Support for Ukraine is the focus of discussions at the G7 meeting taking place in Schloss Elmau, Germany, from 26 to 28 June. During these days, the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, and the European Union will work mainly on the global economy, partnerships for developing countries, foreign and security policy, sustainability, food security, multilateralism, and digital transformation.
The President of the European Council, Charles Michel, highlighted the support that the EU has provided to Ukraine, including €2 billion to provide military equipment. “Ukraine needs more and we are committed to providing more. This comprises more military support, more financial means and more political support. We are also committed to supporting Ukraine’s reconstruction,” said Michel.
“The EU and the G7 share the same goals: bringing Russia’s war machine to a halt, while protecting our economies and those of our partners. The EU will stand by the people of Ukraine for the long haul and will help defend Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Our aim is to strongly defend our common democratic values,” said Michel.
The President added that during the G7 meeting, he would highlight food security – “the Kremlin is using food as a silent weapon of war” – and energy security in the light of the war.
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On 22 June in Brussels, the EU and Georgia held the 15th round of the annual Human Rights Dialogue.
Participants exchanged views on the human rights situation in Georgia and on recent developments in the promotion and protection of democracy and human rights since the last dialogue in July 2021.
The Georgian delegation was led by Deputy Foreign Minister Teimuraz Gianjalia, and the EU delegation was led by Richard Tibbels, from the European External Action Service. The EU Special Representative for Human Rights, Eamon Gilmore, also participated in the meeting.
The next EU-Georgia human rights dialogue is planned to take place in Tbilisi in 2023.
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European Commission is drawing closer to presenting its opinion on candidate status to Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova – members of the Association Trio. Meanwhile, questions and suggestions are mounting how to proceed in this way to find a “golden mean” amidst the war in Ukraine and highly unpredictable geostrategic context.
The stakes are high and considering all circumstances the European Union (EU) faces a difficult but historical decision. While, it is premature to talk in which direction the scales will swing, it’s evident that either negative or some intermediary decision about on any of the applicant state, will significantly affect their geopolitical future in the short and mid-term perspective. What about Georgia – the sole strategic ally of the West in the South Caucasus, the situation with regard to the status, still remains unclear. While we watch Ukraine as arena of a brutal geopolitical competition between the West and Russia on the European theater, Georgia remains another arena of geopolitical rivalry between Russia and the West. The absence of war nowadays, doesn’t mean it will not be unleashed tomorrow, if Russia finds Georgia alienated by the West. Thus, it's safe to say that EU candidate status for Georgia is highly likely to strengthen the EU foothold in the region and have a far-reaching influence on the other states of the region.
Before the pendant conclusion of the European Commission about candidate status for Georgia some opinions are present both in Georgia and outside calling the EU on either refraining from granting the status to Georgia, or suggesting something transitional. These suggestions are largely generated by ongoing domestic political infighting in the country.
The benefits from granting candidate status to Georgia, which considerably outstrips other members of the Association Trio by the pace of fulfillment of the components of the EU Association Agreement appeared to be far more tangible, than conditional gains in case of refusal.
Let's put the questions specifically and directly. Whether it’s a prudent step to hold Georgia back from the candidate status, as some groups argue, and detach it somehow from the Association Trio in this truly extraordinary situation?
What will the EU gain and what will it lose if decides to grant candidate status to Ukraine and Moldova, and say "NO" to Georgia, or give it something different? Hardly this “cold shower” from the EU would contribute to political stability in Georgia, which is apparently important for the EU in this turbulent geopolitical environment. Georgia’s opposition groups and their supporters are highly likely to use this “NO” to embark on mass anti-governmental protests and Georgia is expected to plunge into another cycle of confrontation, turbulence, and uncertainty, with the ensuing consequences. It’s hard to imagine that the EU would be satisfied with such state of affairs in its key partner in the region.
Refusal to grant Georgia candidate status under any plausible pretext, can significantly increase not only Euro-skepticism but outright anti-Western sentiments in a sizeable part of Georgian society, providing anti-Western forces with an excellent opportunity to increase their influence and strengthen their stance. Nowadays, they are quite industrious in creating an anti-European atmosphere in society. Will the EU be satisfied with this perspective?
