EU praised for its reactivity to the Georgian crisis

The mil­i­tary con­flict in Geor­gia has been mas­sive­ly dis­cussed in France. First of all, it was observed that, con­front­ed with an inter­na­tion­al cri­sis, the Euro­pean Union appeared to be unusu­al­ly active, in com­par­i­son with the paral­ysed atti­tude of the Unit­ed States.[1] Accord­ing to “Les Echos”, the EU final­ly snapped out of its cus­tom­ary irre­spon­si­bil­i­ty and realised that post Cold War Rus­sia is its true problem.[2] Some experts, such as J. Sapir from “Ecole des Hautes Études en Sci­ences Sociales” (EHESS) crit­i­cised EU’s atti­tude con­sid­er­ing that it failed to enforce inter­na­tion­al law.[3] How­ev­er, most observers insist on pos­i­tive aspects of the EU’s behaviour.

On this spe­cif­ic point of inter­na­tion­al law and the absence of sanc­tions, Hubert Védrine, the for­mer French Min­is­ter for For­eign Affairs, con­sid­ered that oppor­tu­ni­ties for sanc­tions were rather lim­it­ed, giv­en the inter­de­pen­dent rela­tions between Rus­sia and the EU.[4] Accord­ing to T. Gom­mart, researcher at the “Insti­tut Français des Rela­tions Inter­na­tionales” (IFRI), reach­ing a rel­a­tive­ly quick cease-fire was already a major suc­cess for the EU and had to be empha­sised as such.[5] Anoth­er point of sat­is­fac­tion, accord­ing to French observers, was the abil­i­ty of the Euro­pean Union to quick­ly agree on a com­mon strat­e­gy, espe­cial­ly when con­sid­er­ing the dif­fer­ent nation­al posi­tions toward Russia.[6] Uni­ty remains, which, in H. Védrine’s opin­ion, is the only way to main­tain EU influ­ence in the region.[7]

EU Neighbourhood Policy and enlargement perspectives

Con­se­quences of this con­flict for the EU Neigh­bour­hood Pol­i­cy were also dis­cussed. J. Theron (IFRI) analysed Geor­gian con­flict as the con­se­quence of suc­ces­sive fail­ures of Mikheil Saakachvili who failed to rein­force the rela­tions of his coun­try with West­ern partners.[8] Accord­ing to the French schol­ar, Geor­gian pop­u­la­tion only sees its country’s rela­tions with the Euro­pean Union with­in the frame­work of the Neigh­bour­hood Pol­i­cy. Accord­ing to many French observers, the con­flict clear­ly showed that Geor­gia was still far from EU mem­ber­ship. T. Gom­mart (IFRI) assumes that the EU is also respon­si­ble for this sit­u­a­tion as it has not tak­en time to reflect on the future of its Neigh­bour­hood Policy.[9] He con­sid­ers that the EU was unable until now to decide whether this pol­i­cy was a first step towards mem­ber­ship or not. Inca­pac­i­ty to answer this ques­tion stems from the fact that the EU always con­sid­ers the Com­mon For­eign and Secu­ri­ty Pol­i­cy in a transat­lantic con­text that lies beyond their competence.

Caucasian countries’ NATO membership postponed

The recent cri­sis will have con­se­quences regard­ing the inte­gra­tion of both Rus­sia and Geor­gia to inter­na­tion­al insti­tu­tions. French news­pa­per “Les Echos” reminds that the inva­sion of Geor­gia could cost Moscow its inter­na­tion­al finan­cial inte­gra­tion (Tbil­isi has the pow­er to veto its admis­sion to the WTO).[10] How­ev­er, the most con­tro­ver­sial issue remains Georgia’s NATO mem­ber­ship, which could be imped­ed after this con­flict. First of all, French spe­cial­ists observe that beyond the Geor­gian case, Rus­sia addressed a clear mes­sage to West­ern coun­tries: this is a warn­ing against future NATO enlarge­ment projects with for­mer Social­ist Republics.[11] More­over, the media and spe­cial­ists men­tioned that EU mem­ber states, and espe­cial­ly France and Ger­many, were more reluc­tant than the Unit­ed States to inte­grate Geor­gia and Ukraine into NATO and made their point of view clear at the Bucharest Sum­mit. Accord­ing to J. Theron (IFRI), the recent con­flict with Rus­sia will rein­force these posi­tions, not only because of the insta­bil­i­ty it raised in the region, but also because of the Geor­gian atti­tude. By choos­ing to use mil­i­tary force in order to solve this sep­a­ratist cri­sis, Geor­gian author­i­ties did not ful­ly con­sid­er the con­se­quences, nei­ther for them­selves nor for their allies. Thus, Geor­gia will have to make a cru­cial choice between its secu­ri­ty by join­ing the NATO or try­ing to keep a ‘fic­tive sov­er­eign­ty’ on the two sep­a­ratist regions.[12]

