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News
Turkey holds delicate talks with Sweden and Finland ahead of a decision on their NATO membership application

Turkey holds delicate talks with Sweden and Finland ahead of a decision on their NATO membership application

Senior Turkish officials have met with government delegations from Sweden and Finland as discussions continue following Ankara's threat to veto the NATO membership application of the two Nordic countries. Most NATO countries have warmly welcomed the decision of Sweden and Finland since their membership in NATO will considerably strengthen the northern flank of the alliance, but Turkey accuses both countries of having an ambivalent position on Turkey's struggle with militant Kurdish groups. On Wednesday, Swedish and Finnish government delegations travelled to Ankara to meet with Turkish representatives in an effort to resolve the country’s doubts regarding their accession to NATO. In their first face-to-face meeting since the two Nordic countries applied for membership, Turkish representatives stressed their security concerns, and conditions regarding Sweden’s “cooperation” with Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Turkish presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin said in a statement late on Wednesday that positive steps towards the lifting of an arms embargo from Finland and Sweden had been taken. In October of 2019, Sweden and Finland were among some  European states that imposed an arms embargo on Turkey following a military incursion into Syria.
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Opinion
Opinion: Historic developments are taking place in Armenia-Azerbaijan relations, but the signing of a peace treaty will likely take a longer time

Opinion: Historic developments are taking place in Armenia-Azerbaijan relations, but the signing of a peace treaty will likely take a longer time

On May 22, the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan met in Brussels with the mediation of European Council President Charles Michel to discuss the peace process. It is worth noting that since the beginning of this year, the representatives of the two South Caucasian republics have met exclusively via the mediation of the EU, while the only Russia-mediated meeting – that of the foreign ministers held on May 12 –  took place on the sidelines of another major event and brought about no novelty in the negotiations. The Brussels summit, however, delivered some very important outcomes which, if implemented, will constitute a critical breakthrough in the peace process. The quick implementation of some of the issues agreed by president Aliyev and prime minister Pashinyan at their meeting in Brussels, can be described as truly historic, writes Vasif Huseynov in this op-ed. "But the signing of a peace treaty will likely take a longer time, and necessitate an agreement not only between Baku and Yerevan, but also between Moscow and Brussels", he adds.
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News
South Ossetia gets a young leader, but his message is old and rusty

South Ossetia gets a young leader, but his message is old and rusty

It was a piece of surreal political theatre of the sort that have become increasingly popular with the choreographers of the Kremlin. On Tuesday (24 May ) the liliputian self-declared Republic of South Ossetia, a de facto Russian protectorate, got a new president. Alan Gagloev was sworn-in at the theatre on Tskhinvali's main square. The choreography was perfect: a military guard of honour, a swearing in ceremony, and delegations of "foreign countries", except they represented other self declared entities such as Abkhazia, Lugansk, Donetsk, Nagorno-Karabakh etc. Most of the world still recognise South Ossetia as part of Georgia. Gagloev came to power unexpectedly, having defeated the incumbent Anatoly Bibilov in elections on May 17. The number of people who voted for him was 16,134 (representing 56.09% of the electorate). Bibilov left his successor a time bomb, due to go off on 17 July, in the form of a referendum calling for South Ossetia's unification with Russia. The Kremlin does not seem to be impressed. Gagloev made no reference to the referendum in his inauguration speech today, but he did heap praise on Russia and promised eternal friendship.

Conference on the Future of Europe - events and opinions

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Opinion
Read the report: 'The Hague in Europe, Europe in the World'

Read the report: 'The Hague in Europe, Europe in the World'

The Hague Conversations on the future of Europe in the World was a series of ten activities organised by LINKS Europe foundation, in association with the City of The Hague and with the support of the Hague Humanity Hub. The events were mostly held in person, with some also held online or in hybrid format, from September 2021 to February 2022 as part of the “Conference on the future of Europe” process. Read the full report here.
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Event
‘Hard versus Soft Power: Is it time for an EU army?’

‘Hard versus Soft Power: Is it time for an EU army?’

LINKS Europe in collaboration with The City of The Hague, and with the support of The Hague Humanity Hub, hosted the fifth in a series of clusters of events titled ‘Conversations on the future of Europe in the world’ on Thursday, 3 February 2022. The event was hosted online from the LINKS Europe office in the The Hague, and around 50 participants joined. The series ‘Conversations on the future of Europe in the world’ contributes to the debate in the framework of the EU’s ‘Conference on the future of Europe’ process.

