Armenia: Internal Reforms as Response to Global Challenges

By Viktor Yengibaryan

The author of this blog lives in Yerevan/Armenia. He is President of the European Movement in Armenia. This blog reflects his personal opinion. Viktor Yengibaryan is also member of the Editorial Advisory Board of „European Union Foreign Affairs Journal“ (EUFAJ).

Tense relations between Russia and Turkey, the rising hardcore diplomacy between west and the east and the threatening information flow in the international media on terrorism, immigration in Europe and the destabilization of, and negative expectations for macro-economic situation globally has fatal meaning for Armenia. Armenia, a country, which is landlocked and has two closed borders out of four, namely the border of Turkey and Azerbaijan are blocked since the country’s independence. The other two countries neighboring Armenia are Georgia and Iran. Yerevan’s economic and political partners in its direct neighborhood region are Tbilisi and Tehran, the country tries to profit from the improvement of the relations between Iran and the west now. On the other hand the disagreements between Georgia and Russia, and the differences between Iran and the west, leave the country no other chance than to be creative in its foreign policy. Being a member of Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union, the country is close to come to a new and more ambitious economic cooperation agenda with the European Union. Closer cooperation with Europe and European Integration of the country was and still is the main foreign and domestic policy vector for many young people and academics.

Yerevan is also the political and military supporter of the de-facto independent Republic of Nagorno Karabakh, disputed by oil-rich Azerbaijan, which is no way to be described as an “easy-going” country, especially for journalists and democracy activists.

The recent atrocities and violation of ceasefire by Azerbaijanare a proof, that Armenia needs a strong internal and foreign policy development.

In 2015, the 100th commemoration year of the Armenian Genocide, organized in Ottoman Empire and still refused by its legal successor Turkey, Armenia’s authorities initiated a constitution change, which is to reform the country’s political system in a revolutionary way. On December 6th, 2015, the people of Armenia voted in favour of the constitution draft, applauded by the Venice Commission (a Council of Europe commission specialized on constitutional affairs). (Link: http://www.parliament.am/library/sahmanadrakan%20barepoxumner/venetik.ezrakacutyunangl.pdf).

The newly voted constitution turns the country’s political system from a semi-presidential to a parliament-based democracy, with more power for political parties. The head of the state and the government is to be elected by the Parliament; the next President of Armenia is going to have a more representative role, similar to European parliamentary systems. The new constitution is guaranteeing more freedom of speech and more power for judicial system. Surely, the new constitution provides more space for pro-European activists to participate in parliamentary elections next year. A good representation of young professionals in the next parliament is broadly seen as a precondition for a well functioning parliamentary democracy and the ability for more cooperativeness with European structures and countries.

Armenia’s President Serj Sargsyan (Republican Party – EPP) in his speech on 12th February, 2916, announced the beginning of a new era of development. “We don’t expect rapprochement between Armenia and Turkey and an improvement of Armenian-Azeri relations for the near future”, he said, “the only thing we can rely on to improve our economy and democratic structures is the people”. Speaking about current challenges in the region, he stressed the importance of human rights and democracy. Same day, he appointed his former aide, Georgi Kutoyan, a 34 year old lawyer as director of National Security Service of the country. The civil society largely welcomes that appointment, and perceives it as a clear sign of change of generation. Well, as the American writer Denis Waitley said: “The greatest gifts you can give your children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence”.

Obviously, to regional and global geopolitical challenges, Armenia responds with political elite circulation, change of generation and reforms.

New Observatory on the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU)

Within LIBERTAS – European Institute GmbH, there is from beginning of April 2015 an observatory on Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) affairs – ranging from the history of Eurasianism until the most topical developments like e.g. the possible preparations for a common Eurasian currency. It is mainly intended for access out of the European Union and for scientific purposes, but it is open for requests and cooperation throughout the world. The EEU is at present composed of Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Armenia (since 1.1.2015); Kyrgyzstan will join on 1.5.2015. The Russian president V. Putin has said he wants the whole former Soviet republics, except the Baltic Republics, to form the Eurasian Economic Union.

This EEU Observatory will start working on an informal basis, and is headed by Ofelya Sargsyan M.A. The Armenia-born political scientist is also Junior Editor of European Union Foreign Affairs Journal (EUFAJ); see http://www.libertas-institut.eu/de/EUFAJ/Ofelya_Sargsyan.pdf. The output will be an archive and database, articles, discourses and lectures, advice and papers for government level, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), conferences, company purposes etc. Any later news will be published on Facebook, on the blog http://libertasblogs.wordpress.com, or on www.eufaj.eu as well as in EUFAJ.

The EEU cannot be compared directly to the European Union, neither with its background, nor with the political system of its member states and the degree of voluntary participation. There is a strong knowledge deficit about it in the EU and other countries. While it is totally legitimate to integrate also economies of CIS countries, there is, however, also sometimes the call for a new ‚empire‘ behind the attempts to set up a Eurasian Economic Union.

The Eurasian Economic Union’s Plans for a Common Currency: Altyn or Euraz?

The Eurasian Economic Union is a Russian-led project. On the way of forming it, then Prime Minister Vladimir Putin announced that from January 1, 2012 the Common Economic Space of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan would be created, which would pave the path for the establishment of the Eurasian Economic Union. Thus, the Custom Union (CU) of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, launched in 2010[1] was evolved into the Single Economic Space (SES) on January 1, 2012 with Armenia announcing about its interest to join the project on September 3, 2013.

The Eurasian Economic Union was put into force on January 1, 2015. Its purpose can be correlated with Russia’s competitive disposition with the EU, regarding the post-Soviet Union countries. Additionally, the initiative can be Russia’s attempt to counterbalance the EU’s appeal and influence.  Hence, whereas Russia claims that integration is beneficial for all the parties engaged, in reality the picture is not that clear-cut. One of the causes are the political systems and structures of the member states of the Eurasian Economic Union – they are not democratic, disposed to corruption and instrumentalization of law. Another evidence is Russia’s aggressive policy of recent years. Moreover, the country’s superior position in shaping the EEU also comes to prove that the project is actually a simulation of integration. The EEU seems to be driven forwards by forceful integration, which is becoming less and less favorable for the member states except for Russia, per se.

Hence, the EEU’s functioning will mainly be dependent on Russia which seeks to push integration involving more and more spheres from which it can get utmost benefits. Such an opportunity appears to be the introduction of a common currency within the EEU. Thus, while other founding members states of the project have been less supportive to such a plan and have been increasingly imitating integration rather than opting for it[2], on March 10, 2015, Russian President Vladimir Putin instructed the Central Bank of Russia and the Government „to determine the potential dimensions of the integration in the monetary and financial sectors in the framework of the Eurasian Economic Union with a study of the feasibility of establishing a monetary union in the future.“ Putin’s this instruction is to be worked out together with the central banks of the member states of the EEU by September 1, 2015. And the new currency can appear already in 2016[3].

Among many issues the establishment of a monetary union presupposes introduction of a common currency.  Hence, according to the documents ratified by Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan in May, 2014 in Kazakhstan, a Eurasian Central Bank and a common currency was supposed to be established by 2025[4]. To the point still in 2014 Rinat Abdullin, the chairman of „Altyn Kara“ Bank, stated: „Personally, I see absolutely nothing wrong with the introduction of a single currency for our three countries. Many of us lived in the Soviet Union, and they remember that there was a single currency such a large area – the ruble, which was accepted everywhere. No matter whether you were going to the Far East, Siberia or Georgia – it was very convenient, because there was a confidence that all prices are formed in a common currency. This situation is much easier for business, as well as for the calculation of ordinary people“[5].

Yet, the Russian president decided to accelerate the process and this at a time when Russia faces a serious economic crisis and the ruble has practiced a severe depreciation[6] as a result of which the amount of mutual settlements among the member states of the EEU in dollars has increased. Moreover, the West speculated to turn off Russia from the interbank payment system SWIFT, yet to make transactions, say from Russia to Kazakhstan, it is necessary to obtain confirmation from the American settlement centers. Obviously enough, the tense foreign policy pushed Putin to rush with the initiative.

In reaction to the initiative, Armenian Central Bank Board member Armenak Darbinian stated, “there is no document among those signed [by Armenia] within the framework of its accession to the EEU that would concern the feasibility study or prospects related to this matter (introduction of the common currency)… There have been no negotiations, no formal discussions in this direction yet. I would say more: the issue of forming a single financial market regulator was discussed within the framework of the EEU and it should happen after 2025. During this time, national laws and regulations should be harmonized and only then the issue can be put on the agenda. It cannot be an administrative decision. This requires relevant developments in the economy and in the financial markets”[7].

