Repercussions of ‘Georgia’

Elcano Royal Institute
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: (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: (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.