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Posted on on August 11th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

EU-Russia relations in jeopardy as bombs hit Tbilisi.

By Phillipa Runner for EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS, August 11, 2008   – The suspension of EU-Russia negotiations on a new bilateral pact, freezing talks on visa-free travel for Russian citizens and holding back EU humanitarian aid to Chechnya until Russia ends aggression in Georgia could be among ideas debated by EU foreign ministers in Brussels on Wednesday (13 August).

Once fighting dies down, the EU may also offer to send policemen – but not soldiers – to help keep the peace in Georgia’s breakaway regions and speed up free trade and visa facilitation deals with Georgia and Ukraine, “to show that those countries are not part of a ‘grey zone’ for Russia to expand [into],” a senior EU diplomat told EUobserver.

The EU launched talks in July on a new pact to replace its old Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with Russia and pays around €18 million a year in aid to help rebuild war-torn Chechnya. But Russia’s incursion into Georgia last week threw EU-Russia relations into turmoil, in the gravest European security crisis since the 1999 Kosovo war.

In the early hours of Monday morning (11 August), Russian jets struck two targets within earshot of Tbilisi city centre and Russian tanks advanced toward Gori, 65 kilometres from the Georgian capital. The moves came despite a unilateral Georgian ceasefire on Sunday, with Moscow saying Georgian forces have violated the ceasefire announcement.

“According to our sources, Russia is going to launch a last attack on Georgia with the aim of regime change,” the EU diplomatic contact said. “I’m afraid the Russians may storm Tbilisi soon. I hope the ministers [still] have something to discuss next week.”

The French EU presidency has called the emergency EU foreign ministers session for 10:00 local time on Wednesday to respond to the situation, with EU ambassadors to meet in Brussels on Tuesday afternoon to prepare the agenda. No extraordinary meeting of EU leaders is foreseen for now, despite a call by Poland to hold an emergency summit.

French president Nicolas Sarkozy will travel “in the coming days” to Moscow to meet Russian president Dmitry Medvedev.

Meanwhile, French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner and Finnish foreign minister Alexander Stubb arrived in Georgia on Sunday night. The plane touched down at Tbilisi International Airport just a few hours after the airport was struck by Russian bombers.

“We must find the means for an immediate ceasefire, accepted by both sides,” Mr Kouchner told AFP following talks with Georgian president Mikhail Saakashvili. “We must move quickly, this is not a diplomatic exercise, it’s an exercise of survival.”

“We are now in the business of crisis management, we are now in the business to broker peace. We are not in the business of seeking who has done what, when, where and how,” Mr Stubb said.

Bitter resentment:

Russia says its actions are designed to protect Russian passport holders and peacekeepers in the Georgian breakaway republic of South Ossetia, in line with existing treaties. It has accused Georgia of “genocide” in shelling the South Ossetian town of Tskhinvali last week, during what it called Mr Saakashvili’s “suicidal” bid to defeat the rebels.

But Georgia says the Russian-backed separatists provoked its attack on Tskhinvali, which Russia used as a pretext to attack the small NATO and EU-aspirant state. It says the Russian push is designed to reassert power in Russia’s old sphere of influence and to cut off an emerging oil and gas corridor between Europe and the Caspian Sea.

The UN refugee centre estimates that 10,000 to 20,000 people have become internally displaced in Georgia, but news reports on the ground indicate the figure could be tens of thousands more. Casualty estimates range from a few hundred soldiers and civilians, to over 2,000 mostly civilian deaths, with at least two reporters killed.

EU and US leaders conducted intensive telephone diplomacy over the weekend, with the US president and the NATO secretary general both criticising Russia’s “disproportionate” use of force. US practical help has so far been limited to helping airlift home 2,000 Georgian soldiers from Iraq, while the EU has earmarked €1 million for humanitarian aid.

“Over the past few years I lived in a democratic country, and I was happy. Now America and the European Union spit on us,” a Georgian soldier told an IHT reporter on Sunday, as Georgian troops retreated from the South Ossetian front line.