Yet Prosperous Armenia Party former MP, economist Vardan Bostanjyan considers it quite feasible that Armenia incorporates a common currency with the EEU. He adds that it will have a favorable impact on the country, saying that “solely by the fact that quite a number of Armenians are in that [EEU] region; the word is about the migrants who are having losses in the case of [currency] exchange rates. But, now, they will not have that”[8].  However, there are also contra opinions. As such Armenian economist Ashot Yeghiazaryan said, “If we switch to the ruble, or another Eurasian currency, and if our Central Bank begins to keep its funds in that currency, discrepancies will arise between the currency loans, and our entire microeconomics will deviate”[9].

It is to be mentioned that the idea of establishing a common currency has not been accepted straightforwardly also in Belarus and Kazakhstan. The director of the Institute of the Global Political Economics of Kazakstan, analyst Akimbekov Sultan said that the instrumentalization of a common currency should not be an issue of a near future. He states that while the idea is interesting there are apparent problems – all the member states have different levels of development. Moreover, Belarus has not yet undergone those market reforms that, say Russia and Kazakhstan went through.

Belarusian columnist from the Belarusian Radio Liberty and political scientist for the „Strategy“ center Valery Karbalevich stated, “And if we are talking whether the Member States of the EEU in general should have a single currency, I do not think that Kazakhstan and Belarus will agree. This would mean that these countries lose their sovereignty”[10]

With all the events, facts and discussions at stake, it is still to be mentioned that it is totally unthinkable that, for example, during the creation of the euro in the years 1990-1999 (Maastricht Treaty to book-money introduction[11]), and this since the Pierre Werner Plan from 1970, one president would have given a commando to „his“ central bank ordering a study on the possible common currency, predicting its effective introduction for the next year, while the order to the central bank has gone out in March of the current year. Observers from European Union sources, asked privately, have the presumption that the Russian president has an „economic psychogram“ being somehow „actively jealous of the EU acquis communautaire“ which he wants to be caught up rapidly, and „while common currencies are to be welcomed in general, any too fast introduction can damage the participating states considerably“, even if the central bank of the integration is not de facto independent.

As for the idea of the Eurasian currency, on the whole, it dates back to 1994 when the President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev proposed the notion. In 2012 Vladimir Putin endorsed the idea. The Kazakh President has never been suspicious to reset Soviet Union or Soviet Union 2.0., he was however all the time for economic integration, until a certain time in Central Asia[12]. Concerning the currency within the framework of the EEU, it is said to be similar to the Russian ruble. As for the name of the forthcoming common currency two options, are being discussed – Altyn and Euraz. The first name – Altyn, mentioned by Nazarbayev in 2014, meant a three penny coin in Old Russian and the word itself stems from the Golden Horde. The second name – Euraz, is parallel to, or a kind of imitation of the Euro[13].

It is envisaged that the key element in sustaining the new currency will be raw oil exports from Russia and Kazakhstan. Therefore, it has been decided to base the Central Bank of the EEU in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Evidently, the involved EEU governments want to rely more than ever on oil and gas exports, which is diametrically opposed to what also Russian economists preach. The potential market will include about 180 million people, with the total volume of GDP being more than $ 2 trillion.[14]

Yet, it is under a question whether the member states of the EEU, can indeed make the functioning of a common currency a reality. All the currencies of the member states currently face fluctuations and to avoid this in the event of a common currency additional resources will be required. Moreover, the efficient functioning of the EEU per se is also dubious.

Ofelya Sargsyan

Ofelya Sargsyan M.A. (AUA Yerevan), M.A. (Univ. Flensburg) is Junior Editor with European Union Foreign Affairs Journal (EUFAJ) and a Political Analyst with LIBERTAS – European Institute GmbH.

 

[1]Rilka Dragneva & Kataryna Wolczuk, Russia, the Eurasian Customs Union and the EU: Cooperation, Stagnation or Rivalry?, Russia and Eurasia Programme,  Chatham House, Briefing Paper, August 2012, p. 4, http://www.chathamhouse.org/sites/default/files/public/Research/Russia%20and%20Eurasia/0812bp_dragnevawolczuk.pdf.

[2] Aleksandra Jarosiewicz, Ewa Fischer, cooperation: Tomasz Bakunowicz; The Eurasian Economic Union – more political, less economic, Centre for Eastern Studies NUMBER 157,  20.01.2015, p. 1-7

[3]TASS Russian News Agenccy, (Информационное телеграфное агентство России (ИТАР-ТАСС), Putin instructed the Central Bank and the Government to work out the possibilities of creating a monetary union in the EEU (Путин поручил ЦБ и кабмину изучить возможность создания валютного союза в ЕАЭС), March 10, 2015, http://tass.ru/ekonomika/1817884,

Radio Azatutyun, Armenia Not To Attend Meeting Of Trade Bloc Partners, March 18, 2015, http://www.azatutyun.am/content/article/26891807.html

Naviny.by, Putin instructed to work out the possibilities of creating a monetary union in the EEU (Путин поручил проработать вопрос о создания в рамках ЕEU валютного союза); March 18, 2015, http://naviny.by/rubrics/finance/2015/03/10/ic_news_114_455255/

Читать полностью: http://naviny.by/rubrics/finance/2015/03/10/ic_news_114_455255/

[4]Banknoteinfo.net, Eurasian Economic Union plans to adopt common currency unit , August 13, 2014, http://banknoteinfo.net/eurasian-economic-union-plans-adopt-common-currency-unit/

[5]East Time, Introduction of Altyn will Be Useful for a Eurasian Union, Tuesday, May 13, 2014, http://easttime.info/news/kazakhstan/introduction-altyn-will-be-useful-eurasian-union

[6]Pravda-TV.ru, By Putin’s instruction a common currency of the EEU  will be launced  in 2016: Altyn or Euraz? (Единая валюта ЕАЭС по поручению Путина появится в 2016 году: «алтын» или «евраз»?) http://www.pravda-tv.ru/2015/03/10/129883

[7] Asbarez.com, ‘No Plans Yet’ for Armenia to Adopt Single EEU Currency, March 11, 2015, http://asbarez.com/132864/%E2%80%98no-plans-yet%E2%80%99-for-armenia-to-adopt-single-eeu-currency/

[8]News.am, Economist: Armenia will benefit from Eurasian Economic Union single currency, March 13, 2015, http://news.am/eng/news/256734.html

[9]News.am, Armenia economist: EEU single currency is foolish, March 14, 2015, http://news.am/eng/news/257002.html

[10]Mariam Grigoryan, 1am, (The approach to the single currency of the Eurasian Union is ambiguous in Belarus and Kazakhstan) Բելառուսում և Ղազախստանում միասնական արժույթի վերաբերյալ կարծիքը միանշանակ չէ, March 14, 2015, http://www.1in.am/1572943.html

[11] Before the Euro has been introduced as cash currency in 2002, it had been at disposition as book-money, on bank accounts only, since 1999.

[12] Hans-Jürgen Zahorka, Strategy Options for Central Asian Integration –For a Central Asian „Cecchini Report”, EUFAJ 1 / 2010, p. 116,  www.eufaj.eu

[13]Interpolit, Oil altyn against the dollar banknote (Нефтяной алтын против бумажного доллара);  11.03, 2015, http://politobzor.net/show-47317-neftyanoy-altyn-protiv-bumazhnogo-dollara.html

[14] Russian Telegraphic Agency (Русское Телеграфное Агентство), „Instead of the ruble – Altyn. Eurasian Economic Union opts into a new currency (Вместо рубля – алтын. Евразийский союз переходит на новую валюту), March 12, 2015, http://www.riata.ru/ekonomika/item/716-vmesto-rublya-altyn-evrazijskij-soyuz-perekhodit-na-novuyu-valyutu.html

 

Russia and the Eurasian Union: Mission Impossible?

By Hans-Jürgen Zahorka
Chief Editor, European Union Foreign Affairs Journal (EUFAJ)
http://www.eufaj.eu

The Russian president Putin may be a political chess player, but he will fail at the very end. He wants to restore glory for his country, and therefore he undertakes a lot:
– blaming the Americans and the Europeans for anything which does not function in his country, including a growing authoritarianism and repression of non-violent opposition, including as well the stigmatisation as „foreign agents“ of any non-governmental organisation which has contacts abroad (and all open-thinking NGOs have them), and following a media policy which is absurd and where critical journalists often have to pay with their lives and health,
– gathering a lot of compliments from most of his compatriots after the conquest of Crimea, and the intended destabilisation of Eastern Ukraine – and in both cases the troops there turned out to be Russian ones, although this has been denied by Putin, who did not say the truth to the world.

This is why Russia is now isolated more than ever. Even China did not veto the trend of a discussion in the UN Security Council on 12.4.2014.