French observers underline EU-Russia interdependent relations

Last­ly, the most debat­ed issue after the Geor­gian cri­sis was EU-Russ­ian rela­tions. Most observers, polit­i­cal actors or schol­ars, recog­nised that the Euro­pean Union faces a cru­cial chal­lenge. Accord­ing to J. Theron, it would be as coun­ter­pro­duc­tive to fear this Russ­ian pow­er as to neglect or despise it.[13] Con­sid­er­ing the eco­nom­ic pow­er Rus­sia will have in the next decade, J. Sapir assumes it is urgent to build a real com­mon strat­e­gy, not only on ener­gy mat­ters, but also in sec­tors such as indus­try or research. This includes mon­e­tary pol­i­cy too, giv­en that Rus­sia has an impor­tant reserve of funds and exchange.[14] This is also the point of view of Pierre Moscovi­ci, French Social­ist MP and for­mer State Sec­re­tary for Euro­pean Affairs. He con­sid­ers that EU coop­er­a­tion with Rus­sia has to be for­malised into a glob­al agree­ment. Whilst the process had to be inter­rupt­ed after this cri­sis, it is cru­cial not to bury it.[15] Accord­ing to Jean-Pierre Jouyet, who occu­pied the same func­tion until recent­ly, it is also Russia’s respon­si­bil­i­ty to coop­er­ate and cre­ate a rela­tion­ship based upon trust.[16] As a mat­ter of fact, clos­er ties between EU and Rus­sia could bring about polit­i­cal revival for both. French colum­nist A. Adler con­sid­ers that it would be unfor­giv­able to let the oppor­tu­ni­ty fly away.[17]




[1] Le Monde, 17 August 2008.
[2] Les Echos, 23 Sep­tem­ber 2008.
[3] L’Humanité, 06 Sep­tem­ber 2008.
[4] Inter­view, Le Monde, 02 Sep­tem­ber 2008.
[5] L’Humanité, 06 Sep­tem­ber 2008.
[6] Del­cour L., “Après le con­flit ossète, une nou­velle donne stratégique?”, Actu­al­ité de la Russie et de la CEI, n°10, Decem­ber 2008.
[7] Védrine H., op. cit.
[8] Actuelles de l’IFRI, 30 August 2008.
[9] Actuelles de l’IFRI, 13 August 2008.
[10] Les Echos, 09 Sep­tem­ber 2008.
[11] Del­cour L., ”Après le con­flit ossète, une nou­velle donne stratégique?”, Actu­al­ité de la Russie et de la CEI, n°10, Decem­ber 2008.
[12] Lefèvre M., “Le con­flit de Géorgie: un tour­nant dans les rela­tions avec la Russie“, Con­tri­bu­tions extérieures de l’IRIS, 27 Octo­ber 2008.
[13] Actuelles de l’IFRI, 30 August 2008.
[14] L’Humanité, 06 Sep­tem­ber 2008.
[15] Ibid.
[16] Jouyet J.P., “Géorgie: non, l’UE n’est pas ’désem­parée”, 01 Sep­tem­ber 2008, avail­able at: (last access: 26 Feb­ru­ary 2009).
[17] Le Figaro, 06 Sep­tem­ber 2008.