Armenia and Azerbaijan in the European leash?

By Arshaluys Mgdesyan

Neither Yerevan nor Baku can wait for a definitive nod from the European institutions, but can always count on the coolness and calm interaction.

Recently, there have happened important developments, which quite clearly show the nuances of the European policy of balance in relation to the South Caucasus countries — Armenia and Azerbaijan in particular. This, of course, is a controversial extradition of the Azerbaijani officer Ramil Safarov (who has severely murdered Armenian officer Gurgen Margaryan during NATO seminar in Hungary) from Budapest to Baku, as well as the possibility of the dissolution of the PACE Subcommittee on Karabakh, reopened thanks to the efforts of ex-PACE President of Turkish origin Mevlut Cavusoglu.

Extradition of Safarov from Budapest to Baku, it is clear, could not be a surprise to the Council of Europe and the EU (other question — do these organizations approve it or not), and caused a deterioration of the situation in the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement, thus further delaying the contact between the parties. The trade between Budapest and Azerbaijan was a slap in the face of Armenia. At least this step was perceived in Armenia this way, even at the highest level.

> Azerbaijan, Armenia
Immediately after that, during an emergency meeting with the heads of the UN member states accredited in Armenia, the Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan said: «This has happened because the government of Hungary, which is a member of the European Union and NATO, had made a deal with the government of Azerbaijan. By their joint actions Hungarian and Azerbaijani authorities opened the door for the recurrence of such crimes. By this decision, they have sent a signal to the killers, who now know that murder motivated by ethnic and religious hatred can go unpunished».

In the statement by Sargsyan we clearly see resentment towards Europe and NATO. As a reciprocal gesture Yerevan has suspended all diplomatic and public relations with Hungary, which indicates the reactionary character of foreign policy. For many years, foreign policy of Yerevan has reactionary character, that is the responding to the ongoing processes around it. Of course, on the one hand, formula of the foreign policy is stimulus-response. Patriarch of American foreign policy, Henry Kissinger compares it with the movement of billiard balls: it allows the state to wait and make fewer mistakes.

On the other hand, such a strategy, in the end, is depriving the entire structure of country’s foreign relations of its flexibility, and fraught of the fact that it may in some moment to drop the country behind the processes, due to their rapid nature at the current level of globalization. This has particularly happened in the case of extradition of Safarov.

After the pardon of Safarov in Baku and Armenia’s attempts to understand the essense of the bargaining between Budapest and Baku, as well as to explain the depth of the «mistake» during meetings with senior representatives of the Western structures, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe played the next ace. PACE President Jean-Claude Mignon at a recent meeting with the Speaker of the Armenian Parliament in Strasbourg said: «PACE Subcommittee on Nagorno-Karabakh does not justify itself and is exhausted». Another important point for Armenia in its relations with Europe was the fact that the head of PACE has appreciated the implementation of democratic reforms, the positive atmosphere of the political field in Armenia, especially noting the reform of the judiciary and police. Given the fact that in the spring of 2013 in Armenia there will be held important presidential election, the quality of which will determine the start of the EU policy «more for more» (more money in exchange for further reforms) and organization of donors meeting, satisfaction of the PACE with reforms is a positive signal for Yerevan.

It should be noted that this correlation shows the European policy of balance towards Armenia and Azerbaijan. Although the subject of dialogue between Armenia and Europe and between Azerbaijan and Europe are different (in one case this is democratic reforms, and in the other — energy resources), but the goal remains the same — to keep the balance, the impact, the attractiveness, and if possible to hold both states in check, but also sometimes offend them, but within reasonable limits.
The Georgia Times