All the efforts by Putin go in this mentioned direction. It is to be crowned by the project of the „Eurasian Union“ which is to see the light of the world in 2015. Since his article in Izvestiya some years ago, it is evident that this Eurasian Union should become a kind of counterpart to the EU. No problem with this; the EU is very much in favour of regional integration in the world. And nobody in the EU or elsewhere would have anything against the Eurasian Union. However, this Project is not about economic or political Integration only. It will never be possible as an integration in the worldwide sense, alone as the EU has been a totally voluntary integration. The same for all other integrations in the world. The Eurasian Union, however, is definitely not: its predecessor and economic centerpiece, the Eurasian Customs Union is going bonkers — even if this is not seen by the protagonists. Consisting of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan (all three beacons of democracy and human rights, as everybody knows), a lot of transborder operations go better with the help of corruption. I don’t want to mention the ranking in the Corruption Perception Index, as everybody also in Russia knows that there is still a lot of corruption in the administration. The customs tariffs are three times as high, on an average, as the import tariffs for new member countries: Armenia has either to raise its customs considerably, or get several hundred of exemptions, which makes a customs union ridiculous. Normally a customs union in economic history has always served to decrease customs, and not to increase! The Armenian government has been squeezed – under which circumstances ever – to welcome this and to tell its people that this would be a success. At the same time, newspapers write at the same page of many possible insolvencies of various sectors and drop-outs, which will lead to a continuation of the Armenian nightmare, the brain-drain by emigration. Every integration – see e.g. the accession of Spain, Portugal, Greece as well as Central and Eastern Europe to the EU – has led so far to a short to medium-term re-integration of former emigrants.

The biggest problem for Russia is her relations with Ukraine. Here every possible Eurasian Union member state can see at first hand, how they can be treated. No chance to hope that this can be changed: Russia has in all Eurasian structures since many years the absolute majority of votes. No way with a qualified majority, which in the EU can easily serve as an instrument of balancing the interests and of creating a compromise.

The result of the Crimea action has been to suspend Russia’s voting rights in the Council of Europe and to be subject of a negative assessment by the UN Assembly.

And nobody will invest at present in Russia, if he is mentally normal (except some big operators who are of strategic interest for Russia): The Moscow government had declared that it might confiscate foreign investmnt. This is against all rules, the rule of law, the rule of any international economy and above all the interests of Russia herself. Every small and medium enterprise will refrain from investing – and this in an era of positive globalization. Only a former KGB chief who never saw a company from inside can ride on such a wave. Russia is also dependent of its raw material and energy sales. The EU, including Germany, as main client are working since a while to diversify their purchases, a step which is getting momentum, and of developing alternative energy.

As the present macroeconomic trends indicate, Russia’s economy goes slowly but safely down, like the ruble currency, thus problemizing all foreign purchases which will be necessary also for domestic investment.

There are some people – like the author of these lines – who remember the hospitality, the fine humour, the philosophical discussions even with non-philosophers, the great nature, the food, the interesting history, the excellent education of Russian people. Their economy could become more and more efficient, corruption could go down, a numerous middle-class could emerge, Russians (all, not some) would go for holidays to the EU and worldwide, and will not flee their country, NGOs could form a vital civil society, art and music could thrive, and all problems could be discussed – why not controversially – and then solved in a free parliamentary vote. And the parliaments are correctly elected, and why not letting all parties admitted for this? Towards the outside, Russia could have excellent relations with its neighbours, with the EU (there are many years homework on what has been proposed and not done, like a free trade agreement etc.), with NATO, just to name some. In such a climate, NATO could become a historical structure – maybe with Russia as a member.

Instead of this, the former KGB chief in the Kremlin does not refrain from lying to the world, from attacking Crimea (at least. until tonight, 14.4.2014), and arresting many people who demonstrate against this in Moscow these days.

It is, simply speaking, ga-ga that at the beginning of the 21st century Russia, while all the others, or most of them, try to cooperate, falls back into the 19th century. If these ideas cannot convince the people (who should not behave like a flock of sheep), they feel a minority complex, manipulate the media and threaten other countries with tanks at their borders. They also are misled by this foreign activity from domestic and grave deficits. With this, the Eurasian Union will never function. It might be launched, but it will be a sick structure from the beginning – like many others who have been launched after 2001 in the former Soviet Union. There are brillant heads e.g. in the Eurasian Development Bank which is a kind of think-tank for regional integration and where many concepts for economic integration have been conceived. But in their concepts you do not read anything about the necessity of a free will of the member states to follow this integration. What their people have, the Russian government has not: sovereignty. The sovereignty to live and to let live. You should take it easy, Vladimir Vladimirowich. If you would, your people would also. But I have lost any hope that this is possible under your reign, although I am an eternal optimist. So drive your country to the beton wall, including following countries. Like the system of the USSR, this „Soviet 2.0“ system, although not under Communist auspices, will be rejected by a majority of People involved when they see the middle and Long-term results – first in the partner countries, then in Russia. By educated, young people who will see how dysfunctional their own system will be, also due to their Facebook and Twitter accounts and the Internet in general. Like the integration of the USSR, of Yugoslavia which both burst in bubbles. The result will always be smaller than the original. Because of this, perhaps for the sake of its own corruption?, the Moscow government will end up similarly, in the most positive way with four or five former and present European CIS countries in or near the EU, and Central Asia may later form a kind of integration themselves. It would, after all, need another and sympathetic leader in Moscow (not only to most of the Russians but also to the world) to break up this isolation and inefficiency.

Lessons from Ukraine’s Maidan for the Eastern Partnership Countries

By Hans-Jürgen Zahorka
Chief Editor, European Union Foreign Affairs Journal

http://www.eufaj.eu

Today night, Saturday, 22.2.2014, Yulya Timoshenko spoke for the first time after her release on the Kiev Maidan, and the questions about the whereabouts of ex-president Yanukuvich and about what he declares now reach the field of the ridiculous. He undergoes the fate of other dictators who have been chased away, and from which fates he did not learn anything.

Now those who have political responsibilities in the EU (and not only of the EU) should however discuss what may or will happen in the next future, i. e. the impact of the Kiev Maidan on Russia and on the other European Partnership Partner states of the EU, as well as on the West Balkan and on Turkey. All these countries, except Russia, have one thing in common: they are possible EU Member States, in the making, in the waiting room. Of course, with different individual distance yet to the European Union.

First, it must be congratulated and thanked to the Ukrainian people, to the heroes – and the dead – of Maidan. This was the latest European revolution which became accelerated by the horror of those who were marched by the government against the protesters, and who felt – on their own or upon the opinion of their families, relatives, colleagues etc. – that this was too much. It is not possible to excuse the Ukrainian government of the deadly snipers who killed by one single shot protesters in an arbitrary way. We will all be witnesses to trials who will be necessary, and – for the sake of the rule of law oif Ukraine – it must be hoped that they are fair. Yanukuvoch must be aware that he might come in a similar situation as Ceaucescu of Romania. Because the state Forces who served him without thinking on their role may become disappointed in a way that they might take revenge.

The impact of the Ukraine events may be also a heavy load on the present Russian government. What e.g. Foreign Minister Lavrov said shortly before and after Yanukovich was lifted out of his position by the Ukrainian parliament, went into a direction, which implied that he has not learnt anything. While Russian (state) TV was a bit more diplomatic, it can be expected now that the Kremlin tries out (again) the collective intelligence of its own people, civil servants and politicians. That means without doubt, that there will be also protests, demonstrations etc. in Russia. But the Kremlin would be totally wrong to react with the usual hard measures: police, arrests, trials, the modern gulag etc. The way, the Kremlin will react on the next demonstrations will indicate if they have learnt anything. It they react as harsh as ever, this may end up in a similar situation like in Ukraine, especially after Sotchi. Of course, the EU played a bigger role in the Ukraine, with its Draft Association Agreement, than in Russia, as Russia is not waiting ante portas of the EU – but it is clear that the so-called „European values“ will now play a bigger role: pluralism, democracy, participative democracy, tolerance, human rights, the rule of law (in all its facets), solidarity, equality, non-discrimination etc. Article 2, 3 et al. EU Treaty (Lisbon Treaty) will be a guiding line for all the countries which are or were foreseen for Putin’s Eurasian Union.

