What does Josep Borell Know About Georgia?

2019 / 10 / 22

By Valeri Chechelashvili, Senior Fellow at Rondeli Foundation  

The issue of Georgia must return to the international agenda – Georgian experts have long come to a consensus about this. It is good that the President of Georgia has also joined this consensus. During the visit of the President of Germany to Georgia, Salome Zurabishvili stated:

“As for the question about what I would like with regard to the tense situation and the conflicts, I would wish for de-escalation and de-occupation first of all – if we are going to speak about wishes. If we talk about what can be done right now and what we ask of our partners, the one major request is for Georgia to return to the agenda and not be forgotten…”[1]

This statement is good; however, neither general statements nor posting messages on Twitter are enough to put Georgia back on the international agenda. For this, it is necessary for our diplomacy to purposefully work with all partners; first of all, the European Union.

Spanish politician, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Spain, Mr. Josep Borrell, has been nominated to the position of the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

On October 7, 2019, the profile Committee on Foreign Affairs of the European Parliament held a hearing for Josep Borrell. After a three-hour session, the MEPs let him go with applause. The pro-Russian forces in the European Parliament were definitely not satisfied with the results, yet were unable to do anything, as they found themselves in a clear and sharp minority. The hearing went very well for Josep Borrell which means that the European Parliament will likely confirm his candidacy quite soon.

During the hearing, Borrell voiced rather noteworthy messages. His attitude towards Russia was especially important for Georgia. It must be said that we were definitely not disappointed in this regard. The future High Representative of the European Union openly names Russia as one of the biggest threats to the Union, underlining the need for fighting with Russian propaganda and disinformation. Borrell clearly stated support for Ukraine to be one of the priorities of the Union’s foreign policy. This naturally includes maintaining sanctions on the Russian Federation as well.

What did Josep Borrell say?

“In my opening statement I will approach in a conceptual basis, rather that geographic approach for the reason of time, but let me stress from very beginning, my intention is to engage into reform and integration processes in the Western Balkans, the support of democracy and territorial integrity of Ukraine  (minute 17:01 of footage), raising challenges in our southern neighborhood, develop new comprehensive strategy for Africa, working out strategy with Asia, developing our cooperation with Latin America, resetting transatlantic relations.” [2]

As is evident, from the very beginning, right after the Western Balkans, Borrell named supporting democracy and the territorial integrity of Ukraine as the second priority. Georgia does not appear in this assessment.

“The rule based international order is being challenged by the logic of power politics, which is much more unfair, unpredictable and conflict drawn. Power politics means that international law is undermined, there are few agreements and more vetoes, and territorial integrity of sovereign state (in singular (!), minute 19:11 of footage); is violated; and that’s the war in Ukraine demonstrates.”[3]

Georgia is not mentioned again.

MEP from Estonia, Mr. Urmas Peat, asked a question to the candidate about Russia’s aggressive policies in its neighborhood, focusing on the need to boost support towards Eastern Partnership member states (2:03–2:04).[4] In a general context, together with Ukraine and Moldova, the MEP also mentioned the problems in Georgia. In an additional question (2:06:36), he even remembered the 2008 Russia-Georgia war. Unfortunately, during his answer, Borrell again only focused on Ukraine. His answers clearly showed a lack of information about the Georgian position.

Even though in response to Polish MEP Andrzej Halicki’s question regarding the Eastern Partnership, Borrell remembered the occupation of Georgia by Russia (2:18) [5] which did not include the context of sanctions. In addition, this part of his speech was rather removed from his general outlook.

During the three-hour discussion, these were the moments when the name “Georgia” was uttered in the European Parliament building. An unfortunate trend was revealed:  everyone recognizes Russia’s crimes against Ukraine and the necessity of the sanctions policy against the Russian Federation. However, Georgia does not appear in this picture and what is even more concerning, is not even implied in it. And all of this despite the fact that Russia exercises a similar policy of aggression and occupation against both of these states.

How can the situation be changed?

Unfortunately, I will have to repeat a well-known truth:  the situation can only be rectified through active and systematic diplomatic efforts with all partners. And, of course, we must also underline the necessity of fully activating our strategic cooperation potential with Ukraine.

How should we have acted in anticipation of the October 7 session?

First – we should have held consultations in Kyiv in order to align positions for the October 7 session of the profile Committee on Foreign Affairs of the European Parliament.

Second – a meeting of Georgian Ambassador should have been arranged with Josep Borrell, better still – it should have been done together with the Ukrainian colleague (this should have been agreed earlier in Kyiv). I am convinced that the Ambassador of Ukraine to the EU did in fact hold such a meeting. We should have requested putting forward the issue of the territorial integrity of Georgia together with Ukraine as well as that of boosting support for Georgia. And in this context, maintaining/strengthening the sanction policy towards the Russian Federation until it alters its attitude with regard to both countries (not just Ukraine).

Third – Georgia has many supporters in the European Parliament such as, for example, representatives of Poland and the Baltic States. We should have requested from one of these friendly MEPs to ask Josep Borrell a question about Georgia. He should have been ready for this question after a meeting with the Ambassador of Georgia.

We must once again admit that our strategic partner – Ukraine, managed to utilize the October 7 session of the profile Committee on Foreign Affairs of the European Parliament in its favor, unlike us, unfortunately. It is also clear that positions in Brussels were not coordinated, neither between Tbilisi and Kyiv, nor between the diplomatic missions of Georgia and Ukraine. At least not with regard to the October 7 session of the profile Committee on Foreign Affairs of the European Parliament.

A meeting between the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, Vadym Prystaiko, and Josep Borrell was held in Brussels on October 14. Borrell confirmed the consistency of the European Union’s attitudes towards the issue of sanctions against Russia. He said that the sanctions remain in force until the Minsk Agreement is fully implemented and the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine are restored…[6]

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