The GUAM are Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova. even has an Asian GUAM button for Georgia and Azerbaijan – two States in the Caucasus region that are of high importance to the EU as transit area for oil and gas lines originating in Azerbaijan and in the Central Asian States. Georgia has applied for acceptance to NATO and has developed friendly relations also with the US. A confrontation in Georgia is not unthinkable for the NATO members, even though the Balkan-alike Caucasus area is much more difficult to defend by the Atlantic alliance then the original post-Yugoslavia real Balkans. Nevertheless, bypassing the UN Security Council with biting resolutions that can hurt the Russian economy is in the cards. The Wall Street Journal today points out the fall in the Russian stock market and the impact Putin’s decisions have on potential future investments in Russia. Further, with a rising China, Russia would be unrealistic in its evaluation of its position in the world and the WSJ starts seeing the possibility that Medvedev, the nominal President, might indeed distance himself from Putin, the nominal President. These are interesting days that sprang out in the shadow of the Olympics.


Posted on on May 27th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

‘Eastern Partnership’ could lead to enlargement, Poland says.

27.05.2008 – 09:15 CET | By Renata Goldirova, Euobserver from Brussels.
Poland and Sweden have officially tabled proposals for an “Eastern Partnership” between the EU and its neighbours Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine – with Poland presenting the deal as a path toward EU membership.

“It’s time to look to the east to see what we can do to strengthen democracy,” Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt said on Monday (26 May), after presenting the project to the rest of the EU club with his Polish counterpart, Radoslaw Sikorski.

According to Mr Sikorski, the eastern partnership initiative is tailored to “practically” and “ideologically” strengthen the union’s existing neighbourhood policy towards countries that could eventually become EU members, but are held back by “enlargement fatigue” within the bloc.

The minister drew a clear line to distinguish the EU membership prospects of those countries affected by the Polish-Swedish proposal and those involved in the “Mediterranean Union” – a similar, French-sponsored project for countries lying south of the EU.

“To the south, we have neighbours of Europe. To the east, we have European neighbours…they all have the right one day to apply [for EU membership],” Mr Sikorski said, urging the eastern countries to follow the example of the Visagrad Group set up in 1991 by Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic as part of their EU integration efforts.

“We all know the EU has enlargement fatigue. We have to use this time to prepare as much as possible so that when the fatigue passes, membership becomes something natural,” the Polish minister said.

The initiative has seen some criticism from countries such as Bulgaria and Romania who do not want to see the union’s “Black Sea Synergy” – a co-operation scheme for Black Sea rim states – undermined. But the Czech Republic, which will sit at the EU’s helm in 2009, has thrown its weight behind the Polish-Swedish plan.

“It goes in the same direction that we want. And we see that the next year, we need to balance. This year, it is a Mediterranean year. So, the next year would be the eastern year,” the country’s deputy prime minister, Alexandr Vondra, told journalists.

EU-hopeful Ukraine has, for its part, made it clear it is not willing to settle for anything less than EU membership.

“We believe that the initiative of the Eastern partnership should envisage a clear EU membership perspective to those European neighbours of the EU who can demonstrate the seriousness of their European ambitions through concrete actions and tangible achievements,” said a statement issued by Ukraine’s foreign ministry on Monday.


Posted on on May 22nd, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

Poland and Sweden to pitch ‘Eastern Partnership’ idea

By Philippa Runner, May 22, 2008.

Poland and Sweden are to unveil joint proposals for a new eastern Europe policy at an EU foreign ministers’ meeting in Brussels on Monday (26 May), in a mini-version of France’s “Mediterranean Union.” The “Eastern Partnership” envisages a multinational forum between the EU-27 and neighbouring states Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, Polish press agency PAP reports. {This list amounts to the old GUAM States + Armenia}

The forum would aim to negotiate visa-free travel deals, free trade zones for services and agricultural products and strategic partnership agreements with the five countries.

It would also launch smaller, bilateral projects on student exchange, environmental protection and energy supply, but would avoid the controversial topic of EU membership perspectives.

Dictatorship Belarus could join at a technical and expert-level only. Russia would also be invited to cooperate on local initiatives, involving the Kaliningrad enclave for example.

Unlike the grander Mediterranean club, the eastern set-up would not have its own secretariat but would be run by the European Commission and financed from the 2007 to 2013 European neighbourhood policy budget. A commission official would be appointed as its “special coordinator.”
Following the foreign ministers’ debate, Warsaw hopes to secure formal approval at the EU summit in June and to start detailed work on the “partnership” by the end of the year.

