CONFLICT SETTLEMENT IN SOUTH OSSETIA AND
PROTECTION OF GEORGIA/CHECHEN BORDER
Council joint action on an EU contribution towards reinforcing the
capacity of the Georgian authorities to support and protect the OSCE
observer mission on the Georgia/Chechen border.
Council joint action on an EU contribution towards the conflict
settlement process in South Ossetia
||Article 14 EU; unanimity
|Deposited in Parliament:
||(a) 7 August 2001
(b) 31 October 2001
||Foreign and Commonwealth Office
|Basis of consideration:
||EMs of 26 October and Minister's letters of 29 October 2001
|Previous Committee Report:
|Adopted in Council:
||29 October 2001|
||Cleared, but further information requested
Joint Action on an EU contribution towards the conflict settlement
15.1 South Ossetia is a province which has broken
away from Georgia. In his letter of 29 October, the Minister for
Europe and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr Peter Hain)
comments that the dispute is one of the region's 'frozen' conflicts.
"The OSCE is leading
efforts to broker a political settlement. But negotiations have
been dragging, partly because of the parties' lack of capacity
to engage. This Joint Action is aimed at speeding up the process
by financing the establishment and running costs (for one year)
of secretariats serving the two main OSCE mechanisms: the Joint
Control Commission, which is mandated to resolve security issues
in the zone of conflict, and the Experts Group, which aims to
prepare an intermediate political status for South Ossetia. The
secretariats will improve the operational ability of the JCC and
the Experts Group. The Joint Action, in the form of a grant, will
also help fund the Georgian and South Ossetian engagement with
the two bodies.
"This Joint Action firmly supports the Government's
policy on working for conflict resolution in the South Caucasus
and of drawing Russia into co-operative and collaborative engagement
in the region. Of all the frozen conflicts in the region, South
Ossetia stands the best current chance of being resolved, but
it needs a push. A political settlement on South Ossetia would
also provide an example to communities in the other, more intractable
disputes such as Abkhazia and Nagorno Karabakh, that negotiation
can produce results. It would draw Russia into a successful political
engagement in the region, again providing a better model for their
engagement in Abkhazia, and would help to improve Russia/Georgia
relations. This latter is central both to Georgian stability and
Russian security on its Caucasus border, and more widely to stability
in the South Caucasus: all key objectives for the UK Government.
The South Caucasus is an important transit route for Caspian energy.
Instability in the region has produced large numbers of refugees
and internally displaced persons, and provides fertile ground
for criminal and terrorist activity. How Russia deals with the
region will be an important test for the development of its wider
relationship with the West."
15.2 In his EM, the Minister says that the European
Commission will be responsible for implementing the Joint Action:
"It will conclude a
financing agreement with the OSCE for the grant. The OSCE Mission
in Georgia will be responsible for setting up the Secretariats
and for reimbursing mission expenses. The Commission Delegation
in Tbilisi will monitor and evaluate both the correct use of the
grant and its impact on the political process."
15.3 The financial reference amount will be _210,000.
15.4 The Joint Action was expected to be adopted
at the 29 October General Affairs Council, according to the Minister,
who commented that the matter had come up very suddenly.
Joint Action on protecting the Georgia/Chechen
15.5 The aim of this Joint Action is to extend
to 31 March 2002 Joint Action 2000/456/CFSP of 20 July 2000 which
provides financial support for Georgian Border Guards to protect
the OSCE Border Monitoring Mission on the Georgia/Chechen border.
15.6 The Joint Action of 20 July 2000, which
we cleared on 26 July 2000,
followed concern at the 1999 Helsinki European Council at the
threat posed by the continuing conflict to the stability of the
Caucasus region, the possible spill-over from the fighting in
Chechnya to Georgia and the effects on Georgia's territorial integrity.
15.7 In his Explanatory Memorandum of 29 October,
the Minister says that the OSCE Border Monitoring Mission is:
"a small but effective
confidence-building measure, welcomed by both Russia and Georgia.
But it cannot function in this dangerous area without adequate
and reliable protection from the Border Guard. The recent deterioration
in Russia/Georgia relations following armed clashes involving
Chechen rebels inside Georgia, underlines the importance of the
OSCE operation in providing an independent assessment of border
15.8 The Minister comments that the UK has played
a leading role in developing EU policy in the South Caucasus.
"The Joint Action will
help our objective of developing confidence between Russia and
Georgia. It is in the form of very practical support to the Georgian
Border Guard which will improve their capacity to protect the
OSCE Border Monitoring Mission on the Chechen/Georgia border.
Independent monitoring of the border is an important confidence-building
measure and more than ever necessary, given the recent armed clashes
inside Georgia involving Chechen rebels."
15.9 The financial reference amount for this
proposal is _45,000.
15.10 The Minister regrets that the proposal
was not submitted for scrutiny earlier. In his Explanatory Memorandum
he says that the Joint Action was agreed on 26 July but "regrettably,
because of an administrative oversight, it was not submitted for
scrutiny before agreement." In his letter, the Minister says
that the UK was concerned not to block the extension of the new
Joint Action which is consistent with, and strongly supports,
UK policy in the region. It resulted from a recommendation by
a retired British General, following an assessment mission to
Georgia in May/June.
15.11 We thank the Minister for his full explanation
of the significance of these proposals. We accept that proposals
for joint actions are frequently dealt with in a speedy fashion
by the Council and that it is often in the United Kingdom's interest
to assist the process by lifting the scrutiny reserve. In the
case of the two documents considered here, we support the proposals
and clear the documents.
15.12 However, we have had a number of cases
of proposals being agreed before scrutiny has been completed and
we now ask the Minister to comment in a letter to us on whether
he is content that the administrative arrangements in place in
his Department are adequate to ensure that, where it is possible
to predict that a proposal is likely to be put to an early Council,
an Explanatory Memorandum is sent to this Committee in time for
it to be subjected to scrutiny. We appreciate that when there
is no official text to trigger the process his officials need
to be particularly alert, but it is our impression, which we would
be happy for him to dispel, that all too often they are taken
by surprise, when they should in fact have been able to cope with
the requirements of Parliament.
44 (21430) 10319/00; see HC 23-xxvi (1999-2000), paragraph
23 (26 July 2000). Back