Pinning hope that the refusal to give a candidate’s status will force Georgia’s ruling party to become more malleable to the EU demands looks unconvinced. Quite the contrary, the care for its own political future, will make the current government far more dutybound to implement the EU-recommended reforms. The idea cultivated by some Georgian and foreign pundits and politicians that Georgia will better meet EU standards under the new government after the pre-term elections, looks rather emotional than well-calculated. If consider the balance of political powers in Georgia, as well as composition of the current political landscape, this scenario looks unrealistic.
And, last but not least,the status of the candidate for EU membership is not an act of mercy for Georgia. It will give the country a strong and unequivocal signal from the EU to take the road to justice, peace and security, or be faced, even more than before, with tension and confrontation that would not be in the interests of any party. It’s time for making extraordinary but geopolitically far-sighted decisions.
Zaal Anjaparidze, political analyst, Tbilisi, Georgia
On 16 June, the European Union and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) donated four modern boats to Georgia’s Coast Guard.
These rapide response boats with a total cost of around 5 million laris will be deployed in Poti and Batumi. They will support the Coast Guard in patrolling coastal waters and conducting effective search and rescue operations, as well as to enhance interdiction capabilities.
The main technical specifications of the boats have been tailored to the needs of the Coast Guard to ensure compatibility with the maritime surveillance equipment and systems already in place in Georgia.
“Safe and secure borders are key for citizens in Georgia, as in any country. Ensuring security of and around the Black Sea – the physical bridge between the EU and Georgia – is a shared priority for both Georgia and the EU,” said Catalin Gherman, from the EU Delegation to Georgia, during the ceremony in Poti.
The boats were donated within the project ‘Support to Integrated Border Management in Georgia’, implemented by the IOM in the framework of the EU’s ‘EU4 Security, Accountability and Fight against Crime in Georgia’ (SAFE) programme.
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EU-supported rural festival took place in Tsalka, Georgia.
The ‘Visit Tsalka’ festival was organised as a part of the EU-funded EMBRACE Tsalka project by the Caucasus Environmental NGO Network (CENN), Tsalka Local Action Group (LAG), and Georgian Farmers’ Association.
The festival included an exhibition and sale of products from entrepreneurs, start-ups, small businesses and other EU-funded projects. There was also an educational event for young people and an exhibition and sale of children’s drawings. The proceeds from the sale of the drawings were donated to support the Ukrainian people.
Guests of the festival were also invited to explore the tourist route in Tsalka Canyon and the tourism potential of Tsalka in general.
“This festival is an excellent opportunity to discover Tsalka, support integration among locals, develop tourism potential and establish business partnerships,” said Melano Tkabladze, CENN’s Project Manager.
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On 8 June, EU High Representative Josep Borrell announced the appointment of a new EU ambassador to Georgia, among 31 new heads of EU delegations.
Polish diplomat Pawel Herczynski will replace his Swedish colleague Carl Hartzell.
Pawel Herczynski is currently European External Action Service (EEAS) Managing Director for the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) and Crisis Response, and also served as Director for Security and Defence Policy at the EEAS. Prior to that, he was Polish ambassador to the EU Political and Security Committee (PSC).
The new ambassador will be formally appointed once the relevant host country agreements have been received.
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European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and EU High Representative Josep Borrell addressed the European Parliament today, reporting on recent EU decisions, including on Ukraine and other Eastern Partnership countries, and presenting the results of the Extraordinary European Council held in Brussels on 30-31 May.
Ursula von der Leyen noted that breaking free from dependency on Russian fossil fuels, strengthening the EU’s defence, food security, and reconstruction of Ukraine remain the main EU priorities.
She said the upcoming food crisis, which will affect 265 million people worldwide this year alone, is fuelled by Putin’s aggressive war against Ukraine: “Whereas Russia actively weaponises hunger, the EU’s sanctions are carefully crafted to avoid a negative impact and they foresee a clear exemption for food products. Our sanctions do not touch basic food commodities. They do not affect the trading of grain, or other food, between Russia and third countries.”
Josep Borrell (whose speech was delivered by European Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis) added that the EU would continue to work with its partners to isolate Russia in international fora and would increase military support to Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia.