Warm reception:

“Poland prepared the proposal with Swedish cooperation. The project was presented to the European Commission in recent days and met with a positive reaction,” Polish foreign ministry spokesman Piotr Paszkowski said.

The upcoming French EU presidency – keen to secure Polish support for its Mediterranean baby – is warming to the idea, with French leader Nicolas Sarkozy to hold talks with Polish prime minister Donald Tusk in Warsaw next week, PAP writes.

Germany, the UK and the Netherlands have also voiced initial support, but Spain and Italy could prove problematic while Ukraine will have to be persuaded the partnership offers something better than the current EU neighbourhood package, Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza reports.

“The EU’s eastern policy is of interest to the whole EU,” Polish commissioner Danuta Hubner told the Rzeczpospolita newspaper. “The weakness of [previous] northern, eastern or southern European Union policies was that they existed only in the sphere of interest of member countries in those regions.”


Posted on on May 16th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

Ukraine has high hopes for French EU presidency – writes Elitsa Vucheva from Kiev for the EUobserver – May 14, 2008.

Expectations are high in Kiev that an EU-Ukraine summit in September in France will result in stronger ties between the two sides and boost progress in negotiations on a new bilateral agreement.

“We expect certain serious steps to be taken along the lines of preparing the new enhanced agreement and the free trade agreement [between Ukraine and the EU],” Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko told a group of journalists in Kiev.

“We look forward to the EU flashing the green light for us that would help us on our way forward,” she added.

Ukraine’s relations with the EU are currently regulated by a Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) in force since 1998, a set-up that Kiev considers politically insufficient.

Negotiations to replace the PCA started in March 2007 and Ukraine wants it to contain a clear reference to eventual EU membership, and avoid the vague political formulations that have characterised Brussels statements about the large eastern European country to date.

The new bilateral agreement is also to include a free trade agreement on which negotiations were launched in February.

Oleksandr Chalyi, a senior foreign-policy adviser to Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchenko, suggested that after overcoming a “very deep political and social crisis” by signing the Lisbon treaty, the EU would now be “more capable of developing a consensus on Ukraine’s European perspectives.”

“We want the legal substance of our partnership transformed to association,” instead of a simple “closer cooperation,” Oleksandr Chalyi

According to government estimates, a clear majority of Ukrainians – around 65 to 70 percent – back the idea of seeing their country becoming a future EU member. The EU, however, has not shown much enthusiasm for this and still prefers to talk about “a much closer and enhanced partnership.”

Ian Boag, head of the European Commission’s delegation to Ukraine, stressed that the deal that will be eventually reached should not be seen as “a stepping stone for membership of the EU.” But in a bid to reassure the Ukrainian side he added that “nothing excludes [such an option].”

In this context, a high-level EU-Ukraine meeting planned to take place on 9 September in France and under French EU presidency, is expected to bring a breakthrough in the stagnating bilateral relations.

Paris recently floated a proposal for an “Association Agreement” with the former Soviet country – which stops short of any EU accession commitments but provides for visibly stronger ties.

Kiev welcomed the fact that “such country as France recently put new ideas to bring Ukraine closer to the EU.”

“Now we are working on the basis of the French proposals and… hope this event [the EU-Ukraine summit] will produce some results,” said deputy foreign minister Kostiantyn Yelisieiev in charge of negotiating the new agreement.

He stressed the importance of the French idea, considering that “France was one of the countries ‘a little bit cold’ [towards Ukraine’s EU perspectives].”

According to Mr Yelisieiev, the September summit will be “the real test [for EU-Ukraine relations] and will show the real intentions of the French leadership” regarding Ukraine.
Problems still to be tackled:
Along with the lack of political consensus among EU states on the 46-million strong country’s EU future, Ukraine still has its own internal issues to tackle before such a possibility could be realistically discussed.

Political in-fighting blocking much needed changes has on several occasions prompted the EU to call for more political stability in Ukraine, while Kiev still has to tackle its inefficient administration, high levels of corruption, as well as judicial and economic reforms.

Ukrainian politicians concede there are problems.

“We have got to get rid of corruption and other negative consequences of our socialist past… We should achieve European standards as soon as possible,” foreign minister Volodymyr Ogryzko told journalists in the margins of Europe’s day celebrations in Kiev on Sunday (11 May).

