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Prime Minister of Bulgaria, permanent representative to the UN, ambassador to the US, observer in the European Parliament, Philip Dimitrov, 56, has been appointed Head of the EU Delegation in Tbilisi in 2010. He speaks about the role of the European Union in South Caucasus as an essential ‘peace factor‘.

By Nana Tabatadze

What role does the EU play in the Caucasus region ?

In South Caucasus, European Union has tried to achieve a number of things in two directions.  One of them is the direction of the relationship between Armenia and Azerbaijan [the frozen conflict about the region of the Nagorno Karabakh]. The other thing which put Europe on the map in the region was its reaction to the events of 2008 [war between Russia and Georgia]. EU claims now to be one of the major factors for peace.

Philip Dimitrov © Nicolas Froehner

It is very difficult to discuss the present situation in Caucasus without discussing the role of Russia and even more difficult to discuss it without mentioning Turkey, too, because those both major players may have an influence on what is going on between Azerbaijan and Armenia. As for Russia, in fact, the question of the role of EU in conflicts in South Caucasus and conflicts depends greatly on Europe’s approach to Russia.

United States also have an influence on South Caucasus region but to what extent?

Yes, US are here. And at a period of time, it was even more than EU. It is however currently suffering through three serious problems. One of them is the start of a “reset” foreign policy with Russia. Second problem was that US had to pull back a little bit from the situation after 2008. Third problem is that US politics is greatly dependant on electoral cycle.

USA still spends a lot of money in Georgia, supporting the country financially but I am not sure that they claim to play a more active part than other international players. In the long run, whether US will try to take again a more leading role in cooperation with Georgia, I can’t say.

Do you expect the EU Monitoring Mission (EUMM) to stay in the separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia?

Since there is no sign of moving forward in this conflict issue , patience is inevitable in this status quo situation. I would always support the maintenance of the EU monitoring mission as long as another more efficient instrument isn’t found in this region. EUMM is extremely important for Georgia, I believe.  Even though this solution is a half-way this option still gives a feeling of security to the people living close to the administrative border. EUMM may have small cars and its observers may not be seriously armed but it is important to show the presence of the international community there.