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EU commission challenges

By Messenger Staff
Wednesday, February 18
For the first time in its history the EU has created a special fact finding commission to investigate the Russian-Georgian August war.

The explanation for this is twofold. Firstly, it seems, the EU is paying serious attention to the Caucasus region for different reasons, the first of among these most probably being its energy supply significance, and secondly it is seeking to gain very valuable experience to prevent such incidents happening again.

The decision to create the commission was taken by the Council of Foreign Ministers of the EU, which has become very much concerned by the situation in the Caucasus. Presumably instability in the region undermines European security. The establishment of the commission is particularly noteworthy because neither Russia nor Georgia are actually EU members, although they participate in several cooperation programmes.

There is no doubt that the report the commission submits to the EU, UN, OSCE and the conflicting sides will be of the utmost importance. The conclusions it draws will probably determine many of the future steps international bodies take, as well as their general attitude towards the conflicting sides.

Chair of the Commission Heidi Tagliavini promises to produce the most objective possible report, however the Georgian side has already pointed out that two of the expert members of the commission are “Russophiles” in its estimation. The Georgian authorities, political analysts and journalists are very sensitive and concerned about this. State Minister for Reintegration Issues Temur Iakobashvili has alleged that some of the commission’s experts are Gazprom financed. Journalists claim that two members of the commission have already stated views which are vividly anti Georgian, Colonel Christopher Langton and Professor Otto Luchterhandt. Most likely the results of the commission’s work will challenge all sides.

Analyst Ramaz Sakvarelidze thinks that pro-Russian members of the commission should be counterbalanced by a neutral member. We suggest that both sides – Russian and Georgian - should exercise their right to disqualify a member of the commission at the beginning if they suspect his/her sympathies. However not all the experts agree that the commission’s conclusions could be subjective. Paata Zakareishvili thinks that Georgia fell into a Russian masterminded trap. He has no doubt about the objectivity of the commission’s judgments.

Maybe the Georgian leadership knows beforehand that the conclusions will not be favourable for it and wants to create an alibi for itself. Whatever the truth, the EU mission faces multiple challenges, including whether it can study the situation on the ground in the Russian-occupied territories, whether they are prepared to say that their military build-up contradicts European policy and many others.