137th assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union became the most representative and biggest for the 128-year history of IPU. Over 2000 delegates representing over 160 national parliaments and 11 parliamentary unions expressed their views on a number of subjects of the international agenda, from the issues of further strengthening of the democratic institutions and world parliamentary development to digital technologies implementation and digital parliaments creation, new effective measures to counteract new challenges and threats, strengthening international security and stability.
The forum was mostly successful in the productive and welcoming regime of a dialogue that its participants chose, and an aspiration to understand and hear each other that President Putin called its delegates to on the first day of the forum. The IPU platform fairly considered a UN parliamentary dimension, this time proved its unique position once again by collecting not only its allies but opponents as well. Thus, the Taurida Palace welcomed parliaments of the South Korea and the North Korea. Though it did not make up to direct talks, their participation in common discussions, as well as short and reserved, but still respectful participation in the lobby are definitely the right way to go. Incidentally, one of the main motives of direct talks impossibility was the fact claimed by the DPRK that their country has 100% sovereignty while they are not sure if their opponent has the same.
The national sovereignty subject was also covered in the report of special committee of the Russian parliament’s upper chamber that was created to monitor the facts of interference in the home affairs of Russia, including cyber attacks. Its chairman, Andrey Klimov presented its first results to the international community. He said that Russia suffers hundreds of cyber attacks daily including the ones meant to shatter political stability. 28% of such attacks come from the USA territory.
“We are developing the resolutions taken in Dhaka this April on the role of parliamentarians in spreading of the non-interference principle applied to domestic affairs. This is the main principle of the UN, the second articles of its Charter. Russia is the only state who created a Senate Committee on state sovereignty protection following this principle”. The senator called to all the countries interested to participate in “The Black Book” creation that would include all attempts of national sovereignty violation.
“The field” of the 137th Assembly saw a constructive dialogue of the Russian parliamentarians and PACE members, without sharpness or highlight declarations. This was calm and respectful opinion sharing. Namely, there was a discussion of the report by Michele Nicoletti who proposed to create a workgroup with members from all member states of the Council of Europe to prepare for the 2019 summit of the organization in order to confirm the European unity, protection and assistance to the democratic safety in Europe. There were also a discussion of the Russian delegation’s proposal to make amendments in the PACE Regulation. “Of course, we cannot solve this issue in just one such meeting, this is a subject of further talks with PACE that will imminently take place, I think”, Vladimir Lukin, deputy chairman of the Federation Council’s Committee on international relations.
A considerable attention of the forum’s participants was paid to the new technologies. During these discussions, the members of the IPU agreed that besides progress that the new tech bring to us, there are the new challenges as well. The participants in the discussion were specially interested in the voting via the internet where the information security is not guaranteed. Those in favor of the voting via the internet included France, as well as Estonia and Egypt where the digital technologies helped conduct the election more than once. There special supervision systems and personal access keys for every voter are used. However, a number of delegations, including the ones from the Netherlands, Finland, Iraq expressed their fears that voting via the internet is prone to error and fraud, and using it is hard if the population does not trust it.
One of the main events of the Saint Petersburg parliamentary forum was the resolution “20th anniversary of IPU’s Universal Declaration on Democracy: unity of our diversity”. The document confirms that “Democracy is a universally recognised ideal as well as a goal, which is based on common values shared by peoples throughout the world community irrespective of cultural, political, social and economic differences. It is thus a basic right of citizenship to be exercised under conditions of freedom, equality, transparency and responsibility, with due respect for the plurality of views, and in the interest of the polity".
The resolution also notes that “A state of democracy ensures that the processes by which power is acceded to, wielded and alternates allow for free political competition and are the product of open, free and non-discriminatory participation by the people, exercised in accordance with the rule of law, in both letter and spirit”.
The document also strengthens the role and importance of the opposition as a key component of democracy that expresses critique and makes a thorough analysis of functioning of the government and parliamentary majority, as well as presents political alternatives and represents the interests of the groups of the nation being a political minority.
The document taken contains a call to the parliaments to assist in enabling equal access to the internet and new tech, as well as in inclusion of the civil education in school curricula in the interests of democracy, human rights protection, integration of and respect for diversity, gender equality, freedom of faith and religion and sustainable growth.
