“The key is to be well networked”

This week Dr Sargis Ghazaryan, EuFoA Senior Research Fellow, gave an exclusive interview to an Armenian daily newspaper, CAPITAL Daily, regarding the European Parliament Resolution on the South Caucasus as well as on the prospects of Armenian policy challenges.

 

Azerbaijan’s resources are not well spent at all

(source: http://www.tert.am/en/news/2010/06/01/ghazaryan/)

 

 

It is not a secret that Azerbaijan spends millions of dollars on making anti-Armenian resolutions come about in international organisations. The European Parliament’s recent resolution on the South Caucasus was one in that row. How do you think, was there any chance for Armenia to avoid or soften wordings in that document?

-A short answer to your question would be, yes there’s always room to improve any document, which is the result of long and complex procedural processes with contributors from the widest possible European political arena representing very diverse values and interests and resulting in texts full of political compromises. However, since this document has been causing so much political debate in Armenia, including also statements that go well beyond the rationale and the aims of the document, I believe that this issue deserves to be put into its proper context and analysed accordingly.

It’s true that the paragraph 8 of the resolution, calling for the withdrawal of the Armenian troops from the security buffer zone around NKR contains controversial wording and becomes problematic if taken out of the overall context of the document and of the paragraph 7 in particular, which reiterates the Madrid principles and the l’Aquila declaration as being the basis for any EU action in the context of the NK conflict settlement.

Still, the document is not only very critical about Baku’s democratic record and obstructionism when it comes to relations with the EU in the EaP framework with reference to the regional cooperation, but it’s also critical with the Azeri policy vis-à-vis to the peaceful settlement of the NK conflict. Indeed, for the first time an EP report on the S. Caucasus does not contain any reference to the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, it strongly criticises the Azeri boycott of Armenia and NK in the framework of multilateral projects promoted by the EU. Furthermore, the resolution is highly critical of the Azeri war rhetoric and calls on the EU to begin interactions with the NK society trough direct aid and information dissemination programs. This particular provision is in sharp contrast with the Azeri ban to any EU official to visit NK or undertake activities engaging NK. In other words, the EP for the first time calls for extending EU programmes to Karabakh, ending the de-facto blockade for the EU officials to travel there.

Furthermore, the resolution calls on Turkey and Azerbaijan to decouple the Trk-Arm rapprochement from the NKR peace talks, it also supports the ratification and the implementation of the respective protocols without preconditions and in a reasonable timeframe.

Moreover, the document urges the EU to upgrade and make more consistent its action towards the region and highlights the Armenian and Georgian progress in the process of the ENP Action Plan implementation.

Last, but not least, I agree that recently Azerbaijan has been spending considerable financial and other resources in order to advance a one-sided vision of the situation in the South Caucasus in different international fora. However, I wouldn’t consider the last EP resolution on the South Caucasus as a success for the Azeri side. I’d say that their resources are not well spent at all. The very EP document witnesses that failure.
-Armenian FM claimed that the resolution is not binding and it is at odds with the EU leadership stance on Karabakh issue. How do you assess the resolution in the context of NK peace negotiations?

-The FM is right in that this document is not binding. The EP sets out its guidelines for the EU’s foreign policy in this field, and the execution still is in the hands of the Commission and the Council, represented mainly by HR Catherine Ashton. But she constantly has to report to the Parliament and MEPs can exert political pressure on her. In many ways, this is a good thing. Because in many areas, the document is a step forward for the enforcement of the principle of non use of force in the context of the settlement of the NK conflict and as an advancement in the EU engagement with the NK authorities without prejudicing neither the format, nor the outcome of the negotiations. Moreover, as stated above, it strongly condemns the Azeri war rhetoric and reiterates the support by the Union of the Madrid principles and the L’Aquila declaration.

The EP is a very important institution because there the European demos is represented. However, while the EP has been the most progressive and creative of the EU institution when it comes to the EU-Armenia relations (i.e. the recognition of the Armenian genocide, condemnation of the destruction of the Armenian cultural heritage in Turkey and Azerbaijan, lifting of the Turkish blockade, inclusion of Armenia into the ENP and the genesis of the idea of the EaP) still, its decisions have no binding force for the Union’s foreign and security policy. These decisions have a status of recommendations towards the Member States and other EU bodies and have to be considered as opinions towards third parties, who do not participate to their emanation.

Finally, it has to be stressed that no EU call has ever asked for unilateral concessions by the Armenian side, out of the context of Madrid principles and l’Aquila declaration that Armenia accepts as a basis for negotiations.
-What did EuFoA do to counter European Parliaments resolution?

-The primary mission of EuFoA is to build bridges between Armenia and Europe, meaning to put Armenia as high as possible in the EU’s political, economic and cultural agenda and vice versa. It is not our primary job to lobby on resolution texts, but we have been closely following the developments around the whole process and we have been working with many European friends of Armenia in the EP to improve it significantly. Especially, the first draft tabled in January 2010 was extremely biased. Many controversial clauses, inconsistent with the mandate given to the rapporteur (being unbiased and impartial in the first place) and the real situation on the ground have been addressed. Furthermore, we have been providing background information on specific issues to the MEPs concerned, to the leadership of political groups and the EP secretariat. We have also strongly co-operated with the Mission to the EU and Armenian Diaspora groups in Brussels. It is clear that without these co-ordinated efforts, the decisions taken mainly by a small group of very interested MEPs would have been much less informed and much more biased.
-It seems now that Armenian embassy in Belgium was (is) inept to cope with this kind of problems. What would you suggest our foreign policy makers to prevent future anti-Armenian documents?

-It is true that the Armenian embassy does not have the same resources as the Azeri or even the Turkish embassy. But this is not always the key. The key is to be well networked and very credible. The Azeri lobbying is extremely expensive and inefficient because their arguments are much less credible. Anyway, insiders all agree that former resolutions were often much worse in many ways. Armenia is a small country and not rich in oil. Still, the major challenge here is about the enhancement of capacities, both in terms of resources and staffing, of the Armenian diplomatic representations in some important capitals. This is particularly true in the case of diplomatic missions dealing with multilateral affairs. Moreover this circumstance will be progressively a challenging one especially in view of the upcoming complex, multilevel and comprehensive negotiations around the Association Agreement between the EU and Armenia. This stage of relations between the EU and Armenia have the potential of bringing unprecedented advantages to Armenia in terms of economic integration and political association with the EU. But first, the Armenian side needs to have all the appropriate tools in order to cope with the highly demanding preparatory negotiations.

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