After Georgia. The EU and Russia: Follow-Up Report - European Union Committee Contents


CHAPTER 2: Conclusions and recommendations

81.  Our report on the EU and Russia, published in May 2008[33], gave the Committee's views on the bilateral relationship. The conclusions and recommendations reached at that time remain valid.

82.  The precise circumstances surrounding the August 2008 outbreak of the conflict are not yet clear but responsibility for the conflict was shared, in differing measures, by all the parties. There is evidence of a Russian military build-up prior to the August war. In addition, Russia's use of force was disproportionate in response to provocative statements and military action by President Saakashvili.

83.  President Saakashvili seems to have drawn unfounded confidence in confronting Russia as a result of mixed signals from the US Administration.

84.  The origins of the conflict lie in both distant and more recent history in the region, involving population transfers, national grievances, commercial, political and military interests. Attempts at resolving the conflict will need to take account of these complex factors.

85.  The EU's response to the conflict in Georgia was rapid and reasonably successful. It persuaded the two parties to accept a ceasefire, and with some delay brought about the withdrawal of Russian troops from all Georgian territory outside South Ossetia and Abkhazia and brought the parties together for talks in Geneva. This success owed much to the effectiveness of a strong Presidency with whom the Russians were prepared to negotiate. The EU was the obvious and perhaps only credible body to act as intermediary in the conflict, and acted with unaccustomed confidence and authority.

86.  We are seriously concerned that Russia has not complied fully with the ceasefire agreement reached between President Sarkozy and President Medvedev. Full Russian compliance with the ceasefire plan should continue to be used as a measure of Russia's behaviour, even though such compliance is unlikely in the near future. We endorse the statement by the Europe Minister that the pace and tone of the negotiations on the new Partnership and Cooperation Agreement would be informed by Russia's fulfilment of its obligations under the ceasefire agreements.

87.  We welcome the EU's decision to set up an inquiry to investigate the origins and the course of the conflict in Georgia. Any action the EU takes to find lasting solutions must involve the local communities and take account of their views, as well as addressing the wider geopolitical situation. In doing so, lessons should be drawn from previous UN and OSCE missions in the area.

88.  The EU should, with the UN, the OSCE, the United States and other partners, make an effective contribution towards building a long-term peace in the region. It is essential that the mandate of the EU Monitoring Mission in Georgia (EUMM) is renewed later this year and is allowed to exercise its agreed tasks in full on both sides of the border.

89.  In recognising South Ossetia and Abkhazia Russia has further breached the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity, following its intervention in Georgia. There should be no question of the EU Member States recognising either of these entities. It will be important for the EU to maintain pressure on Russia to respect the international commitments it has made on these subjects. At the same time the EU will need to continue to rebut Russia's assertions that there is a parallel with Kosovo.

90.  There is evidence of distribution of Russian passports to non-Russian citizens in South Ossetia and Abkhazia and also in Ukraine. At the same time President Medvedev has outlined Russia's priority to protect the life and dignity of Russian citizens wherever they are. We are greatly concerned by the combination of these two developments. The EU should refute firmly this doctrine of intervention.

91.  It is too soon to judge how Russian behaviour in the region will be affected in the longer term by the international reaction to its intervention in Georgia.

92.  Russia's economy has been severely affected by the financial crisis and global economic downturn. In particular the fall in the price of oil has dramatically changed Russia's strong economic position since our last report. These events should have brought home to the Russian leadership their unavoidable involvement in the world economy. There is a risk that Russia may make a protectionist response. The EU should continue to encourage Russia's full integration into the global economy by continuing actively to support their membership of the World Trade Organisation.

93.  It is clear that the response by the EU to the interruption of gas supplies through Ukraine in 2006 had no effect in deterring a recurrence of similar action in January this year. Furthermore little progress has been made to safeguard gas supplies to EU Member States in eastern, central and southern Europe through the diversification of supply and delivery routes. This policy failure needs to be remedied urgently. This issue will become a major test of whether solidarity between Member States can be made a reality.

94.  Events since our last report have increased the importance we attributed to the EU's having a unified energy strategy, including an interconnected and liberalised internal market in energy, especially gas. We welcome the continued commitment of the Government and the European Commission to achieving this goal and we urge the European Union to take the necessary decision at the next meeting of the European Council in March.

95.  The close proximity of the Georgia conflict to key energy transit routes in the Caucasus highlighted their vulnerability and is a matter of considerable concern. This should be addressed by the European Institutions and the Member States taking as a basis the European Commission's Second Strategic Energy Review to ensure security and dependability of energy supplies. More vigorous action needs to be taken by the EU to diversify gas supplies, to increase gas storage capacity and to encourage the development of the Nabucco pipeline.

96.  The ongoing disputes between Russia and the West over missile defence and NATO enlargement risk further complicating EU-Russia relations. The EU should consult closely and at an early stage with the new American administration about engaging with Russia in a firm but constructive, fair and balanced way.

97.  It is clear from the NATO ministerial meeting in December that there is no prospect of early NATO membership for either Georgia or the Ukraine. Without drawing back from the commitment by NATO to the two countries' eventual membership, the focus should remain in the immediate future on practical cooperation.

98.  The EU has an important role to play in strengthening the economies and democracies of both Georgia and the Ukraine and should pursue this through development of the Neighbourhood Policy and the Eastern Partnership while also developing a more positive attitude towards their eventual membership.

99.  Hard-headed and pragmatic engagement and not isolation is the right policy for the EU in its relations with Russia. Despite the conflict in Georgia, a new Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) remains the appropriate vehicle for the EU to pursue this engagement. However, the EU should not compromise on its principles during the negotiations for a new PCA. We agree that the PCA should reflect the much changed international agenda, particularly areas such as counter-proliferation and climate change.

100.  Developments since our previous report have reinforced our view then that the common neighbourhood is a particularly sensitive area for both Russia and the EU. The Russian intervention in Georgia and the crisis over gas from Russia transiting Ukraine have demonstrated the need for the EU to work with the Russians over all aspects our relationships with these countries. The EU should show understanding for Russia's concerns, but should stand firm on issues of principle concerning these countries.

101.  Events in Georgia have demonstrated that concrete progress is needed in resolving frozen conflicts, including in Georgia and Moldova. These should be a key aspect of discussions with Russia.

102.  We welcome the EU's new commitment to strengthening its relationship with Ukraine, Georgia and its other eastern partners in the Eastern Partnership. In so doing, the EU should seek to build respect for democracy, human rights and the rule of law in each country.

103.  The Ukraine is a key neighbour for both Russia and the EU. Insufficient attention has so far been given to nurturing the EU-Ukrainian relationship. EU Member States should make more efforts to foster cultural, educational and other links which would be perceived as non-threatening by the Russians. The prospect of EU membership should be given greater encouragement and substance.

104.  We agree with the overall policy of the Government and the European Union that it is important to remain engaged with Russia but, as we stated in our previous report, that engagement must be hard-headed, pragmatic and unsentimental.


33   European Union Committee, 14th Report (2007-08): The European Union and Russia (HL 98). Back


 
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