Russia Caucasus Ukraine

Border line in Ossetia: the EU is not happy and makes it known

COPS ambassadors were visiting Georgia at the end of September. (EUMM Georgia)
COPS ambassadors were visiting Georgia at the end of September. (EUMM Georgia)

(BRUSSELS2) In quick succession, the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs, Cathy Ashton, like the Secretary General of NATO, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, made a point of calling Russia to order of its international obligations in Georgia. Cathy Ashton recalled her "deep concern" over the continued establishment and even increase "by Russian security forces of fences and other obstacles along administrative boundaries in Georgia between government-administered territory in Tbilisi and in the regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia" These activities - she added - are " contrary to the territorial integrity of Georgia", can " create significant hardship for residents on either side of administrative boundaries and “seriously threaten stability and security in these regions”. And to call on the Putin government to " ensure that these barriers are removed » and reaffirm « the support of the European Union for the territorial integrity of Georgia within its internationally recognized borders”.

Concern at NATO too

AF Rasmussen also issued a statement saying that this position is in "contradiction with Russia's international commitments and does not contribute to a peaceful resolution of the conflict". NATO's position is very clear,” he insisted: “ As recalled at the Chicago Summit, NATO supports the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Georgia within its internationally recognized borders. (And) we "call on Russia to recognize the regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states ».

Breaking out of discretion

We remember that this type of establishment is not new. Along Abkhazia and South Ossetia, there was already a border, very present, sometimes not visible to the naked eye. This is now becoming more and more visible. But until now the European Union had reacted very discreetly, with a press release from the local delegation or the head of the EU observation mission on the spot (EUMM Georgia). The recent visit, at the end of September, of the 28 ambassadors of the COPS - the Political and Security Committee of the EU - to the region, at the invitation of the Lithuanian presidency, is undoubtedly not for nothing in this position more assertive public.

A real showdown

Russia has its reasons. In addition to cyclical motivations - Moscow fears an infiltration of terrorists or other opponents of the Sochi Olympics (which is taking place on the Russian side but close to Abkhazia), we also feel the Kremlin's desire to mark its neighborhood, and to "win on the ground", in the run-up to the Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius which, at the end of November, should see greater rapprochement between the countries close to Russia (Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, etc.) and the European Union. It is a real showdown that takes place between the West and the East to try to win or keep countries in its sphere of power. And it is to bet that it does not stop here. Classically, Russia will no doubt use economic weapons, notably gas, with its neighbours, whether they belong to the European Union or not. It could also decide to take a new step by deciding to examine South Ossetia's request for accession to the Russian Republic. For example...

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Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).