Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Frattini tries to give the farm away

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini has raised the possibility of Russian citzens being able to travel visa-free in the European Union sometime next year.

In principle this would be a good thing; it would build trade and cultural ties between the two powers, and expose more Russians to western liberal democratic ideals.

In practice however, visa free travel for Russians at this time would be a huge strategic mistake (on a similar scale to the huge strategic mistake of undermining the Nabucco pipeline...).  Why?  Because this is one of the few policy tools Europe has at its disposal for peacefully resolving the frozen conflicts in Georgia, Moldova and Azerbaijan.

By allowing Russians to travel visa-free, Europe will be indirectly supporting Russia's creeping annexation of the separatist territories of Transnistria, Abkhazia, South Ossetia and (to a lesser extent) Nagorno Karabakh. Russian nationality will become even more attractive to the residents of those areas than it is today.

The approach Europe should actually be taking is to give visa-free access first of all to holders of Moldovan, Georgian and Azerbaijani passports.  This would encourage residents of the separatist enclaves to take out the citizenship of the state where they live rather than look to Russia, and would promote the eventual reintegration of countries that have been torn apart by Russian-sponsored rebellions.

I'm all for visa free access for Russian citizens, however this should be a reward for Russia's constructive role in resolving the frozen conflicts (read withdrawal of troops and removal of other forms of support from the separatists.)

1 comment:

  1. One thing I found particularly insidious about Mr Fratini's comments was his reference to use of the Lisbon treaty's new voting processes to overcome the vetos previously enjoyed by certain members.

    Decoded, Mr Frattini is saying that the four large pro-Russia nations of Western Europe (Italy, Germany, France and Spain) will use their population based voting power to override the (legitimate) objections of the Baltics, Poland and Romania.

    Very shabby.