This article was originally published in Russian on
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) is being accused of closing its eyes to corruption.
The reason for this is that former PACE vice-president and Italian politician Loca Volontè was accused of taking a bribe to the tune of 2.4 million euros from an Azerbaijani official. The Council of Europe is concerned that these accusations will deliver a blow to PACE’s image, and wants an immediate investigation into the question.
According to the accusations, Volontè received a bribe from an official Azerbaijani figure in return for giving assistance in falsifying elections in the country, as well as for creating obstacles to passing bills associated with the question of political prisoners in Azerbaijan.
Rain and Shine
One of the authors of the resolution demanding an immediate investigation into corruption as well as a reconsideration of the assembly’s code of conduct is the Danish parliamentarian, Pieter Omtzigt.
In an interview with
, Omtzigt said that materials concerning elections in Azerbaijan tend to be very dubious, and that is why the question of bribes needs to be investigated quickly and in detail. It must also be ensured that the results of this investigation are made public, and what’s more, this business must be entrusted to some sort of independent structure.
“In 2010, 2013, and 2015, the Council of Europe sent observers to Azerbaijan, and each time that these parliamentarians returned, they spoke about how the sun is shining there, even though others were saying that it’s raining there. Each time they spoke of free and fair elections… but then the long-term monitoring mission from the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights noted that big problems existed”, says Gerald Knaus, chairman of the European Stability Initiative, who specializes in South-East Europe and the Caucasus.
According to him, parliamentarians from the Council of Europe cannot openly ask questions about corruption, though the fact that PACE spokespeople are praising elections in Azerbaijan should have given rise to questions long ago.
The Council of Europe was created in 1949 with the goal of protecting democracy and ensuring the rule of law. Azerbaijan joined this structure in 2001.
A Draft Resolution Has Been Prepared
in a recent article wrote that observers had voiced concern earlier as well regarding the fact that the structure is closing its eyes to human rights violations and falsification of elections by one of its members: the oil-rich Azerbaijan.
Human rights organizations tell how guests visiting Baku are showered with gold, silver, and silk rugs, and fed fish, and also spoke about ‘caviar diplomacy’. In November 2016, Italy’s national broadcaster, RAI, reported on Volontè, which was the cause of a scandal in PACE.
Most parliamentarians believe that the structure might lose trust if the accusations are not investigated in an independent manner.
Those who advise others to be open and transparent, while not investigating accusations that they themselves falsified elections, do not inspire trust, said Omtzigt.
The draft resolution they presented has been signed by 1/5 of the PACE parliamentarians (PACE has 324 members). Among them are representatives of 25 countries, including Great Britain, France, Germany, the Baltic and Scandinavians countries, Greece and Ukraine.
Who Will Investigate?
Gerald Knaus, chairman of the European Stability Initiative, noted that leaders of the assembly are rather apathetic towards this question.
“If we cannot defend the principles of the rights of man in Europe, then who else can hope…” says Knaus, expressing his sorrow.
While the chairman of PACE, Pedro Agramunt, hard earlier come out against the demands, last week he gave his consent to the proposal of an independent investigation. Now the observers are interested by the question of who will be included in the investigative group.
Knaus, taking into account the groups that defend the interests of the Azerbaijani government, says that there is no basis for trusting in ‘caviar diplomacy’. However, the situation is not hopeless.
The president of PACE has still not voiced his sentiment on this question. However,
emphasizes that the structure’s leader is under pressure from the general secretary of the Council of Europe. Speaking of the accusations, Secretary Thorbjørn Jagland categorically declared that the structure absolutely does not tolerate corruption.
The Azerbaijani side has thus far denied such accusations, noting that the statements voiced in PACE are “the work of those who don’t love our country”.