Challenges, achievements and above all the future of the Eastern Partnership between the EU and the South Caucasus were the issues at the core of the panel hosted by IAI on October 8 in Rome, in the framework of the IAI project “Azerbaijan, the Caucasus and the EU: toward closer collaboration?”.
On the subject of the conference, “the EU and the South Caucasus: What Next for the Eastern Partnership?”, Amanda Paul, a political analyst from the European Policy Center, observed that “Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan have different bonds with the EU”. In fact, Russia’s new expansive foreign policy towards the former Soviet states, has brought Erevan to drop out the association agreement negotations with EU, in order to join the Russian-led custom union. Instead, Georgia considers the alliance with EU strategic in terms of security and independence from the Kremlin, and entered into association agreements along with Moldova and Ukraine last June. Azerbaijan, on the other hand, while not intending to join either the EU or the Russian-led customs union, continues to negotiate the (Modernization Strategic Partnership and the Association Agreements, keeping the energy relationship at their core.
Konrad Zasztowt, analyst for the Polish Instiute of International Affairs, highlighted the new challenges facing EU: Moscow is trying to get Georgia to leave its integration path by fuelling anti-European sentiments. At the same time, the EU must strengthen its bilateral agreements in the security field.
“Since 2008, notable results have been achieved in controlling the conflicts in the area, thanks to the monitoring missions in south Abkhazia and Ossetia, but new efforts have to be made, especially in Nagorno Karabakh, a region full of tension between Armenians and Azerbaijani,” affirmed Zasztowt.
In this context, Gulshan Pasheveya, Deputy Director of the Center for Strategic Studies in Baku, observed that EU foreign and security policy has to go beyond economic and energy agreements, and that the EU should take on the role of mediator of current conflicts such as in Nagorno Karabakh, also involving and focusing on civil society.
The conclusions reached by Jos Boonstra, Senior Researcher at FRIDE, suggest that it is necessary to re-examine the European partnership programs, strengthening bilateral agreements within the active involvement of civil society. Finally, the EEAS should be integrated into the programs of the other pertinent commissions, while EU Member States should keep on involving the grass roots, as happened during the demonstrations in Maidan square last spring.