MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Andrei Fedyashin) - Brussels seems to be increasingly wary of the democratic Georgian president and his relentless attempts to blow the Caucasian issue out of all proportion.
In late July, the European Union (EU) quietly decided to extend the powers of the European Union Monitoring Mission (EUMM) in Georgia for another year, through September 14, 2010. At the same time, at their recent meeting in Brussels, the EU foreign ministers decided to not even discuss the expansion of the EU monitoring group by including the United States and Turkey in it.
Recently, the EU "Georgian watch" has become increasingly popular among non-participants. After Moscow vetoed the prolongation of the OSCE mission in Georgia, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia about two months ago, the EU monitoring group has remained the only Western mission, which is trying to follow the situation on Georgia's border with Abkhazia and South Ossetia. It consists of 225 unarmed observers who have access only to the border areas between Georgia and the independent republics. In the EU, this zone is referred to as the "de facto border." The group's authority is very limited. They have neither the means, nor the right to cut short any incidents in the border regions, and, regrettably, these incidents are not so rare.
Both President Mikheil Saakashvili and the United States are urging Brussels to Americanize EUMM. Saakashvili believes that the inclusion of U.S. representatives in the group is an effective way of enhancing its "pro-Georgian objectiveness." In this case, the United States would receive a legal right to have its representatives in the regions, something it would not have otherwise. Becoming a legal participant in the mission would allow the United States to make tough demands on expanding the powers and functions of the observers, up to and including the provision of arms.
Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski said that Washington had already offered the EU mission equipment and personnel. His British counterpart David Miliband (London fully supports Washington) announced that the mission should be more effective. Britain does not hide its desire to extend the mission's jurisdiction to the territory of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
As for Turkey, it is expected to join the group "for the sake of objectiveness", as a regional power. However, after such an expansion, it will be unclear whose monitoring team this is. If the United States and Turkey join EUMM, it will cease to be a strictly EU group, and will look more like a group of NATO observers. Russia is not likely to sit back and watch as NATO expands its political powers, especially in a region which has recently been through a war.
France insisted that the issue of expanding EUMM's national membership not be discussed until the middle of autumn. It was supported by Italy, Belgium, Cyprus, and Germany. Britain, Finland, Lithuania, Estonia, and Poland support U.S. participation.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner bluntly said that "this is not the time for raising the issue." "This move could be perceived as a provocation aimed at fanning new incidents on the eve of the first anniversary of the war."
At the recent ministerial meeting in Brussels, Stockholm (Sweden is chairing the EU as of July 1) made it clear that it is not ready to put this item on the agenda at least until late autumn.
Compared to what U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden said during his recent visit to Tbilisi, Brussels speaks in a chilly tone. Europe must be growing tired of Saakashvili and his attempts to attach international importance to the conflict, or at least, to keep it on the Big Agenda, without which he will have nowhere to cling to power for. Absence of an external foe will leave him face to face with the domestic enemy - an almost all-Georgian opposition to the regime.
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