PACE faces new crisis amid corruption row




The April session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe promises heated debates with President Pedro Agramunt expected to be in the spotlight. The spring session that kicks off on April 24 may even be the last one for the Spanish lawmaker.

“Pedro Agramunt’s recent visit to Syria has stirred outrage among legislators at PACE. Axel Fischer, who heads the German delegation and the European People’s Party (EPP) group, the largest faction in PACE, has drafted a resolution condemning Agramunt’s steps. This can be called nothing but crisis at PACE,” says Samvel Farmanyan, member of the Armenian Delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly.

The reaction has been ambiguous first of all because Agramunt’s visit to Syria had not been sanctioned by the Assembly or any of its structures.

“The draft resolution makes it clear that the President’s recent actions amid the corruption row at PACE strike yet another blow to the reputation of the organization and cast doubt on its impartiality,” Farmanyan said in an interview with Public Radio of Armenia.

Samvel Farmanyan sees Pedro Agramunt’s resignation as the only civilized way out of the crisis, especially considering that the criticism comes from the faction that has enabled him to take the post.

The new scandal comes amid serious allegations of corruption at PACE.

Money laundering scandal has tainted the organization with allegations of shady money transfers and votes for cash.

A judge in Milan recently decided to try Luca Volontè, the former chair of the European People’s Party group in the Council of Europe and a former Italian MP, for money laundering.

Prosecutors allege that Volontè was paid almost €2.4 million by Azerbaijani officials in exchange for “his support of political positions of the state” at the Council, which also promotes democracy and rule of law.

The court hearing into the case, to take place in April, is likely to draw renewed attention to allegations of corruption and bribe-taking at an institution that has long sought to create better governance practices in countries such as Azerbaijan.

Perdo Agramunt was also summoned to the Spanish Senate to give explanations about his connections with Azerbaijan.

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