Tbilisi/Georgia, EaP Civil Society Forum: Is Donald Trump enemy no. 1 for Europe’s freedom?

Donald Trump is Europe’s enemy no. 1 – because he wants to violate art. 5 NATO Treaty on the mutual defense clause and wants the US‘ intervention to be dependent „if the bill has been paid“. A real problem for European NATO states, and no miracle that Putin praised Trump to be a „wise man“. This was no. 1 out of 10 policy theses set up by Hans-Jürgen Zahorka, Chief Editor of European Union Foreign Affairs Journal (www.eufaj.eu), during an Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum in Tblisi/Georgia end of July 2016, when speaking on „Security Challenges of the EU’s Eastern Neighbourhood“. This event was organised jointly by the EaP Civil Society Forum, Brussels (www.eap-csf.eu), represented by its Co-Chair Krzysztof Bobinski, and the Liberal Academy Tbilisi, whose director Lasha Tughashi is also National Coordinator of the EaP CSF National Platform in Georgia. It was opened furthermore by Kakha Gogolashvili, Director of EU Studies at Rondeli Foundation (GFSIS), and Ambassador Janos Herman, head of the EU Delegation in Georgia. Here is what Hans-Jürgen Zahorka expressed:

Challenge no. 2: Erdogan. While it was legitimate to do everything necessary against a military putsch against a democratically elected government, the behaviour of the Turkish president after the putsch attempt shakes the whole region: not only in most of the EaP Caucasus countries there is now uncertainty, incalculability what Turkey wants really. He breaks democracy and human rights in a big NATO state, and his attempts to flirt with Putin are neither credible nor acceptable for NATO. There is a lack of consistency in Turkish NATO membership attitude, and the alliance has somehow to react, as there is a rule that NATO means also democracy, human rights and openness. This is also the fundament of the EU-NATO joint declaration from 8.7.2016.

Challenge no. 3 is nationalism, populism, lack of solidarity between European states- as there are populist and nationalist parties now in every country, and solidarity e.g. in the refugee question is often just not existing. Had the EU Member States found a solution for a proportional (including economic strength) distribution of asylum seekers, there would have been no need for a shaky Turkish refugee agreement. This new egoism is also expressed by the rising number of protectionist acts in the WTO member states, at present 22 per month, and of course by the Brexit of the UK from the EU, which brings a high economic damage – and this mainly to the UK. So the danger comes from within – also in the form of xenophobe, racist, glorifying the own country populist parties (partly financed by Russian institutions!), which are anti-Western, anti-liberal, anti-European integration oriented. In short: who want to turn back the wheel, which requires a vivid, attentive civil society in all the EU and EaP member states.

Challenge no. 4: CSDP (EU’s Common Security and Defense Policy) will gain momentum within the EU – in particular if Trump ever would win and the Brexit approaches. Then the Europeans really have to do something. The German Federal Armed Forces White Book from July 2016 is a signal for the right way, in stressing a European integrated defense, but of course also the EU Strategy Paper from a week before.

Challenge no 5: We will get an EU army – but (unfortunately) not today or tomorrow, but after tomorrow. The development will go step by step, taking also in account possible external threats which may accelerate it. Maybe this army will be much more „electronic“ than a traditional army, but there will be EU structures. It can be taken for sure that unlike in former conflicts a „levée en masse“ won’t be neither necessary nor possible, but due to the modern ways of tomorrow’s warfare, electronic warfare, unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) etc. will play a more pivotal role then anytime before – also in preventing such conflicts. We have already pooled monetary policy, when national competences don’t do it anymore. We can also pool our armed forces.

Challenge no. 6: hybrid threats. This is now a clear part of the reaction potential under the CSDP, and the EU reaction (and the EU is more able than NATO to respond to hybrid threats!) was started with a Joint Declaration from 6.4.2016. It should be directed against all ‚divide et impera‘ and attempts to destabilize a country. In the EaP, this can be done with a better know-how about the potential of small enterprises. So social unrest can be prevented – and the economy can be brought to thriving mode. In this context, I see an urgent need for informing SMEs about the chapters of the free trade agreements, where signed, to be de facto implemented – and they should be much better known to the economy. Hybrid threats shall also – see proposal no. 18 of the Joint Declaration – be treated together between EaP countries and the EU. There will be common risk assessments, and analyses and action plans of common activities. The EU, however, is asymmetrically concerned by hybrid threats, which imposes the chance for EaP countries to tell their own experiences in some countries of the EU. To meet civil society there should be a new task for the EaP civil society.

Callenge no. 7: Terrorism.. EaP countries are affected differently, but this can change very fast. In this context, a full role of the INTCEN EU Intelligence Centre must be advocated, with compulsory exchange of information. EaP countries can and should take part in this exchange – to the benefit of all.

Challenge no. 8: The EU was not able to prevent frozen conflicts and conflicts in its Neighbourhood. No miracle, as no instruments were available. But for the future, the EU must have a close look on its geographic environment. It is advocated, n this context, to explore the possible deplacement of EU peacekeepers to Nagorno-Karabakh, together with simultaneous EU-monitored negotiations which might last for many years. Azerbaijan and Armenia as well as the directly concerned Karabakhis should and could agree to this – and they would, in view of the alternatives which are not possible for various reasons (Russia, USA, OSCE, NATO).

Challenge no. 9: The EU and the EaP countries should endorse the strengthening of the OSCE – with a binding mediation mechanism, with armed peacekeepers etc. Countries or regional insurgents etc. who do not recognise the legitimacy of the OSCE must be isolated as far as possible, and modern communication can also contribute to keep a distance between these de-facto governments and the populations.

Challenge no. 10: The whole EU and the EaP countries, if possible, should endorse a value-oriented legislation and state-building. Security is more than the absence of war. In this context, the principle of being firm on principles and values of the EU while dialoguing with Russia is right. Borders cannot be changed by force. And the rules as in art. 2 Treaty of the EU can be accepted also by every EaP state, as they represent the common denominator of European civilisation: human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, rule of law, human rights, minority protection, and this in a society of pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, ustice, solidarity and gender equality.


See also the three illustrated posts on EUFAJ’s Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/eufaj


EU Peacekeepers for Nagorno-Karabakh?

The Armenian and the Azerbaijani media are full, at present, with speculations about a possible war in the South Caucasus. This is, unfortunately, not excluded, although all logical thoughts lead not to a war – but what means logic in this context. Fact is that many soldiers have already lost their lives and even civilians have been shot or wounded. So creative solutions are requested.

This leads to the possible call for peacekeeping troops. Indeed, they should be deployed rather sooner than later, when there is still a bit of peace existing; otherwise they would have to overcome a lot of difficulties, if those could be overcome at all. As usual, it is better to intervene at an early stage than too late. Of course, there should be a consent who should come. This consent should include Armenia and Azerbaijan.

There is much discussion now about Russian peacekeepers in Nagorno-Karabakh. This would if at all accepted with a grim face of the two mentioned countries, and by Nagorno-Karabakh. Russia has a security agreement with Armenia, and at the same time sold weapons for four billions USD to Azerbaijan – so its credibility can be heavily criticised. No country could have better expressed its interest in having no peaceful settlement.

