Repercussions of ‘Georgia’

The mil­i­tary con­flict in Geor­gia dur­ing the last sum­mer was main­ly per­ceived in Spain as a clum­sy, an even ille­git­i­mate, move of Geor­gia to try to recov­er con­trol of the region of South Osse­tia. Russ­ian reac­tion against this rein­te­gra­tion was also per­ceived as dis­pro­por­tion­ate and there­fore crit­i­cised but, at the end of the day, it is clear that Rus­sia has been able to take a great advan­tage of the cri­sis vis-à-vis the Union and, specif­i­cal­ly Spain. First of all, Moscow has pre­served its influ­ence in the Cau­ca­sus, rein­forc­ing the pro-Russ­ian and sep­a­ratist regions in the area. Sec­ond­ly, Rus­sia has been suc­cess­ful in its oppo­si­tion to a fast fur­ther enlarge­ment of NATO (and, implic­it­ly, the EU in the mid- or long-term) towards Ukraine or the Cau­ca­sus, as some West­ern Euro­pean coun­tries – includ­ing Spain – tend now to see the per­ils of the entry of any Russ­ian neigh­bour into the West­ern organ­i­sa­tions rather than its advan­tages in terms of demo­c­ra­t­ic and eco­nom­ic sta­bil­i­ty expan­sion eastwards.[1] Final­ly, Moscow was able to rein­force its weak polit­i­cal, eco­nom­ic (ener­gy, finance and tourism), cul­tur­al and secu­ri­ty ties with Madrid dur­ing the autumn and the win­ter. For March 2009 an impor­tant vis­it of the Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Dim­itri Medvedev to Spain was programmed.[2]

The Cau­ca­sus con­flict has indeed had reper­cus­sions for the Euro­pean Neigh­bour­hood Pol­i­cy, the rela­tions of the EU with Rus­sia and the future enlarge­ment of the EU itself. The posi­tion of Spain is that ENP must be reformed and enhanced in coor­di­na­tion with the launch­ing of oth­er par­al­lel region­al coop­er­a­tion projects for the area sur­round­ing the EU such as the Union for the Mediter­ranean ini­ti­at­ed last 13 July 2008. As it has been men­tioned in the sec­tion on “The French Pres­i­den­cy” this new forum for gath­er­ing polit­i­cal and eco­nom­i­cal­ly the EU mem­bers with the South and East Mediter­ranean coun­tries is of great inter­est for Spain. The for­mal name of the process is in fact “UM: Process of Barcelona” since the project is based on the pre­vi­ous Euro-Mediter­ranean Part­ner­ship start­ed in 1995 with the Barcelona Euro-Mediter­ranean Con­fer­ence. The Span­ish gov­ern­ment was actu­al­ly able to locate the head­quar­ters of the ini­tia­tive in Barcelona but, dur­ing the sec­ond half of 2008, very lit­tle progress was achieved. Regard­ing the Pol­ish-Swedish backed project of the East Part­ner­ship, Spain would be will­ing to pro­mote sim­i­lar links to the ENP than those of the UM. How­ev­er, it is obvi­ous that Spain is less inter­est­ed in this East­ern dimen­sion and prob­a­bly sup­ports those EU coun­tries such as France or Ger­many that do not wish see this new region­al ini­tia­tive as con­nect­ed to a future enlargement.[3]

