Conservatives call for EU support for Georgia
7th May 2008
Hands off Georgia say Tory MEPs as new Russian President takes office
Brussels, 7th May 2008 -- In a debate in the European Parliament on the situation in Georgia, Conservatives have called for the European Union to take a stronger role in supporting Georgia's territorial integrity.
As Dmitri Medvedev is officially sworn in as Russia’s new president today, little hope has been offered for a change in its hostile foreign policy towards Georgia. Through his post as Prime Minister and boosted by revenue from the increase in oil prices, former President Putin has retained his grip on power in the region, using trade and energy supplies as diplomatic weapons and offering tacit support for the breakaway self-styled republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Philip Bushill-Matthews MEP, who returned from a European Parliament delegation visit to Georgia last week, has called for the EU to show greater support for Georgia. He said:
"In our discussions with President Saakashvili, we outlined proposals to fast-track a Free Trade Agreement with the EU as well as to end the anomaly whereby people with Russian passports had greater freedom to travel throughout the EU than holders of Georgian passports. These are two very concrete steps that we can take to strengthen links between Georgia and the EU, to show we are on their side.
"The EU must offer its fullest moral support for Georgia in these difficult times."
Speaking in the debate in the European Parliament, Conservative spokesman on Foreign Affairs, Dr Charles Tannock MEP also warned that the EU's hasty recognition of Kosovan independence has given Russia an undeserved moral status and may have provoked Russian hostilities in Georgia. Dr Tannock said:
"Russia has a new President today but Vladimir Putin's new job as Prime Minister will enable him to maintain his grip on power and supervise his protégé, Dimitri Medvedev. As a result, Russian foreign policy will not change.
"Recognition of Kosovo has opened a can of worms and has given Russia the moral high ground.
"It would indeed be tragic if through our approach to Kosovo we have irreparably damaged Georgia and precipitated conflict in a country whose territorial integrity we should defend strongly."