NATO or US troops would not be accepted by Russia, and everything including US troops even as peacekeepers may be considered as too much of an „intruder“. Although of course possible, it may be perceived as a certain provocation which might need a lot of efforts to explain. OSCE troops as such are not likely; the OSCE has observers only in likewise conflicts. UN troops are theoretically possible, but if one looks to some African missions by the UN I think under efficiency criteria it should be avoided, if possible, that the UN which otherwise is also rather inflexible (UN Security Council) should be switched in in an operative way.

However, the EU – which has not yet been asked but can submit the offer to Armenia and Azerbaijan – could and should be ready for a new role as peacekeeping power. The region is limited, the task as well, the supply ways to it may lead via Turkey which is not only NATO Partner but also associated to the EU. Another way could lead via Georgia. The EU is, from outside and inside, more and more asked to take over a higher responsibility in world politics, above all in its own backyard. It is not suspect to remain too long in comparable missions – just in contrary. Its mandates are repeatedly discussed, also in parliaments and this on EU and Member State level. EU troops would be accepted as nobody can have anything against the EU, and this in Azerbaijan, in Armenia, but also in Nagorno-Karabakh. As long as nobody would start shooting, it can be expected that any EU peacekeeper force would behave as much „gentlemen-like“ as imaginable, including cooperation of the troops in civil reconstruction, and this on both sides of the front line.

There is also one more reason for an EU-led peacekeeping force: the Eastern Partnership. This could be the first real opportunity for the Eastern Partnership to prevent actively any conflicts on its territory. And if Georgian ,Moldovan or even Belarusian troops should be included (the latter do not include the President), why not? Ukraine may be too heavily charged with its troops at present, and Azerbaijani and Armenian inclusion into the peacekeeping forces should normally be excluded.

Of course, this makes only sense if both sides are ready to negotiate at the same time. This could be a task for the summit meeting in Sotchi/Russia on 8th August 2014. Russia should have all interest to return to the table with the EU and prove that its government can also be rational. It may make sense also for the OSCE Minsk Group, and if not possible there, also for a new round, this time under the auspices of the EU.

And it needs a keen but realistic vision for the EU, which here could show it can look beyond its Member States‘ horizons. The Eastern Partnership framework is, of course, the backyard of the EU, even explicitly.

Hans-Jürgen Zahorka

Chief Editor, European Union Foreign Affairs Journal




Russia and the Eurasian Union: Mission Impossible?

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

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


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.

Ukraine – EU: The full text of the Draft Association Agreement, and a EU paper on myths in this context

Since a while already we have published the full text of the Draft Association Agreement between Ukraine and the EU, and it has turned out to be dery popular. So once more, if you want to see the more than 900 pages in detail, go on http://www.libertas-institut.com/de/EUFAJ/EU_Ukraine_Association_Agreement.pdf. Here you can find what has been first welcomed by the Ukrainian government – and some days before the signing date in November 2013 in Vilnius/Lithuania has been canceled by Ukrainian president Yanukovich. The EU would have helped in smoothly reforming the Ukrainian economy, contributing also to democratisation and the rule of law in this country (and our readers from Armenia can see what also to them has been deprived by a unilateral move by President Serzh Sargsyan’s on 3rd Sept. 2013).

Furthermore, also on the webpage of European Union Foreign Affairs Journal (EUFAJ), http://www.eufaj.eu, there is a EU Commission paper entitled „Myths about the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement – Setting the facts straight“, with all kind of negative voices and prejudices as used or lanced by government sources in Ukraine, but also with the relevant counter arguments of the EU. Finally the Impression seems justified that the EU does not accept any longer that „someone pees on their legs, and then wonders why the legs are wet“. See on the EUFAJ Website under: http://www.libertas-institut.com/de/EUFAJ/140122_UA-EU_AA_Myths_tradoc_152074_COM.pdf.

Hans-Jürgen Zahorka

Ukraine Brings Tail Wind For European Elections

By Hans-Jürgen Zahorka

The Eastern Partnership of the EU is indeed a thrilling subject today. While Belarus and Azerbaijan, due to their domestic system elements, will not be more than spectators, Armenia has been subject to strange pressure by Russia which tried successfully to play Azerbaijan against Armenia which is sensible in the Nagorno Karabakh issue – and the strangest aspect of this is that Armenia’s parliamentary democracy will need some more development, as the National Assembly which was ready to sign the Association Agreement after almost four years of negotitions after their end on 24.7.2013 today does not want to see the draft any more.

Moldova and Georgia – the latter because it is immune now against Russian pressure, as it cut its involvement with Russia-led CIS after a short armed conflict in 2008 – will sign an Association Agreement with the EU, following the Partnership & Cooperation Agreements from the late 1990s. Moldova and Georgia will thus end up in the political and economic system the EU creates even if this one had not the intention to implement it, as the EU Single Market, the social system of the EU and the rule of law alone exercise attraction. Alone this, and the fact that civil society in Armenia is basically against a membership what is often called „Soviet Union 2.0“, the Eurasian Customs Union, shows clearly that the European Union is not „out“ as a model in third countries. It is perhaps more appreciated there than at present within the EU.

This is underligned by the developments of the last days in Ukraine. An average political person from the EU would probably not have foreseen the explosion of civil society, opposition, students – and citizens from everywhere! – against the Yanukovich regime. Ten thousands of people demonstrated and continue to demonstrate against the decision of the national authorities not to follow any more the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement. This had been negotiated by the same Ukrainian government which says now no to it!, ahhh, it would be so ridiculous if it weren’t that sad. The real reasons? Well, a mix of interests of Putin’s Moscow who however says he is only against Ukraine’s NATO membership (which is not in discussion at all), but at the same time does everything to prevent Ukraine to come closer to the EU. The EU is not a military alliance, if at all it operates soft power only. This shows that the ex-KGB man Vladimir Putin is still and fully on the fundament of the former Cold War of which we all had thought that it is over. This is not only archconservative, it is reactionary. The second reason for Ukraine’s position (well, the one of the regime and a majority in the parliament) lies in the – evidently limited – thinking dimension of Yanukovich, in his psychology. He really hates his predecessor, Ms. Timoshenko, who is now in prison. One must imagine what this means: A former federal chancellor of Germany who has negotiated with the US in an energy deal and who possibly did not make an optimal deal, is thrown in prison once his term is finished. These issues are to be regulated with the voting Bulletin and with nothing else (and: with a honest voting, Mr. Yanukovich!).

So the Ukrainians demonstrate now, what they did once before with success – the „Orange Revolution“. It is evident, that Mr. Putin does not fear anything more than just this, for he has to see a possible enlargement of such a movement to Russia. It is not easy for EU Europeans to show solidarity, although many of us would love to bring wine and cake to the people in the streets. It is a lucky case that with Klitchko a prominent sportsman is at the top of the demonstrators – hopefully he may be the next president of Ukraine.

Above all, the demonstrations, with European flags, with Ukrainian flags, with decided and intelligent people who want their country closer to the model of the European Union and away from the old-fashioned, authoritarian model of Russia and old Ukraine, are a clear tail wind for the European Union. Many of EU Europeans think now what to do before the European Parliament elections on 25.5.2014, how to mobilize people, how to bring them to the polls. To take part in European Parliament elections – this is the dream of many Ukrainians, and we here have to convince People to go to the polls – aren’t we in a ga-ga world? Few of the EU citizens are aware of this, but all of them should keep this in mind.