This Eurasian Union, if it were a pragmatic integration tool alone, would not be a problem for the EU. But evidently Putin wants to restore „Soviet Union 2.0“. And the predecessor of the Eurasian Union, the Eurasian Customs Union, is, I am sorry, „ga-ga“. Because e.g. Armenia has to raise its import tariffs from the member countries now from 2,7 to 6,5% to become a member of this Customs Union. There are moer than 800 kinds of goods which should be exempted. This is a huge task to negotiate, and then the Armenian government has to allow to be asked why they want at all into this Customs Union. Any integration System which raises tariffs and therefore prices works against the people – for whom it is originally intended to exist. The EU knows this perfectly, and the Armenian government knows this, but they act against all reasons. It is difficult to understand the Armenian people to swallow this, and above all the government in Yerevan to accept this in principle. The Association Agreement would not have jeopardized any close cooperation between Yerevan and Moscow. The objective of the Association Agreement EU / Armenia would have been the decrease – until zero! – of any custom tariffs, and a free access to the EU Single Market, which is a unique success story for every participant country. The other member states of the Eurasian Customs Union Belarus and Kazakhstan, who take this Customs Union as serious as it merits, sometimes shake their head in view of the Armenian eagerness to join this. Nota bene: Armenia had declared their attachment to the Customs Union on 3rd September 2013, after having celebrated the end of negotiations of the EU Association Agreement/DCFTA only on the 24th July, 2013. Both are imcompatible. This, of course, is the product of pression by Russia,and of nothing else, except an evident weakness in negotiations with Russia from the Armenian side. How this was communicated afterwards, was not subject to any beauty contest, and many European politicians ask themselves now, if they can trust any Armenian declaration. But to complete this, it must be said in the same moment that also Azerbaijan policymaking has many deficits, like e.g. the breach of Council of Europe conventions.

From the Eastern Partnership countries, Georgia and most probably Moldova will continue their way to the EU. Of course sometimes with small curves, but here may be optimism the appropriate position. Armenia will, if it really implements the Customs Union laws, soon be disappointed, and I do not exclude a kind of civil society-based movement there pleading openly for an accession to the EU. This would, of course, also help Armenia towards its problems with Turkey (and also Turkey with Armenia), and with Azerbaijan, including the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijan will probably not be the Primary subject of any Maidan fallout, as the president, Ilham Aliev, has the Country in not too democratic grips – but in general, the opposition against the present system will be encouraged as well, and nothing can be excluded – and Azerbaijan may be the most corrupt Council of Europe Member State.

Rests still Belarus, the 6th Eastern Partnership Partner state. In Belarus, where many activists helped on the Maidan (and some of them have even been killed by the Berkud Police Forces and/or the Secret Service sniper units), this may become an issue. Above all, the economic situation of this country is deplorable, and it can not be expected that Russia feeds open-end barrels without bottom. So Belarus will soon have another look for more EU support. Belarus is a country which cooperates already now, so far it does cooperate, correctly with the EU. This is not the way its president Lukashenko preaches, but it – and he – does.

After all, there will be further centripetal power of the European Union. The EU is not a nationalist event, nor a military or likewise system (as the German party „Die Linke“ recently said), but a chance for all of the Eastern Partnership countries to join. Sooner or later this will happen, and we are now exactly in the situation when the Soviet grips have been loosened to the e.g. Baltic countries in the early 1990s – states are today seasoned, experienced and very positive European Union members. After all, the EU enlargement policy will get a new boost, even if the issue of enlargement is not explicitly pronounced – as the EU often had fears to tell it to its own people. This has to finish, and in the EU everything which has to come has to be discussed. The Ukraine events have probably woken up the EU citizens, or a great deal of them, and the fact that the next Ukrainian election will be held on the same date as the 2014 European Parliament elections, namely the 25th May, indicates that Ukraine is now ante portas as well. Maybe not in the next 5 or 10 or even more years. But nobody should forget that e.g countries like Latvia have been a EU Member State exact 10 years after the application was made. And that the economic development of all new Central and Eastern Member States went into the right direction. It is not necessary that the same economic Level has been reached by any future member state immediately – it is only important that the economic policy follows the right direction, to join the EU which has also high disparities within its Member States.

So, nobody should be astonished, if in other Eastern Partnership states, like e.g. Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, or in Russia, or in Bosnia-Herzegovina or Turkey, similar movements like on Maidan might occur.

International Crisis Group (ICG) Calls on Europe To Act On Karabakh Conflict

By Dr. Michael Kambeck

While Syria and Iran dominate our agenda, the nearby developments between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the conflict area of Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) have become increasingly worrying. This so-called frozen conflict shows clear signs of unfreezing and has the potential to unleash a much larger scale of warfare, including geo-political tectonic shifts and human suffering. Now, the International Crisis Group (ICG), a key NGO flagging conflict warnings worldwide, has published a new briefing – see also: http://www.crisisgroup.org/~/media/Files/europe/caucasus/b071-armenia-and-azerbaijan-a-season-of-risks.pdf – on this conflict in the South Caucasus. “Terms like ‘Blitzkrieg’, ‘pre-emptive strike’ and ‘total war’ have gained currency with both sides’ planners,” the report’s authors say, though war scenarios are much more dominant in the Azerbaijani public than in Armenia.

Misusing conflict to distract from internal Problems

The report is very timely, and considers potential unrest in both countries. Azerbaijan’s presidential elections are scheduled for this week, and while most observers expect a staged renewal of the Aliyev family’s autocratic rule, it may inspire uprisings. Armenia’s decision to join the Russian-dominated Customs Union may also provoke internal unrest, the ICG assume, and both countries may be tempted to use the NK conflict to distract from their internal problems. Previous elections in Azerbaijan have produced heightened military tensions on the border with Armenia and NK. Yet Armenia’s internal situation with the next elections due in 2017 seems incomparable and large-scale unrest unlikely. Russia’s reinforced strategic partnership with Armenia could even prevent a possible war. These ICG conclusions therefore try too hard to see parallels where actually the situations differ.
They call upon the international community to work with the sides to maintain a “quiet period during which both sides dial down rhetoric”, to avoid accidental war. The report recommends re-establishing a “crisis hotline” in order to lessen chances of a military escalation and an efficient arms embargo regime for the conflict zone. These positive suggestions have been put forward by the expert community from time to time.

No confidence, no peace?

The report’s weakness is the attempt to balance out the unbalanced. For example, the authors criticise Azerbaijan for being the driving force in the arms race, for their regular hate speeches, including those by President Aliyev, and for the extradition of the axe murderer Ramil Safarov from Hungary and his immediate pardon and public glorification in Baku as anti-Armenian hero. The ICG equals all these points to the NK authorities’ intention to re-launch civilian flights between their Stepanakert airport and Yerevan, a project which would reduce transportation times, but not change anything else compared to current road transport. It would have been better to point out this imbalance: Both sides to the conflict clearly could do more for peace, but currently mainly one side publicly works against it. However, the report is a comprehensive resource for all the key facts, even provides its own original sources and it does admit that “since mediation efforts have stalled, Baku has increasingly emphasised a military solution, publicly and privately.”

The authors analyse that “time is neither side’s ally”, and that’s correct. For Azerbaijan, the arms race is based on the country’s massive oil and gas revenues, which analysts say have peaked already. For Armenia and NK, the economic costs of the isolation orchestrated by Turkey and Azerbaijan make it difficult to keep up in this arms race. While these points explain the urgency for action, they do not provide for an artificial balance: Armenia has no incentive to start any military adventure, while Azerbaijan is even creating such incentives for itself, in particular by impeding the Minsk Group mediations. During the years, these mediations have produced a road map for peace already agreed by both sides’ Foreign Ministers, for the summit in Kazan, as well as a list of confidence building measures (CBMs). But in Kazan, President Aliyev renounced the road map negotiated by his Foreign Minister, effectively stalling the deal, and until today Baku refuses all proposed CBMs, demanding that NK must first withdraw from the buffer zone, which is actually one point contained in the road map Aliyev rejected. In this way, Baku torpedoes the Minsk Group process and then complains about its ineffectiveness – all while accelerating its arms acquisitions and declaring that even Armenia’s capital Yerevan is allegedly positioned on “ancient Azeri soil”.

A question of leverage

The urgency of CBMs cannot be underlined enough. The ICG mentions NK’s recent call for cooperation regarding the Sarsang water reservoir, which Baku again turned down. This reservoir could be misused by either side to cause a military escalation, for example through acts of sabotage. Re-establishing the hotline connection and denouncing the propaganda of hate are also vital components to allow for a breakthrough in the peace process. The question will be how the international community, especially the EU, can exercise leverage on the side that so far blocks these CBMs, i.e. Azerbaijan. Waiting for a change of government in Baku may take too long. Azerbaijani lobbyists are currently re-floating an idea in Brussels to condition the EU’s Association Agreements (AA) to progress in the NK conflict resolution, knowing that Azerbaijan does not seek an AA and that Baku would thus receive a veto over Armenia’s relations with the EU. The EU has never concluded any agreement like this, and should refrain from this in the future.

