(25/08/08) Sarkozy calls crisis EU summit on Georgia, Russia

European Union leaders will meet in Brussels on 1 September for an extraordinary summit to review their relationship with Moscow after the crisis in Georgia revived East-West tensions reminiscent of the Cold War era.

In a statement on Sunday (24 August), French President Nicolas Sarkozy, the current holder of the rotating EU presidency, said the meeting would be devoted to "the course of action that the European Union intends to take in terms of aid to Georgia and its future relations with Russia".

The meeting was convened "at the request of several EU member states," the statement added.

Poland and the Baltic states in particular were among the EU countries most critical of Russia's invasion of parts of Georgia on 7-8 August in response to an offensive by the Georgian military against South Ossetia, a separatist province at the Russian border with close ties to Moscow.

The European Council on Foreign Relations, a UK-based think tank, believes the EU should take the lead in the Georgian crisis because the United States has limited ability to act on the ground given its current commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Yet it warns "short-term sanctions and punitive action against Russia would be counterproductive" and says the six-point peace agreement negotiated by Sarkozy on behalf of the EU should be complemented by a comprehensive regional strategy for Eastern Europe and the South Caucasus.

"Because the EU has emerged as the principle mediator between Moscow and Tbilisi, European leaders have a new chance to influence events," the ECFR wrote in a policy paper published today (25 August). "If they seize it, the EU could 'win the peace', not by trying to restore the old and unstable status quo in Georgia or by punishing Russia, but by changing the rules of engagement in the whole post-Soviet space".

German Chancellor Angela Merkel seems to supportive of this view. In a telephone conversation with the French President, she suggested that the EU convene a regional conference to address Georgia's reconstruction and wider stability issues in the region. But the conference would not include Russia, according to Merkel, who will explain her views in an article to be published in Der Spiegel on Monday.

Earlier, while on a visit to Tbilisi on 17 August, the German Chancellor had lent her support to Georgia's NATO membership, moving away from a previously more cautious stance about the countries' affiliation to the North Atlantic military alliance.

US officials have warned that the conflict in Georgia could affect Russia's membership of international organisations such as the Group of Eight industrialised nations and could undermine its bid to join the World Trade Organisation (WTO).


EU official documents

French Presidency (Press release): Extraordinary European Council meeting on the situation in Georgiaexternal
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Think tanks & Academia

European Council on Foreign Relations: ECFR Policy Brief: Can the EU win the peace in Georgia?external (25 Aug. 2008)
Press articles

Reuters: Russian troops stay in Georgia, France calls EU meetexternal
Bloomberg: U.S. Ship Brings Aid to Georgia as EU Calls Summit on Russiaexternal
WSJE: EU Leaders to Discuss Georgia as Russia Flouts Westexternal
Guardian: Georgia: a challenge for Europeexternal
AFP: Géorgie: un sommet européen de crise convoqué par Sarkozy le 1er septembreexternal
Le Figaro: Géorgie : Sarkozy convoque un Conseil européenexternal
AFP (via Le Monde): Merkel pour une conférence des voisins de la Géorgie, plutôt sans la Russieexternal

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