But he added: “I do hope that we will have a very concrete signal from the EU that Ukraine will in the nearest future be in the EU.”


At, we expressed already in the past our “puzzlement” of why Ukraine does not agree of its own free will to let the eastern third of the country – still Russian speaking – go and join Russia – if that is what the people living there prefer – and then the western 2/3 of the country could easily readjust and join the EU as the EU’s natural eastern frontier. That would leave outside only Russia and Belarus – quite a natural outcome.


Further, in Peter Sain ley Berry, while questioning the EU intent with Turkey, makes the point that the Ukraine belongs to Europe.

[Comment] The elephant on the European doorstep.
16.05.2008 – By Peter Sain ley Berry.

EUOBSERVER / COMMENT – Politically, it has been a propitious time for those named Boris. Not only do we now have a Boris as Mayor of London, but, in the Balkans, the parties that support Serbian President Boris Tadic, and seek a European future for Serbia, defeated those that affected an isolationist persuasion. Whether Mr Tadic will now be able to form a pro-European government remains to be seen.

The European Union’s position at least is settled. The Western Balkans – seven countries with a population of approximately 27 million – have been offered a European future, subject only to satisfying the normal criteria. This process will take time but few doubt the result. We are on course therefore for an EU of 34.

This will make the government of the EU more complex. If there are 15 possible bilateral relationships in a community of six, there are 351 in a community of 27. Adding a further seven states increases the complexity by a whopping 210. Apart from this complexity there will be other consequences, including for financing, for decision-making, for the distribution of MEPs and Commissioners. None of this seems to be being discussed. Nevertheless, there is general agreement that the Western Balkans should accede to the Union in due course. Public opinion is broadly favourable.

The same cannot be said for Turkey, to which Queen Elizabeth II of Britain paid a state visit this week. At the formal banquet she praised the advances made by the government and rehearsed Britain’s credentials as a champion of Turkish entry. Although Turkey is formally a candidate for accession, the end of that process seems as far away as ever. Britain, and her allies among the newer member states, may champion Turkish entry for sound geo-political and geo-economic reasons, but France and Germany most certainly do not. Moreover, European public opinion is divided.

The reasons are partly geographical. I remember a former President of the European Commission, the late Roy Jenkins, saying that the then Turkish President had acquired a piece of paper from some prestigious geographical institute certifying Turkey’s Europeaness. His response was that any country that needed a piece of paper….. probably wasn’t European.

In this he was no doubt correct, though in the absence of a recognised border with Asia, who can say? But there are other more important arguments – financing of the poor but populous Turkish state is one, the internal coherence of the Union is another. Which is why France and Germany have been trying to divert Turkey down the route of a ‘privileged partnership,’ instead of full accession, through which the EU’s commitment might be modified if necessary. Turkey, of course, is having none of that. Meanwhile the accession negotiations drag on.

Out of 35 chapters only six have been opened and eight are frozen by the Cypriot stand-off. France, which assumes the rotating Union Presidency on 1st July, has said it will continue the negotiations in good faith. This is a semi quid pro quo for Turkey agreeing to sup from the poisoned chalice of France’s ‘Mediterranean Union’ scheme (now formally adopted by the EU) designed to provide a political forum for the EU and its Mediterranean neighbours.

Turkey has been told specifically that belonging to the Mediterranean Union will not affect its EU candidacy. But as the French rather hope that the Turks may be persuaded to accept some leadership role in this body – so taking its mind off EU membership – it would be prudent for them to take this assurance with a grain of salt.

What is certain is that the Union would not be the same if Turkey joins with its 80 million population. It would not necessarily be a worse Union, or a better Union, but it would be a different Union. For quite apart from the effect that Turkey itself will have on the existing member states, its accession would change the dynamics of other nations looking for a European future.

Chief of these is the Ukraine whose Prime Minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, was again this week announcing her intention to bang on Mr Sarkozy’s door come July.

In fact, when it comes to European credentials the Ukraine has rather better claims than Turkey. It’s capital, Kiev, is closer to Brussels, for instance, than Athens. Moreover, as anyone reading Heinrich Boell’s – great anti-war novel ‘Der Zug war Punktlich,’ can appreciate, Germany, Poland and the Ukraine are but stations on a journey into Europe’s deep hinterland. The railway line is no doubt still there.

