Georgia’s Trajectory on South Ossetia and Russia’s Creeping Occupation

By Ofelya Sargsyan, Editor of European Union Foreign Affairs Journal

 

As the Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs state on July 10 the Russian troops moved the demarcation line between South Ossetia and the rest of the Georgian territory, placing the so-called “border” on the territory close to the village of Tsitelubani of Gori municipality and the village of Orchosani in occupied Akhalgori district adjacent to the Tbilisi-Gori central highway.

The incident occurred soon after Georgia concluded and air defense treaty with France and NATO launched its “Fragile Spirit” multi-national trainings in the country. The movement of the “state border” markers for 450 meters further into Georgia from the South Ossetia demarcation line by the Russian troops, assumes that the local Georgian farmers will lose 10 hectares of wheat fields and cattle pastures[2]. Furthermore, it means that a 1.6 km-long segment of the Baku-Supsa oil pipeline will fall under the control of Russia. Owned by the British Petroleum (BP), the pipeline is also known as the Western Route Export Pipeline (WREP). Running from Azerbaijan to the Georgian Black Sea terminal of Supsa, it has 833 km in length and a capacity of 145,000 barrels a day. However, BP Chief Spokesman in Georgia Gia Gvaladze stated that the change would mean nothing, with them needing no physical access to preserve the pipe. Another spokesperson of BP Georgia; Tamila Chantladze, stated on July 13 that WREP was operating was operating as normal and along the international standards. In his turn, Energy Minister Kakha Kaladze assured that Georgia will reroute the Baku-Supsa pipeline around the de-facto border in case there is any problem to its functioning

While both Georgia and the international community keep accusing Russia on breaking international law and violating the territorial integrity of another state, Russia rejects its role, stating that its troops had been patrolling the same administrative border since the 2008 Russian Georgian war over South Ossetia.

As such during the phone conversation between Head of Georgian Delegation in the Geneva International Discussions David Dondua and Head of Russia’s delegation in Geneva Discussions, Grigori Karasin on 13 July 2015, Mr Karasin stated that the banners marking the “state border” were exactly on the same place where they stood until April 18, 2015, when they were shown during a TV show of the Georgian TV Channel “Imedi”. Furthermore, the diplomat highlighted that the Georgian side was well aware that there was no border movement.

On the other hand, Georgia condemns Russia on illegal replacement of banners. Furthermore, the MFA of Georgia considers the Russian action as a continuation of the so-called “borderization” process within Georgia which breaches the 12 August 2008 Ceasefire Agreement and the fundamental principles of the international law. Hence, Georgia calls the international community for support and measures against Russia for violating the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

As mentioned above, solidarity with Georgia has also expressed the international community.

To the point the EU reaffirmed its support for Georgia’s territorial integrity. Describing Russian step as “provocative” the Union and its monitoring mission (EUMM) called for deploying such tools as the Geneva International Discussions and the Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism (IPRM) to neutralize tensions. This is also in line with the UN statement, made on behalf of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon who highlighted the negative impact on the daily lives of the locals because of the developments on the demarcation line.

The President of the Council of Europe’s Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, Jean-Claude Frécon, also apart from condemning Russia, expressed the concern that “The moving of the demarcation line beyond the villages of Tsitelubani and Orchosani placing the Baku-Supsa pipeline under the control of the Russian forces creates a further risk of destabilising the whole Region”.

Furthermore, in her statement Anne Brasseur, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), acknowledged the alarming aspect of the actions and reiterated the Assembly’s support for the territorial integrity of Georgia.

Russian actions were officially criticized also by a number of individual states, such as Latvia, Lithuanian, Ukraine, Romania, Japan.

Reaction to the issue came also from the USA. To the point, while the US ambassador to Georgia, Richard Norland, described the land-grab as a step to “humiliate and provoke” Georgia’s pro-Western government[11], John Kirby, spokesperson of the US department of State, urged Russia to implement the provisions of the 2008 ceasefire agreement and withdraw its forces to pre-conflict positions, recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia as Georgian regions as well as enable free entry for humanitarian aid to these regions.

Meanwhile, on July 19, 2015, the Georgian Minister of Defence Nina Khidasheli declared that Russia us testing Georgia’s patience, attempting to enroll it into a conflict which is unacceptable for the Georgian government.

