On July 16 – 17 2008 the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies in cooperation with the EU Institute for Security Studies hosted a conference – “Georgia and the EU -“Prospects for Cooperation and Integration.” This event brought together the representatives of the EU and the member states, international analysts, and figures from Georgian government, political parties, and civil society.
Participants were welcomed by Dr. Alexander Rondeli, the President of the Foundation, and Alvaro de Vasconcelos, Director of the European Union Institute for Security Studies.
The first panel addressed recent domestic developments in Georgia, from the unrest of 2007 to the 2008 presidential and parliamentary elections, to the just-released report of the Public Defender’s office. The discussion aired widely divergent views on the state and direction of democracy in Georgia, with general agreement that the EU is paying close attention.
The second panel was focused on the role of the EU in the Georgia-Abkhazia conflict. One panelist, Peter Semneby, EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus, and several other participants had just returned from a visit to Abkhazia, and they shared their findings and assessments of the official Sokhumi point of view (invitees from Abkhazia were unable to attend the conference). The discussion concerned whether and how the EU can contribute to conflict resolution, and Abkhazia perspectives on the EU.
The third panel covered the roles of the United States and Russia in EU-Georgia relations, and included non-official analysts from the United States and Russia. All discussants agreed that both states are important external actors in the relationship, but several sharply disagreed over the legitimacy and probity of their actions.
The final session explored how regional cooperation can promote stability in Georgia. With panelists from Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan, it became clear that the EU must, as it does, have an integrated approach to security in the South Caucasus.