Sorry that I cannot bring cake & wine to the demonstrators, but this is nothing more than a clear expression of sympathy and solidarity. Like the warm pullovers which are now knitted by babushkas for otherwise freezing devushkas.


Armenia as EU Member State? Not Impossible, Says Ofelya Sargsyan In Her New Book

An enlarged version of a Master thesis for a M. A. degree in European Studies (University of Flensburg / Germany, International Institute of Management and European Studies), this book based on a lot of sources, interviews and other empirical research shows a thorough scientific depth. Besides it is the first book in the literature landscape by any – in this case Armenian – author pleading openly for an Armenian membership in the European Union. When writing this study, the author wanted originally to describe a more or less slow changeover of Armenia towards the EU, when not only she was surprised by the announcement of the Armenian Government to join the Russia-led Eurasian Customs Union on 3rd September, 2013. This has already induced furies within Armenian politics and above all civil society, and the result at present – before the Vilnius Summit of the Eastern Partnership at the end of November 2013 – is open.

But one thing is for sure: If Armenia would go indeed into the Customs Union and later into the Eurasian Union, the results, the economic benefits, the neglecting of necessary reforms, the treatment of matters and of personnel will create a backlash in Armenia (and the EU) which will be the basis of more solidarity than ever with the legitimate security interests of Armenia, possibly with the support of the EU. This backlash will endorse a future, new approach towards the EU.

Ofelya Sargsyan writes why: Armenia is well-anchored in Europe, since almost 2000 years, and it had more to do with European capitals like Paris, London, Brussels etc. in the 2nd half of the 19th century than people think. Of course, it would be a European border region, but together with Georgia – which also strives into the EU – it could be just this. The book deals with geographic, political, economic and cultural reasons, why Armenia should follow a clear foreign policy towards Europe – which has not at all to collide with special and privileged relations to Russia.

The impressive history of the country’s relations to the Council of Europe and the EU is well described, as well as the EU’s perception of its hypothetic move. But also the positions of Turkey, Azerbaijan, Nagorno Karabakh and Iran as well as of Russia and of course Georgia are described as those of neighbours interested in the regional integration orientation of Armenia.

The author, belonging otherwise to an „impatient“ young generation, knows perfectly, that the EU membership takes a lot of time, but she pleads – in an outspoken, but never „pushy“ way, for a sustainable change in Armenia’s foreign policy – a change which since more than 20 years of Armenian independence would not have to be a real change, after all.

Further informations on the book flyer, to be downloaded on the LIBERTAS – European Institute homepage:

Klicke, um auf Flyer_Sargsyan.pdf zuzugreifen


The Author, coming originally from Yerevan, studied English philology for her B.A. degree and made her first Master (M.A.) in Political Science and International Relations at American University of Armenia, with a thesis on a financial subject. Since the end of 2011 she lives in Germany where she studied for her 2nd Master (M.A. in European Studies) at the University of Flensburg. Besides working for the press service of the Central Council of Armenians in Germany (Zentralrat der Armenier) whom she represented various times, also on conferences and TV discussions in Armenia, she is also Junior Editor of „European Union Foreign Affairs Journal“ (EUFAJ) where she covers among others Eastern Partnership, and Russian-speaking countries, minority issues, and book reviews.

Ofelya Sargsyan: Pleading For Armenia’s Accession To The European Union
130 pages, October 2013.
ISBN 978-3-937642-50-5 – e-book/PDF 5,99 EUR;
e-book/Amazon Kindle version 5,99 EUR;
ISBN 978-3-937642-49-9 – Paper Edition 15,00 EUR (from 15.12.2013)

Orders for paper edition in any bookshop or by e-mail, for eBooks (PDF Version – immediately available after 20.10.2013) by e-mail: LIBERTAS – Europäisches Institut GmbH (LIBERTAS Verlag), Lindenweg 37, 72414 Rangendingen, Germany, Tel. +49 7471 984996-0, Fax +49 7471 984996-19,
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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

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.

Armenia, the Russia-led Eurasian Customs Union, and the European Union: Will the Finality be Armenia’s Accession to the EU?

By Hans-Jürgen Zahorka

Since 1999 I was several times in Armenia, in journalistic missions and as Government Advisor, mainly for the EU. In 2003, during an assignment in AEPLAC (Armenian-European Political and Legal Advice Center), I had some spare time and wrote, after thorough consultations mainly with three former ministers (economy, finances) a scenario on Armenia’s accession to the EU. At this time, there was a very positive thinking towards a more active European policy in wide parts of the government and public life, and one of the „spinoff“ products following the essay I wrote was that there was soon the founding meeting of the Armenian chapter of the European Movement.

In the years to come, this article was more quoted and discussed (e.g. in Internet fora) than it could be expected. It can be seen in English on the Website of LIBERTAS – European Institute under: http://www.libertas-institut.com/de/PDF/Armenia%20ante%20portas.pdf, and in 2003 there was also a German version (it is not easy to translate as a German one’s English text into German, I remember) in ADK 1-2/2003 (Armenisch-Deutsche Korrespondenz, Vierteljahresschrift der Deutsch-Armenischen Gesellschaft), which was also published on our Website: http://www.libertas-institut.com/de/PDF/ArmeniaDE.pdf

Now we are in the situation that Russia is actively reluctant against an orientation by some of the former parts of the Soviet Union towards the EU. Besides the legitimate question, if Russia’s government does not try to turn back the wheel, it must be said that the Eurasian Customs Union as first stage of a Eurasian Union is of course, as a regional integrstion, fully legitimate – but it has to be taken into accouont that a regional integration can function only if the participant countries go voluntarily into this integration. But as we see and what has not be mentioned in detail (well, if someone wants, this is possible of course), Russia tries almost everything to „keep“ the European CIS Member States (Georgia has left the CIS in 2008) – Belarus, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova – on a lane leading to the Eurasia Customs Union, and later to the Eurasian Union. Belarus and Azerbaijan are not able to come closer to the EU, at least not under their present governments. Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia and Armenia have negotiated an Association Agreement which is the successor of the PCA (Partnership and Association Agreement) from the late 1990s which was valid 10 years with automatic extension until it would be replaced by ist successor agreement – the Association Agreement (AA). In addition and a „goodie“ for the economies, there is also a DCFTA – Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement which should be signed at the Summit Meeting of the Eastern Partnership end of November 2013 in Vilnius/Lithuania.

But Russia wants to prevent this: Moldovan wines can at present not be exported to Russia (for „standards‘ reasons“ – but the EU which has widely feared very high standards to food imports does continue to import Moldovan wine …, and there are indeed no Quality changes to the worse with the good Moldovan wines), Ukraine exports to Russia have been stopped at the borders by the Russian administration, until Ukraine and the EU coughed … Georgia – well, their Prime Minister said, we will consider the Customs Union, but we have at present no opinion on this – this was quite friendly to MOCKBA, but it raised a domestic furor in Georgia, and the Prime Minister will leave office soon. Anyway, Georgia had a short armed conflict in 2008 with Russia, and since then, and not only then, the relations between both are a bit suspended asymetrically, and they cannot be called „normal“. In Georgia, there is an all-party coalition in favour of more European integration, and this did not change at the last general election.