“We have proposed to increase the non-lethal military assistance measures benefitting Georgia and [the Republic of] Moldova. It will support logistics, cyber-defence, military medical, engineering and mobility capabilities. We will present them in June for planned adoption by the Council in July,” said Borrell.
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The European Union strongly condemns Russia’s attempts to forcefully integrate parts of Ukrainian territory.
On 25 May and 30 May, the Russian president issued decrees, simplifying the process for granting Russian citizenship and issuing Russian passports to Ukrainian citizens of the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions, which are temporarily under Russian military control, as well as to Ukrainian children without parental care and legally incapacitated persons from Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions.
“The European Union will not recognise these passports, issued as part of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine,” said EU High Representative Josep Borrell in a declaration issued on behalf of the EU.
The EU also strongly condemns any attempts by Russia to replace democratically elected and legitimate Ukrainian administrations, to introduce the Russian rouble as a parallel currency to the Ukrainian hryvnia, and to impose Russian curricula and education materials and change the language of tuition in schools in those parts of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions that are currently under the illegal control of Russian armed forces.
“Any attempts to alter the status of parts of Ukrainian territory are a clear violation of international law, the UN Charter and Ukraine’s Constitution, they further undermine sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, and will not be recognised by the European Union,” said the declaration by Borrell.
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The European Commission, on behalf of the EU, today disbursed €600 million in Macro-Financial Assistance (MFA) to Ukraine to address its acute financing gap related to its exceptional humanitarian and defence needs.
The first tranche of €600 million of this emergency macro-financial assistance operation, worth €1.2 billion, was paid in two tranches on 11 and 18 March.
These funds are provided to Ukraine in the form of long-term loans on highly favourable terms. They contribute to financing part of the sizable funding gap of the country, estimated by International Financial Institutions at around $15 billion for the second quarter of 2022.
The disbursement of this macro-financial assistance was to be conditional on the implementation of a series of the structural policy measures by the Ukrainian authorities. However, due to force majeure circumstances, the Commission decided to allocate the second tranche as a matter of urgency.
“Going forward, the EU will continue to provide short-term financial support to Ukraine while accompanying it in its long-term reconstruction, in line with the plans announced on Wednesday. Ukraine will get back on its feet as a democratic and prosperous country,” President Ursula von der Leyen said.
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EU foreign ministers have agreed to allocate an additional €500 million from the European Peace Facility for arms supplies to Ukraine. This will bring the total amount of the EU military support to Ukraine to €2 billion. At the same time, however, ministers failed to agree on a sixth package of sanctions against Russia and an oil ban, EU High Representative Josep Borrell reported last night.
The EU High Representative was speaking after the EU Foreign Affairs Council that was joined by Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, and Canadian Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly.
Borrell noted that the €2 billion in military support was “just the tip of the iceberg”, because Member States “do a lot from their side without asking for refunding”.
Borrell also said the EU has to help Ukraine to keep producing and exporting grains and wheat via the already established initiative ‘Solidarity Lanes’. “The storage capacity of Ukraine is full, because they cannot export this grain and they need to empty this storage capacity in order to be able to receive the next crop. So, we are working on how to help them to take this grain out by train,” added Borrell.
Regarding sanctions, he said: “We will continue imposing sanctions on Russia to make the cost of invasion unbearable for the Kremlin. We continue discussing. Unhappily today, it has not been possible to reach an agreement to finalise the 6th sanctions package. The issue will go back to the COREPER and [EU] Ambassadors will continue discussing. We are with the same difficulties about unanimity on the oil ban.”
EU ministers also met over lunch with the six foreign ministers of the Western Balkan countries to discuss their path to the European Union. “Ministers expressed their clear expectation towards the partners as future Member States, to commit to European values and to the European foreign policy. Those who have not yet done so – and Serbia is one of them – should, as soon as they can, step up their alignment and implement sanctions [against Russia],” Borrell said, adding the European Union’s partner countries could not remain neutral in the current situation: “To maintain close ties with [Vladimir] Putin’s regime is no longer compatible with building a common future with the European Union. Both things at the same time are not compatible. Being neutral today, with respect to the Ukrainian war, is a false concept.” He also said that the EU intends to support its “partners in order to mitigate the effects of this upcoming crisis”.
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