The crisis in Georgia and the deployment of European observers to the region were the main focus of talks with the French European affairs minister Jean-Pierre Jouyet at a special meeting of the EP Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday. The situations in Serbia and Belarus were also discussed.Mr Jouyet described to MEPs the outcome of the General Affairs and External Relations Council that took place in Brussels on 15-16 October 2008.
"The coherence and unity of the EU, as mediator in this conflict, is striking", said the minister, while stressing that "there is no alternative to the six-point plan".
According to Mr Jouyet, among the lessons that the EU must learn from this conflict - the subject of a question by Ioan Mircea Pascu (PES, RO) - is that Europe must devote more attention to central Asia. The EU must push ahead with its neighbourhood policy in the Mediterranean but also in the Caucasus, he added.
Civilian observation mission
In reply to a question by Michael Gahler (EPP-ED, DE) on a probable refusal by the Russians to see European observers in the two separatist regions, the minister said "the priority is the withdrawal of the Russian forces from the areas adjacent to South Ossetia and Abkhazia, to the pre-conflict lines".
The General Affairs Council has decided to deploy at least 200 observers by 1 October as part of an autonomous civilian observer mission. This mission comes under the European security and defence policy.
The European Union's special representative for the crisis in Georgia, Pierre Morel, appointed on Monday, will have a "separate mandate from the current role of the EU special representative for central Asia", said Mr Jouyet. "But his mandate could be reviewed if the crisis in Georgia is prolonged".
The donors' conference for helping with Georgia's reconstruction and economic recovery is due to take place in Brussels in October, "probably after the European Council" of 15 October, indicated Mr Jouyet. The European Commission will propose that €500 million be provided by way of financial aid in the period 2008-10.
Charles Tannock (EPP-ED, UK) and Vytautas Landsbergis (EPP-ED, LT) maintained that strong signals should be sent to Belarus, which has recently freed its remaining political prisoners - among them Alexander Kozulin, a candidate for the 2008 Sakharov Prize - and which has not recognised the secessionist republics of Georgia. The minister said he preferred to see how the legislative elections of 28 September proceeded.
Turning to Serbia, Mr Jouyet shared the disappointment of the EP rapporteur on this matter, Jelko Kacin (ALDE, SI), believing that signals should be sent to Serbia swiftly, if possible before the Luxembourg Council of 13-14 October. The General Affairs Council has postponed implementation of the interim agreement signed with Serbia on 29 April.