EU praised for its reactivity to the Georgian crisis

Centre européen de Sciences Po
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”, 1 September 2008, available at: (last access: 26 February 2009).

[17] Le Figaro, 6 September 2008.