MEP Márton Gyöngyösi’s (Non-attached) thoughts via press release:
In the next few weeks, the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET) is going to discuss the issue of Azerbaijan and Armenia, the two Caucasian countries that have long been at war with each other. After the fiasco last time, can Europe become a real factor in the skirmish going on right in its neighbourhood?
Azerbaijan’s 2020 campaign to take back its own territory ended with a knock-out victory: the separatist Armenian quasi state of Nagorno Karabakh lost half of the region along with the total adjacent area that had been under its control. Back then, many of us criticized the European Union for its inability to act as a power player in the conflict. Eventually, the peace treaty was forced on the two parties by Moscow, exactly as Russia saw fit.
Since then, the power imbalance between the Armenian and the Azeri side has grown even more.
Weakened by the war and troubled by tense relations with nearly all of its neighbours, Armenia has been experiencing political unrest while Russia, its traditional supporter, is no longer able and willing to back Yerevan. The lack of willingness is largely due to Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s political attempts to feel his way toward the West, whereas the lack of ability can be put down to Moscow being fully occupied with the Ukraine war situation.
In the meantime, Azerbaijan took back a significant part of its territories and Baku profits from Russia’s diminishing influence in from the military, economic and political aspects as well: Russia pays less and less attention to the Caucasus, which certainly benefits Azerbaijan in the military sense, while Baku’s gas and oil is increasingly promoted in Europe as an alternative to the Russian energy supply, which is a very positive development for Azerbaijan politically and economically.
Energy diversification is undoubtedly vital for Europe at this point, and Azerbaijan may be a key partner in that regard.
On the other hand, I believe we mustn’t make the mistake of failing to back up our economic initiatives with political power. Any future agreements with Azerbaijan can help us to influence the situation of the region.
I am not naive, I don’t expect Azerbaijan to become a European model state overnight, but we are rightfully expected to be consistent in our requirements: if we reject Moscow as a partner on account of its failure to respect basic international norms and human rights, we should hold Baku to the same standards. As a matter of fact, Azerbaijan still has a long way to go in terms of guaranteeing political rights for its citizens as well as respecting the collective rights and cultural legacy of the Armenian minority living in the recently repossessed territory.
There are several reasons why we must do this, but first and foremost, regardless how much larger and stronger Azerbaijan is than its neighbour, it is our moral duty to offer a perspective to the Christian Armenia that is culturally tied to Europe.
Secondly, it is also a test of Europe’s credibility, because the international community wants to see if we help a country that is trying to break free from Russian dependency and looking to choose western orientation.
The situation is challenging, but it is also an opportunity for Europe to finally show a firm and consistent stance and become a key player in a region that has been dominated by Turkey and the Russian empires for centuries.
Disclaimer: the sole liability for the opinions stated rests with the author(s). These opinions do not necessarily reflect the official position of the European Parliament.
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