58 year-old German Gunnar Wiegand is the European External Action Service (EEAS) Director for Russia, Eastern Partnership, Central Asia, Regional Cooperation and OSCE. Formally his position does not put him at the top of European External Action Service which is the equivalent of Foreign Ministry. But it’s him who is responsible for EU policy toward Russia and other post-Soviet states, including the abrupt deterioration of the Russia-EU relationship in recent months.
Mr. Wiegand regularly visits Minks, Erevan, Kiev and Chisinau where he always confidently speaks in the name of the whole European Union starting with the words «The view of the European Union is…» Actually he holds a rather modest position but it is important enough to give him authority to speak on the part of the European Union. In January 2013 he met Moldovan Prime Minister Vlad Filat to say Moldova met all the conditions to become the first participant of the Eastern Partnership to conclude an association agreement with the EU. That is exactly what took place 10 months after at the Vilnius summit. In May 2014 Gunnar Wiegand was decorated with the «Order of Honor» (Ordinul de Onoare) by the President of the Republic of Moldova Nicolae Timofti. This distinction is conferred to the European officials in sign of «high appreciation for special merits to foster the process of integration of the Republic of Moldova in European structures». Georgia also signed an association agreement at the summit. The both documents were initialled by Wiegand to be later signed by Catherine Ashton, then High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.
In January 2014 Gunnar Wiegand and Štefan Füle, the European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, held talks with then Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych. Those days a coup was being cooked up in Kiev but Yanukovych had no idea what was in store for him. After the talks the crisis in Ukraine began to unwind and Wiegand concentrated his efforts on other countries. With Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko he talked «about not economic only but also political cooperation». He was a co-chairman of the EU-Armenia Parliamentary Cooperation Committee presiding over its meetings. Mr. Wiegand led the EU team at the talks with Kazakhstan and headed the EU delegation at the EU-Uzbekistan Cooperation Committee meeting in Tashkent. He was responsible for the relations with six states of post-Soviet space (Ukraine, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia and Belarus). His activities included working out and presenting proposals stated in the form of ultimatum on signing association and free trade agreements with the European Union which exclude the economic integration with Russia.
Gunnar Wiegand is well prepared for the job. He has much greater foreign policy experience as compared with his current superior – Federica Mogherini, the current High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy since November 1, 2014. After a period of service in the Air Force he studied law at the Universities of Bonn and Hamburg. He also has a Master of Arts in International Relations from the John Hopkins University the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), Bologna, Italy and Washington, D.C., the John Hopkins University. He has been holding different foreign policy related positions for a quarter of century, including project manager and team leader of TACIS («Technical Assistance to the Commonwealth of Independent States») programs, Head of Unit for Relations with the United States and Canada, he has experience of dealing with Russia, including the Northern Dimension program (a joint dialogue and cooperation policy between EU, Russia, Norway and Iceland) and nuclear safety and security issues.
Gunnar Wiegand has been heading the European External Action Service (EEAS) Director for Russia, Eastern Partnership, Central Asia, Regional Cooperation and OSCE for the recent 8 years. 41-year-old Federica Mogherini lacks diplomatic experience. Literally the next day after her election as High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy she gave a stunning interview to Italian Corriere Della Serra. For instance, she made such peculiar affirmations as: «Russia at this moment is no longer a strategic partner», «Putin has never respected pledges», «He wasted the opportunity to turn things round by using his influence with the separatists after the Malaysian airliner was shot down» and «there is no alternative to diplomacy and sanctions are one of the instruments available to that policy». Some people made conjectures that the statements were blue-penciled by experienced Wiegand.
Then the Mogherini statements became even tougher. On September 3, 2014 she said «Things on the ground are getting more and more dramatic. We speak of an aggression, and I think sanctions are part of a political strategy». «I think that the EU is obliged to exert all efforts to prevent the creation of a land corridor Between the Crimea and the rest of Russia», the official said speaking at the hearings in the European Parliament Committee on international Affairs on October 7.
This January Federica Mogherini appointed Mr. Alain Le Roy as the new Secretary General of the European External Action Service. He was in charge of the Union for the Mediterranean Initiative since September 2007 till the end of June 2008. Back then the idea was successfully torpedoed by Berlin as Angela Merkel did not like the prospect of creating a club of nations with France as the only leader. But today the Russia-EU relationship is viewed through the prism of the events in Ukraine. Perhaps quite a different experience determined the choice of candidate for the position. In the spring of 2011 Western powers were heavily involved in the combat actions against Libya. Those days Alain Le Roy was Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations at the United Nations. He was responsible for diplomatic cover of French intervention into Côte d'Ivoire, a former colony of France, to overthrow the legitimate President Laurent Gbagbo. The operation was conducted under the UN cover of «UN peacekeeping mission». In his remarks on the Cote D’Ivoire events well-known Russian expert on international law Alexander Mezyaev wrote, «Colonial seizures of land and coups staged by foreign military have always contradicted international law. The aggressor could not count on the United Nations Security Council support – the main international body responsible for international peace and security. The operations had been conducted without UN approval like criminal actions. Today the situation has drastically changed. The aggressions take place on the basis on international law. The regress is breathtakingly rapid. The aggression against Libya was conducted with the UN approval while the aggression against Cote D’Ivoir was implemented by the United Nations Organization itself».
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Today the time is propitious to remember the hackneyed question asked for the first time by Henry Kissinger «Who do I call if I want to call Europe?» Indeed, who should one call to make clear the Brussels’s goals as the EU whips up its anti-Russia rhetoric? Is it Federica Mogherini who still does not know well enough her way around as she took over the present EU position recently and who makes melodramatic statements? For instance, «We will never recognize change of borders by force. Not now, not in this century, not in this millennium. We even do not expect such a possibility», she announced at the European Parliament in Strasbourg while participating in the debate on Ukraine. Or should one call the newly appointed Alain Le Roy who acts as a special advisor to Federica Mogherini till he takes office as the new Secretary General of the EEAS on March 1? Or is it Gunnar Wiegand who keeps on repeating that Russia illegally annexed Crimea and Sebastopol and destabilized the situation in the eastern Ukraine?
No fruitful dialogue between Russia and the EU is possible until Europe sees the things the same way as the above mentioned officials do. The events in Ukraine are the result of systematic international crisis provoked by a number of factors, like, for instance, the NATO expansion to the East which destabilizes international security, the deployment of missile defense elements in Europe posing a threat to Russia and the aggressive promotion of Eastern Partnership program by the European Union. To do away with these factors is tantamount to finding a solution to the crisis. There is no other way to do it.