The messenger logo

Europe to wash its hands or shake its fists

By David Matsaberidze
Tuesday, September 2
The EU Summit should draw the contours of a new world order if Europe manages to stand up to Russia. However the EU camp is already divided into supporters of “hard” and “soft” policies. Some advocate imposing sanctions on Russia by revisiting economic policy and instituting a new visa regime, while others seek moderation, leading them to espouse issuing warnings only. Russia will try to defend its position and bring energy resources into the discussion, which could dash the hopes of Georgia.

French Prime Minister Francois Fillon has stressed that the French President would propose a number of initiatives to his European counterparts, while President Nicolas Sarkozy himself has confirmed his readiness to re-visit Russia and Georgia and further mediate in order to promote the cause of peace. According to Fillon the word “sanctions” is not on the agenda at the EU summit in Brussels, as the EU does not aim to isolate Russia but to kick start “dialogue” between the parties to the conflict.

France has tried to shift the focus of the summit from sanctions against Russia to aid for Georgia. In answer to the French call, Poland and other new EU members have given up their previous demand to punish Russia by imposing sanctions, although they are still urging the bloc to issue a strong condemnation of Moscow's recognition of the two breakaway Georgian regions. Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said on Friday that his country “will do its job if it contributes to creating a united stance for the entire European Union”. The Baltic States, the Czech Republic and Slovenia remain very active in this process, pushing the necessity of imposing peace and stability in the Caucasus. They suggest that the international community brings the South Caucasus countries further into the EU orbit, promoting the idea of an EU-Caspian energy corridor.

A representative of the White House has stated that the US has already been very active over Georgian-Russian developments and that Russia should suffer severe economic sanction from the rest of the world. The US have already withdrawn from a joint US-Russian nuclear programme and will consider serious economic measures as well, among them the restriction of investments and blocking Russia’s membership of the World Trade Organisation. Assistant US Secretary of State Matthew Bryza has stressed the necessity of diversifying the European energy sector and accused Moscow of violation of the six point agreement. A similar position has been expressed by the President of Lithuania Valdas Adamkus, who stated that “Russia is obliged to preserve the norms of international order and respect the territorial integrity of Georgia.” Ex-President of the Czech Republic Vaclav Havel has called on the EU to work out a united position against Russia and to condemn Russia’s actions. Havel considers Russia as the main guilty party in the conflict, but admits that the Georgian side made errors as well.

Meanwhile Russia is being very aggressive and strict, demanding “sanctions and embargoes on weapons delivery to Georgia”, Sergei Lavrov declared at the Moscow Institute for International Relations, assuring the world that “the aggression of Saakashvili will not be repeated”. Lavrov hopes for joint actions with Russia’s partners, although he does not exclude the possibility that Russia will be left alone for “defending its national interests in full conformity with international norms,” as he put it. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has said that Moscow will not reverse its decision on the recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, adding that bilateral cooperation agreements with the “new states” were being prepared. These agreements would cover economic, humanitarian and military cooperation issues. “There will be fully fledged international relations between these allied states,” Medvedev added, saying that Russia would provide comprehensive assistance to Abkhazia and South Ossetia and undertake its responsibilities towards the two regions through these agreements.

President Saakashvili said late on August 31 that he did not know what the outcome of the EU leaders’ summit would be, but he expected the European Union to say that it would never recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia. “I expect the European Union not to step back in the face of this dirty and outrageous attempt to legalize this illegality,” he said in a televised address to the nation. “I expect the European Union to support our country’s territorial integrity and to state that will never recognize results of this illegality. This is very important for us, because we will never tolerate it,” Saakashvili stressed.

Temur Iakobashvili, Georgia’s Minister for Reintegration, expects the summit to discuss EU-Georgia relations in various aspects. “First of all this means humanitarian aid for the displaced persons, secondly, this means aid to help stabilize Georgia’s economy and to maintain foreign investor confidence in Georgia – Americans are pledging USD 1 billion and it will be good if the Europeans allocate EUR 1 billion,” Iakobashvili said. As for the political aspect, Iakobashvili hopes that the summit will announce the beginning of the process of integrating Georgia with the EU, involving a free trade agreement, simplified visa rules, and institutional integration. Iakobashvili does not expect the European Union to undertake “dramatic steps against Russia.”

Europe was deciding its own fate yesterday. The decision it reached would dictate the future of Europe.