Voices - Opinion and analysis

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Opinion
Opinion: The decision of Sweden and Finland to apply for NATO membership is the right one and should be supported

Opinion: The decision of Sweden and Finland to apply for NATO membership is the right one and should be supported

For decades, Finland and Sweden weathered the dangers of the cold war as neutral states, sandwiched between Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies, and the United States and its European allies in NATO. It was a risky situation. Their professed neutrality was seen as a naivety by some, as a vulnerability by others. But they used their status for the common good. Finland and Sweden, together with other neutral and non-aligned countries such as Austria, Switzerland, Yugoslavia and Malta, helped to bring about the Helsinki Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe, and in 1975 the signing of the Helsinki Final Act, a milestone document that reduced tension during the cold war, and provided a blue print for what followed. This week they broke with their historic position of neutrality, which in the case of Sweden had lasted for two centuries, and applied to join NATO. Finland and Sweden were left with no choice. Their decision to apply for NATO membership was the right one, and should be supported.
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Opinion
Opinion: A transitional arrangement for Karabakh may be necessary if deadlock in Armenia-Azerbaijan negotiations is to be avoided

Opinion: A transitional arrangement for Karabakh may be necessary if deadlock in Armenia-Azerbaijan negotiations is to be avoided

The issue of the status of Nagorno Karabakh cannot be avoided in future discussions on an Armenia-Azerbaijan bilateral peace treaty, argues Benyamin Poghosyan in this op-ed. One solution is to agree to some transitional arrangement. During this “transitional period,” the status quo that emerged after the 2020 Karabakh war should remain intact, with no territorial changes or population relocation. The OSCE Minsk group or other relevant international bodies may elaborate on specific criteria to determine conditions that will allow the termination of the “transitional period." Meanwhile, the sides may seek to provide an international mandate to the Russian peacekeeping force deployed in Karabakh, potentially supplementing Russian troops with forces of other countries. Implementing robust “confidence-building measures" between the sides supported by the international community should be a significant part of the deal. Such a “Transitional period” may not seem the ideal solution. However, other options risk sooner or later destroying the fragile bilateral talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan and may bring the region back to the pre-2020 war situation. 
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Opinion
Armenia-Azerbaijan connectivity is crucial for the future of the South Caucasus, and important also for partners beyond

Armenia-Azerbaijan connectivity is crucial for the future of the South Caucasus, and important also for partners beyond

Johnny Melikian and Ramazan Samadov are members of a Joint Liaison Group of Armenian and Azerbaijani experts preparing a report on how confidence building measures can support lasting peace in the South Caucasus. In this joint paper they discuss the important role of connectivity, which they say is a key factor in building the region's future.
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Opinion
Opinion: UNBA makes a landmark contribution to Ukraine as a state governed by Law

Opinion: UNBA makes a landmark contribution to Ukraine as a state governed by Law

In essence, European standards in relation to the status and operation of the Ukraine National Bar Association have been in place for more than nine years, writes Lydia Izovitova. This is a truly landmark contribution to the development of Ukraine as a state governed by law. This important achievement turns the constitutional rights and freedoms of citizens into real opportunities, and provides a mechanism for their protection, primarily from the encroachments by the State.
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News
 Armenian and Azerbaijani experts send joint recommendations on process of confidence-building in the South Caucasus to Eastern Partnership summit

Armenian and Azerbaijani experts send joint recommendations on process of confidence-building in the South Caucasus to Eastern Partnership summit

In their letter to European Council President, Charles Michel, the experts say that the EU Eastern Partnership Summit on 15 December offers an opportunity for a qualitative step forward in the process of peace in the South Caucasus.

Podcasts

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Interview
GEU Podcast: After Ukraine, can we still talk about soft power? - with Prof Jamie Shea

GEU Podcast: After Ukraine, can we still talk about soft power? - with Prof Jamie Shea

“EU soft power will still be a factor, but I think the EU now recognises that this works more with like-minded countries that aspire to join the EU... The notion that soft power works on countries with different political systems – I think that has been, if you like, the victim of the Ukrainian crisis” says Prof Jamie Shea in this episode of our Global Europe Unpacked podcast.
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Interview
GEU Podcast: Supporting the rule of law in Ukraine – with Dr Valentyn Gvozdiy and Brian Mefford

GEU Podcast: Supporting the rule of law in Ukraine – with Dr Valentyn Gvozdiy and Brian Mefford

In this episode of Global Europe Unpacked, produced in collaboration with the City of The Hague, Will Murray speaks to Brian Mefford – a long-time observer of Ukraine, based in Kiev – about the state of the rule of law in Ukraine and the biggest challenges it faces; how it is affected by Russian interference; and what more could be done by the country’s Western partners to support and promote the rule of law there. Will then speaks to the vice-president of the Ukrainian National Bar Association, Dr Valentyn Gvozdiy, about what his institution does to support the rule of law in Ukraine; his perspective on the issues that Ukraine faces; and what he believes Ukraine can offer the EU when it comes to justice and the rule of law.
Promoting the peaceful resolution of conflicts, and a secure and prosperous Europe in friendship and solidarity with its neighbours

commonspace.eu  is an activity of LINKS Europe, an independent foundation based in The Hague, The Netherlands. We focus on issues related to European peace and security, Europe's neighbouring regions, including Eastern Europe, The Caucasus and Central Asia; North Africa and the Sahel, The Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. We aim to provide insights and analysis on different topics in our area of interest, and a platform for diverse opinions.