It is true to say that with its 55 million people the Ukraine is therefore the elephant on our European doorstep. Still, the policy is to resist giving any hint of promise of future membership. True, the country has much to reform before it could become a credible candidate. Nevertheless, it has as much right to lay claim to its place in the European firmament as anyone else. The banging on the door will become louder and more insistent. There will be other bangings, too; Georgia is already demanding to be heard. Belarus, Moldova, the other Caucasian nations may well follow suit.

No one can believe the Union can remain the same should these accessions take place. Again, they are not necessarily to be resisted. It may be in our interest that we should go ahead. But we should not sleepwalk toward a decision, finding out too late that we have no room left for manoeuvre.

For despite the frequency of the phrase, ‘Future of Europe,’ and constant enjoinders to discuss it, a conspiracy of silence surrounds anything more remote than the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty. Only the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, has raised the difficult questions about where the future borders of Europe should lie and what sort of Europe, in terms of its integration, competencies and governance, we are seeking. And short shrift he has got for his pains.

This is unfortunate, for the Future of Europe is the future of the next thirty or forty years.
I do not see how we can continue to espouse Turkey’s candidacy and not that of the Ukraine. But this has consequences. If we are to have a grand Europe, a Europe of 42 states and 700 millions of people, it is not too early to start debating the prospect now.

The author is editor of EuropaWorld.


Posted on on April 12th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.
ALDE public hearing “Republic of Moldova and its European future.”

This event is organised by ALDE MEPs: Cristian Busoi, Magor Imre Csibi,
Jelko Kacin and Istvan Szent-Iványi

06/05/2008, 15:30 – 18:30, ASP 5G1, European Parliament, Brussels

To register please contact  willem.vandenbroucke at europarl.europa…. and
visit our website


ALDE Seminar “Arctic Governance in a global world: is it time for an Arctic Charter?”

Event date: 07/05/08 16:30 to 19:00
Location: Room A3G3, European Parliament, Brussels
For more information
Krings Thomas – Tel: +32 2 284 32 42


Posted on on March 27th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

This posting brings up the EUobserver posting on the Ukraine and Georgia application to NATO (two of the GUAM’s – the other two are Azerbaijan and Moldova) and the posting on China with the Tibet Speaker of the Parliament-in-Exile visiting the European Parliament. that we posted also today. The two posting bring up a dilemma felt in Brussels and Washington relating to what should be the position of the West when it comes to issues of Freedom in their dealings with China and Russia. It seems that US Congress leader Nancy Pelosi lines up with the popular demand for principles shown now by the people of the EU. How should elected governments react?

Diplomatic tussle over Georgia and Ukraine NATO bids.

27.03.2008   By Honor Mahony – Germany and other western European states are attempting to block Georgia and Ukraine from getting the green light to join NATO out of a fear of antagonising Russia.

Citing diplomatic sources, German daily Financial Times Deutschland says that a group of western countries do not want Tbilisi and Kiev to get candidate status for membership of the military alliance, something they are due to receive at a high-level summit in Bucharest next week.

At the 2-4 April meeting, Georgia and Ukraine are hoping to get approval for their membership action plans (MAP). This would be considered as a signal that their application bid is on the right track.

The camp of blocking states is said to include Germany, France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, Portugal and Luxembourg.

A fear of annoying Russia which is categorically against its two neighbours joining a military organisation to which it does not belong is behind the move.

Earlier in the week, incoming Russian president Dmitry Medvedev said in a Financial Times interview that Moscow was “not happy” with the situation. “We consider that it is extremely troublesome for the existing structure of European security,” he said.

ppeThe move by Germany and France and others puts them in the path of US president George W. Bush, who is in favour of Ukraine and Georgia joining NATO. Eastern EU member states such as Poland are also lobbying in favour of Tbilisi’s and Kiev’s membership.

Berlin opposition stems from a desire to keep talks on a compromise between Russia and the US on Washington’s planned missile defence shield – to be placed in Poland and the Czech Republic and strongly opposed by Moscow – on track.

Meanwhile, Georgia has called on NATO not to bow to pressure from Russia.

Foreign minister David Bakradze said it would inflame tensions in the region if Moscow gets its way on this issue.

“‘No’ in Bucharest will be very clearly seen by some people in Moscow as their success, and it will be very clearly seen in Moscow that they have indirect veto right on NATO decisions,” he said on Wednesday (26 March).