The orientation of these four Eastern Partnership countries, including Armenia, towards the EU has been evident as the EU in the framework of its European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) has always tried to reform these former kommando economies – with a huge amount of detailed legal approximation which had and still has to be implemented. This covers among others competition and state aid policy, de-monopolization, pegging to technical EU standards and norms (which are relevant far beyond the EU), regulation of utilities and transport (rail, air traffic etc.), intellectual property rights, energy and environment law etc. Russia and its Customs Union remain advocating some key sectors, like railway, energy, telecommunications. Indeed, Russia holds all or big parts of these sectors in Armenia, and they are strategic. One has also to take into account that there are long and deep (and emotional) links in providing security from Russia for Armenia. However, one has also to ask what Russia did objectively that the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict was won by the ethnic Armenians from there in the beginning of the 1990s, and why Russia which has army bases in Armenia has now committed to provide Azerbaijan (which implicitely has threatened several times Armenia to conquer back Nagorno-Karabakh by the use of force) with arms worth several billions of euros. There were evidently Russian pressions, at present unknown in detail, on the Armenian President, to agree during a summit meeting on 3.9.2013 to include Armenia into the Eurasian Customs Union and later into the Eurasian Union. No politician would have said this without any pressions, just six weeks after four years of negotiations with the EU, having praised the objectives of these negotiations all the time. Big parts of Armenian civil society are protesting this, the European Parliament has adopted on 12.9.2013 a multi-party tabled motion quasi unanimously, and we had to state, too, that the European media did not much react on all of this…

The EU Commissioner Stefan Füle made very clear comments before the European Parliament on 11.9.2013. It is not necessary to repeat them here, just see http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_SPEECH-13-687_en.htm. The question is what will be the finality of Armenia vis-à-vis the European Union. I know many Armenians who fit fully into the pattern one has for an EU citizen, and the whole country’s culture is on one line with the EU, and nowadays the political culture more or less, too. Now, with the DCFTA many, even uncountable new links for small and medium enterprises could emerge, and this would really bring the country Forward. The expectations are in solid double-digit numbers for the growth of the Armenian GNP, if the DCFTA will be in power, within several years. Both, the Eurasian Customs Union and the DCFTA, are not compatible, and Armenia which cannot even form a common customs territory with the Customs Union, would be worse off with having signed both. So the moment of truth approaches:
– will Armenia sign only the AA plus DCFTA (they belong together, as a double-pack), which would require some explications to Russia (if they insist),
– or will it sign only the AA and not the DCFTA (which will cut the wings of the AA in a wide, yet unknown extent, and would stall the ongoing reform efforts of the country to be on line with the social market economies of the EU, and would also endanger trade flows – Armenia has more foreign trade with the EU than with Russia; statistically it is evident, but the EU Member States are counted separately, although the EU follows one Common External Commerce Policy, art. 206 et al. TFEU/Lisbon Treaty, and is counted in other countries as one statistical unit),
– or will it sign the Customs Union Treaty only, indicating this by a non-signature of the both agreements with the EU? Then it would give green light to oligarchs, more strategic investment by Russia and on the Long run an oligarchy and no competition at least in the relevant sectors. The whole country would be set back as it would not be reformed in a continuous way. It would then opt to be on one line with the economies of Russia (which has raw materials, different from Armmenia), of the ridiculous dictator-determined one of Belarus, and of the Central Asian System – and I mean very Central Asian!. and it is not the place to speak about this now and here – of Kazakhstan. Maybe Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan will be in the boat in some months, but this can be in no way a decision parameter for Armenia.

Nobody with some brain – sorry – could understand the latter possible decision. Only dubious and shallow words by Vladimir Putin must have induced to bring Armenia in today’s impossible position, after all. The Armenian President did not look to well and happy on the TV Screen when he came out of the meetings. What has been perceived as not too positive were the assurances given by all Armenian government officials and representatives. They should remember the fact that they cannot be pregnant only to 50%.

The long-term consequence of everything is that Armenia will forward an application to become a Member State of the EU. Maybe not within the next five years – but I exclude nothing. The security issues, at least with Turkey, can and will be solved, as they are also in the interest of Ankara, not at least in view of her EU negotiations. And the more Armenia will be uncoupled from EU growth and parallel countries like Ukraine, Moldova and above all Georgia, the more the civil society trend will be in favour of the EU. The EU is not an imperialist entity, but it has a huge centripetal potential – in economy, but also in its democratic systems. And Armenia has happily a more or less functioning civil society, which can and will have a feedback on its political system. And as the EU knows perfectly that a possible „no“ to the EU by Armenia is not the will of the people and not even of the government in Yerevan (why would they have drunk so much mulberry vodka or konjak on 24.7.2013, when the DCFTA negotiations were finished?!), the doors to the EU will not be closed. And isn’t it encouraging that e.g. in EU universities there is at present made serious research on a possible roadmap of Armenia towards an EU accession?

We will publish as a book what comes out there, for the EU must say „B“ when they say „A“. It will be on the market still this year, and it will induce any discussions. And Armenia as a European country, clearly anchoring in the standards of the Council of Europe, cannot be denied any further integration – in particular as Georgia will exactly do the same, and a double-pack is easier for the EU. And last but not least, the Russian system got some further spots of civil society influence: the Mayor elections in Moscow, but also in Ekaterinburg. Under these auspices, Mr. Putin should get the next Sakharov Prize of the European Parliament to promote inconsciously European values in Armenia – or the next medical Nobel Prize, as a Polish M.E.P. has proposed with a ;), as he opened the eyes of many with his – let’s call it: funny – behaviour towards the Eastern PArtnership countries. I look forward to heated or cool debates in the South Caucasus on these matters.

Armenia – The Unexpected Revelations of the Long Summer of 2013

By Lusine Petrosyan

The year 2013 started pretty dull in Armenia despite the scheduled Presidential elections in February. The four of the six parliamentary parties didn’t nominate own candidates and left the duel arena mainly to Heritage Party leader Raffi K. Hovannisian and the Republican leader, President-in-office Serzh Sargsyan. On February 18 the elections took place, the incumbent President was declared the winner of the race. Mr. Hovannisian didn’t acknowledge the announced results and rallied his supporters in the Liberty Square of capital Yerevan. Hovannisian’s rallies, tours around the country, hunger-strike, etc. lasted for almost two months but didn’t change much. The incumbent President entered the office for the second term on April 9 and the political landscape even without any noticeable regroupings arrived to a new election race for the seats at Yerevan Council. This endless election marathon reached to closure at the end of May and since then some notable events began to unfold.