A separate section of the Resolution was a proposal for the UN to declare June 30 the International Day of Parliamentarism commemorating the IPU creation on June 30, 1889.
A special item in the agenda of the 137th assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) covered the international efforts on stopping the violence on Rohingya in Myanma. “A support of the majority of participants in the Assembly to the special debate of the situation around the Rohingya ethnicity became a reflection of the humanitarian concern for this tragedy, and not a wish to express critique to this country or settle intergovernmental accounts”, Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the Federation Council’s Committee for international affairs. The Russian parliamentarian expressed hope that the IPU efforts will become a constructive and effective attempt to make a real input in solving this tragic situation.
During the Assembly, its chairman Valentina Matviyenko also offered an initiative to hold a World conference under the auspices of UN related to inter-religious and inter-civilizations dialogue. During the Assembly, this subject was one of the main. The speech of the Russian orthodox church patriarch Cyrill who was an honorable spokesman at the Assembly also noted the importance of the moral consensus in the today’s world.
Today the civilized world must put effort to protect and strengthen the “holy tree of cultural pluralism”. It should protect it against the risks of unification as well as from the infringements of the extremists and national and religious exclusiveness advocates, which is also a parliamentary task. “There are over 200 ethnicities representatives in the territory of our country”, said the chairman, “the national education uses 89 languages. The Russian peoples represent followers of all the religions of the world. At the same time, we never had religious wars. The dialogue and cooperation between the representatives of different religions living in Russia is an important condition of strengthening and development of the country”.
During the 137th Assembly the new president of the IPU was elected. For the first time in history it will be a woman. For the next 3 years the IPU will be presided by the Mexican representative Gabriela Barron.
During the final press-conference for the Russian and foreign journalists, her predecessor, Saber Chowdhury congratulated Gabriela Barron and wished the new President success in the development of the world parliamentarism, democracy strengthening and the principles of justice affirmation. He expressed many positive words to Russia, the organizer country of the 137th Assembly saying that the Saint Petersburg forum already made it up to the IPU history becoming of its brightest pages.
The Chairman of the Federation Council Valentina Matviyenko, in her turn, said that the platform of the Saint Petersburg forum became a unique place for an open and constructive dialogue of different countries representatives: “There was a number of two-party meetings held, we compared positions and agreed upon the future cooperation. It would take us years to do the same out of this forum." Valentina Matviyenko congratulated Gabriela Barron on her election of the IPU President, specially marking that this election is unique for the fact that it was competitive. She added that the fact that chairman of the Federation Council’s Committee for international affairs Konstantin Kosachev was elected the first deputy of the IPU President will be a good assistance to the new President in solving major tasks the IPU is faced with today.
During the press-conference, the journalists touched upon a number of subjects on the international and regional agenda. When answering to the situation in the Korean peninsula, the Chairman of the Federation Council reminded all of a consolidated position of Russia and China on a necessity to stop tension in the region and on US and North Korea opposition: “We need to stop exchanging dangerous belligerent declarations from both sides. American military maneuvers and Korean missile launches are serious irritating factors. They should be removed. Russia has a clear-cut position that we haven’t changed: we are against expanding of the nuclear states club, we stick to the regime of non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and consider it extremely important to motivate the North Korea to sign the non-proliferation treaty. This is going to be a hard work, but we don’t have another way but peace talks by means of diplomacy, including the parliamentary one.”
When responding to the question about the discriminatory educational law by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, Mrs. Matviyenko said that this law was considered discriminatory undemocratic in a recent PACE resolution that is quite strict. “Hungary, Moldova, Romania and Russia already gave negative evaluation to this law. It is evident that this law contradicts the European values as well as violates all international conventions in the sphere of education and in the sphere of national minorities situation. We hope that assessment of this document by the Venetian Committee will be not a political one but purely lawful.” Valentina Matviyenko reminded that 50% of Ukrainian population are Russian-speaking people, “we have a long common border, Ukrainians are a brother nation for the Russians. We are not interested in creation of new hot spots. At the same time, attempts to turn a multinational country into a monoethnic, disregarding the minorities’ interests, are a threat to sovereignty and integrity of Ukraine. I hope that Ukrainian authorities and law-makers accept that the forceful ukrainization is mistaken and that they will take the right and reasonable resolution in a dialogue with the European parliamentarians and other representatives of the world parliamentary community,” she ended.