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Deauville Summit

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  • November 29, 2010

    French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel met on October 18-19 in Deauville, France, with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. It was the first three-way meeting in five years, hosted jointly by Sarkozy and Merkel. The three leaders’ joint Deauville declaration calls on the European Union to launch a “modernization partnership” with Russia; to adopt a road-map for visa-free travel between Russia and the European Union (thus privileging Russia over closer neighbors of the EU); and to embark on “institutional and operational cooperation between Russia and the EU” on European security. The three signatories also pledge to “jointly work on security issues in the Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian zones.”
    Specifically, they will seek “closer cooperation, apt to contribute in a most tangible way to mutual confidence and collective actions on conflict prevention and conflict management, opening the way for settling ancient conflicts, such as that in Transnistria.”1 The other issue which was discussed by the three leaders was cooperation between Russia and NATO. President Medvedev announced that he was taking part in the Russia-NATO summit in Lisbon, believing that it would help find the right compromises and in general deepen the dialogue between Russia and NATO. The discussion also dealt with issues that would form part of the G-20 summit in 2011.


    The trilateral summit is seen by the European elite as an option to strengthen Europe’s waning influence in global politics. The summit might bring closer relations with Russia and prevent the geopolitical rift within Europe from worsening. The European Union of late has been faced with certain internal and external challenges which have debilitated its position in global politics. The core problem faced by the EU is internal disunity, which makes it impossible for it to speak in one voice on many important international issues. The Lisbon treaty ratification and creation of a long term President of the European Council and High Representative of Foreign Affairs has not helped much. The root of this rift lies in the inability and unwillingness of EU member countries to cede additional sovereignty at a time when other countries around the world are reinforcing their sovereignty. Externally the shift of global economics and politics from the Atlantic to the Asia-Pacific region poses a new challenge.

    US foreign policy is more focused on Asia and the EU is no longer enjoying the geographical priority which it was used to earlier. All this has forced West European strategic elites to reevaluate EU-Russian relations have been deadlocked in recent years, guided as they were by a zero-sum play in the energy sector and in relations with former Soviet republics. Following the Russian-Georgian conflict of 2008, Western Europe began to see the growing divide between Russia and the EU, including on security issues, not only as a threat to European security but also as a factor contributing to Europe’s marginalization in global politics. These trends can only be reversed by a new dialogue between Russia and the EU, one that deals with the most fundamental and pressing European security issues for Russia – the geopolitical divide in Europe between NATO and the EU on the one hand, and Russia, the Collective Security Treaty Organization and EurAsEC on the other.


    Both sides made political and economic gains at the Deauville summit. The summit has however drawn the displeasure of the United States and some of its allies who fear the loss of American influence. While German public opinion felt that the summit was intended to show consensus on EU-Russia relations, the fact remains that it also revealed significant disparities between the parties. The press release issued after the summit says that Germany and France seemed insisted on the original framework, that is, dialogue within the NATO-Russia Council and within the OSCE instead of creating a new, specialized Europe-Russian security dialogue mechanism as the Russian side has envisaged. Although the US has said that talks about security between Europeans was normal, the American media had voiced, prior to the meeting, unease and worries about the tripartite meeting bypassing the US and discussing key issues.3 However, the fact remains that the goal of the summit was to reinforce the EU-Russia partnership and not to forge a strong Europe capable of challenging the United States. The official outcome of Deauville Summit is reported to be the 'agreement of Russia, France and Germany to continue the pursuit of agreement', leaving the stage for the NATO and OSCE summits with more inclusive lists of participants.

    To sum up, the summit gave the three leaders an opportunity to co-ordinate their positions on many issues and express their appraisal of the format. They confirmed their support of the strategic vision of a common space in Europe, founded on democratic values and the rule of law.

    Amrita Shukla is a student of law at Gujarat National Law University, and is currently an Intern at IDSA.