May 28 – Prince Charles arrives to Armenia

The Armenia’s history counts more than three thousand years, the first Armenian Kingdom called Ararat or Urartu came into being more than three millenniums ago and the last Armenian Kingdom – the Armenian Cilicia fell down almost half a millennium ago. In the beginning of the 20th century Armenia regained independence establishing The First Republic (1918-1920) but since the fall of the last kingdom Armenia hadn’t hosted a member from British Royal family. Prince Charles arrived to Armenia on a very special day – May 28, 2013 – the 95th anniversary of the First Republic’s independence declaration and therefore the visit willingly or not carried much symbolism.
The UK and France are closely tied to the rebirth of the Armenian national state. They were the first that internationally recognized the right of the Armenians after centuries of discontinuance to reestablish the Armenian national state covering most of the Armenian Plateau and possessing a territory some 6 -7 times larger than today’s Armenia. That vision of the Prime Ministers David Lloyd George and Georges Clemenceau and the UK and French governments of the day was defined in the Sykes-Picot agreement concluded in 1916 and further embodied in the Sevres Treaties signed in 1920.

Simply two other nations – the Turks and the Russians pretty frightened by the vision of an independent Armenia in the Sevres Treaty boundaries, politically adjoined to Europe that inevitably would become a citadel of European presence in Asia Minor – prevented the implementation of the Treaty. These two nations jointly occupied the Armenian territories and signed a separate bilateral agreement in 1921 brutally violating the international Treaties of Sevres. But the Russian-Turkish tandem also actually prevented the 1915 Armenian genocide survivors from returning to motherland and surrendered the lands – belonged to Armenians for millenniums – to Turkish control. Turkey never did this alone – but in bold partnership with Russia. This is the truth – intentionally falsified and distorted by the Russian-Soviet historiography in a way that many even in Armenia think of Russians to be almost saviors – while they were the actual destroyers next to Turks.

Prince Charles‘ visit on that very special day – the anniversary of the First Republic – carried the symbolism of the events of 95 years age and the Russia’s notorious role in the history of Armenia and particularly the First Republic. Still in May 2013 one couldn’t imagine that official Yerevan will move that further on the path of historical truth that nearly a month later the Prosecutor General of Armenia will talk before a broad lawyers audience about the Sevres Treaties, particularly emphasizing that it keeps to be a valid document – at least in its part referring to Armenia – as it wasn’t reviewed or annihilated by international signatories ever after signing in 1920 at Versailles Peace Conference.

July 5 – Unfolding zigzags in relations with Russia

It happened so that the Prince Charles visit to Armenia coincided with a CIS leaders’ summit somewhere in Central Asia. The Armenian president didn’t attend it, just participated in May 28 celebrations round the country and also received Prince Charles. Nothing special was there but all the Russophiles in Armenian press and politics – not that large but a rather noisy community – came together to tell in one way or another that the President Sargsyan’s non-attendance of CIS summit was a clear anti-Russian step and promised harsh responses from Moscow. They were too angry to persuade.

However, almost a fortnight later came the news that Russia had sold some strategic attacking weaponry to Azerbaijan – for the sum of approximately 1 billion dollars (Azerbaijan is in state of ceasefire with Nagorno-Karabakh – an Armenian self-declared state, not recognized internationally that fought and won the war with Azerbaijan in 1990-94). Hardly this was the first weapon deal between the two countries or the last – simply this time it was done explicitly. The Armenian authorities publicly didn’t react to the news, but nearly a month later came news that Armenia had purchased more advanced weapons from China. Still the broad public reaction in Armenia wasn’t that calm – the anti-Russian sentiments began to prevail in social networks, press, everyday talks revealing more hatred that anything else.

Surprisingly in mid-July an Armenian lorry driver fell into an accident in Russia. His vehicle hurtled to a bus carrying almost hundred people. Many of these people regrettably died, the others got heavy injuries and the driver himself was hospitalized. Several days later he was taken from hospital to a court hearing in a woman’s housecoat. This piece of information and the photo with housecoat originated an astonishing public reaction in Armenia. For almost a week and even longer the civil activists demonstrated against the Russian Embassy, the media and NGO sector erupted with insults and blasphemy towards Russia. The Armenian Foreign Ministry was obliged to engage with the issue of driver, the Ombudsman left to Moscow, still the public anger didn’t calm down.

The Russian Ambassador to Armenia seemed pretty confused and finally arrived to accusing the hostile forces for nourishing and fostering anti-Russian moods in Armenia. That was the luck of this diplomat that he isn’t a sociologist otherwise he’d apprehend that the anti-Russian sentiments in Armenia are pretty spread and none needs to stimulate specially – any casual incident may reveal it.

All this developments unveiled the Armenian public mood that Russia couldn’t ignore. Still the most notable turn in Armenian-Russian relations unexpectedly came from the authorities. On the Day of Constitution – July 5 – the Prosecutor General of Armenia officially talked about the Sevres Treaties and the Armenian rights in that framework. Reviving the theme of Sevres Treaty and the Armenian rights could mean nothing else but condemnation of those who blocked its implementation – first and foremost that was Russia. Whether the Sevres Treaty regulations mean something in today politics or not – the knowledge and statement of truth that at the end of day equates the Russians with the Turks inevitably leads to a crash of Armenian-Russian friendship stereotypes.
Several days later Armenia and EU stated that the negotiations on EU Association Agreement are successfully concluded and Armenia is ready to sign the documents at Vilnius Summit of Eastern Partnership in November.

September 3 – Moscow declaration about Armenia’s U-turn

Most of the August both the President and the Foreign Minister of Armenia seemed to be on vacation and the back-benchers of the ruling Republican Party chatted about the Association Agreement with the EU. On September 3 the Armenian president paid a working visit to Moscow and there announced about Armenia’s intention to join Putin’s Customs Union. For the public the news broke as a thunder in blue sky.

It’s understandable to everyone that Russia achieved that declaration through pressure and blackmail. But the Russian methods have been the same for centuries – so the Russian behavior could be an explanation, still not a surprise or justification. It’s difficult to believe that either Armenia or the EU leaders were that naive not to calculate the malfeasance from Russia when there’s the frozen conflict of Nagorno-Karabakh and Russia may easily destabilize the situation in the region.

That perspective had to be clear and kept before eye along all 3.5 years while the EU and Armenia were negotiating the Association Agreement and DCFTA (Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement). The contra-measures had to be considered as well.

Anyway exactly on the next day Armenia stated that signing of agreements in Vilnius later this year are in agenda and the EU officially stated: “We look forward to understanding better from Armenia what their intentions are and how they wish to ensure compatibility between these and the commitments undertaken through the Association Agreement and DCFTA. Once this consultation has been completed, we will draw our conclusions on the way forward. We want to underline once again that AA/DCFTA is a blueprint for reforms beneficial for all and not a zero-sum game and could be compatible with economic cooperation with the members of the Commonwealth of Independent States”.

On September 5 the Armenian Foreign Minister left for Brussels then to Vilnius meeting the Enlargement Commissioner and the Foreign Minister of the EU presiding country – Lithuania. To this moment it’s told that the Armenian involvement in Eastern Partnership shall continue and the intensive consultations must go on between Armenia and the EU to get the thorough picture of the situation and consider the solutions. On September 11-13 Commissioner Fule is arriving to Yerevan for a Eastern Partnership Foreign Ministers’ informal meeting that has to prepare the Vilnius summit of November 28-29. Hopefully something more will be known then.

Anyway everyone understands that Russia creates obstacles not for Armenia alone but for the Eastern Partnership in whole trying to prevent all those four countries – Armenia, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine – from integrating with the EU. The pressures, methods and reactions are different in case of each participant but the Russia’s hopeless attempts to delay indivertible integration of these countries with EU are apparent everywhere. Therefore the best response can be a common one.