From all our experience with Russians, the most effective policy with Russians is policy based on principles, not on appeasement,” he added.


Posted on on March 7th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

Thursday, March 6, 2008, The European Union Studies Center of The Graduate Center of the City University of New York, with the help of the Alexander S. Onasis Public Benefit Foundation (USA), had the great opportunity to hear from one of Greece’s important political figures – Dr. Yannos Papantoniou.
Dr. Papantoniou currently serves as an Onassis Foundation Senior Visiting Scholar at the University of Athens. In 1981, he was elected as a member of the European Parliament and in 1984 became adviser to the prime minister on European Economic Community affairs.

Since June 1989, he has been an elected member of the Greek Parliament. He served as deputy minister of National Economy, then variously as minister of Commerce, minister of National Economy and Finance, and minister of National Defense under the Socialist, or Pasok, government.

On February 27, 2008, Greece Named Yannos Papantoniou As its Candidate To Lead the the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development , (EBRD). He has also been Governor of the National Bank of Greece in 2000.

Over the 12-month period in 2002-03, when Greece held the presidency of the European Union’s Council of Defense Ministers, Dr. Papantoniou helped to coordinate the policies that led to the creation of the European Military Force and its engagement in international peacekeeping operations as well as the establishment of the European Defense Agency.

Dr. Papantoniou studied economics at the Universities of Athens and Wisconsin, history at the Sorbonne (France), and obtained his Ph.D. in economics from the University of Cambridge (U.K).

The topic at the CUNY presentation was: “Regional Security in Southeastern Europe.” We got obviously an explicit Greek point of view.

At first we got a tour of the European expansion from 15 to 27 States and we saw how this was possible. The Three Baltic States were adopted by the Scandinavian States and this helped their economic integration into the EU. Poland was helped by foreign investment and its relations to US Poles. The Central Europeans were helped by Germany and Austria (Czechs, Slovaks, Hungarians – also Slovenia and the future accession of Croatia. The Creation of a partnership for peace at NATO helped Bulgaria and Romania.

So now we are left with the remnants of the Balkans. The situation came to an edge with Kosovo declaring unilaterally independence on February 17, 2008 and being by now recognized as an independent State by over 100 countries. Obviously Serbia and Russia do not recognize Kosovo – neither does Greece. We found in effect, on the internet, a 2007 official statement from Greece saying that they do not agree to an “imposed’ solution for Kosovo. They think of the old concept of Sovereignty under which you cannot dismember Serbia, this because if that succeeds, North Cyprus will also want to become an independent Turkish State …

Turkey? As an attached State to the West would be an important role player to stabilize the Middle East – that gave me a reason to think that one should also ask the Turks what they think.

“The EU is an economic organization with political ambitions.”

The requirements for accession are: a. Democracy; b. A market Economy; and c. Adaptation of EU law into National law.

“Turkey is a strong regional power. If it were to come into the EU it would come in as a 100 million bloc that would change the balance of power in the EU. They might have more power then Germany and the UK combined, and this is unacceptable. The EU would prefer a special linkage to be offered to Turkey. After 12 additions the enlargement may have reached a limit. The EU has already become less homogeneous and less coherent.”

For the Balkans, joining the EU gives them the best motivation to normalize their society and economy. The speaker would like this to happen eventually, but not immediately.

Here, Professor Hugo M. Kaufmann, Professor of Economics at Queens College and at the Graduate Center, who chaired the event, opened up for questions, and there were many very interesting questions. I will bring up mainly our own question that came about because of the suggestion of having special relationships between the EU and countries like Turkey, that want to join the EU, but are rebuffed – then offered a special compensation that looks good to some at the EU, but which they cannot accept. Internally their governments will look like losers, and they will become losers indeed because of internal politics.

My question was why look at special arrangements with single countries, while a special arrangement with a large group of countries would be much more palatable to these outsiders – and I named three such groups: The Mediterranean Group, The Black Sea Group, and the Turkic Group.

The Mediterranean group does exist in effect – this as a result of the Barcelona Process. It started as an alliance to clean up the Mediterranean Sea – as such it had to include the Southern States of the EU – those reaching the sea shores – the North African States, Israel, Lebanon, Turkey etc. It includes countries that do not have good relations with each other – but they have to cooperate – and you know what – it works and gives results.

