Statement of the Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation 1418th (Budget) meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies Programme and Budget 2022-2025

The Russian Federation has always attached the highest importance to the multifaceted character of the Council of Europe. For many years the Russian delegation has been advocating for the Organisation’s rational course towards playing a more active role in forming a broad agenda of practical intergovernmental co-operation, including such important areas as healthcare, social cohesion, culture, youth policy, education, sport, and many other dimensions such as combating terrorism, corruption and drug trafficking. Despite the widening gaps in perception of the Organisation’s priorities among its members, Moscow still genuinely believes that only this multifaceted approach, enshrined in its Statute, allows the Council of Europe to maintain its status as the key platform for dialogue and co-operation at the pan-European level.
This is why it is with deep regret that the Russian Federation notes the rising trend towards artificial limitation of the rich agenda of the past and proliferation of divisive priorities within the Council of Europe under far-fetched politically motivated pretexts, which drain limited financial and human resources of the Organisation. 
This short-sighted trend has culminated in the elimination of three key steering committees – on health, social cohesion and migration – on the brink of major crises in their fields. Back then, two Directorates General of the Secretariat were dissolved – on social cohesion and on culture, education, youth & sport. As practice has shown, for work to be successful both a proper intergovernmental body and a Secretariat structure are required; their absence has severely undercut the Organisation’s capacity in these fields.
Recent dramatic events, such as the COVID-19 pandemic leading to a widespread socio-economic crisis in Europe and across the world, while exacerbating the ongoing migration crisis, clearly demonstrate the obvious need for a serious reinforcement of these dimensions in the Organisation. 
Despite the self-evident need to address the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, acknowledged by the Hamburg Ministerial session of the Committee of Ministers, the requisite measures, proposed by the Russian Federation, are mostly absent from the Programme and Budget. Suggestions to reinstate steering committees responsible for handling these issues in the past have fallen on deaf ears. Health and social fields remain among the most poorly financed in the Organisation. No efforts at all are undertaken to ease the plight of people with disabilities – once a priority for the Council of Europe.
Instead, what European taxpayers get is another increase in budgetary resources for “gender and diversity” issues.  
Discrimination of any kind is prohibited in accordance with Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights. In this context it is of utmost importance to avoid any kind of double standards, any “positive discrimination”, which promotes rights and interests of one specific group over the rights and interests of other groups, undermining stability and fomenting social tension. An impartial approach should include respect for cultural, moral and religious values prevalent in society. 
Unfortunately the drive to protect persons on the grounds of sexual orientation turned, in fact, into aggressive promotion of a specific way of behavior and lifestyle that runs counter the religious and moral foundations of our common European civilization. This agenda is pushed by the same Member States which brush aside all efforts to restore the much-needed inter-religious dialogue and promote family values.
The scope of “LGBT rights” never stops growing, and now it also includes intersex persons. Related issues, instead of being addressed through the lens of health and bioethics, are lumped into the already overflowing anti-discrimination pile.
Even children are increasingly becoming the focus of “gender” advocates. Not simply “sex education” – “comprehensive sexuality education” (a term with dubious connotations) is now being introduced. 
This approach deepens dividing lines on the continent by ignoring the opinion of many millions of Europeans who support preservation of traditional values of the European societies.
The interests of European citizens are likewise not at the forefront of the approach to migration policy advocated in the Council of Europe. Once again, minority rights – in this case those of migrants, including illegals – are in the spotlight. The new intercultural integration framework focuses on “the value of diversity”, rather than encouraging adaptation of migrants to their new surroundings, respect for laws and historical heritage of European culture, protecting the rights of both migrants and local population. The migration crisis should be addressed holistically, and not by needlessly expanding obligations of States. Double standards are unacceptable – trampling migrant rights in some cases while trumpeting them in others only erodes Council of Europe standards.
This “tunnel vision” focusing on a few specific vulnerable groups depreciates the long-lasting infringement of rights of other groups – such as national and linguistic minorities and non-citizens – threatened by severe discriminatory practices and even the overt rise of Neo-Nazism in several Council of Europe Member States, despite existing obligations and commitments under European instruments.
Overcoming these troubling trends requires a collective effort from Member States and the Secretariat, which represents the backbone and institutional memory of the Organisation. In this regard, the Secretariat’s working methods play a significant role. Their reform should be carried out thoughtfully and on the basis of consensus; it must not lead to a decrease in transparency and a detachment of the Secretariat’s activities from the guidance of Member States.
In conclusion, the Russian Federation does not appreciate the lack of balance in the Organisation’s new programme of activities, budget and intergovernmental structure, which undermines its multidimensional nature. The Russian delegation made every effort to overcome this disbalance, in order to avoid a deep political and financial crisis in the Organisation. In several cases the situation was indeed improved, which permitted the adoption of the Programme and Budget. Nevertheless, the principal issues remain. Regarding some activities, the Russian Federation is compelled to specifically reserve its right not to be bound by their outcome [1]. 
Bearing this in mind, the Russian Federation expects a more constructive, unbiased and non-politicised approach to the planning and implementation of Council of Europe activities in the future, for the benefit of the entire Europe and its population.

[1] Steering Committee on Anti-Discrimination, Diversity and Inclusion (CDADI): Main Deliverable 11 – Draft Recommendation on the equality of rights of intersex persons; Working Methods – formation of a working group to undertake a review of Recommendation CM/Rec(2010)5 on measures to combat discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Steering Committee for the Rights of the Child (CDENF): Main Deliverables 8,9 – Feasibility study and Draft non-binding instrument on age-appropriate comprehensive sexuality education to strengthen responses for inter alia preventing and combating violence against children, including sexual violence and harmful behavior.

Committee of Experts on the Prevention of Violence (ENF-VAE): Main Deliverables 1,2 - Feasibility study and Draft non-binding instrument on age-appropriate comprehensive sexuality education to strengthen responses for inter alia preventing and combating violence against children, including sexual violence and harmful behavior.