09TBILISI584, GEORGIA: FRENCH AMBASSADOR’S COMMENTS ABOUT THE

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09TBILISI584 2009-03-24 12:35 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHSI #0584/01 0831235
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 241235Z MAR 09
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1246
INFO RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 0388
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L TBILISI 000584 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/23/2019 
TAGS: PGOV PREL RS GG
SUBJECT: GEORGIA: FRENCH AMBASSADOR'S COMMENTS ABOUT THE 
EUROPEAN UNION'S SOUTH CAUCASUS POLICY 
 
Classified By: Ambassador John F. Tefft for reasons 1.4 (b,d). 
 
1. (C)  Summary and Comment:  France's local Ambassador in 
Tbilisi Eric Fournier was remarkably blunt in his opening 
remarks at a local conference March 20 about current European 
Union policy towards Russia, as well as his own difficulties 
in getting his ministry in Paris to put Georgia on its 
priority list.  Hansjorg Haber, head of the EUMM mission in 
Georgia, immediately followed Ambassador Fournier with his 
own opening remarks, in which he tried to take a softer tone 
on the current state of affairs, stressng the speed with 
which the EU responded to the August 2008 conflict.  Haber 
emphasized the quick pace of engagement in the South Caucasus 
after the conflict in comparison with the difficult and 
lengthy decisions made by the EU in the Balkans during the 
90's.  In spite of Haber's more conciliatory tone, it was 
Fournier's comments that contributed to an animated crowd in 
attendance, as well as generated press interest.  While it 
was clear that he was speaking on his own, the comments were 
nonetheless an interesting window into the situation in the 
EU.  End Summary and Comment. 
 
Shuttle Diplomacy - As long as it is to Brussels 
 
2.  (SBU)  During a daylong conference March 20 in Tbilisi 
organized by the Institut Francais d'Etudes Anatoliennes, 
Ambassador Fourier stressed, both from notes as well as in ad 
hoc remarks, that his main problem since arriving in Georgia 
was the difficulty in convincing the Ministry of Foreign 
Affairs in Paris that Georgia was important to the EU.  He 
noted the constant presence of senior Georgian officials in 
Brussels, and argued that the EU was clearly the focus of the 
Georgian leadership.  Fournier believed his own government 
did not understand the need to reciprocate.  He repeatedly 
has complained to Paris about the lack of senior French 
government visitors to Georgia, noting that if the flights 
did not end in either Berlin, Brussels, or London, they were 
apparently not of much interest.  Ambassador Fournier said 
that countries such as "Pakistan and Georgia" must become 
higher on the priority list for officials in Paris, or else 
significant momentum would be lost in solving the world's 
problems. 
 
3.  (SBU)  Ambassador Fournier noted that his complaints have 
resulted in some increased interest, as he described the 
arrival of French Minister of State for Foreign Trade 
Anne-Marie Idrac to Georgia in November 2008, whose highly 
positive experiences in the country resulted in a special 
credit issuance to Georgia.  He took this as a positive sign, 
as his predecessor had virtually no visitors during his three 
year term to Tbilisi.  His initial observations upon arrival 
in Tbilisi, followed by the August conflict, have increased 
his desire to play an active role in building French 
relations with Georgia, encouraging a strategic dialogue 
following the essential role played by President Sarkozy in 
negotiating the cease-fire in 2008, and ensuring that the 
"Eastern Partnership" is effective in the region. 
 
View of the Russians 
 
4.  (SBU)  He remained blunt and candid in his descriptions 
of Russia, stressing the importance of a united European 
front in dealing with the current Russian government. 
Fournier said that the August conflict in Georgia helped 
achieve unity among the Europeans in dealing with Russia for 
the first time.  He said that this unity must carry over if 
Russia is to be engaged with strength.  Of particular note, 
he emphasized the importance of having a credible military 
he emphasized the importance of having a credible military 
force in the EU so as to ensure that a dual track approach to 
Russia, including both hard power and soft power, would be 
the norm going forward.   While Fournier assured the audience 
that a new cold war was impossible, this did not stop him 
from noting "barbaric" actions of the Russians, including the 
murder of journalists in Moscow, assassination of Chechens on 
the streets of Vienna, and the ongoing imprisonment of former 
Yukos chief Mikhail Khodorkovsky.  He returned to the topic 
of Chechnya multiple times, describing his disappointment at 
the lack of opposition from the EU toward Russian activities 
during the wars there. 
 
Haber Walks Back 
 
5.  (SBU)  European Union Monitoring Mission head Hansjorg 
Haber struck a more conciliatory tone in his remarks 
immediately after the French Ambassador, stressing the speed 
with which the EU responded to the fighting in August in 
comparison to its performance in the Balkans in the 90's. 
Additionally, he raised the example of the "Eastern 
Partnership" as an additional sign that officials in the 
European capitals were aware of the situation in Georgia, and 
evidence of near-term momentum in enhancing relations between 
Europe and Georgia. 
 
Response from the Georgian Side 
 
6.  (SBU)  While noting that he did not enjoy the association 
of Georgia with Pakistan in the Ambassador's comments, Dr. 
Nika Chitadze, a professor at Tbilisi State U
niversity and 
Chavchavadze University, stated his appreciation for the 
blunt talk.  He said that it would likely contribute to the 
view held among the Georgians that Germany continues to be 
the primary inhibitor in the EU.  Chitadze said that while 
France would continue to be viewed as a difficult EU member, 
perhaps more focus should be placed on the German role in 
slowing down Georgian integration into NATO and the EU, as 
Germany attempts to improve its position with Russia. 
 
7.  (C)  COMMENT:  While it was clear that Ambassador Fourier 
was speaking on his own and that his remarks were probably 
not authorized by Paris, his comments and opinions were still 
quite intriguing coming from an Ambassador of one of the most 
important EU countries in devising policy towards Russia and 
Georgia.  His candor provides an interesting window through 
which to view the infighting and struggles faced by our 
European allies as they strive to influence their own 
capitals in the development of policy in the South Caucasus. 
END COMMENT. 
TEFFT

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