Federica Mogherini, Italy’s foreign minister who is nominated as next EU foreign policy chief, told European Parliament members during a confirmation hearing on October 6 that in its eastern neighborhood the EU “will need to support” Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine
“We need a greater attention in different forms to the east – starting from support to Ukraine in terms of security, institutional reforms, political process, economic challenges and energy challenges. We will need to support Moldova and Georgia… We will need to work with Armenia, Azerbaijan and Belarus on our way forward,” Mogherini said in his opening remarks during the hearing at the European Parliament’s foreign affairs committee.
Georgia was mentioned in the context of the Eastern Partnership once again during the three-hour hearing when Mogherini was asked how she sees democratic transformation in the Eastern Partnership countries in the view of Russia’s attempts “to establish Soviet sphere of influence there.”
Mogherini responded: “I think the attempt that Russians trying to have is that of showing that the European choice is bad for the people in those countries… If we manage to show together that the European choice is good for the citizens of these countries – I think of Moldova, where difficult elections are coming now, I think of Georgia, I thing obviously of Ukraine – if the European choice is delivering concrete good results for the people, that would be an attractive pull factor also for parts of their societies that are probably thinking in different way today.”
In her opening remarks Mogherini said that Russia “might not be a partner at the moment – which is a picture of the situation today, still it is a strategic country in the world.”
“So I guess we will need to deeply re-assess together our relations [with] Russia,” she said.
Asked which tactic she would use if confronted by “Russia bear”, Mogherini responded: “I would say that we need mix of assertiveness and diplomacy – the balance will also depend on the reaction of the bear.”
When Estonian MEP Tunne Kelam told Mogherini that “you have yet to convince me how to stop Mr. Putin” and that EU’s sanctions are lagging behind Kremlin’s moves, Mogherini responded that the sanctions have been “effective” as the Russian economy “is starting to suffer quite a lot.” But she also added: “Are they [sanctions] effective on Russian political decisions? I think we still have a question mark there.” Mogherini said that her “point of reference” is to work with the Ukrainians and to support President Petro Poroshenko’s efforts “because in the end they are the ones who have to deal with conflict on their territory.”
She also said that the EU may need to work on increasing sanctions against Russia “if things get worse” in respect of Ukraine, and the EU “could lift the sanctions if things get better.”