Analysis: EU Faces Renewed Split in Ties to Russia | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 26.08.2008
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Analysis: EU Faces Renewed Split in Ties to Russia

French President Sarkozy wants to present a united Europe at an upcoming summit on Georgia but risks inflaming differences between members. Warsaw, in particular, wants the EU to take a hard line in EU-Russia relations.

The Russian and EU flags

EU members are set to discuss how the Russia-Georgia war will affect ties to Moscow

By announcing the EU summit in Brussels next Monday, Sept. 1, Sarkozy wants to say clearly to Moscow that the European Union is "a force which has to dealt with," and that agreements made with him by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev must be honored, a French diplomat told the AFP news agency on Monday, Aug. 25.

The six-point peace plan brokered by Sarkozy, whose country currently holds the EU's rotating presidency, has been criticized in some European capitals as being too vague, too Moscow-friendly and organized with too little consultation.

After Russia failed to withdraw all its troops from Georgia, a key point of the cease-fire, the French president "realized that the Russians were exploiting the ambiguous margins of the text and that there was a risk of a loss of credibility for the EU and the French presidency," European Policy Center analyst Antonio Missiroli told AFP.

But it won't be easy, at the hastily-arranged summit which Sarkozy announced Sunday, to obtain European consensus on the future of relations with Russia, he added.

Polish objections

Donald Tusk

Tusk has led Europe's pro-Georgian camp

Poland, as well as other eastern European nations that fell under the former Soviet Union's direct sphere of influence, wants to convince the 27-member EU not to cut Moscow any special deals after its military intervention in Georgia this month.

"I spoke with (Germany's) Chancellor Merkel this morning to make the European position uniform, harder and categorical concerning Russia in the context of the crisis in the Caucasus," Premier Donald Tusk told reporters.

The differences among EU nations on how to handle Russia were already highlighted earlier this month. Pro-Georgia leaders of Poland, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia traveled to Tbilisi with the message that the French-brokered peace plan did not provide sufficient protection for Georgia.

Meanwhile, France, Germany, Italy and Spain lead the faction of EU member who do not want to see relations with Moscow completely frozen due to Russia's importance as a trading partner and its international role as a veto-power at the United Nations Security Council.

Chance for change?

A row of gas valves

Russia is a key energy supplier to the European Union

But Tusk said he would not rule out the possibility of some nations that want to keep communication with Russia open could be convinced to change their tact at the summit.

"I spoke with President Sarkozy a few days ago and he did not hide that Russia's behavior is beginning to be irritating to a certain degree and will require the EU to make firm decisions," Tusk said.

It was only last month that talks on a new strategic accord between Russia and the EU got properly under way after being long-blocked by Polish and Lithuanian objections. That, analysts say, is why there is a lot at stake as far as Europe-Russia relations are concerned.

"I don't see the possibility of introducing sanctions against Russia if the situation remains the way it is today," said Cristina Gallach, spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana.

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