HANGING IN THE TRADE BALANCE: IS FREE TRADE A CURSE FOR KAZAKHSTAN?, by Sergei Gretsky
SHIFTING RUSSIAN POLICIES TOWARDS ALLIED SEPARATIST REGIONS, by Michael Hikari Cecire
AFGHANISTAN-PAKISTAN INTELLIGENCE COOPERATION AND THE PROSPECT OF PEACE, by Sudha Ramachandran
TURKEY-ARMENIA RELATIONS AFTER TURKEY'S ELECTIONS, by Armen Grigoryan
GEORGIA'S POLITICAL LANDSCAPE TRANSFORMS AS SENIOR UNM MEMBERS DEFECT, by Eka Janashia
KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT PASSES "FOREIGN AGENTS" LAW IN FIRST READING, by Arslan Sabyrbekov
AZERBAIJANI DIPLOMAT UNDER ATTACK AFTER COMMENTING BAKU FIRE, by Mina Muradova
THE RIGA SUMMIT AND NEW PROSPECTS FOR EU-ARMENIA RELATIONS, by Erik Davtyan
THE SOUTHERN ENERGY CORRIDOR: A STRATEGIC PRIORITY FOR THE U.S.?, by Mamuka Tsereteli
ELECTION YEAR IN THE EURASIAN UNION AND THE EU'S EXTERNAL ACTION POLICIES, by Gaël Chataignère
MOSCOW STEPS UP PRESSURE ON CHECHNYA'S POWERFUL RULER, by Valeriy Dzutsev
THE CHALLENGES TO GEORGIA'S ENERGY SECTOR, by Ariela Shapiro
INGUSHETIA'S LEADER CLAIMS THE END OF INSURGENCY IN HIS REPUBLIC, by Huseyn Aliyev
GEORGIA FAILS TO OBTAIN VISA-FREE REGIME AT EaP RIGA SUMMIT, by Eka Janashia
ARMENIA'S AND GEORGIA'S PRIME MINISTERS IRON OUT RECENT STRAINS IN BILATERAL RELATIONS, byErik Davtyan
PARTY RESTRUCTURING IN KYRGYZSTAN PRIOR TO 2015 ELECTIONS, by Arslan Sabyrbekov
By Erik Davtyan (06/10/2015 issue of the CACI Analyst)
Ahead of the EU’s Eastern Partnership summit in Riga, possible perspectives of Armenia’s relations with the EU became one of the most discussed issues on Armenia’s foreign policy agenda. After Armenia decision in 2013 to decline initialing an Association Agreement with the EU, instead opting to join the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), the two parties have decided to promote bilateral cooperation in a new format matching the new realities in the South Caucasus.
On May 11, Armenia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Edward Nalbandian received the political directors of Poland’s and Sweden’s Foreign Ministries, Yaroslav Bratkevich and Torbjörn Sohlström, who reportedly arrived in Yerevan to hold consultations in the lead-up to the Riga Summit. The interlocutors discussed issues relating to preparations for the Riga Summit. Nalbandian reaffirmed that Armenia aims to develop and deepen cooperation with the EU in different fields, given Armenia’s obligations under other international integration formats. Bratkevich and Sohlström represent the two EU member states that have played a key role in defining the EU’s new policy towards neighboring post-Soviet states. In 2008, the Swedish and Polish foreign ministers, Carl Bildt and Radoslaw Sikorski, presented the idea of creating an Eastern Partnership (EaP) between on the one hand the EU, and on the other Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan.
Simultaneously, on May 11, Armenia’s permanent representative to the EU, Tatoul Margarian, met with the EU Commissioner for the European Neighborhood and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn, discussing the bilateral preparations on the eve of the EaP Riga Summit. Towards the summit, politologist Narek Galstyan expressed the view that the EU has changed its attitude towards the six post-Soviet republics and has adjusted its policy to follow a bilateral, rather than regional track. In other words, the EU has decided to take an individual approach towards all six states, including Armenia.
