Corruption scandal in PACE discussed

A new report revealing corruption in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) was discussed when the Norwegian Helsinki Committee co-hosted a side-event in Strasbourg.

Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE)

Is made up of 324 members drawn from the national parliaments of the CoE’s member states. PACE is one of two statuary bodies of CoE.

The Norwegian Helsinki Committee (NHC), along with several other non-governmental organisations, problematized the issues of the Azerbaijani elections, corruption and human rights situation at a side-event in Council of Europe (CoE).

A new  report after an independent investigation concludes  that corruption has taken place and undermines the very foundation and trust of the Council of Europe (CoE) as an institution.

The centre of the investigation was ‘caviar diplomacy’, an Azerbaijani lobbying strategy consisting of costly invitations of foreign politicians to Azerbaijan at the expense of the host country, including expensive gifts. This, to prevent critique of Azerbaijani human rights abuse.

«The Norwegian Helsinki Committee has warned against the ‘caviar diplomacy’ for years» Olga Shamshur Flydal, senior adviser at NHC, said.

Olga Shamshur Flydal, senior adviser at NHC.

Norwegian politician involved

German, Italian, Spanish, Belgian, Polish and Finnish parliamentarians are implemented with varying degree of involvement in the recent corruption scandal.

In addition, former Norwegian parliamentary member Karin Woldseth from the Progress Party, is named in the report. She is one of the parliamentarians who has lobbied on behalf of the authoritarian Azerbaijan – an ethical breach.

«Ms Woldseth was in general considered to be a member of a network of people who worked in PACE in favour of Azerbaijan. […] However, she kept her lobbying work very secretive» the report said.

More transparency

The parliament members Frank Schwabe (Germany) and Pieter Omzigt (Netherland) was among the debaters, and they spoke up for increased involvement from the Assembly:

“The voting procedures in the assembly should be more open and enjoy more transparency in the future. In addition, the national governments must take the issue with utter seriousness.”

The parliament members also underlined the need for PACE to be able to challenge the credentials of the parliamentarians, when strong suspicion of corruption is present.

Side-event in Strasbourg: ‘Azerbaijan’s Flawed Election and the Human Rights Crisis: How Can CoE Make a Difference in the Country?’

«We hope this can be the start of an encompassing process within the Council of Europe, as well as on the level of national governments, for more awareness and transparency. An immediate action must be taken» Flydal concluded.

Read the full report here.