But reformulated, this idea could work. First, it must include ALL sorts of agreements that the EU negotiates with the sides, including the energy partnership that Azerbaijan currently seeks with the EU. Secondly, the country in question needs to be able to fulfil the conditions ALONE, without depending on the other conflict party in its relationship with the EU. For example, the EU could help the establishment of the Minsk Group proposed investigation mechanism for shooting incidents, even deploy observers, and this CBM, accomplishable by each conflict party alone, could be a condition for contractual agreements with the EU.
131011_Michael_Kambeck_EuFoA
Dr. Michael Kambeck is Secretary General of EuFoA – European Friends of Armenia, in Brussels, see also http://www.eufoa.org. He is also the Editor and co-author of the book “Europe’s next avoidable war – Nagorno-Karabakh” (Palgrave, 2013, see e.g. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Europes-Next-Avoidable-War-Nagorno-Karabakh/dp/0230300669/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1381419672&sr=8-1&keywords=europe%27s+next+avoidable+war)

New Book by Gohar Yeranyan: Acemoglu’s Model and the Reality. Dynamics of Economic and Political Power in the Former Soviet Union Countries

This study came – not planned – at the right time: when Russia tried by its policies to exercise pressure on its former parts which are now before their respective Association Agreements with the EU, as member state of the Eastern Partnership. It serves to find criteria for a dynamic development in politics and economy, based on a Master thesis at the American University of Armenia, dealing with a model of the Turkish-American economist Acemoglu, and tries answers on questions like „Under which circumstances democracy can prevail?“ in the former Soviet Union countries (FSU). Six of them have been selected for this „detective story“ among the descriptions of transition: Armenia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Ukraine. But the models of public institutions and private groups‘ behaviour are different from country to country, and the effects of transition sometimes contraproductive – be it under the „big bang“ or under „gradualism“.

Gohar Yeranyan investigates systematically the functions of the elite, the oligarchs, the interest groups, the system-immanent changes, inequality, the revolutionary potential (end the evolutionary possibilities). the wealth distribution – and the persistence of political institutions. In this context, she discusses different paths of political developments in the FSU reality, possible reasons of democratization, as well as the dynamic model by D. Acemoglu – one of the most promising economists today, as well as the role of incentives for the political and economic change in former Soviet Union countries, before giving an overview of economic development paths of the FSU countries (shock therapy versus gradualism).

She is clearly pleading for a EU-approached democracy which is more likely than any other system to keep the different interest groups balanced, and can create more GDP and popular wealth which is not only restricted to an oligarchy. This includes also that the different states should also follow an outspoken social policy. A very refreshing book (from the EU or a US perspective, for example) – and a very necessary one (from the FSU states‘ view), and a very adequate one in view of the latest discussions in the EU’s Eastern Partnership countries.

004_Pic_Gohar_YeranyanThe author, Gohar Yeranyan, lives in Yerevan/Armenia and belongs to a new generation of future Armenian leaders. She studied first for her B.A. and M.A. in philosophy and psychology at Yerevan State University, with a Master thesis on Bergson’s intuitivism, and then for another M.A. in Political Science and International Affairs at American University of Armenia (AUA). She stands for a cross-skilled approach to all scientific questions and is far away from any monolithic look about one discipline. A member of the Non-Governmental-Organization “Democracy for Development”, she has gained experience in work-life as a loan officer for a loan organisation, as a trainer for the Foundation for the Preservation of Wildlife and Cultural Assets (FPWC), giving training in leadership and intercultural communication, and in a lectorship or scientific books.

Gohar Yeranyan: Acemoglu’s Model and the Reality –
Dynamics of Economic and Political Power in the Former Soviet Union Countries
Libertas Paper 78, 48 pages, October 2013.
ISBN 978-3-937642-45-1 – e-book/PDF 4,99 EUR; e-book/Amazon Kindle version 4,99 EUR;
ISBN 978-3-937642-46-8 – Paper Edition 15,00 EUR

Orders for paper edition in any bookshop or by e-mail, for eBooks (PDF version) by e-mail: LIBERTAS – Europäisches Institut GmbH (LIBERTAS Verlag), Lindenweg 37, 72414 Rangendingen, Germany,
e-Mail: verlag@libertas-institut.com, Internet (Book Shop): http://www.libertas-institut.eu.

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Details are on the book flyer, which can be downloaded from LIBERTAS – European Institute under http://www.libertas-institut.com/de/PDF/Flyer_Gohar_Libpap78.pdf

What the Association Agreement EU – Armenia Really Says And What It Means For The Economy

By Hans-Jürgen Zahorka

The text of the Association Agreement (AA) and the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) between the EU and Armenia is still unknown to the grand public. However, it can be assumed that all agreements between the EU and the Eastern Partnership Member States will be very similar and even coincident in very many aspects.

The EU-Ukraine AA is known, at least from a draft version. It comprises more than 900 pages and has lots of provisions which refer to detailed trade issues, EU customs numbers, and many trade details. This AA is not only a new version of the old Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA), but as a detailed document in particular for the economy even a roadmap to further EU integration. Although this was never spoken out, its finality could be in a number of years the logical step of the AA countries from the Eastern Partnership of an application to accession to the European Union. Armenia could feel to be stimulated to do exactly this, after some years, for economic and political reasons; the latter exactly then if Russia would follow in a linear way its present policy. Of course this then depends if Armenia would then still have any sovereignty at all. But the Customs Union in ist present form would turn out as a centrifugal solution for Armenia, whereas the EU Agreements would be of centripetal and concentric effect.

There are lots of tasks in approximation in these AAs – from extensive harmonization to safety rules for products (e.g. product safety, product liability, toys, electromagnetic appliances, pressure vessels etc.), company law (the EU Directives will have to be taken over, by a kind of „transposition“ very parallel to the EU), to general clauses like the common heritage as well as the one for European integration, and to many dozens of pages with lists for accepting geographical origins for food products, wines etc.

Whoever flies over this text will see that the Eastern Partnership countries will be sooner or later a part of the EU Singe Market, a huge market without borders and custom controls, with a lot of purchase power, and the idol of all other regional integrations in the world. The Eurasian Union has obtained the name „USSR 2.0“ – not without reasons, as Russia will always be the dominant power, and is already so in the Customs Union. It is still to short to give a final verdict about the Customs Union now, but it does not always funcitn well where it should – this also to some Soviet-style mentalities within the respective member states.

The mistake of the EU may be that it never boasts of this success – it is too modest. This can be understood, as it is no single state structure but one of cooperation and integration of now 28 Member States, of a structure which never had any tradition or history of imperialism or making other peoples its slaves. Its communication lines are targeted to the inside of the EU only, and then more to its mere functionalities. When it comes to military force, the EU can rely only on its Soft Power – not on any Hard Power; the EU has no army, but is dependent of cooperation between its Member States. Is it therefore weak? No, as its Soft Power can be defined as the power of weakness, and as Hard Power of someone else can be defined as the weakness of power. The power of weakness is its integration, the cohesion of its people when confronted with EU principles, and that it is self-evident to be now in the EU, which has created a period of peace among the Member States longer than at any time before in history, and we are not at the end of our history.

When Armenia and the EU trumpeted both on 24th July 2013, they were both happy to have finished the draft of their bilateral agreement, which may have between 800 and 900 pages. Six weeks later, all this was suddenly in vain, after one mere talk between the Armenian and the Russian presidents? It must be clear that this agreement of almost 1.000 pages cannot be have negotiated with the purpose of not being put into power. The absolute contrary was the case, and this almost for four years. This is what it makes evident that Armenia encountered some extraordinary pressure. This was on 11./12.7.2013 also exactly the subject of the famous Statement of Commissioner Stefan Füle and of a cross-party tabled resolution of the European Parliament – both very particular measures. But if one examines what has been said about Putin and Russian foreign policy before in many European Parliament articulations, there is one logical line, namely that the EU wants e.g. civil freedoms for Russian citizens like for its own. But this is not the place to argue about minority treatment, xenophobia, selective justice, and administrative corruption etc. in Russia.

Now some people from Armenia spoke recently to sign now anyway the Association Agreement, but not the DCFTA. One of the „Whereas“ indents says however,

„DESIROUS of achieving economic integration, inter alia through a Deep and
Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) as an integral part of this Agreement, in
compliance with rights and obligations arising out of the World Trade Organisation
(WTO) membership of the Parties, including through extensive regulatory
approximation;

which means clearly that the principal agreement will be the AA and then only as a secondary agreement the DCFTA (words underlined by the author). Therefore it may not be so easy to sign the AA only and not the DCFTA, without saying bye-bye to the project of the Eurasian Customs Union. The CU agreement does by far not go so deep in any approximation details and therefore in market integration (which, quantity-wise, would be to 165 mill. population of Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus, compared to the 520 mill. of the 28 EU and 3 EEA/EFTA Member States). With the AA, Armenia would be continuously reformed in a way that its economy would be competitive on the European and therefore on the world markets. I do have serious doubts if this would be the case with the CU – who keeps oligarch appearances meaning that the economy would not be exposed to a real competition (for which Armenian competition law will be further adjusted, also the whole intellectual property law), where strategic investments will be in very few Russian hands (railway, telecommunication, energy etc.), and where there is no external reform pressure on the economy. The latter means, that Armenian economy would not proceed as well as it would be the case with its relevant relations to the EU. These would, by the way, also for the first time in an international framework agreement for Armenia, include the protection of the environment, and social standards, and health and safety at the workplace – just to name a few.