The statement released after EU Foreign Ministers September 7 meeting came to affirm this: “The member states express their solidarity with the countries of the Eastern Partnership programme that have chosen the European path and strongly support them. Russia’s pressure on Ukraine and other Eastern Partnership countries will increase, so it is important to keep this item on the EU agenda. We must consider ways to help the countries withstand such pressure”.

Meanwhile Armenian civil activists conduct some memorable protests before the Presidential office and the Republican Party office calling the Armenian President Sargsyan “cheburashka” (famous Soviet cartoon personage) for the statements he made in Moscow. Hopefully he’ll succeed to prove to be something different.

Lusine_Petrosyan_130909_Jarangutyun 2
Lusine Petrosyan is an Armenian journalist. In 2012 she was nominated for UNESCO Guillermo Cano Prize by Thomson Foundation (UK). In February 2012 she moved into politics and joined the oppositional Heritage party – also an observer in European Peoples’ Party. Since June 2012 she is a Heritage Board member and the Coordinator of Party Headquarters.

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.

Azerbaijan and Its Political Prisoners

There is now some movement in the Azerbaijani opposition. „Meydan TV“ broadcasts from Berlin via satellite directly to many viewers in the country, the Council of European Azerbaijani has been created some weeks ago, and only on 25th May, 2013, the new coordinating Council has been set up in Azerbaijan itself. There are now working more people for another Azerbaijan than ever, a country which has not yet the standards of Rule of Law as it should be the case in Council of Europe Member States, or in recipient states of EU taxpayers‘ money in the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) and in the Eastern Partnership. One thing is very clear: The people behind all this know Europe very well, and they all appreciate that they can move here freely, that they can say and read what they want. This is why they are all in favour of what is not yet achieved by Azerbaijan..namely Euro-Atlantic Integration and a strongly felt step in the direction of the European Union and the Council of Europe. And they are in favour of ending the autocratic system, corruption and a state-run replacement of the Rule of Law.

More than 3000 people from all European countries have signed recently a petition, an appeal, on political prisoners in the country. We publish here this petition, which went to Catherine Ashton, High Representative for Foreign and Secutiy Policy and Vice President of the EU Commission, as well as some relevant staff of the EEAS (European External Action Service) including her cabinet, as well as to around 130  members of the European Parliament – those from the EURONEST Delegation (covering the Eastern Partnership between the EU and the European CIS countries, inclujding Azerbaijan) and from the Delegation for the South Caucasus, not to forget the OSCE, ODIHR and some Council of Europe addressees. We know that this is only the beginning. The people behind this Council want a stronger anchoring in Europe and its institutions, and they want to anchor the country for „the time after“ the present regime. Because  Council of Europe member state, an ENP recipient and a member of the Eastern Partnership can – and must – be viewed and reviewed permanently, and there is no domestic policy any longer when this degree of involvement (and also trade) is achieved.

So, maybe a bit longer as usual, please read here the full text of this Petition. Its importance lies also towards the Council of Erope which has recently rejected a motion of the Rapporteur, Mr. Christoph Strässer, Member of the German Bundestag where he is the Human Rights spokesman for Human Rights of the Social Democratic Party. Mr. Strässer should investigate on behalf of the Council of Europe, but he was refused to enter Azerbaijan. So far a „transparent system“ which should be applicable for this country. And this report clearly was defeated with the massive help of Baku’s „caviar diplomacy“. All this is unique in Europe – and goes perfectly with Belarus‘ Lukashenka or Ukraine’s Yanukovich and his selecive justice towards former ministers and the prime minister of his country.

Hans-Jürgen Zahorka
Chief Editor, European Union Foreign Affairs Journal
AAMBS – Avropa Azerbaycanlilari Milli Birlik Shurasi
NUEA – National Union of the European Azerbaijani
Avropa Azerbaycanlilari Milli Birlik Shurasi
National Union of the European Azerbaijani
Basel / Switzerland, May 17, 2013

Petition of the National Unity Council of European Azerbaijanis to International Organizations concerning political prisoners and political pressure in Azerbaijan

[The remarks in brackets […] are inserted by the editor,]

Very shortly after Azerbaijan gained political independence in the beginning of the 1990’s, Heydar Aliyev – a general of the former soviet State Security Committee [KGB] – seized power by resorting to countless very cunning moves. It is now 20 years that the Aliyevs (Heydar and his son Ilham – each for 10 years) have been ruling Azerbaijan as their own personal company (if we take into account also the soviet period, they are in power since 44 years). Based on the wealth of Azerbaijan in natural resources – which by constitution belongs to the population, not to the rulers – the Aliyev clan established an authoritarian system and managed to create a lobby in the countries considered as the centers of democracy in the world. Thanks to this system, this clan has achieved to strangle the voice of the Azerbaijani people not only inside Azerbaijan, but also abroad, including in the international organizations, which are supposed to be the defenders of social and historical values, such as democracy and human rights.The president of our country is like Don Caroline in the film “Godfather”, and the bodies of state power are his personal organizations. The forms and methods of our president’s activity do not differ in any way from the plots in “Godfather”.As a result, in Azerbaijan the fundamental human liberties – freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of suffrage [voting], freedom of religion and other fundamental rights – are severely being persecuted. Azerbaijan is a “hell” in today’s world, based on authoritarianism. It would be naive to hope for an improvement of anything in this hell. In this sense, declarations of the international organizations about “Azerbaijan moving one step forward or one step back, but in the direction of democracy”, as presented after every election in the last 20 years, are only cheating the public. A hell is just a hell. In this one there is no such idea as one step forward or one step back, slowly towards democracy. The present regime does not allow any event to occur beyond its control, and it allows itself all means for reaching its goals. It establishes criminal gangs for deceiving the international public, and then pretends to arrest them. It also arranges terror, coups d’état, hotbeds of separatism, and pretends to expose them. It puts different regions and peoples against one another for keeping the population under fear. Mass persecutions and telephone interception are everyday events. Facts about interference into personal lives, such as putting up candid cameras in bedrooms, are evident. Bodies of state power do not deal with their official responsibility, they are mobilized for maintaining this regime with all their resources. People live in constant fear; the activity of the real opposition has been brought to an unbearable condition. Nevertheless, thousands of people can sacrifice their welfare, health, and sometimes their own lives for democratic principles and human rights, even in such a situation.