On May 21, Armenia’s President Serzh Sargsyan paid a working visit to Latvia to take part in the summits of the European People’s Party and the EU’s Eastern Partnership. During the visit, President Sargsyan met with Latvia’s President Andris Bērziņš. The presidents praised the political dialogue between Armenia and Latvia, which has been developing in the spirit of mutual understanding, and the dynamics of interstate relations, and stressed the importance of boosting these dynamics. Bērziņš also considered Armenia’s decision to join the EEU pragmatic and welcomed Armenia’s balanced multilateral approach.
Sargsyan also met Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel. Both Sargsyan and Merkel emphasized the fact that Armenia and Germany have significantly enlarged and enriched their cooperation agenda through around six dozen cooperation agreements. They also commented security issues in the South Caucasus, especially in the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs.
The Riga Summit, held on May 21-22, resulted in the signing of a declaration which touched upon a myriad of issues. In relation to Armenia, the declaration states that “Participants welcome the common understanding reached on the scope for a future agreement between the EU and Armenia aimed at further developing and strengthening their comprehensive cooperation in all areas of mutual interest.” The parties welcomed “the progress to date in the implementation of the Visa Facilitation and Readmission Agreements (VFA/RA) with Armenia” and expressed hope that the EU and Armenia will promote a visa dialogue, provided that “Armenia continues to ensure sustained progress in the full implementation of the VFA/RA.” The signing parties also underlined that “they look forward to the launching of negotiations on an EU-Armenia Aviation Agreement at the earliest opportunity.” The declaration also mentioned the Nagorno-Karabakh issue, reiterating “full support to the mediation efforts by the co-chairs of the Minsk Group on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, including at the level of Presidents and their statements since 2009”.
Reacting to the Summit, EU Commissioner Hahn expressed his confidence in obtaining a mandate to start negotiations. The European Commission has issued a positive report on Armenia which stresses that “the EU and Armenia have reached an understanding on the scope of their future contractual relations that take into account the other international commitments of Armenia, in particular its decision to join the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU).”
By Gaël Chataignère (05/27/2015 issue of the CACI Analyst)
EU policies toward the two junior members of the Eurasian Union are an indication of the EU’s struggle to balance its normative, geo-economic, and political interests in the former Soviet space. This April, Nursultan Nazarbayev secured a fifth term in office with a full 97.7 percent of the vote, prompting only a mild response from the EU. The European External Action Service simply reiterated the conclusions of the OSCE observation mission, and the importance of the EU’s partnership with Kazakhstan. Meanwhile, despite an ongoing diplomatic thaw, Belarus remains subjected to a comprehensive set of EU sanctions. This seeming paradox questions the consistency and priorities of the EU, just a few months before Belarus holds its own presidential election.
By Eka Janashia (05/27/2015 issue of the CACI Analyst)
The EU refused to grant Georgia a visa-free regime at the May 21 Eastern Partnership summit in Riga. The summit’s declaration heralds that Georgian citizens will be granted visa-free access to the Schengen zone as soon as all necessary reforms are in place. Although the Georgian government met only 7 of 15 compulsory requirements – conditional for obtaining an EU visa-waiver – it optimistically hoped to extract a concession. The country’s eligibility will be assessed gain at the end of 2015.
The EU-Georgia visa liberalization (VL) dialogue started in June 2012 and was embodied in a visa liberalization action plan (VLAP) one year later. VLAP demands that certain criteria are fulfilled to grant Georgian citizens a short stay in the Schengen zone without a visa.
In the fall of 2014, the European Commission (EC) reported on Georgia’s successful accomplishment of VLAP first-phase benchmarks, enabling it to move to the realization of the next phase.
