Finally: The EU Reacted Strongly. United we Stand, Divided we Fall.

Finally, the EU has reacted in a rather strong way. Today, 31st Jan., 2017, in the afternoon the EU Council President, the former Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, wrote an open letter to his 27 colleagues, as a Jingle for the forthcoming EU Summit Meeting in Malta next weekend. I wish this letter a world-wide distribution, and it goes exctly in the direction of two articles of John Feffer, Foreign Policy in Focus from Washington D.C., and myself in the next EUFAJ which will appear in some days. What is Donald Tusk’s letter about? Here is the full text:

„Dear colleagues,

In order to best prepare our discussion in Malta about the future of the European Union of 27 member states, and in light of the conversations I have had with some of you, let me put forward a few reflections that I believe most of us share.

The challenges currently facing the European Union are more dangerous than ever before in the time since the signature of the Treaty of Rome. Today we are dealing with three threats, which have previously not occurred, at least not on such a scale.

The first threat, an external one, is related to the new geopolitical situation in the world and around Europe. An increasingly, let us call it, assertive China, especially on the seas, Russia’s aggressive policy towards Ukraine and its neighbours, wars, terror and anarchy in the Middle East and in Africa, with radical Islam playing a major role, as well as worrying declarations by the new American administration all make our future highly unpredictable. For the first time in our history, in an increasingly multipolar external world, so many are becoming openly anti-European, or Eurosceptic at best. Particularly the change in Washington puts the European Union in a difficult situation; with the new administration seeming to put into question the last 70 years of American foreign policy.

The second threat, an internal one, is connected with the rise in anti-EU, nationalist, increasingly xenophobic sentiment in the EU itself. National egoism is also becoming an attractive alternative to integration. In addition, centrifugal tendencies feed on mistakes made by those, for whom ideology and institutions have become more important than the interests and emotions of the people.

The third threat is the state of mind of the pro-European elites. A decline of faith in political integration, submission to populist arguments as well as doubt in the fundamental values of liberal democracy are all increasingly visible.

In a world full of tension and confrontation, what is needed is courage, determination and political solidarity of Europeans. Without them we will not survive. If we do not believe in ourselves, in the deeper purpose of integration, why should anyone else? In Rome we should renew this declaration of faith. In today’s world of states-continents with hundreds of millions of inhabitants, European countries taken separately have little weight. But the EU has demographic and economic potential, which makes it a partner equal to the largest powers. For this reason, the most important signal that should come out of Rome is that of readiness of the 27 to be united. A signal that we not only must, but we want to be united.

Let us show our European pride. If we pretend we cannot hear the words and we do not notice the decisions aimed against the EU and our future, people will stop treating Europe as their wider homeland. Equally dangerously, global partners will cease to respect us. Objectively speaking, there is no reason why Europe and its leaders should pander to external powers and their rulers. I know that in politics, the argument of dignity must not be overused, as it often leads to conflict and negative emotions. But today we must stand up very clearly for our dignity, the dignity of a united Europe – regardless of whether we are talking to Russia, China, the US or Turkey. Therefore, let us have the courage to be proud of our own achievements, which have made our continent the best place on Earth. Let us have the courage to oppose the rhetoric of demagogues, who claim that European integration is beneficial only to the elites, that ordinary people have only suffered as its result, and that countries will cope better on their own, rather than together.

We must look to the future – this was your most frequent request in our consultations over the past months. And there is no doubt about it. But we should never, under any circumstances, forget about the most important reasons why 60 years ago we decided to unite Europe. We often hear the argument that the memory of the past tragedies of a divided Europe is no longer an argument, that new generations do not remember the sources of our inspiration. But amnesia does not invalidate these inspirations, nor does it relieve us of our duty to continuously recall the tragic lessons of a divided Europe. In Rome, we should strongly reiterate these two basic, yet forgotten, truths: firstly, we have united in order to avoid another historic catastrophe, and secondly, that the times of European unity have been the best times in all of Europe’s centuries-long history. It must be made crystal clear that the disintegration of the European Union will not lead to the restoration of some mythical, full sovereignty of its member states, but to their real and factual dependence on the great superpowers: the United States, Russia and China. Only together can we be fully independent.

We must therefore take assertive and spectacular steps that would change the collective emotions and revive the aspiration to raise European integration to the next level. In order to do this, we must restore the sense of external and internal security as well as socio-economic welfare for European citizens. This requires a definitive reinforcement of the EU external borders; improved cooperation of services responsible for combating terrorism and protecting order and peace within the border-free area; an increase in defence spending; strengthening the foreign policy of the EU as a whole as well as better coordinating individual member states‘ foreign policies; and last but not least fostering investment, social inclusion, growth, employment, reaping the benefits of technological change and convergence in both the euro area and the whole of Europe.

We should use the change in the trade strategy of the US to the EU’s advantage by intensifying our talks with interested partners, while defending our interests at the same time. The European Union should not abandon its role as a trade superpower which is open to others, while protecting its own citizens and businesses, and remembering that free trade means fair trade. We should also firmly defend the international order based on the rule of law. We cannot surrender to those who want to weaken or invalidate the Transatlantic bond, without which global order and peace cannot survive. We should remind our American friends of their own motto: United we stand, divided we fall“.

I really like this Open Letter – finally the EU gets a spine of steel. Donald Tusk Shows that he is a leader, and I hope he remains still a while in his present Job in the future, too.

It is not by chance that Donald Trump is mentioned in one line with questionable presidents like the ones in Turkey or Russia. This is really a shame for an American president. We all in Europe should not be passive in the attempts of the conscient Americans to stand and finally overcome this Person. He has so Little political and civic education, that his advisors seem to have free way, much to the pleasure of the president who thinks he can run a complicated state like a billionaire’s shop.