The Black Sea International Council started out as an environmental organization with Greece as the only participating EU member. Now after the EU accession of Romania and Bulgaria, a new Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) organisation was created. This group that obviously also includes Turkey, Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, has been extended to include the ‘frozen conflicts’ in Georgia, Moldova and between Armenia and Azerbaijan. (To others this reminds of the GUAM countries) This is indeed also an economic power house that can deal with quite a few oil and gas pipelines as well.

The Turkic group includes obviously Turkey and the five former Soviet republics of Central Asia. It could include also Azerbaidjan and Georgia. In effect it could be an oil backyard of the EU.

The bottom line of all this is that Turkey is a central part of all these three groups – it could in effect come in with all this dowry and thus be welcome in its special arrangement as leader of outside EU alliances. This – rather then thinking of Turkey as the EU opening to a Middle East where Turkey is indeed not welcome to the Arab feast – surely, even less, then its welcome to the EU table.

I had also a short question – what about Albania? Why actually not putting it ahead of all this talk about Turkey?


The respected Greek speaker said that Albania was one of the poorest countries in the world and he did not think Germany will want to finance Albania. (I clearly could not reopen this point – if I could I would have reminded him that the Kosovars are also Albanians, so are some 15% of the people of Macedonia. Nobody speaks now of a greater Albania, like nobody speaks now of rejoining the present Greek part of Cyprus with Greece. The latter came about because some sort of solution was found, but leaving Albania dangling brought once Mao to this country, now it could be Al Qaeda. This is just unsound policy.)

On the Barcelona process the answer was again money. The process does not go forward because of lack of money. Again I do not think that this is the case – it seems to be rather a jelousy of North EU not wanting to fund deals that favor the South States of the EU – sort of shooting themselves in the feet in the process. The speaker did not pick up the other two groups beyond saying that these are interesting ideas.

On the other hand, to a question about the name dispute between Greece and Macedonia, the speaker explained that the problem was that it worries Greece if later Macedonia would put claim to the areas in Turkey and Bulgaria that carry that name. He recognized that you cannot restrain people from naming themselves what they wish, but for international relations purpose they will have to pick for themselves some neutral name because even the temporary name of FYROM is not acceptable to Greece. Because of this – in our eyes total nonsense – Greece is vetoing Macedonia’s entrance to NATO – thus in effect hurting more NATO then Macedonia.


After all of this, when the meeting was called to end, in overtime, a Turkish Consul in New York asked for his right to say also a few words. He said flat that for 200 years Turkey is part of Europe. Turkey’s per capita income is now 1/5 to 1/4 of the average of the EU, but when Spain and Portugal entered the EU they were only 1/10. It is already 45 years that Turkey is trying to get recognition for its potential.

With the final end of the meeting I had the chance to talk to Mr. Basar Sen the Turkish Consul. He explained to me that the expectation of joining the EU has created its own logic and the government is now trapped by it, and turning away will have internal consequences. Surely I remember that starting with Ataturk and his “Young Turks,” a secular new Turkey was created out of the ashes of the Ottoman Empire – a secular Turkey that wanted to be recognized, already then, as part of Europe. How can the speaker try to push them back into the Middle East from where these military men tried already then to escape?

But, sensing a friendly person, I followed up with a question I posed years ago to the Turkish Ambassador to the UN. Something that I think was the cardinal sin of Turkish thinking of last century. The question of the Kurds.

The Young Turks wanted to create a homogenized people out of the remnants of the Empire. They still had many – many different ethnic groups in the large piece of land that became Turkey – some say 154 ethnicities with language differences. But even if this was the case, there was only one minority that counted – these were the Kurds. What Turkey feared was that the Kurds will seek independence for their part of the land – so the Turkish government pursued them vehemently and turned them into real enemies. But even if the Kurds might have dreamt of having a larger Kurdistan to include also parts of Iraq, Iran, Syria and Azerbaijan, those other Kurds where not yet convinced that they, themselves, were ready to go for such a frame, with all this uncertainty hanging over the heads of their Turkish brethren. On the other hand, had Turkey realized that there were tremendous benefits in turning Turkey into a bi-national Turkish-Kurdish State, they could have indeed lured into their sphere of influence the Kurds of Iraq – the oil world would have looked differently, and the chances of having created an EU interest in their future would have helped more modernize Turkey, then the way they ended up fighting the greater majority of their people without showing for real economic results. We hope now that the Consul will find a way to provide us with think-tank material to help explain the the thinking of the Turkish leadership – past and present.


