More than a year after Russia was expelled, dozens of Russian nationals are still employed by the Council of Europe, creating a diplomatic dilemma for the Strasbourg-based human rights organization.
Ukrainians at the Council are especially dissatisfied that Russians continue to work there, and several other members, including Estonia and Latvia, have also voiced their concerns, describing the current situation as “intolerable”.
Council of Europe’s members will discuss Russia’s war
On Tuesday, May 16, members of the Council of Europe will gather in Reykjavik for a conference primarily focused on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Weeks after it started its brutal war against Ukraine, Russia was removed from the organization in March 2022, and it is no longer a member.
Founded in 1949, the organization has grown to 46 members. It works to defend democracy, human rights, and the rule of law throughout Europe. Around 2,000 employees with permanent or short-term contracts work there.
Presence of Russians in the Council of Europe threatens security – Nikitiuk
Viktor Nikitiuk, Ukraine’s deputy permanent representative at the Council, said, “The presence of Russians in the Council of Europe threatens the security and legitimacy of this international institution.
The organization may still be susceptible to Russian information gathering and manipulation, said the unnamed diplomat in an interview with Euractiv.
“Those people continue to have access to talks and materials. The diplomat said, “You never know when the backdoor will be opened or what damage it will cause.
The Secretariat of the Council of Europe has responded by allowing Russians’ fixed-term work contracts to expire without the option of renewal.
However, the organization keeps Russian employees with long-term contracts on the payroll to avoid facing unfair dismissal claims should they be fired.
Council of Europe employs more than 40 Russians – reports
According to insiders, the Council of Europe employs more than 40 Russians, down from 90 at the beginning of the year.
Several of the survivors hold essential positions inside the organization.
Several sources claim that the Council of Europe has the opportunity to solve the issue by simply moving the Russian staff members to France’s staff quota because some of the Russian staff members have also gained French nationality after spending some time there.
Member states have requested that the secretary general do a risk analysis on every Russian employee at the Council of Europe, specifically to identify any who may be “external pressure” susceptible.
On July 1, the report’s results will be released.
Russia left the Council of Europe to escape expulsion
In March 2022, after the Council of Europe suspended Moscow’s representational rights in response to the invasion of Ukraine, Russia resigned from the organization.
Given that the majority of members passionately oppose the ongoing aggression on Ukraine, it is likely that Russia is taking this action as a preventative measure to avert a vote in which Moscow could be humiliatingly expelled.