Georgia’s chances of gaining a NATO Membership Action Plan (MAP) this April suffered a major blow on March 10, after German Chancellor Angela Merkel said states with conflicts could not join the alliance.
“Countries that are enmeshed in regional and internal conflicts cannot become NATO members,” she was quoting by western agencies as saying at a meeting with top German military commanders in Berlin, which was also attended by NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer.
Merkel’s remarks came just a few hours after Georgia’s foreign minister, Davit Bakradze, told journalists in Tbilisi that there was not a single NATO member-state “openly declaring its opposition to Georgia’s NATO membership.” He did, however, acknowledge that there was no consensus within the alliance about when to extend MAP to Georgia and Ukraine.
“There are several states, which have different positions about when Georgia and Ukraine should move to another level of integration into the alliance – now or after several months,” he said. “This type of discussion will continue until the [NATO] Bucharest summit [on April 2-4] and the fact that the issue remains open gives us an opportunity to achieve a positive outcome.”
He noted, however, that the process “no longer depended on Georgia.” “During the decision-making process alliance members will take into consideration various factors, including some not directly related to Georgia,” Bakradze said, in an obvious reference to Russia’s opposition to NATO expansion.
The German chancellor’s March 10 remarks came just two days after she visited Moscow. “We will agree with any choice of the Ukrainian and Georgian peoples, of the peoples and not their political elites,” Russian President Vladimir Putin was quoted by Interfax as saying at a joint news conference with Merkel. In a plebiscite on January 5, 77% of Georgians voted for Georgia’s integration into NATO.
Following a meeting of alliance foreign ministers in Brussels on March 6, in which Georgia’s and Ukraine’s bid to gain a NATO MAP was discussed, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the German foreign minister, said that he remained “skeptical” about both countries' chances of joining MAP at the Bucharest summit.
The NATO secretary general said after the foreign ministerial meeting that “no decisions have been taken” on the issue. However, he stressed discussions on the matter would continue until the Bucharest Summit and reiterated that NATO’s doors remained open.