Yet, the situation has generated a number of protest by activists and journalists. To the point, on July 14 more than 50 Georgian journalists held a protest “NO to Occupation” in the village of Khurvaleti and crashed the newly-established border sign saying “Republic of South Ossetia” and set there a Georgian flag which was however replaced by the Russian and South Ossetian armed forces two days later. Another demonstration with thousand protesters took place outside the State Chancellery building in central Tbilisi on July 18. Apart from the slogans like “Stop Russia”, the protestors also criticized Irakli Garibashvili’s government for being week and incompetent to withstand the Russian creeping occupation. Moreover, several of the protest organizing groups – among them the television station Rustavi-2, magazine Tabula and NGOs Georgian Democracy Initiative and Georgia’s Reforms Associates – seem to be in favor of the United National Movement (UNM), the party of former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili. Notable is also the fact that also a number of well-known public figures participated and were even among the organizers of the rally. As such, Salome Samadashvili, once Georgia’s ambassador to the EU, talked against the Russian politics, highlighting that it is time for Georgia to become a modern European state. Also, Giga Bedinishvili, editor-in-Chief of Tabula magazine, mocked the current set-up of the Georgian-Russian bilateral relations which presupposes face-to-face meetings between Georgia’s special envoy for Russia Zurab Abashidze and Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin, whose last meeting was in on 15 July in Prague. He stated that the framework was suggested by UNM parliamentarians, coining the Garibashvili government as “defeatism”

Yet, some locals expressed concerns regarding the protests, stating that they further exacerbate the living conditions in the immediate vicinity of the administrative border. Moreover, on July 17 the police limited the entry of non-locals to the territory.As a resonse, the Prime Minister of the country, Irakli Garibashvili, accused the UNM of leaving the country with 25,000 internally displaced people and 150 villages out of central government control. He also called to come and urged the opposition not to intervene in the government’s efforts in settling the Problem.o solve the situation a meeting was held on July 20 in Ergneti under the auspices of the Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism (IPRM), co-facilitated by Kęstutis Jankauskas, the Head of the EU Monitoring Mission in Georgia (EUMM), and Ambassador Angelo Gnaedinger, the Special Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-office for the South Caucasus. The Georgian Interior Ministry officials and representatives of the de-facto authorities of South Ossetia agreed that the local Georgian population can have access to their farmlands which are now within the within the territory of South Ossetia. Additionally, the return of Vazha Totladze, a Georgian citizen of the village of Knolevi in Kareli district who was kidnapped from his garden by armed men and taken into South Ossetia on 18 July, was agreed upon. Yet, the South Ossetian side refused to remove the border signs, installed by the Russian troops as well as declined to return the Georgian flag that the Russian forces had taken down.

As seen, while the current Georgian Dream coalition government came to power promising to improve the relationship with Moscow, the latest developments demonstrate, that Russia even furthered its positions in South Ossetia with the new border signs having been set and so far seem to remain there. To note, this is not the first incident of line-drawing in South Ossetia – it has been separating itself from Georgia, installing wired fences since 2008. However, notwithstanding its claims for independence, as a matter of fact it lacks autonomous infrastructures, with its budget, economy, and almost all political processes being controlled by the Russian Federation. Furthermore, the Russian border guards control and detain trespassers along the demarcation lines. Russia finances its border signs, fences as well as tracking cameras. South Ossetia also concluded a military agreement with Russia, entitling the latter to protect the disputed territory. With these aspects at stake, Georgia has limited options to act.

It cannot set border forces since it does not recognize the South Ossetian independence, thus, that border being nonexistent to it. The country does not want another military upheavel, either. Hence, it remains for the country to talk against the situation, present its concerns and describe the actions as illegal and provocative and call for international reactions and actions. Yet, there seems to be little opportunity, if ever, that Georgia will be able to regain the 20% of its territory. It looks like everyone will eventually accept the new borders as in the Crimean case. But Germany was also reunited after 45 years.

This article will be updated and published in EUFAJ 3/15, appearing in the first half of August 2015. See then http://www.eufaj.eu

 

Russia and the Eurasian Union: Mission Impossible?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lessons from Ukraine’s Maidan for the Eastern Partnership Countries

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

http://www.eufaj.eu

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.