The European Council on Foreign Relations has issued a review of the Union’s South Caucasus policy. 25 conclusions are a handy summary for an expert and an apt outline for an amateur.
The result of the works of the Council on Foreign relations from the recent (28 February) meeting in Brussels are the conclusions on the South Caucasus which take 4 pages of 25 points and 4 chapters, one per each country of the region and one on what the region abounds in – conflicts. The conclusions start with the subject of the Eastern Partnership, approving its progress and announcing its development. The Union Foreign Ministers have made it clear that they are not indifferent to the South Caucasus. Yet wealth, security, democracy and human rights observance are not provided by the Union, but should be earned. The “more for more” principle is doing fine and is simple: the closer the South Caucasus states are to the EU standards, the more Brussels opens to them. But the optimistic, open and conciliatory tone of the conclusions should not deceive anyone. Apart from a few praises, there are many admonitions.
Thus, a simple message was sent to Yerevan and other capital cities: there are no shortcuts. The Association Agreement, Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) and visa issues – these are the points that cannot be avoided by a country interested in the EU integration. Cooperation with the Union is also determined by the level of fairness of elections, which are forthcoming: the parliamentary elections will be held in May 2012 while presidential – in 2013. The authorities of Armenia were given to understand that the thing about ostensible observance of human rights, civil liberties and democratic system is that the outcome is the fall of the system. Brussels also sent a clear signal on corruption: “we say that you do nothing about it”, the ministers seem to suggest.
The tone of the conclusions on Azerbaijan is similar. Just like the list of subjects: the Association Agreement, WTO, DCFTA, corruption and free elections. The conclusions also include an additional appeal for consent to independent observers’ investigation of the issue of political prisoners. There are also the reserves of hope that some day Azerbaijan will become the alternative to the Russian monopoly on Asian fuels transmission.
Georgia- the most positively assessed country – is praised for launching DCFTA negotiations. Georgia is also unrivalled by any country in the region in fulfilment of the strict criteria of visa-free regime. The Ministers suggest that they see the pro-European attitudes of Georgians, but simultaneously point to the 2012 parliamentary elections and 2013 presidential elections as a test before deepening the cooperation.
The South Caucasus is inseparable from the matters of security. The EU wants to actively participate in the field. To solve the Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia and South Ossetia conflicts, the Union appoints Special Representative for the South Caucasus and the crisis in Georgia, takes part in the OSCE Minsk Group and appoints an observer mission of 300 people in the disputable territories, which supports the refugees and works on alleviating the consequences of the conflict. The Council reiterates its support for the territorial integrity of Georgia. At the same time, it calls on both sides of the conflict to abandon any actions that can thwart the progress of peace process during the forthcoming rounds of the Geneva International Discussion. The Council praised Georgia for fulfilment of the ceasefire agreement from 2008 and did not comment on the actions of Russia.
The conclusions end with an inspiring demand of the Ministers addressed to the head of the Union’s diplomacy that it is the call to take steps on developing post-conflict scenarios for Nagorno-Karabakh.
Translated by Marta Lityńska