The return of the Russian delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe does not mean that everything will be smooth now – our country is ready for the fact that at the January session in 2020 some states will try to challenge the credentials of our national delegation. However, at this stage, Moscow managed to achieve a maximum in PACE. Positive changes are expected in relations with the European Union. What does it depend on? When will the decision to pay contributions to the Council of Europe be made? Leonid Slutsky, Chairman of the State Duma Committee on International Affairs, answered these and other questions of the “Russian Federation today”.
– Leonid Eduardovich, the first thing you pay attention to in your office is a model of the Kronstadt Naval Cathedral. It can be seen that it is made with a soul …
– It was presented to me by children from St. Petersburg, and wherever I am, this model is always with me. The fact is that the Kronstadt Naval Cathedral occupies a special place in my life. Under the patronage of Svetlana Medvedeva, in just over three years, we, together with Vladimir Resin and Alexander Beglov, managed to organize and carry out large-scale work to restore it. As you know, in the Soviet years it was converted into a movie theater. In 2005, on the day of memory of St. Nicholas the Miracle Worker, for the first time in 75 years, the Divine Liturgy was held in the cathedral. On November 20, 2010, the First Patriarchal Liturgy was celebrated by His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia. At its end, the memorial capsule was laid in a cross on the dome of the cathedral. And at that very moment a white dove flew in there. We took it as a sign.
– It is striking that there is no computer on your desktop …
“I always clean it when I leave the office.” It does not contain proprietary information, but there may be personal, confidential information. For this reason, I do not have a stationary computer, but just a big laptop.
– How much could the agents of the State Department pay to look into Leonid Slutsky’s computer?
– Are you sure that you mean the State Department, and not some other American services? In any case, I do not exclude that the contents of my laptop would disappoint them – there is no information constituting a state secret.
– Do you think paper correspondence will remain in diplomacy?
– This is akin to the question – will the books remain. The answer is obvious – they will always be. The “paper” correspondence will certainly be preserved. At least because it’s more convenient for many to work with documents. After all, despite the obvious convenience, not everyone switched to gadgets.
– What about the print press?
– It’s a difficult question. On the one hand, electronic media objectively displace print media. But those that remain – for example, the Parliamentary Newspaper – I want to read: on the plane, on the train, at home. No site can replace the paper version of a quality newspaper.
– I wonder in what form the diplomatic mail comes to you – for example, the invitation of the Russian delegation to return to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe?
– All communication goes through the “paper”, especially the most important documents between Moscow and Strasbourg. Copies can also come by e-mail – sometimes it is easier to work with projects.
– Our delegation resumed full-time work in PACE. How do you feel about the idea of paying contributions to the Council of Europe for the period when Russia did not participate in the work of its Parliamentary Assembly?
– I believe that this, of course, is a debatable issue. In the five years of the absence of the Russian delegation to PACE, 70 percent of the judges of the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights, the High Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, were elected. During the adoption of these landmark decisions, we were not in Strasbourg, and it was not our fault. What to pay for? However, this is my personal position. This is not the competence of parliamentarians, the decision here is made by the relevant structures of the federal executive branch. I do not exclude that this topic may also become the subject of negotiations with the new Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Maria Peichinovich-Burich, during her likely visit to Moscow.
– If, nevertheless, a decision is made to pay contributions, can this affect the “warming” attitude towards our delegation? Some are openly anti-Russian.
– I would not link these stories. The return of Russian parliamentarians to Strasbourg has nothing to do with the issue of payments. The situation in Europe has changed a lot. I admit, I got into a completely different assembly. Many delegations that previously kept their distance today are striving to actively interact with us and increase cooperation with Russia. I am sure that in the near future our delegation will have a significant number of supporters.
– Can we expect that changes for the better will occur in relations with the European Union?
– An important factor that could seriously affect relations between Moscow and Brussels is the new composition of the European Parliament. Many deputies are in favor of establishing contacts with Russia. This is not only the “Europe of Nations and Freedoms” faction, but also socialists, Christian democrats – there are many of them, and they are set to interact with us. We will not run ahead, but I do not exclude the possibility that in a year or two, or maybe earlier, the work of the Russia-European Union Parliamentary Cooperation Committee will resume.
