeans generations. This would be the Europe left to us by those who sacrificed their lives during World War II to liberate it from the fascist plague, by those who paid a heavy price for the tragic experience of the 20th century, which should become a purgatory on the way to our common future.

The task of all of us is to jointly build it.

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