The broadest prosecution method in Aliyevs’ Azerbaijan is to test people by depriving them of making their bread. There is a system of the Aliyevs, named “employment card” like the Bolsheviks’ “bread cards”, which were made for being distributed only to their own people. The people who act against authoritarianism are, first of all, limited in what they can do for a living. Such protestors, and their family members and relatives, are immediately dismissed and become jobless. Their financial resources are confiscated or otherwise taken under control. There is only one path left for such people: to emigrate from the country. Those who do not leave the country and continue protesting, are imprisoned. In Azerbaijan the jails are full of such prisoners. Today there is an army of prisoners, consisting of journalists, demonstration participants, election and religious prisoners etc., arrested in accordance with laws that are applicable at will. The report issued by Mr. Strässer MP, the Deputy of Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe for the January 2013 session of this Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, related to political prisoners, stated the names of 85 political prisoners. As an effect of the abovementioned lobbyism and the activity of Ilham Aliyevs’ regime, which is also admitted by theParliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and temporarily called “Caviar Diplomacy”, the report was not approved and this caused a great happiness of authoritarian regime officials. This, at the same time, created opportunities for the authoritarian forces in Azerbaijan in the direction of strangling human rights. In a very short period of time (within the last 3 months) the list of political prisoners has been increased considerably. Their number is increasing fast due to participants of Guba and Ismayilli events, Bine trade rebels, members of the youth organization“Nidacilar”, and so on. Some of the social-political activists who were imprisoned and persecuted during the last 3 months are well-known not only in Azerbaijan, but also abroad. It is worthwhile to mention the names of some of them, as follows:

1) Elnur Seyidov, who was detained by officers of the National Security Ministry (NSM) of the Azerbaijan Republic, worked as a deputy head of the region branch “Tekhnica bank”. At the same time, he is a close relative of Ali Kerimli, from one of the country’s popular opposition parties,the Azerbaijan Nation Front Party. On March 29, 2012, investigation by the Ministry of NationalSecurity of the Azerbaijan Republic charged Elnur Seyidov with 178.3.1, 178.3.2 of the Criminal Code (fraud by an organized group involving seizure of a large quantity of another’s property). On the same day, the court made a decision to arrest Elnur for 3 months.Then, the detention period was extended three times, up to one year. However, the period of detention of the accused in criminal cases, in this category, as a rule cannot be more than 9 months, and – according to the requirements of the law – only if there is a criminal investigation. In exceptional cases, this period could be extended up to 12 months. An exceptional case must  exhibit a duty of investigation and judicial authority. E. Seyidov‘s case does not reflect this exception. There was no investigation, and judicial authority was absent. Thus, the court illegally extended the detention without preliminary evidence. Additionally, the National legislation and International conventions requires that the verdict reflect preliminary evidence. The court’s decision did not reflect the preliminary evidence needed for a criminal act. Two times documents were sent concerning E. Seyidov’s case via the post-office of theEuropean Court for Human Rights, but were removed by the special service bodies of the country in an attempt of preventing the case to be examined at this international court, for confirming violations of law committed against E. Seyidov.

2) Ilgar Mammadov. He is the chairman of the Republican Alternative Movement (ReAL) organization. The organization has put forward his candidacy for the presidential elections to take place this year. Ilgar Mammadov was arrested illegally during the activities that occurred on 23-24 January [2013], by being accused of violating public order and instigating citizens to be rebels. A while ago he was severely submitted to threats of parliamentary deputies, since he compared the parliament with a “zoo” based on video material that shows how mandates are “traded” in the Parliament of the Republic (National Assembly). Human rights organizations and ReAL consider his imprisonment as the result of a political command.

3) Tofig Yagublu. He is a deputy chairman of Musavat [party], an author of the newspaper “Yeni Musavat”. The Musavat party is one of the leading opposition parties of the country and acts against the existing authoritarian regime from an uncompromising position. Tofig Yagublu was also imprisoned illegally during the actions on 23-24 January [2013] in Ismayilli for violation of public order and instigating citizens to riots. A while ago Tofiq Yaqublu’s daughter Nigar Yaqublu was subjected to an inadequate punishment for her father’s activity, and she was released only after her father was arrested. Human rights organizations and the Musavat Party consider his imprisonment as the result of a political command.

4) Rashad Hassanov. He is a member of the “Nida” Youth organization. Rashad Hassanov has been imprisoned illegally by being accused of keeping an illegal firearm in an organized way. A while ago before his arrest, on 9 March, three activists of “Nida” – Shahin Novruzlu, Bakhtiyar Guliyev and Mahammad Azizov – were imprisoned illegally with the accusation of  possessing narcotics and explosive substances for 3 months as per the court decision. They were arrested one day before the action that took place on 10 March as a protest against deaths of soldiers in non-fighting circumstances. “Nida” has declared that the arrests of civil movement members are political commands.

5) Rustam Ibrahimbeyov. He is a scenarist, film director, and a playwright. He is also the Azerbaijan national writer, Honoured Art worker of both Azerbaijan and Russia, the chief of Azerbaijan Cinematographers’ Union, and an Oscar prize-winner. It is already several years that Rustam Ibrahimbeyov has been criticizing – as one of the most famous intellectuals of Azerbaijan – the policy of the current government and the activities of the high officials; his criticism has deepened and increased recently. Just because of the increasing criticism and especially his point-of-view related to the forthcoming presidential elections, aggressions against him and the civil society around him were expanded. After repeated inspections conducted in the office of the Cinematographers’ Union on 20 November 2012, the primary investigation department of tax evasion of the Ministry of Taxes opened a criminal case as per Article 213.1 of the Criminal Code on 27 December 2012 – although there is no true evidence. Lala Efendiyeva, a member of Azerbaijan Cinematographers’ Union, who was an accredited representative in conducting the Baku International Film Festival “East-West” (“Sherg-Gerb”) in 2009, has been accused in accordance with Article 179.3.2 of the Criminal Code. On 18 January, 10 officials from the department of Primary Investigation of Tax Evasions conducted a search in the Cinematographers’ Union office and collected documents, copies of which had already been provided to the Ministry of Taxes. On 23 January, the Union was thrown out of its office located in the government house by the representatives of Baku City Executive Authority, without showing any official document and submittal of any notification in this respect.

During Rustam Ibrahimbeyov’s arrival from Moscow to Baku on 30 December 2012, his diplomatic passport and foreign passport were taken by the passport control officers in the airport under the pretext of inspection. In more than two hours after Ibrahimbeyov was allowed to pass the border, he was notified that, since he did not respect the Supreme Commander-in-Chief [the president Ilham Aliev], they did not have respect for him either. On 21 January 2013, when Ibrahimbeyov was leaving Baku, he faced again such problems in the airport. He was told at the frontier post that he had to wait due to a technical problem, and he was allowed to leave the post only half an hour before take-off. Besides, denigrating actions have been launched against Rustam Ibrahimbeyov in most of Azerbaijan TV channels and newspapers, under the supervision of Ali Hassanov, the chief of the social and political relations department of the President’s Executive body. Rustam Ibrahimbeyov has been blamed during the last weeks for various misappropriations, mentioning names of places, offices and companies that are claimed to be his, without any substantiation or proof.