– During the work of the VII convocation of the State Duma, several new formats for inter-parliamentary cooperation appeared. Tell us more about them.
– I would like to start with the following: the 21st century is becoming the century of parliamentary diplomacy. With the help of this tool, it is possible to solve difficult foreign policy puzzles. At the same time, of course, lawmakers are working in tandem with official diplomacy.
As for the answer to your question – indeed, three serious international platforms have been created that have already proven their effectiveness. First of all, it is the Forum “Development of parliamentarism”. This year he went for the second time – in early July, 132 parliamentary delegations arrived in Moscow. We managed to create one of the most powerful inter-parliamentary formats of interaction.
The highlight of the Moscow forum is not so much the number of speakers, as, for example, in the Inter-Parliamentary Union, but the opportunity to conduct an open dialogue. It is important that delegations from Asia and Latin America came. There, new elites “reach out” to Russia. In a matter of years, it is these people who will shape the political landscape in their countries and determine their foreign policy priorities. In this sense, we are creating a foundation for the future.
The symbolic format is the Russia-Africa conference, which took place on the final day of the forum, July 3. This platform allows strengthening inter-parliamentary cooperation with the states of the African continent. The conference also acquires special significance in the context of the first Russia-Africa summit, which will be held in October in Sochi.
Finally, another important international platform is the Conference of Speakers of the Eurasian Parliaments. The initiative for its creation belongs to the State Duma and the Parliament of South Korea. The format has taken place, it is functioning and developing. This year, in September, the meeting will be held for the fourth time – in the capital of Kazakhstan, Nur-Sultan. A significant increase in the number of participants and an increase in the level of representation of national delegations is expected.
And we will not forget about the Conference on countering terrorism and strengthening regional cooperation. It united six countries – Afghanistan, China, Iran, Pakistan, Russia and Turkey. These are the states on which the security system of greater Eurasia will rely. It is this “six” of countries that will bear the main burden on solving the task of the century – the eradication of drug trafficking in Afghanistan.
The 21st century is becoming the century of parliamentary diplomacy. With the help of this tool, it is possible to solve difficult foreign policy puzzles.
We expect that Iraq, Lebanon, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, possibly Qatar, will join the work of the next Conference, which will be held in October in Istanbul.
The format has all the prerequisites for expansion. In fact, we are talking about the creation in the parliamentary plane of the skeleton of the security architecture that Russia is promoting in Eurasia.
– The other day, the CEC of Ukraine announced the final results of the parliamentary elections: there is nothing surprising, the party of President Vladimir Zelensky, “Servant of the People”, won 43.16% of the vote. Is it possible in this connection to count on minimal warming in relations between Moscow and Kiev?
– Let’s hope that in the Ukrainian parliament there will be more deputies who are ready for dialogue with Russia. It is necessary to invite colleagues to our country, to travel to Kiev – if there is goodwill and sanctions do not interfere. I am sure that if a decision is now made to resume inter-parliamentary cooperation, this process will not be frozen again. We look forward to constructive.
– A related topic is the heated dialogue with Georgia. In the State Duma, a meeting was held with Georgian parliamentarians, at which the deputies discussed ways to overcome the crisis in relations between the countries. At the same time, Speaker of the House Vyacheslav Volodin noted that our president gave Tbilisi a chance to change the situation by speaking out against the introduction of economic sanctions. However, so far nothing has changed …
– Indeed, in the State Duma, meetings were held with deputies of the Georgian Alliance of Patriots Alliance faction. However, the current alignment of political forces in this country is very difficult – everyone is trying to “curry favor” with the West. Russophobia has become an instrument of political struggle. There are some politicians who advocate dialogue with our country, but at the same time there is no need to talk about a change in the general trend. But here we also hope that sooner or later common sense will prevail, and anti-Russian hysteria in the ranks of the Georgian establishment will be a thing of the past.
