Thursday

1st Oct 2020

Solana wants swift mobilisation of EU mission to Georgia

  • Mr Solana wants EU personnel on the ground in Georgia by October (Photo: Irish EU Presidency)

EU's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, called on Wednesday for swift action from member states to get the EU mission in Georgia on the ground by 1 October.

As the deadline is very short and linked to the total withdrawal of Russian troops from the Georgian territory beyond the separatist regions, Solana called on quick action from the member states to deploy the EU's 200-staff mission in the next few weeks.

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"You can help me in mobilising the countries, because we are pressured for time. At the beginning we were thinking about 100, but now the number has doubled. Time is short and we need to make an extra effort. We hope very much that we will not fail," said Mr Solana, addressing the foreign affairs committee of the European Parliament.

The EU mission to Georgia will be a civil one, "with a very clear observer mandate," and "will be deployed all over the region, according to what was agreed on Monday," the EU foreign policy chief explained, referring to his visit to Moscow along with commission President Barroso and French President Sarkozy.

According to the agreement signed by President Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian troops are to fully withdraw from their positions outside the separatist regions if the EU deploys its 200 observers by 1 October.

Asked by several MEPs what guarantees the EU has that Russia will hold to the agreement, Solana answered that he personally asked Medvedev whether "[he would ensure that] there would be no Russian foot beyond the borders of South Ossetia and Abkhazia" and the answer was "Yes".

Mr Solana also explained that EU participation in Georgia will entail three elements. Apart from the contribution to the EU mission itself, member states are also to reinforce the observer mission of the OSCE, as well as the United Nations mission.

The mandate of the UN mission, which is deployed only in Abkhazia, is to be discussed at the UN on the 15 October, the date it runs out.

However, the EU foreign policy chief stressed difficulties with getting a UN deal on extending the mandate of its mission in Georgia, since Russia has a veto in the Security Council.

Asked by the commitee chairperson, centre-right MEP Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, if the Georgian conflict came as a surprise and whether the EU lacks intelligence on what is happening in the Caucasus, Solana admitted that he did not expect the August events and was preparing for September diplomatic meetings on Abkhazia.

Mr Solana also said that the EU special envoy to the Caucasus is currently in Tbilisi and is working "24/7," adding that the EU foreign ministers' meeting next week might decide to send a permanent EU envoy to Georgia.

EU diplomatic defeat

Georgia's "territorial integrity" is no longer mentioned in the most recent text brokered by the EU. Asked whether this is a diplomatic defeat of the EU, Mr Wolski told EUObserver: "In a way, yes. It is something of which the Russians were determined not to allow any mention in the text."

Nevertheless, Mr Wolski did not agree that this might set a dangerous precedent for other frozen conflicts such in Transdniestria in the Republic of Moldova. "It does not set a precedent, because the position of the EU does not change. Territorial integrity remains our principle. The EU's position remains that borders cannot be changed through military force," said the AFET chairman.

Moldova was also mentioned by Mr Solana in the context of the need to strengthen the partnership with EU's Eastern neighour and to develop a "security strategy" for the Black Sea region.

Mr Solana added that the EU supports Turkey's efforts to set up a "regional platform" for the Black Sea, despite Georgia's "reluctance".

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