Regard­ing the full inte­gra­tion of cur­rent can­di­dates as new mem­ber states in the EU dur­ing the near future, the Span­ish offi­cial posi­tion is still that the enlarge­ment has brought con­sid­er­able ben­e­fits to the Union through the strength­en­ing of pros­per­i­ty and sta­bil­i­ty through­out the whole of Europe and that the EU-27 has been con­sol­i­dat­ed with the increas­ing abil­i­ty of the new Mem­ber States to pro­gres­sive­ly inte­grate into the Union’s struc­tures and com­mon poli­cies. The semes­ter of the Span­ish Pres­i­den­cy or, at least, the peri­od of the SBH Team Pres­i­den­cy (2010–2011) is like­ly to coin­cide with the acces­sion of Croa­t­ia if nego­ti­a­tions with Slove­nia, to solve a bilat­er­al ter­ri­to­r­i­al affair, end suc­cess­ful­ly. It will be much more dif­fi­cult to achieve sub­stan­tial progress in the objec­tive of anoth­er can­di­date, Turkey, to join the EU despite the for­mal sup­port of Spain to this process since the last Euro­pean Commission’s annu­al report on Turkey’s progress showed that lit­tle progress had been made over the last year and that the can­di­date con­tin­ued to raise seri­ous con­cerns about free­dom of expres­sion, the inde­pen­dence of the judi­cia­ry and the military’s inter­fer­ence in polit­i­cal life, among oth­er issues.[4] Final­ly, and because of the unprece­dent­ed and some­what eccen­tric new inter­est of Spain for its rela­tions with Ser­bia, Madrid is now push­ing for accel­er­a­tion in the process of future enlarge­ment to the coun­tries of the West­ern Balka­ns (for­mer Yugoslavia and Albania).

As regards to the enlarge­ment of dif­fer­en­ti­at­ed inte­gra­tion areas with­in the EU – such as the Euro­zone or the Schen­gen area), Spain also backs the goal of some of the new­er mem­ber States, or per­haps the Unit­ed King­dom, to join the Euro­zone. The same thought is applic­a­ble to the Schen­gen area, which may also be extend­ed to admit Bul­gar­ia and Roma­nia in 2010 or 2011. Last, the SBH Team Pres­i­den­cy will also have respon­si­bil­i­ty to final­ize the arrange­ments to bring into force the free move­ment of labour amongst the 27 Mem­ber States by May 2011.[5]

 

 

 

[1] At the same time, fol­low­ing the the events occurred in August 2008 and the recog­ni­tion by Moscow of Abk­hazia and South Osse­tia as new inde­pen­dent states, Spain adopt­ed a much tougher line towards the non recog­ni­tion of Koso­vo. There­fore, Madrid start­ed to become much more aligned with the Russ­ian posi­tion in the West Balka­ns; to some extent para­dox­i­cal­ly, since Spain obvi­ous­ly opposed as well the pres­i­dent Medvédev’s deci­sion to recog­nise the two new republics.
[2] The process of unblock­ing and giv­ing new sub­stance to the EU rela­tions with Rus­sia through the nego­ti­a­tion of a post-PCA agree­ment is like­ly to be pro­mot­ed by Span­ish Pres­i­den­cy of the EU dur­ing 2010.
[3] See Deniz Devrim and Eveli­na Schulz, 2009, The East­ern Part­ner­ship: An Inter­im Step Towards Enlarge­ment? (Elcano Roy­al Insti­tute ARI 22/2009), avail­able at: www.realinstitutoelcano.org/wps/portal/rielcano_eng/Content?WCM_GLOBAL_CONTEXT=/Elcano_in/Zonas_in/Europe/ARI22-2009 (last access: 30 March 2009).
[4] See William Chislett, 2008, The EU’s Progress Report on Turkey’s Acces­sion: Stalling Reform (Elcano Roy­al Insti­tute ARI 143/2008) avail­able at: www.realinstitutoelcano.org/wps/portal/rielcano_eng/Content?WCM_GLOBAL_CONTEXT=/Elcano_in/Zonas_in/Europe/ARI143-2008 (last access: 30 March 2009).
[5] See “Strate­gic frame­work for the Spain-Bel­gium-Hun­gary Pres­i­den­cy. Con­tri­bu­tion from the Lil­lafüred Process”, in: Agh, Atti­la & Judit Kis-Var­ga (eds.), New Per­spec­tives for the EU Team Pres­i­den­cies: New Mem­bers, New Can­di­dates and New Neigh­bours, Budapest: “Togeth­er for Europe” Research Cen­tre (2008), pp. 487–496.