There are reports about pressure and threats on the members of the Cinematographers’ Union. At the moment, Rustam Ibrahimbeyov is abroad and any return to his native land may result in his imprisonment. According to official reports, 10 people for the action in “Bine”Trade Center (on 19 January), 12 people for Ismayilli events (23 January) were arrested and condemned. And there are lots of official prisoners too. Currently, two chief editors have been imprisoned by means of false accusations: EvezZeynally (“Khurat” newspaper) and Hilal Mammadov (“Tolishi Seda” newspaper), as well as Movsum Samadov, the chairman of Azerbaijan Islam Party, and many of functionaries of the same party (Ruhulla Akhundov, Firdovsi Mammadrzayev, Deyanet Samedov, etc.), and two ex-ministers (Farhad Aliyev and Ali Insanov). Based on these recent experiences, it can be ascertained that the authoritarian regime has a preference for calumniation (e.g. by secretly putting narcotics into pockets, placing arms in apartments and personal vehicles, using false witnesses / perjurers, counterfeiting corruption and   tax evasions, blaming for hooliganism, etc.) for dealing with the people whom it dislikes orconsiders undesirable. By using these methods, the inhuman and illegal procedures are made to look very civilized. We do not accept these and the addition of more and new ways and forms of denigration and calumniation, moreover for maintaining an inhuman situation – which are currently escalating due to the approach of the presidential elections.Taking into consideration the above, we would like to prompt the appropriate structures of the Council of Europe, the European Union, the NATO, and the UNO, not to abandon their principles on human rights and democratic values in their attitudes towards Azerbaijan, and to call all the international human rights organizations for giving more attention to the problem of political prisoners in Azerbaijan as a symptom of a much deeper problem, and to accomplish their freedom as soon as possible.

Sincerely yours,

Rzayev Gabil – President, National Union of the European Azerbaijani, Abilov Atakhan (Netherlands) – Chairman of the Executive Council,
Abdullayev Elshad (France) – Vice President, National Union of the European Azerbaijani, Abbasov Nadir (Switzerland) – Member of the Executive Council, Abbasova Mina (Switzerland) – Member of the Executive Council, Abdullayev Umid (Ukraine) – Member of the Executive Council,  Alibayli Elkhan (Netherlands) – Member of the Auditing Agency, Aliev Mehman (Switzerland) – Member of the Executive Council, Alirzayev İlkin (Netherlands) – Member of the Executive Council, Aliyev Bahruz (Netherlands) – Member, Amiraslanova Yegane (Germany) – Member, Bunyatov Yalchin (Ukraine) – Member, Calabi Huseyn (Switzerland) – Member of the Executive Council, Can Ansar (Switzerland) – Member of the Executive Council, Damirov Ehtiram (Germany) – Member of the Executive Council, Feyzullazade Afag (Switzerland) – Member of the Executive Council, Feyzullazade Coshgun (Switzerland) – Member, Garashova Ulviyye (Switzerland) – Member of the Executive Council, Guduyevİlgar (Germany) – Member of the Executive Council, Guliyev Adalet (Belgium) – Member, Guliyev Sabir (Sweden) – Member, Gurbanov Reshad (Switzerland) – Member, Gurbanova Nargile (Switzerland) – Member of the Executive Council, Hacili Ali (Netherlands) – Member, Huseynov Galib (Russia) – Member, İsmayilova Kemale (Switzerland) – Member, Koca Yusif (Switzerland) – Member of the Executive Council, Latifov Surkhan (Switzerland) – Chairman of the Auditing Agency, former President of the European Movement of Azerbaijan, Maharramov Elchin (Germany) – Member of the Executive Council, Mecidli Elnur (France) – Member, Mecidoglu Telman (Netherlands) – Member, Mehraliyev Gehreman (Russia) – Member of the Executive Council, Nuriyev Elkhan (Ukraine) – Member of the Executive Council, Pashayev Musallim (Germany) – Member of the Executive Council, Polat Seyfetdin (Switzerland) – Member, Rizvanov Sarvan (Germany) – Member of the Executive Council, Saftarov Hasan (Canada) – Member, Schaerer Alec (Switzerland) – Member of the Auditing Agency, Operative Advisor, Tagiyeva Sevan (Switzerland) – Member of the Executive Council, Tagıyev Huseyn (Switzerland) – Member of the Executive Council, Yavuz Nahid (Switzerland) – Member of the Executive Council, Zeynalov Adalet (Russia) – Member of the Executive Council, Zeynalov Sadiyar (Luxemburg) – Member.
Total: 3034 signatures, of which 43 are shown here
Phone: + 41 79 4043444

Fax: + 41 61 3356049
E-mail: info@aambs.org

Website: http://www.aambs.org

The Next Azerbaijani Presidential Elections in October 2013 Will Be Closely Observed

The National Council of European Azerbaijanis, a new opposition alliance for democracy, the rule of law and a corruption-free Azerbaijan, has written in an appeal to Catherine Ashton, the responsible for EU Foreign Policy and Vice President of the EU Commission, with a copy to many European Parliament members, to observe closely the Azerbaijani presidential elections in October 2013. These elections will find the strange situation that the incumbent President of this country, Ilham Aliyev, will run again after the Constitution has excluded this originally, but this possibility was created by a „referendum“. Here is the full text:

„With this petition we would like to draw your attention to Azerbaijan, and specifically to the presidential elections that take place in this year in October, considering the situation of human rights and democracy in Azerbaijan.

Although Azerbaijan is located in the neighbourhood of the European Union, and cooperates in the „Eastern Partnership Programme“ of the European Union, in the OSCE, and is a member of the Council of Europe, it does not meet the standards of these organizations and experiences serious problems with regard to democracy and human rights.

Shortly after gaining independence from the Soviet Union, Azerbaijan has been ruled by the Aliyev family. Haydar Aliyev was a powerful high-ranking official of the former Soviet Union and a KGB General. He acquired power in 1993 in a non-legitimate way and later handed over the government to his son, Ilham Aliev.

International observers have confirmed that in Azerbaijan over the last 20 years the elections that took place did not meet international standards – as much in the country’s presidential elections, as in the parliamentary and municipal elections.

The legislation in the country does not allow conducting objective and impartial elections. The election commissions are under the control of the ruling regime, from top to bottom. In this country the opposition has no possibilities for participating in the election campaign. Officials of the opposition parties are being observed, wiretapped, and persecuted, there are strict limits in political campaigns, and independent media are persecuted, all TV channels are under the control of the existing regime, and the country’s prisons are full of political prisoners. In Azerbaijan there is clear evidence that there are death squadrons run by the state, and that parliamentary seats are being attributed after receipt of the purchase price.

Haydar Aliyev’s son Ilham wants to be elected in the presidential position more than the two times that he has obtained (2003 and 2008), as is constitutionally allowed. After the presidential election 2008, a referendum was held for changing the constitution to allow unlimited presidency. After this referendum, the clause in the constitution was removed that limits a person’s eligibility for more than two times as a president. Now Ilham Aliyev has a chance to be elected president until the end of his life. There are serious doubts about the legality of all these changes in the procedure.

We would like the European Union to call on the Azerbaijani government to demand the following:
1) the long-term development and stability in the country, which is a key priority for democracy, stipulating that “a person cannot be elected President more than twice”;
2) to ensure that all conditions are met in October 2013 for a peaceful, free and fair presidential election;
3) that all citizens who wish to participate in the political process, including those living in exile abroad, can participate in the election and can elect also candidates of the opposition parties, in genuine participation and with equal opportunities for all candidates;
4) to guarantee the right of assembly, and other fundamental freedoms, and to ensure that the international organizations of human rights are accredited, and that political prisoners be released immediately.

The election process in Azerbaijan offers for the EU a variety of tools for calling dubious structures into question, ensuring democratic procedures with effective measures, and  sanctions that can be imposed.

In our opinion, it is absolutely necessary to observe closely the electoral process in Azerbaijan, and to organize a sufficiently numerous group of international observers for ensuring a thorough monitoring process.“