The next indent of the AA:

„RECOGNIZING that such a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area, linked to the
broader process of legislative approximation, shall contribute to further economic
integration with the European Union Internal Market as envisaged in this Agreement“,

is nothing else what has been already written in the old PCA from 1996. Therefore this (new) AA has no impact on security etc. It leaves the finality to the respective countries, i. e. if they after some years want to join the EU as Member States, it will be their affair at first, as it was until now.
The truth behind all this seems to be that in particular Vladimir Putin is scared of the European model, which is defined in the articles 2 et al. of the EU-Treaty (Lisbon Treaty), with values like human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, rule of law, human rights, and a society based on pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice and solidarity, as well as equality between women and men. Of course, we all have to fight in the EU every day to keep these pillars of human existence – but Putin and his regime, although being more liberal than former Soviets, is committed to these things mainly in words, in legal articles, but certainly not always de facto. Whoever doubts this position – well, this would need another article. So, like Georgia, like Moldova, like Ukraine, the Armenian government should have made clear to Russia that its geographical position would drive it to be an excellent bridge between Russia and the European Union, and that being in the same security alliance does not bother it to keep this bridge function (there is no other security alliance in the world which demands of its member countries to come into a customs union).

What scares me even more than the position of the Armenian president, who might not be the most gifted economist on earth, is that from his own parliamentary group, the Republican Party, came no big objection, not even a thorough discussion about the whole scheme, but only justifications „sans justificatif“. Is this a consecration army without any autonomous will – like it exists in all other free parliaments? Is there really a parliamentary majority in Armenia who swallows this without any discussion? Some people in the EU say, if so, Armenia can join „USSR 2.0“, and the European Union will wave good-bye. It is indeed a matter of political culture that a parliamentary majority group discusses this thoroughly. The first signs, however, were not very encouraging. And, by the way, we now „interfere“ in other countries‘ politics – there is no domestic policy any more anywhere, but so far this was not be heard anywhere. At least this!

After all, there are still some options for Armenia. Austria was under a likewise pressure from the Soviet Union between 1986 and 1994, but it resisted. I took part in many discussions in this country at that time, when some Russian generals or deputy ministers – who in every democracy keep their mouth in the domain of foreign policy of other countries who do not directly threaten theirs – expressed themselves in the usual, rude way. Let them bark, again – this is good for the lungs. Armenia could have – and still can – made her security concerns to the object of a debate within the EU. As she agrees to the OSCE Minsk Group principles, it could be easy to launch also an EU debate on this basis. After all, nobody from the EU provides Azerbaijan with weapons worth several billions of euro.
Some day – and not too far in the future – it must be clear that also the European Union will have elements of a common foreign policy (it starts with elements, yes), and that the EU will not have a too-Christian attitude to offer the left cheek if it gets a slap on its right cheek. The EU can also withdraw its face, what nobody wants right now (out of Moscow). The President of Armenia should verify once more, if he wants to become totally incredible and incomprehensible, or if he really steers his country through a possible rough sea. This should go together with a creative diplomacy: towards the possible „double-pack“ neighbour Georgia, to Turkey, to Russia, to the other Eastern Partnership countries, and regarding also Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbaijan, too. In these contexts, Armenia is well advised to delegate as much as possible to its civil society which is always more accepted than any government initiative.

Armenia is after all not yet „lost“, but it is not five, but two minutes before High Noon.

EU and Azerbaijan: Setting the Record Straight

 

August 7, 2013 – 3:50pm, by Eldar Mamedov

At a cabinet meeting in mid-July, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev lashed out at the European Parliament for supposedly conducting a “dirty campaign” against Baku. The shrill tone of Aliyev’s comments indicate that European pressure on Azerbaijan to respect basic rights is stinging the Aliyev administration.

The latest EU parliamentary resolution critical of Azerbaijan came in June, when European officials called for the release of Ilgar Mammadov, a jailed leader of the opposition Republican Alternative movement. Euro-criticism in 2012 included the loud and public condemnation by European MPs of an officially orchestrated smear campaign against independent investigative journalist Khadija Ismailova. [Editor’s Note: Ismailova has worked as a contributor to EurasiaNet.org].

Aliyev, who is expected to travel to Brussels to confer with top EU officials in the fall, showed himself to be sensitive to criticism. At the July cabinet meeting, he dismissed the recent European assessments of Azerbaijani policy as the work of a jealous few. “There are still prejudiced people, [European] parliamentarians who do not accept Azerbaijan’s success, and they are systematically trying to make attacks on Azerbaijan,“ he groused, according to comments broadcast on state television.

While official statements critical of Baku’s behavior have succeeded in vexing government officials, if European criticism is actually going to be effective in getting Aliyev & Co. to change its authoritarian ways, it’s important for European officials to dispel some persistent myths among Azerbaijani policymakers surrounding EU actions. Here are a few widely held assumptions in Baku that European officials should keep in mind as they consider taking the next steps: 1) European criticism of Azerbaijan´s human rights record is the work of the pro-Armenian lobby and other actors who wish to undermine Azerbaijan´s „independent foreign policy“. Not true. There is no evidence that the members of the European Parliament who are critical of Azerbaijan´s rights practices have any connections to the Armenian lobby or to Russia, which is believed to want to re-integrate Azerbaijan into its own sphere of political and economic influence. In fact, some critical Euro MPs, such as the Austrian Green Ulrike Lunacek, are on record as demanding the withdrawal of Armenian forces from occupied Azerbaijani territories surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh. The reason for European criticisms is simple: the situation of the human rights is deteriorating, in spite of the commitments undertaken voluntarily by Azerbaijan. When the EU offers criticism, it is simply assessing the country on its own merits.

2) Demands for democratization and respect for human rights are nothing but a smokescreen to promote the regime change. Not by a long shot. The last thing the EU wants is a new source of instability in an already combustible part of the world. In fact, the EU is quite comfortable with the Aliyev administration, as long as it delivers on energy cooperation and regional security — particularly counter-terrorism, Afghanistan and Iran. But for the sake of its own credibility, the EU cannot completely ignore human rights issues. It is also in the EU´s self-interest: it needs a government in Baku with enhanced domestic legitimacy as its partner. Its message to Aliyev seems to be: better to start reforms today, while you can manage a controlled transition from a position of strength, rather than to risk a popular explosion tomorrow. But if the government persists in tightening the screws, and in the meantime, a viable opposition emerges, the calculus might shift in favor of the latter.

3) Azerbaijan is unfairly singled out and is a victim of double standards. Yes, there are double standards, but they actually work in favor of Azerbaijan. For instance, the European consensus holds that Belarus has nine political prisoners. In Azerbaijan, there are at least several dozens of them. Yet several Belarussian officials are subjected to EU travel bans and an asset freeze, while the EU has never even considered similar measures against Azerbaijani officials. Furthermore, ODIHR, the OSCE’s democracy watchdog, has never recognized presidential and parliamentary elections in both Belarus and Azerbaijan as free and fair. But it is only the Belarussian parliament that is not recognized as such by the European Parliament, and which is banned from participation in EURONEST, the parliamentary dimension of the Eastern Partnership. Azerbaijan´s Milli Mejlis delegation, on the other hand, enjoys full participation rights in inter-parliamentary bodies.

4) The EU ignores the Armenian occupation of Azerbaijani lands and the human rights of Azerbaijani IDPs. Not true. The European Parliament adopted a resolution in 2010 on the need for an EU strategy in the South Caucasus (known as the Kirilov Report) in which it clearly calls for the withdrawal of Armenian forces from all occupied territories of Azerbaijan, and upholds the right to return for Azerbaijani IDPs. In 2012, in addition to these demands, the European Parliament for the first time linked the conclusion of association agreements with Armenia to progress in the Nagorno-Karabakh peace talks, including the withdrawal from occupied territories of Azerbaijan and return of IDPs. Of course, Azerbaijan could have won more converts to its cause had it stopped sending wrong messages, such as the pardon and promotion of Ramil Safarov, an army officer guilty of the murder of an Armenian counterpart, and the state-orchestrated campaign against Akram Aylisli, a writer who dared to depict a more nuanced picture of the Azeri-Armenian conflict than is usually accepted in Azerbaijan.

