Wednesday 3 September 2008

Analysing the European Council conclusions

Last week I was asking what to expect from the European Council. Now we can see what we got.

Looking at the text of the final declaration from a diplomatic angle, it starts pretty tough:
The European Council is gravely concerned by the open conflict which has broken out in Georgia, by the resulting violence and by the disproportionate reaction of Russia.
"Gravely concerned" in connexion with a "disproportionate reaction of Russia" in the very first sentence of a declaration by the heads of state and government is considerable.

Similar things could be said about the beginning of the second paragraph:
The European Council strongly condemns Russia's unilateral decision to recognise the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
The addition "strongly" is a clear sign of a general agreement on the evaluation of the situation within the European Union.

The next paragraphs are rather empty and not really worth noting, most of the issues have been reported in the news. But I found an interesting indication for further policy work of the Union in the upcoming month:
The European Union considers that it is more necessary than ever to support regional cooperation and step up its relations with its eastern neighbours, in particular through its neighbourhood policy, the development of the "Black Sea Synergy" initiative and an "Eastern Partnership" which the European Council wishes to adopt in March 2009; to this end it invites the Commission to submit proposals in December 2008. In this context the European Council stresses the importance of the forthcoming summit between the European Union and Ukraine on 9 September.
It seems as if the crisis will speed up some of the political developments in the cooperation with the eastern neighbourhood of the European Union, and I think that this actually positive. Some western countries might not have felt the pressure to get towards a new phasis of cooperation without the events in the Caucasus, so at least some little developments in this area are now coming up quicker than expected.

The text concludes noting that
With the crisis in Georgia, relations between the EU and Russia have reached a crossroads. The European Council considers that given the interdependence between the European Union and Russia, and the global problems they are facing, there is no desirable alternative to a strong relationship [...].
From my point of view, this is a realistic conclusion, and the fact that no sanctions are to be applied on Russia is the only reaction that makes sense seeing the kind of interrelation that we face on this continent.

However, I am sure that this summit has proven that the relations of the European Union to Russia have changed considerably after the Caucasian crisis. But I also think that with a view to working for a less conflictual situation between the countries and peoples of our continent, some intelligent restraint from the side of the EU is in the end a rather positive sign than actually a sign of weakness.


Anonymous said...

thanks again for your insight, very useful. So at the end it seems the EU did not perform as badly. You point to the abnormal strength of the Council statement, while Putin commented on the wise decision of the EU not to impose sanctions. My feeling is that Russia is weaker now.