CHAPTER 2: Conclusions and recommendations |
81. Our report on the EU and Russia, published
in May 2008, 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
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
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
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
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
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
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