What is worst: The US have always been at the side of European integration, and of course we had some small difficulties, but this is normal in families. In families who share the same values, also internationally. In the last years of the Soviet Union, in the 1980s, there was a big discussion in Europe about so-called „equidistance“ of Europe, towards the USSR and the USA. In Europe, it was clear that we may be geographically closer to the first ine, but value-wise closer connected to the US. Now we know: We stand alone – and we will not give up, now more than ever, to tell the world that it is worth while to have an open society, of immigration and emigration (many famous US companies would not exist if today’s travel bans would have existed!), a social market economy, and a clear concept of the togetherness in the world. What the Republicans do at present, is adventurous, and it shows that the political coordinates cannot be considered parallel at all, between Europe and the USA. This not yet a cultural fight, but serious cultural differences – and it is indeed a matter of education, of being open to other cultures and countries. Let us work in the suitable way in keeping contact with „enlightened“ Americans, who think apriund the Corner, and let us prepare the day, when Trump is „shot down the tube“ by the voters, or by an impeachment before, what I do not exclude, if you see the exhaust of his companies.
Hans-Jürgen Zahorka
Chief Editor, European Union Foreign Affairs Journal








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.

Istanbul, Gezi Park: „This is only the beginning. We will continue“ – and the Consequences for a Possible Turkish EU Accession

Until some ago days I was a clear supporter of a Turkish EU accession – even if it would come later as foreseen, but in principle I used to say that it was a good objective. Since 1986, when Turkey applied to join the EU, and the then Turkish Ambassador at the EU explained me that this is a long-term view – for the EU and for Turkey. But now, after Prime Minister’s Erdogan handling of the Gezi Park crisis, I look in a disillusioned way on this issue. What has shocked the European Union:
– Mr. Erdogan did and does not take care at all what is thought in Europe about his belligerant rhethorics, and about his double play between conciliatory steps towards the protesters and his disproportionate and violent proceeding. Even what the US said, was not regarded at all.

– It was also a „positive shock“ that its common foreign policy functioned: The EU for once follows a very clear policy – expressed by the Commissioners Füle (for Enlargement) and Ashton (for Foreign Policy), and by the European Parliament. This was agreed some days ago in a resolution which was drafted by all the major groups in the European Parliament – it was not an accidental, but a very intended majority. In a few weeks, the European Council will meet …

– Erdogan committed mistakes after mistakes. He should, as an elected prime Minister, exercise his capacity of integration and inclusion. Instead of this, he mobilized and mobilized every means of verbal injuries towards the protesters („terrorists“ – like Al Qaida or likewise, but Erdogan meant the students, elder gentlemen, medical doctors, lawyers, housewives) which are just indecent. He later said the was in favour of talks, then not, then again, then he agreed to an ultimatum until Sunday, 16.6., then he let „clear“ the square already on Saturday, 15.6. This kind of hectic actionism does not convey the picture of a wise statesman, but of someone in subjective psychic danger. After all, he as Prime Minister is the commander-in-chief of the Turkish police which clearly exaggerated ist means against the eople – among which elder people picknicking peacefully in Gezi Park!

Mr. Erdogan showed all of a sudden that in a situation which could be an everyday’s issue in a functioning democracy he reacts unwise, very primitely, like his Syrian colleague even in giving those orders directed against the own people, unreflected, drumming his breast like a Gorilla, not listening outside voices who are not part of the game but remind him of some elementary standards.

For the European Union (which may be is in a „crisis“ of the public finances of some member states, but which is otherwise still going strong, Mr. Erdogan!), things with Turkey are now totally changed. Out of a petite reason there came a legitimacy crisis of the AKP System, starting cities like Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir et al. To put it clear: With a Turkey represented by Mr. Erogan’s values, an accession can never be reached. For the EU is also a community of values, as stipulated in art. 2, 3, 4, 6 and 9 EU Treaty. Now it becomes clear that Turkey does not want to reform its „minor“ Problems with journalists, poets, Armenians, unflexibility to excuse for mistakes in the past (again Armenians), and of course Cyprus, the Ankara protocol, and the non-acceptance to let Cypriot civilian aircraft fly over Turkey or to deal with its cargo ships.

The EU which may even open one more negotiation chapter in the next days and weeks (now they should Refrain from this!), will not and cannot go further in the direction of a closer relation to Turkey – with this government which shows what they think of humans. One can agree or not with Ms. Claudia Roth M.P., the Federal Chairwoman of the German Greens who is also Deputy Chair of the German-Turkish inter-parliamentarian Group, who happened to see the Events from tonight live in Istanbul, but in one thing she is undoubtedly right: „That is war! They chase people through the streets nd fire targeted tear gas grenades on persons.“ Which leads also to the reflection if all the training measures of the EU for the Turkish Police were in vain.

Turkey may suffer now an economic nose-dive as it turns out that one cannot sedate (and seduce) a people with economic liberalism alone, be it reached for the price of an authoritarian government.

Maybe with a certain delay, this is the beginning of the end of Mr. Erdogan’s regime. While the EU has of course to deal with this rude government, it is very open now for all alternatives which do not intend to turn back the time in the direction of a neo-osmanic empire,but of a modern, human-rights based democracy. And whoever wants his country into the system of the European Union, has to swallow that the EU is very, very interested into the details of the Turkish kind of rule of law. It will have to be made clear to the Turkish citizens that the EU, as a big ship on the ocean with little speed. but a valuable cargo, has stopped right before the Turkish port, which it does not enter because of some policies Mr. Erdogan represents. And I am very sure that from tonight there is now a new, durable conflict within Turkey – caused by the inflexible, constipated policy of Erdogan. He will end as an episode of Turkish politics.

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