The EC’s report from May 8, 2015, report categorized Georgia’s progress on VLAP criteria as “almost,” “partially” or “completely” achieved. The benchmarks regarding document security; integrated border management; fighting organized crime; protection of personal data; freedom of movement; issuance of travel and identity documents; and international legal cooperation in criminal matters were assessed as completely achieved. In the almost achieved category, the report mentioned migration management; money laundering; cooperation between various law enforcement agencies; and citizens’ rights, including protection of minorities. Among partially achieved benchmarks are asylum policy; trafficking of human beings; anti-corruption; and drug policy.
With regard to anti-corruption policy, the report urged Georgia to reform the civil service, drawing on international practice, and modify the civil service law in compliance with the scope and standards of a professional and de-politicized civil service. It also suggests revising the drug policy to confer it more “restorative” than “retribution” connotations.
The report included a comprehensive document elaborated by the Commission’s staff, based on factual analysis and statistics, on the anticipated migration and security implications of Georgia’s VL for the EU.
The document concludes that the EU is an attractive destination for Georgian migrants as well as Organized Criminal Groups (OCGs), triggering a range of potential security challenges. The paper admits that migrant flows would remain limited due to Georgia’s small population, but in case of a new armed conflict the number of Georgian citizens aspiring to settle in EU would increase considerably. In this regard, the VL could become instrumental for Georgian nationals to apply for asylum in EU member states and legalize their protected stay there.
In this perspective, the VL is not merely a technical question for Brussels but also a political one with clear security implications. In contrast, Georgia’s Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili stated that the “political decision” to grant Georgia a visa-free regime has already been take and only “technical procedures” remain.
Georgia’s political opposition slammed the government for failing to do its “homework,” depriving the country of free traveling advantages to EU.
Before the Riga summit, the government reportedly highlighted the benefits that Georgia could gain from the VL. In a joint letter, Georgia’s President Giorgi Margvelashvili, PM Gharibashvili, and speaker of parliament Davit Usupashvili asked the EU to make an “unambiguous endorsement of the visa-free regime … For Georgians, visa liberalization will provide a long-awaited tangible reward for reforms and encourage renewed efforts.” The letter said visa liberalization will promote tourism, cultural proximity, student exchange programs and civil society partnerships. More importantly, the EU visa-waiver will demonstrate to the inhabitants of the occupied territories of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions the practical advantages they could gain from reintegration with the Georgian state.
However, in the run-up to the Riga summit, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that Georgia, along with Ukraine, has not made enough efforts to get the VL and “a lot still needs to be done,” meaning that Brussels will overhaul the process of reforming and cogently appraise Georgia’s eligibility, and detach the issue from the sensitivity of Georgia’s territorial integrity or public opinion.
While the benefits that Georgia may gain from the VL is clear, the EU’s continuous refusal to grant the country such an agreement also exposes Georgia to certain risks. According to the last polls commissioned by the U.S. National Democratic Institute (NDI), a majority of the respondents still approved of Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic integration. Yet the number in support of joining the Russia-led Eurasian Union has steadily increased in recent years. From 11 percent in 2013, it soared to 20 percent in 2014 and to 31 percent in 2015.
This trend simultaneously demonstrates the growing EU skepticism in the country caused by Georgia’s opaque perspective of obtaining EU membership or extracting “tangible” benefits from “political rapprochement and economic integration” with it.
As put by European Council President Donald Tusk, Kyiv, Tbilisi, and Chisinau “have their rights to have a dream, also the European dream.” Yet the slow progress in Georgia’s EU integration risks deepening the sense of alienation among Georgians and could contribute to diverting the country from the Euro-Atlantic path on which it has set out. Georgia’s government needs to work diligently to avoid such an outcome.
The Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst is a biweekly publication of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Program, a Joint Transatlantic Research and Policy Center affiliated with the American Foreign Policy Council, Washington DC., and the Institute for Security and Development Policy, Stockholm. For 15 years, the Analyst has brought cutting edge analysis of the region geared toward a practitioner audience.