Thursday, August 14, 2008

That foreign policy remains non-common

Another one of “Europe’s hours”, a phrase first used with reference to the war in former Yugoslavia at the beginning of the nineties, has come and gone with that foreign policy remains stubbornly non-common.

Let’s forget about President Sarkozy’s great achievements. What he did was to abandon whatever plan his own foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, had signed with President Saakashvili, and simply accepted what President Medvedev gave him as a working plan. He then flew to Tbilisi, got Saaksashvili’s agreement and smiled for the cameras.

Meanwhile, Russia has proceeded to ignore her own six-point peace plan, has continued fighting in Georgia, targeting largely civilian population and advancing towards the capital, Tbilisi.

The rest of the EU has split as is its wont whenever there is a real crisis. For once, Britain is nowhere, as we no longer have a foreign policy. It took days for both the Prime Minister and the Leader of HM Loyal Opposition to make any statements that made the slightest bit of sense.

Other Europeans have been somewhat bolder.
President Lech Kaczynski of Poland and his counterparts from Ukraine and the three Baltic countries traveled to Tbilisi on Tuesday to express their solidarity with Georgia, a country that, like their own nations, spent decades in the grip of the Soviet Union.

"Russia has again shown its true face," Kaczynski said Tuesday, questioning whether the Russian decision to halt military activity in Georgia was permanent.

The trip by Kaczynski, President Toomas Hendrik Ilves of Estonia, President Valdis Zatlers of Latvia, President Valdas Adamkus of Lithuania and President Viktor Yushchenko of Ukraine comes three days after their countries issued a joint statement urging the European Union and NATO to "stand up against the spread of imperialist and revisionist policy" by Russia.
How right the Polish president was to wonder.
These views from Eastern Europe stand in stark contrast to the calibrated statements from French and German officials, which have refrained from designating a culprit in the conflict. On the other end of the spectrum, Italian officials appeared to side with Russia.

"We cannot create an anti-Russia coalition in Europe, and on this point we are close to Putin's position," the Italian foreign minister, Franco Frattini, told La Stampa in an interview published Monday, stressing that Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was a close ally of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin of Russia. Frattini is also European Commissioner for Justice, Freedom and Security.
We have been told on numerous occasions that if only the EU would speak with one voice all would be well and Russia would see the light. But what would the EU say with its one voice? Would it take the Polish approach or the Italian one? Or would it issue those “calibrated” Franco-German statements.

Still, it is good to know that when they met the foreign ministers of the EU decided to paper over their differences and agree to send monitors to the Caucasus to oversee the “negotiated truce”. Given the news coming out of Georgia, there appears to be no need for monitors. We know what is happening and the truce has become non-existent. What will the EU propose now?

UPDATE: Der Spiegel gives a summary of German press opinions about the row within the EU over Russia's invasion of Georgia (no, we are not talking South Ossetia or Abkhazia here). It's all very well to say that "deep division has led to weakness of response" but would an EU united behind the rather feeble French and German politicians have produced a stronger one?


Tucks said...

Correct me if I am wide of the mark here, but it appears to me that Russia's invasion of Georgia has familiar echoes with that of the US/GB invasion of Iraq.

Helen said...

Only if you don't believe there is a difference between aggressive authoritarian states and democracies or a difference between international action and national aggression.

Unknown said...

Actually the IHT got it wrong, Frattini is not anymore a EU Commissaire (he has been replaced by Barrot) since his nomination as Minister in Italy, simple to check on the EC website, too simple for any specialist writing for the IHT I guess...

Helen said...

You are so right, Span. I even blogged about it on EURef. I ought to have made that point after quoting the article. Actually, that particular journalist, who covers the EU all the time is not very good. All the same, I am covered with shame for not pointing this out. :(

J said...


How many UN resolutions promising international action against Georgia have been passed?