5) There is no point in satisfying EU demands, since Azerbaijan will never be admitted to the EU anyway. Too simplistic. It is true that the EU has lost its appetite for enlargement, and the example of Turkey’s stalled candidacy lends credence to this assertion. But current fiscal troubles will not last forever, and Europeans might still change their mind on enlargement. Meanwhile, there are other forms of association with the EU that can be beneficial for Azerbaijan, such as association agreement, free-trade agreement and visa liberalization. Most importantly, reforms that conform to EU norms are needed not to satisfy Brussels, but to improve the quality of life of Azerbaijanis. If implemented consistently, they might even help Azerbaijan to win over hearts and minds of the residents of Nagorno-Karabakh, and solve the long-festering conflict on terms that are more favorable to Baku.

 

Editor’s note: Eldar Mamedov is a political adviser to the Socialists & Democrats Group in the European Parliament, who writes in his personal capacity.

From Eurasianet Commentary. Originally published by EurasiaNet.org; please see http://www.eurasianet.org.

Armenia: Everyone wants a Democratic Election. Election Taken Seriously – Incumbent Leads

On today’s 25th January, TNS opinion is presenting the results of its survey “Poll: A Snapshot ahead of Armenia’s Presidential Elections”, which describes the moods, voting preferences and motivations of the Armenian voters just before the beginning of the official electoral campaign period. For this TNS opinion poll, implemented together with their local partner IPSC, 1,607 face-to-face interviews were conducted in all 10 regions (marzes) and 12 communities of Yerevan between 15 and 20 January 2013, using the highest possible standards and extensive quality control measures. The poll was commissioned by European Friends of Armenia (www.EuFoA.org) in order to contribute to a factual debate ahead of the elections.

“This was a poll conducted to the highest standards and the data is indeed very reliable. I think the most striking result was that 69% of the respondents are already certain to take part in the elections. This is an encouraging surprise, as three out of six parliamentary forces did not present or support any candidate. Our poll shows that more than half of the supporters of these parties feel that this was a wrong decision, but apparently most of them still take the elections seriously and intend to vote” comments Dr Steve Schwarzer, Director for Methods and Statistics at TNS opinion, Brussels.
Starting from a high basis, the incumbent Serzh Sargsyan seems to have profited from the non-nomination of political opponents and enters the official campaign period with 68,6% of valid votes (valid responses are without „Don’t know“ and „Refuse to answer“; raw data with „Don’t know“ and „Refuse to answer“: 44,0%). Raffi Hovhannisyan has established himself as the key challenger and multiplied his electoral base compared to the results of his party “Heritage” in the parliamentary elections of May 2012. If presidential elections took place last week, he would have scored 20,8% of the valid votes (raw data: 13,3%). While Paruyr Hayrikyan and Hrant Bagratyan each gain almost 5% of the valid votes, the remaining four of the eight official candidates are largely unknown to the poll respondents and altogether score less than 1,5% of valid votes (raw 0,9%).

The design of the random sample, fieldwork monitoring, survey implementation and quality control were developed together by TNS opinion and IPSC. Quality control measures were a particular focus, including call-backs and parallel visits, as well as extensive database consistency checks.

The complete report can be found in Armenian and in English on our website at http://www.eufoa.org/en/publications

„Landlocked States“ – A New Book from an Armenian Author

Being landlocked puts repercussions on the socio-economic development of a country. About 15% of the states of the world are developing landlocked states. Thus, a new essay by the Armenian author Anna S. Gevorgyan sets out to examine the desperate plight of landlocked states caused by a geographic handicap. Landlocked states have limited and more costly access to the world market. Furthermore, the plight of a landlocked state is very much dependent on the location and it is hardly surprising that there is no single high-income landlocked country outside of Europe.

Additionally, the Republic of Armenia, being a landlocked state, not only cannot avoid the susceptibility and obstacles brought by the absence of access to sea, but also suffers more than other landlocked countries due to the lack of natural resources and border blockages. So, in this regard and as an example for other states, this issue is a significant one for Armenia that demands special study.

This booklet is written refreshingly short and concise. It can be understood by a large public , and it is valuable for its consideration of new literature – and of thoughts by the author. Anna Gevorgyan has written this text as a Master thesis at the American University of Armenia, Yerevan. Further information: http://www.libertas-institut.eu („New books“, or „Shop“) or directly under http://www.libertas-institut.com/de/PDF/Flyer_Gevorgyan.pdf.

And here are the bibliographical data: Anna S. Gevorgyan: Landlocked States – Economic and Transit Problems, International Law and the Case of Armenia Libertas Paper 75, 62 pages, January 2013, ISBN 978-3-937642-33-8 (e-book pdf); 978-3-937642-34-5 (e-book Amazon Kindle – from 1.1.2013), both 5,99 EUR; ISBN 978-3-937642-32-1 (Paper Edition), 15 EUR

Putin’s Euro-Asian Initiative and Armenia’s „No“

On the eve of the visit of NATO SG to Armenia

The Euro-Asian Union is an initiative proposed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, that many perceive as an attempt to revive the Soviet Union – a communist country removed from the world map almost two decades ago. Perhaps that’s in vain… Hardly a person once serving in Soviet KGB could have that much problems with adequate apprehension of the reality – to assume possible the recreation of the Soviet Union or any of its patterns whether in Europe or Asia. It can rather be expected from a KGB officer to use his public acts and steps as a veil for solving pragmatic tasks behind the scene, for achieving “program minimum” in course of stating about “program maximum”.

Battle for Kazakhstan

Independently of the geographical latitudes where the Russian officials state about the Euro-Asian Union, despite the quantity of continents they unite in that virtual union – marking boundaries in air – the core idea and target of Euro-Asian Union is the preservation of Kazakhstan within the orbit of Russian influence.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union the President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, once nicknamed “the purple sultan”, remarkably succeeded to lead his country to prosperity and increasing international engagement, turning Kazakhstan into a kind of powerhouse in the Central Asian region. Today one may witness the presence of Western capital and giant companies in Kazakhstan, the advancement of the Russian ground space station and cultural, scientific interrelations there, as well as the broadening influence of Far-Eastern giants’ – with China’s leading progression.

The Western presence in Kazakhstan hardly ever worried Russia much. That presence has little potential to go beyond the financial-economic sphere in the large – both by geographic and civilization affiliations. Kazakhstan lies far away from Europe. Meanwhile the increasing influence of China – involving at once financial-economic, political and migration dimensions – is obviously another opera.

If China’s financial and economic advancement in Africa is sufficient to bother the European Union, then how much worried must get Russia in face of China’s expansion in Central Asia – escorted with migration and political instruments. Such course may once end up with geographical enlargement of China – maybe reflecting in establishment of some kind of commonwealth of the Central Asian states.

The successive transference of Kazakhstan into the zone of China’s influence is still the partial misfortune of Russia. The full misfortune is that Russia is a material empire without spiritual impetus and the peoples inhabiting the Russian Siberia – with their small and large autonomies – glance not only at Moscow. The Chinese influence in Kazakhstan sooner or later will have projection on Russian Siberia.

Life is what we think of it

At some point in future the NATO initiative of a defense shield “from Vancouver to Vladivostok” may factually turn into guarantee of Russia’s territorial integrity. Still what is noticeable for the moment is the repetition of the story. Just alike to the first decade of the new millennium when Russia almost walked out of Europe and the advancing NATO established itself along the Russia’s entire European border, a decade later Russia seemingly gets to depart from the Central Asia and the Far-Eastern giants will further expand their influence along the Russia’s southern border.

Likewise a decade ago Mr. Putin succeeded to award the Russians an imitative sense of powerfulness, thanks to the Chechnya war and the permanent loss of influence in Europe passed relatively unnoticeable for the Russians, now the same scenario is under examination: the initiative of the Euro-Asian Union and the imitative developments around it will allow Russia to fight its interests in Central Asia and in case of failure at least to step back painlessly and imperceptibly for the Russian society. Mr. Putin obviously succeeds to neutralize the essence of events through their staged appearance.

Remarkably realizing the game, Kazakhstan herself erects the main obstacle and complexity on the way of formation of the Euro-Asian Union. President Nazarbayev declared with full clarity that the Euro-Asian Union is a format of economic cooperation only that can’t and doesn’t pursue a goal of political uniting. The formation created in sake of involving Kazakhstan hardly can disregard or oppose Kazakhstan’s stance.