Posted on on February 7th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (


[Comment by Fabrizio Tassinari on Euobserver] Sailing the black sea at last.

February 7, 2008EUOBSERVER / COMMENT – At a meeting between the EU and Black Sea countries foreign ministers in Kiev on February 14th, the EU will finally kick off its new Black Sea policy.

In view of the 2007 expansion of the EU to Bulgaria and Romania, and after some ten years since the European Commission’s only communication on Black Sea cooperation, the launch of the Black Sea Synergy last spring was a long-awaited and welcome step.

Now it’s time to deliver, which is where things could begin to look difficult.

In this new initiative, the commission identifies as many as thirteen cooperation areas. It plans to draw the EU closer to the existing regional organisations, primarily the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) organisation. And it aims to correlate region-wide developments with the resolution of the ‘frozen conflicts’ in Georgia, Moldova and between Armenia and Azerbaijan. All this is not endowed with new financial means, but will draw on existing resources, as well as on mechanisms for joint financing with other international actors operating in the region.

These indications appear sensible and promising, but they also raise a number of important questions that the Black Sea countries and the commission will have to address if the proposed policy is to be effective and sustainable.

First, there is the sector-specific focus of the initiative. The commission places a strong emphasis on sectors such as the environment, energy and transport, where EU programmes and initiatives are already up and running. This is understandable. EU-sponsored mechanisms in these fields deserve a new boost, particularly the case of energy, where enhanced Black Sea cooperation could play a key role in the EU’s fledging goal of supply diversification.

The inclusion in the Synergy of issues such as democracy and internal security is also noteworthy.

Regional cooperation and exchange of best practices in these fields could potentially have a major impact on the fragile governance structures of most former Soviet countries. Likewise, EU initiatives when it comes to the promotion of democracy could take particular advantage of the interest shown for the Synergy by local and regional authorities, as well as non-governmental actors in the region.

Overall, however, the list of priorities is a bit on the long side: issues such as employment, science and technology have little regional specificity and could in the long run dilute the effectiveness of the new initiative.

The second question relates to the institutional level. The Synergy will not create new institutions, and the commission has obtained observer status in the BSEC. These are, as such, sound moves. Black Sea cooperation is already a jungle of agreements, associations, and acronyms. And BSEC, with a membership spanning from the western Balkans to the Caspian shores, represents the most comprehensive forum to discuss pan-regional issues.

At the same time, the EU would be well advised not to rely exclusively on this organisation for its Black Sea policy. What should warn against it is, on the one hand, BSEC’s relatively modest implementation record over the past fifteen years. Furthermore, the EU would have much to gain from including in its plans the other regional initiatives and their main sponsors: Romania, Ukraine and Georgia. As these countries emerge from a turbulent couple of years of domestic power struggles, they should be encouraged to revive and streamline the core business of organisations such as the Black Sea Forum and the Community of Democratic Choice.

Third, the launching of a Black Sea Synergy presents unavoidable challenges at the broader strategic level. Russia’s assertiveness in the region is of course the major stumbling bloc here. Should the new EU policy really fulfil its promise, it may further ratchet up Moscow’s aggressive posturing, especially in relation to its western neighbours, energy and the frozen conflicts. But this need not necessarily be so. Moscow’s recent constructive BSEC chairmanship suggests that the prospect of isolation can give way to a more cooperative attitude towards the EU in due course.

Lastly, and just as importantly, there is the issue of visibility and ‘branding’ of the region. A new framework organising Black Sea cooperation should send a strong signal about the importance that the EU attaches to this region. At the same time, regional leadership must necessarily come from the region itself, not from Brussels. One indirect outcome of the new EU initiative, in this respect, has to be a more concerted effort of the littoral actors to enhance cooperation and promote the region at the wider European level.

May the meeting next week point the way in that direction.

Fabrizio Tassinari, author of “A Synergy for Black Sea Regional Cooperation” (CEPS, 2006), is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Copenhagen, a non-resident Fellow at SAIS, Johns Hopkins University and at the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS), Brussels.