Friday, 12 September 2008

EU Council condemns Russia

Following its extraordinary meeting in Brussels, held to discuss the conflict between Russia and Georgia, EU heads of state and government have issued a statement condemning the Russian intervention but have stopped short of imposing any sanctions. They expressed their desire to continue developing strong relations with Russia but suspended any further meetings to discuss the partnership agreement with Russia. Given that the EU had been unable to reach an agreement on access to the Russian oil and gas network anyway, this was hardly a strong gesture. The EU leaders called on other states in the world not to recognise South Ossetia and Abkhazia and indeed there are probably few that will. But Turkish recognition of Northern Cyprus (the only country in the world to do so) has not prevented the EU from inviting Turkey to become a Member State and so Moscow is unlikely to be very peturbed by this. [Statement of European Council, 1 September 2008] It seems likely that the refusal to apply any sanctions against Russia (and still less to use military force) is thanks to France and Germany. Leaks in the French and German press before the summit indicated that there would be no sanctions. These leaks came from the Elysée Palace and from the German government. The German Foreign Minister, for instance, Frank Walter Steinmeier, was vocal in his insistence that there should be no sanctions and he specifically attacked statements coming from Paris (he undoubtedly meant his opposite number, Bernard Kouchner). Steinmeier said, “Even in this serious political situation, it is important that we allow a trace of common sense to prevail. Russia is going to continue to be our neighbour and it is in our own interest to return to a normal relationship with her.” Steinmeier has for long adopted a pro-Russian profile, in striking contrast to the Chancellor, Angela Merkel, who although a Russian speaker and a former Communist, has now adopted a very anti-Russian line. Following the leaks from Berlin, source in Paris said that Mr. Kouchner had never meant to call for sanctions but instead only that the French presidency would strive to reach a common position. The Russian Foreign Minister, meanwhile, was very forthright in his denunciation of the EU and its initial threat of sanctions. He said that Kouchner’s suggestion that Russia would soon attack Moldova or Ukraine or the Crimea were the product of “a sick fantasy” and that calls for sanctions were “a demonstration of complete confusion”. [Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 28 August 2008]

-- From The European Journal. Sign up for FREE to John Laughland's 'Intelligence Digest' to find out what’s really happening in Europe --

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