Leonardo Goi (Italy, AC 07-09)
Many fingers wagged in Brussels on the first on September, as EU officials and diplomats joined the 27-member Union’s battlecry calling for a prompt response against Russia’s thoughtless decision of recognizing the sovereignty of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Seven days later, Mr Sarkozy set off on a delicate journey to Moscow, endeavouring to persuade Russia President Dmitri Medvedev to withdraw Russian troops as part of the French-brokered peace treaty between Georgia and the former USSR. As David Miliband, the EU’s foreign secretary, has suggested last weekend in Avignon: “President Sarkozy needs to make clear that while Russia may score military victories, in the long term it faces political and economic isolation if it does not abide by its internal commitments”. A few hours later, Medvedev officially agreed on pulling back troops and agreed on the deadline for the final withdrawing, a month from Nicolas Sarkozy’s mission.
Whether or not the French President’s diplomatic achievements will withstand the action of time – or rather, the unpredictable line of the Kremlin inherited by Mr Putin’s legacy – Mr Miliband’s words failed to conceal the veneer of hypocrisies covering a dramatic – but realistic – new status quo: the EU’s waffling is a direct consequence of the Union’s dependence on Russia’s energy resources.
Mr Medvedev must have acknowledged it: Russia’s tactical blitz in Georgia has broken both the delicate equilibrium with the Caucasian minorities and the diplomatic bridge with the West, leaving the country isolated. The idea of a “Splendid Isolation” strenuously fostered by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov might have been a concept appealing to many, but its diplomatic long term consequences are already in sight. “Russia looked round the world for applause and support and found none” as depicted a Guardian editorial last weekend. The unpredictability of Medvedev’s policies has caused a severe blow to Russia’s steadiness and diplomacy, and its prestige will be harshly questioned by the West.
But if Russia is now in a muddle, the same holds true for the 27 members of the EU. The dependence on Russia’s resources will prevent a solo response and thorough cohesion when it comes to international issues such as the Georgian crisis. Indeed, the latter might be seen as a symbolic prelude to what might happen next; if the EU wants to keep its status of cooperative organ and wipe out the doubts cast on its strength, the 27 members will have to stick together, regardless of their own creeds and motivations.
And indeed, motivations were the main obstacle towards an EU resolution of the Georgian crisis. Rather than an alleged ceasefire pact, what the 27 members had failed to deal with was the eternal issue on whether or not Russia should be an integral part of the European Union. The Continent’s political cohesion faces serious risks as no-one is capable of «showing the way», outlining the Union’s position on the issue. The EU’s views are still scattered among those who believe Russia should be a real partner of the Union, those who are instead keen on containing its influence on the European Council, and those who feel already threatened by Mr Lavrov’s revival of a hypothetical isolation from the world.
True, the reasons to feel threatened are already in sight. Nearly a third of EU’s annual oil imports, amounting to some 60 billion dollars – comes from Russia. Germany spent 11.9 billion dollars in crude oil imports last year, followed by Italy (6.3), the Netherlands (5.6) and Poland (5.5). Under this light, shutting off supplies – or threatening to do so – constitutes more than an alleged menace to the frailty of the EU’s political modus operandi.
And yet the US and other overseas powers seem to be even more concerned than Europeans themselves, points the Economist. But the reason for such apathy stems from the system of mutual favours encompassing Russia with the European members. The selfishness of countries from Italy, Germany, Bulgaria and Greece led the EU to increase energy dependence on Russia to the detriment of any other possible solutions. But if the threat of a cut off appears unlikely to happen, what the 27 members seem to ignore is the result of this problematic self-assurance.
The Georgian Crisis has shown the precarious balance between the countries, and the lack of cooperation and unity still existing under the twelve-starred flag. As long as these issues will not be overcome, as long as internal frictions and energetic dependencies will still halt a thorough and cohesive response towards world-issues, the European Union will face the risk of losing its sense of unity and strength: the fate of a Continent for a fistful of energy.
– United World College Student Magazine –