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).