Foreign Minister urges EU unity on Russia

  • 2008-11-12
  • By Matt Withers
TALLINN - Foreign Minister Urmas Paet has stressed the importance of a unified EU stance on Russia after attending a meeting of the EU General Affairs and External Relations Council.
The meeting, which took place in Brussels on Monday Nov. 10, saw foreign ministers from the 27 member states discuss a variety of issues, including EU-Russia relations ahead of the 22nd EU-Russia summit scheduled to take place in Nice on Nov. 14.

During the meeting it was decided that the bloc would resume strategic talks with Russia 's as previous dialogue was frozen following the invasion of Georgia in August 's and the French presidency is now set to make a statement presenting the position of the EU.
"We have found a good way to proceed, we think it is time to resume talks," said EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner.

Paet said that foreign ministers agreed the resumption of talks would in no way legitimize Russia's invasion of Georgia as the incident was incompatible with the values and principles upheld by the EU. Yet he also stressed the need for solidarity of opinion among the EU member states in regard to how relations with Russia should proceed, with particular regard to the invasion of Georgia.
"At the summit the European Union must give Russia a clear message that the invasion of Georgia left a deep effect on the trust necessary for EU-Russian partnership relations and all points of the Russian-Georgian peace agreement would have to be observed," Paet said.

The foreign minister placed particular emphasis on this point, claiming that Russia was not complying with the obligations it had assumed, consequently ruling out the possibility of negotiating and implementing an effective ceasefire agreement.
Paet said the situation at hand cannot be quickly resolved, as it is largely underpinned by issues of trust and security that will take time to rebuild. According to a spokesperson from the foreign ministry Paet believes the current reviewing of EU-Russian relations should continue but should take into consideration developments necessary for the restoration of trust.

"The European Council must continue to constantly revise European-Russian relations and react when necessary," he said.
Paet said the meeting was very important in terms of European stability, suggesting that clarity in policy will draw benefits for both EU member states and then the Russian Federation.
"The negative Georgian experience makes Europe strengthen the eastern dimension of its neighborhood policy. Stable neighborhood of the European Union and standards unambiguously understood are useful both to southern neighbors of the European Union and to Russia," Paet said.

The meeting also saw the EU foreign ministers discuss the Middle-East, noting gradual improvements in Iraq's stability but also conceding the need for more coordinated cooperation in Afghanistan.
The discussion of renewed talks with Russia comes just days before the next EU-Russia summit and has been widely interpreted as an effort on behalf of the EU to smooth out relations with Russia to facilitate greater progress at the upcoming summit.