– Recently, the press secretary of the President of Poland, Blazhej Spychalski, said that the country’s authorities would send an invitation to Vladimir Putin on the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz …
– You know, this, of course, is symptomatic. Sent – good. It’s bad that they didn’t send before. In Poland, a very alarming situation in the preservation of historical memory: demolished monuments to Soviet soldiers-liberators, who actually owe their lives to many Poles, including representatives of the current leadership of the country. At the central military cemetery in Warsaw, members of the Youth Parliament at the State Duma videotaped how tombstones are dismantled and dumped, and the graves of Red Army soldiers who died heroes of World War II are destroyed. This is real blasphemy.
Polish history textbooks no longer write about the role of the Soviet people in eradicating the “brown plague”, and at the same time, over 600 thousand Soviet liberators died in Poland. Therefore, today the main issue is the preservation of the remaining military graves and monuments and the preservation of historical memory.
– How can I change this situation?
– It is necessary to communicate with Polish colleagues. The main thing is an open and honest dialogue. The line of Russia is aimed at restoring justice. We must do this in the name of a common world on the planet.
– Maybe there is an opportunity at international sites to adopt regulations that would not allow to destroy the graves of Soviet soldiers?
– Such documents were adopted more than once. For example, in 2018, the UN General Assembly approved a draft resolution submitted by the Russian Federation on the fight against the glorification of Nazism. At the same time, it is very annoying that recently at a session of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly in Luxembourg they rejected the resolution initiated by the Russian delegation on countering neo-Nazism. Against the backdrop of Russia’s successes in Strasbourg, everything seemed to break loose there. This is a negative precedent – since the end of the Second World War on the international parliamentary platform, for the first time, it was not possible to adopt a document condemning Nazism and xenophobia.
– Leonid Eduardovich, how do you see the priorities of inter-parliamentary cooperation today?
– It is necessary to constantly engage in dialogue, expand contacts in the interests of building a multi-polar world, not only with Western countries, but also with Latin American or African states. Now our time to “go” to China, to India, to those countries that are especially important for security cooperation, is Pakistan itself. Work must be carried out systematically and consistently.
– How do you assess the current dialogue with Belarus? The VI Forum of the Regions of Russia and Belarus recently completed its work, a summit was held, but it is still unclear how things are with the Union State, a single currency …
– The solution of a number of relevant issues, indeed, dragged on. Grigory Rapota, State Secretary of the Union State of Russia and Belarus, is doing everything possible to increase joint projects and programs and accelerate the signing of the Constitutional Act of the Union State. Belarus is our most important strategic partner. I will cite the words of the President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko, who noted that “we are one people, by the will of fate and politicians, which has been divided into two states.” So no failures in relations with Minsk can be allowed. We are confident that all obstacles will be overcome, and we will come to a complete understanding on key issues on the bilateral agenda.
– Replenishment is expected in the Duma Committee on Foreign Affairs – Natalya Poklonskaya is transferring to you. She became one of the most prominent deputies of the current convocation. What will Poklonskaya do in a new direction?
– A strong, principled person – she will decorate any committee. The fact that Poklonskaya decided to go to the Committee on Foreign Affairs for me personally has become an indicator of the authority enjoyed by the committee in the State Duma.
We have something to be proud of. Representatives of various factions work as a united and united team, promoting the country’s foreign policy interests. As for the work of Natalia Vladimirovna at international parliamentary venues – this is the subject of the factions that form the State Duma delegations. But I think that, given her experience, integrity and efficient work, appropriate decisions will be made. The question of her transfer to the committee will be considered at one of the first plenary meetings of the State Duma in the fall.
“Politicians have no holidays,” said Vyacheslav Volodin, summing up the spring session. How do you plan to spend August?
– No holidays – you have to work. In particular, in August in the Chinese city of Changchun will be held the conference “China – Northeast Asia.” I will represent Russia, I will speak at the first plenary meeting. There will not be much time to relax this month.