The messenger logo

Europe behind Georgia, but on its own terms

By David Matsaberidze
Wednesday, September 3
The EU Summit is over, with a warning given to Russia and tremendous humanitarian aid and financial assistance packages for Georgia signed off. The Georgian political establishment declared that “now Georgia has assistance it never had before,” embodied in a full scale free trade agreement and simplification of the visa regime. European leaders have also agreed to send an EU observer mission to Georgia, monitoring the situation in the Russian-occupied regions.

The resolution adopted on September 1 calls on Russia not to go down the road of self-isolation from Europe, as its recent activities in Georgia have put Russia-EU existing relations at stake. The EU has condemned Russia’s decision to acknowledge the two breakaway regions of Georgia as independent states and strongly supports the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity. It also calls for a special post of EU Representative for the Georgian-Russian crisis to be created and obliges the EU leadership to execute the full resolution and immediately all necessary steps to implement it.

“Tbilisi welcomes the EU decision regarding an immediate ceasefire and sending an observer mission to Georgia. These points have crucial significance for the full implementation of the ceasefire agreement,” Prime Minister of Georgia Lado Gurgenidze stressed. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is also satisfied with the results of the summit. “The EU was united in spirit regarding Georgia. The assembly was aimed not at investigating the guilt of each side, but providing assistance for those who have suffered as a result of recent developments.” Although Merkel declares that in such cases both parties should be blamed, she stressed that “the document blames Russia for inappropriate and disproportionate actions.” Merkel respects the territorial integrity of Georgia and hopes for EU-Russian dialogue, as they are interdependent and the dialogue should not be stopped.

The Foreign Minister of Lithuania remarked, “EU member states were severe and radical towards Russia and united in their wish to help Georgia resolve its humanitarian crisis and rebuild its economy. The new reality will also make the EU work towards energy diversification,” a press release states. Negotiations over the EU-Russian partnership will be postponed until the six point agreement is complied with and complete withdrawal of the Russian forces is effected, which Lithuania approves of. The White House has said in a statement that the summit “demonstrates that Europe and the United States are united in standing firm behind Georgia's territorial integrity, sovereignty and reconstruction.” The US calls for immediate implementation of the six point agreement and withdrawal to the lines held prior to the outbreak of hostilities. The White House stressed the importance of the international monitoring mechanism and its replacement of the Russian “additional security measures” in the area adjacent to South Ossetia.

The Georgian Conservative leader Kakha Kukava has stated that the EU decision was absolutely predictable and the position taken was openly expressed by various EU leaders before the summit. In the long term perspective Kukava does not expect that the EU will reconsider its decision and Georgia should not hope for its desired results. Kukava believes that by the next meeting of the EU leaders the urgency of the Georgian-Russian situation will have decreased and Europe will thus soften its position. Nani Macharashvili from the Institute of Political Sciences of Georgia has stated that “there were too great expectations from the EU summit and the disappointment of the population was expected, although the result should have been expected by the political establishment of Georgia as well.” Macharashvili considers the EU’s move an attempt to assume the role of mediator between the US and Russia, as long as the US and Russia are ready to go on this direction. “Although it’s a matter of contention whether Russia is economically capable of making the choice, it implies through the rhetoric of Medvedev and Putin,”she states.

The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the outcome of the EU emergency summit was “quite expected”. It also stressed that the “responsible approached” prevailed among European leaders and no sanctions were imposed on Russia. “The majority of EU states showed a responsible approach and confirmed their course towards partnership with Russia, realizing very well the importance of mutually beneficial cooperation,” the Ministry stressed. However Russia remains a bit anxious about the EU Summit declaration. The representative of Russia in the EU, Vladimir Chizov, termed the EU decision as “incorrect.” According to Chizov, Russian military formations have already withdrawn from the territory of Georgia, those Russian soldiers remaining being part of the peacekeeping mission.

In a conclusion released after the meeting on September 1, the EU leaders said they were “gravely concerned” by the conflict between Georgia and Russia and “the disproportionate reaction of Russia.” French President Nicolas Sarkozy and the President of the EU Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, called on other states not to concur with the Russia’s recognition of the breakaway regions. “The practical results of the recognition of these territories by Russia will become a special topic of investigation for the EU Commission. The Cold War is over and there is no place for new confrontation,” Sarkozy stressed after the session. Sarkozy, Barroso and Javier Solana, the EU foreign policy chief, will visit Moscow and then Tbilisi on September 8. They will monitor compliance with the six point agreement. In case of violation, the EU will reassemble to discuss further action. “The September 8 visit will have a crucial significance for future EU-Russia relations. If Russia hopes for partnership, it should be a real partnership,” Sarkozy stressed.

The exact details of financial transactions to be made under the resolution were discussed at a special meeting between the Georgian PM Gurgenidze and EU Commissioner for Foreign Affairs and Neighbourhood Policy Benita Ferrero-Waldner. Two groups will visit Georgia to monitor the situation and allocate the financial aid package worth 15 Million. Gurgenidze says that dialogue about financial aid has also been entered into with the US. “This will be full-scale assistance for sure,” Gurgenidze states.