No adhesion to NATO in the short term

The position of the Belgian government is globally in favour of using dialogue and crisis management with respect to the territorial integrity of Georgia. This policy has been translated into two axes. On the one hand, the preferred option is to preserve all possible elements for a dialogue with Russia, which is implementing a cooperation policy rather than a confrontation policy; on the other hand, it was considered as essential to continue denouncing violations of the territorial integrity of Georgia. These two axes policies have been defended by Belgium at the occasion of bilateral talks between Karel De Gucht (Belgium Ministry of Foreign Affairs) and Sergey Lavrov (Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs) on the 3 September 2008 and between Yves Leterme (Belgian Prime Minister) and Vladimir Putine (Russian Prime Minister) on the 19 September 2008. The federal parliament, including the opposition, supported this position.[1]

The reaction of the European Union to the Georgian crisis was positively assessed by most of the Belgian actors, even NGOs such as CNAPD (National Coordination of Action for Peace and Democracy).[2] They were positively surprised by the fast and efficient reaction of the EU and stressed the almost unanimous standpoints defended by the member states in trying to find a peaceful solution to the crisis.[3] No obvious division could be noticed among European countries regarding the position the EU should adopt and the agreement of the 8 September was seen in Belgium as a clear victory for the EU. Only the Belgian Green parties (Ecolo and Groen!) regret that Europe is not fully talking with one voice and some MPs argued that EU should insist that an international investigation should be organised.[4]

NATO and Russia

Concerning NATO, the Belgian Prime Minister linked the membership action plan of Georgia to the one of Ukraine, but there was a shared feeling that the adhesion of these countries cannot take place on the short term.[5] The Belgian government joined the Netherlands and Germany to ask whether a fast adhesion of Ukraine and Georgia – promoted by USA, Poland and Lithuania – was the best idea. As far as Georgia is concerned, it was not considered in Belgium as a stable democracy and no negotiation could take place before the current tensions were appeased. In addition, the parliamentary opposition argued that Georgia did not comply with all adhesion criteria.[6] On the other side, the project of adhesion to NATO was not supported by a large majority in Ukraine itself. The Prime Minister also stressed that the doubts expressed during the NATO summit in April 2008, regarding Georgia and Ukraine’s adhesions, were legitimate.

These adhesions should in addition be understood in the larger framework of the role of NATO in Central Europe and its relations with Russia. During his meeting with the Russian Prime Minister, the Belgian Prime Minister felt that the enlargement of NATO would create a deeper insulation of Russia and constitute a threat to the cooperation with this country. Even if its interests are not similar as those of NATO, the Eastern partnership is important for the EU and, without Russia, no single important question can be solved in the region, particularly energy and security issues.

 

 

[1] Le Conseil européen de Bruxelles. 15 et 16 octobre 2008, Report made for the Advice Federal Committee in charge of European Issues, 27 November 2008, Document 1616/001 (Chamber) and 4-0985/1 (Senate).
[2] Géorgie: quel rôle pour l’Union Européenne?, press release, 9 September 2008.
[3] Interview with Céline Francis, Researcher at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel and specialist of the Causasian region, 26 January 2009.
[4] Le Conseil européen de Bruxelles. 15 et 16 octobre 2008, Report made for the Advice Federal Committee in charge of European Issues, 27 November 2008, Document 1616/001 (Chamber) and 4-0985/1 (Senate).
[5] Audition of Javier Solana in the Committee for External Relations and Defense and the Advice Federal Committee in charge of European Issues, 25 November 2008, Report CRIV 52 COM 378 (Chamber).
[6] Le Conseil européen de Bruxelles. 15 et 16 octobre 2008, Report made for the Advice Federal Committee in charge of European Issues, 27 November 2008, Document 1616/001 (Chamber) and 4-0985/1 (Senate).