History of the Russian Federation's participation in the Council of Europe
Cooperation between the Soviet Union and the Council of Europe began as early as in the 1970s in the spheres of youth policy and environmental protection. The address of Mr. Mikhail Gorbachev, the Chairman of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe which was delivered on July 6, 1989 gave a significant impetus to the dialogue and cooperation between the Soviet Union and the Council of Europe. He presented his vision of a Common European home which preceded the application to join the Council of Europe. The Soviet leader called on to establish a common legal space in Europe. Subsequently, the Supreme Soviet of the USSR obtained a special guest status which enabled it to participate in the PACE sessions without a right to vote. USSR acceded to some conventions of the Council of Europe with the European Cultural Convention being one of them.
On January 14, 1992 the Supreme Soviet of the Russian Federation was granted a special guest status to the PACE. On May 7, 1992 the application of the Russian Federation for the membership in the Council of Europe was submitted to the Secretary General Catherine Lalumière. The political dialogue with the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe was launched. The early 1990s gave birth to the sectoral cooperation between Russia and the Council of Europe. The Venice Commission took an active part in elaborating the Constitution of the Russian Federation, which was adopted at a national referendum in December 1993.
On February 21, 1996 the State Duma of the Russian Federation adopted the Federal law «On the ratification by the Russian Federation of the Statute of the Council of Europe», it was signed by the President of the Russian Federation on February 23, 1996. On February 28, 1996 the Russian Federation became the 39th member-state of the Council of Europe.
From May 19 to November 10, 2006 Russia chaired the Committee of Ministers which is the governing body of the Council of Europe. The Russian Chairmanship proceeded under the motto: “Towards a united Europe – without dividing lines”. 28 events were organized by the Russian chairmanship, including the 7th Conference of the European Prosecutors General, which was attended by President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin. It was for the first time that the autumn plenary session of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe took place outside Strasbourg, in Moscow. Both Deputy Prime-minister Dmitry Medvedev and Minister of Foreign Affaires Sergey Lavrov participated in that event.
The Russian chairmanship encouraged the subsequent conclusion of the Memorandum of Understanding between the Council of Europe and the European Union which set the principles of cooperation between these two leading European organization on the basis of equality and mutual respect.
As a consequence of the Russian presidency in the Committee of Ministers in 2006 the White Paper on intercultural dialogue “Living together in equal dignity” was developed and adopted by the Committee of Ministers on May 7, 2008. The White Paper addresses such problems as cultural diversity in the modern European societies and the ideological framework for intercultural dialogue and its interreligious aspects.
Russia has achieved a great progress in building a rule-of-law state, developing a pluralist representative democracy and promoting respect for human rights in the period of its membership in the Council of Europe. It has implemented large-scale reforms in all the social spheres.
Russia takes part in the development of a pan-European legal space by the fact that it participates in the conventions and agreements of the Council of Europe and develops new ones. Russia is a party to 68 out of 222 legal acts of the Council of Europe.
Russia is a member in eight out of the 13 autonomous structures (partial agreements) of the Council of Europe. Russia’s Interdepartmental Commission Concerning the Council of Europe coordinates the activities of different bodies within the Council of Europe. It is chaired by the Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov.
Over 20 Russian federal authorities, ministries and other agencies are contributing to the sectoral cooperation programmes of the Council of Europe in Russia. They are the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court, the Prosecutor General's Office, the Investigative Committee, the Ministry of Internal Affaires, the Ministry of Justice, the Federal Penitentiary Service, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Education and Science, the Ministry of Telecom and Mass Communications, the Ministry of Sports, the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection, the High Commissioner for Human Rights in the Russian Federation, the Presidential Commissioner for Children’s Rights, the Presidential Commissioner for Entrepreneurs’ Rights, the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation, etc.