NATO Secretary General’s visit instead of Euro-Asian Union developments

Kazakhstan’s discord to political unification marks almost a fiasco to Russian aspirations of Euro-Asian political union. Here Russia hardly nourishes illusions; now she rather disseminates illusions to achieve some psychological pression and effect in the countries she’d like to get in that union.

Seemingly the last was the aim of Russian propaganda throughout July-August 2012 when primarily several high-ranking Russian political emissaries arrived to Armenia and made statements about the Euro-Asian Union, then on the eve of the Armenian President’s visit to Russia scheduled on 8th August 2012, the Russian mass-media endlessly and persistently reported about Armenia’s principal consent to join the Euro-Asian Union that had to be declared on the meeting of the Armenian and Russian Presidents.

Armenia doesn’t possess a common border with any member of the Euro-Asian Customs Union (Russia-Belarus-Kazakhstan), therefore Armenia’s involvement into this customs club – claiming to transform into Euro-Asian Union – would de facto attach political appearance to economic formation, balancing at surface the Kazakhstan’s “no” to the political union.

The visit of the Armenian President to Moscow planned for August 8, surely took place. The Kremlin and the Presidential Palace of Armenia issued press releases, even a joint press conference was held… still as it should be expected despite all the noise raised by mass media the Euro-Asian Union wasn’t even mentioned. Furthermore it didn’t become even clear what was the topic touched at the meeting of Presidents or not.

If the theme was discussed then obviously Armenia hadn’t obeyed to summons and pressure of Russia to join the Euro-Asian Union, like in 2008 when Armenia dismissed the Russian demands to recognize the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia after the Russia-Georgian military confrontation. Then Armenia argued that she hasn’t recognized even the independence of Nagorno-Karabakh – the Armenian enclave separated from Azerbaijan and declared independent some 20 years ago. Now Armenia argues that she doesn’t possess any common border with any country of Euro-Asian Customs Union, intending to transform into Euro-Asian Union.

The arguments are interpretation of reality but they are rather reflection of will. Probably that will was demonstrated by Armenia and thanks to that the noise around Armenia’s possible joining to Mr. Putin’s Euro-Asian initiative calmed down. Moreover still in the beginning of summer there was announcement that Mr. Putin will pay an official visit to Armenia in September. But the September arrived with another news – the Secretary General of NATO is paying visit to Armenia on September 5-6 – some symbolism that speaks for itself.

Lusine Petrosyan*

* Lusine Petrosyan is an Armenian journalist. In 2012 she was nominated for UNESCO Guillermo Cano Prize by Thomson Foundation (UK). The nomination was made to mark the efforts she made in legal confrontation with the former President of Armenia R. Kocharyan, after the President personally filed a lawsuit against her article in 2011. After Lusine’s year long fight engaging the EU, OSCE officials and the Armenian Ombudsman new commentaries on the Armenian defamation law were issued by the country’s Constitutional Court that obliged even the former President to refrain from monetary demands and offer conciliation. In February 2012 Lusine moved into politics and joined the Heritage party.  In June 2012 she became a Board member of the Party, and presently takes the position of the Coordinator of Party Headquarters (Heritage is an oppositional Parliamentary party, one of three Armenian parties having joined the European Peoples‘ Party – EPP).

As Election Observer in Nagorno-Karabakh – Now it is the „Solidarity of Democrats“ in the EU which is required

Democracy is precious, and its tools and instruments like elections should become precious, too, wherever they are held. In the week around the 19.7.2012 I seized the occasion in being a part of the Presidential election observation mission to Nagorno-Karabakh, the long embattled piece of land with approx. 145.000 citizens, and its capital Stepanakert (54.000 pop.). I was embedded in an observer mission of the European Friends of Armenia (EuFoA), a Brussels-based organisation (www.eufoa.org) which has also a branch office in Yerevan/Armania. The observer mission was composed of eight people including one Cypriot Member of European Parliament, and under the gentle conduction of Dr Michael Kambeck, the Secretary General of EuFoA. I am not amember of EuFoA, nor was ever partisan for one of the conflict camps, and I worked as government advisor in all three South Caucasus countries, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia.

Just for the memory: Nagorno-Karabakh has often changed its rulers in the last centuries. It was another strange decision by Stalin to leave the territory populated mainly by Armenians to Azerbaijan, and this one day after he decided that it should be attached to Armenia. Since 1988 there were concrete problems between Azeris and Armenians which culminated in a referendum that the region should be tending towards Armenia. A cruel war followed, which concretely was started by Azerbaijan, and which cost ten thousands of lives. The Azeris‘ first success in this war led to Armenian resistance, and since a ceasefire in 1994 Nagorno-Karabakh lives in relative peace, except several border skirmishes evidently provoked by Azeri troops where several soldiers from both sides have been killed at the ceasefire line and at the border. But this is not about the histroy, bt about a possible end of this conflict. Since then, the OSCE (Minsk Group) tries to bring both sides to a peaceful settlement. Armenia is ready to the Minsk Group’s proposals.

To make it short: Despite minor shortcomings which may lead to some improvements of the Election Law, e.g. on the sealing of ballot boxes etc., this election was held in an excellent and free and fair athmosphere. The incumbent president of NK who was elected with about 80% some years ago was reelected with 66,7%. I spotchecked people on the streets and was even able to predict this result (2/3 vs. 1/3). This time as a first there was an alternative who gained 32,5%, and a third candidate got 0,8%. The proceedings in the polling stations were extremely well organised, as well the counting where a part of us was present during the whole counting procedure. All which was said against the elections was in one complaint of a voter who did not show his – compulsory – passport to the polling station staff but its photocopy, and was therefore refused to take part. There was no „voting carrousel“ bringing by bus mainly soldiers or likewise from one polling station to the next …, there were lists of all voters outside all polling stations and a voter could vote only there. There is no correspondence vote in NK, which for sure will be discussed in the future. All in all, these elections have been a full democratic success, not only for formal reasons, but also as the electorate could really choose between different policies, approaches and persons.

The next step is the solidarity of democrats. In the EU, we do not yet recognize NK diplomatically. There may be for some EU Member States subjective reasons for it, but it’s clear and proven at the latest now that NK is a democratic community, sharing  the values of Europeans, as stipulated e.g. in article 2 EU Treaty or the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. This is in sharp contrast to the system of Azerbaijan where President Ilham Aliev who obtained this post from his father was responsible for the giant flop of marching the police against peaceful youth demonstrators just some days before the Eurovision Song Contest. There is no month in the last years where there is not a press release of OSCE against the Baku government, demanding the release of journalists, bloggers, youth NGOs, demonstrators (against the expulsions from homes needed for the ESC Palace) etc. Sometimes one of them is released, but we know authentically and directly from reports of youth NGOs that they were and are often haunted by plainclothes policemen who threaten and intimidate them. This is no democracy, and if the Council of Europe would act it should freeze the membership of Azerbaijan – or exercizes influence on the government and administration of this country, which by the way is probably the most corrupt one within the Council of Europe Member States.

I’m sorry that this country – with the income of its oil and gas industry -buys also heavy arms in an unprecedented way. Only recently, the Azeri President boasted in a 25.6.2012 address at the national Higher Military School’s graduation ceremony: „Military expenditure is our biggest budget item. Over the past few years our military spending has increased more than 20 times”, adding that the current armed forces budget of $3.6 billion is 50 percent more than Armenia’s total expenditure. These contexts have to taken into account of the European Union, and while Armenia cooperates excellently with the EU in the European Neighbourhood Policy and the Eastern Partnership, this is by far not the case with Azerbaijan. And in this situation, the Karabakhis vote in a picture book way a president and give an example to all other Caucasus election systems.

For all details, please see the original report on the election observation mission: http://www.eufoa.org/newsroom/179/51/Interim-conclusion-of-the-Electoral-Observation-Mission-of-the-Nagorno-Karabakh-Presidential-Election . There will also be reports about Nagorno-Karabakh in „European Union Foreign Affairs Journal“ and about the election observation mission on the homepage of LIBERTAS – European Institute (www.libertas-institut.com). We already published an article by Fazil Zeynalov in EUFAJ 2/2010, p. 40, about „The conflict in Nagorny-Karabakh and the fundamental principles of international law“, from an Azeri point of view, see http://www.libertas-institut.com/de/EUFAJ/no2_2010.pdf).

For once, the European Union should show its teeth. The EU is a global player and should sometimes let others feel its soft power. We have European values, and those who are in European organisations must comply to the rules. Otherwise they should take into account the fate of Belarus which is not in the Council of Europe, because of its undemocratic policy. Nobody can afford in today’s globalized world to remain isolated anymore. Nagorno-Karabakh has delivered, and now it is the Europeans’turn.

Hans-Jürgen Zahorka,

Chief Editor, European Union Foreign Affairs Journal