Opinion, Analysis, Editorial, Interview, Commentary

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Opinions, analysis and editorial pieces, interviews and general commentary on issues and regions in and around Europe from our panel of regular experts and research associates, and guest writers and contributors.

Editor's choice
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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Editor's choice
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.
Editor's choice
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. 
Editor's choice
Opinion
Opinion: The Armenia-Azerbaijan peace process proceeds despite challenges

Opinion: The Armenia-Azerbaijan peace process proceeds despite challenges

The Armenia-Azerbaijan peace process is passing through a critical stage which will determine the future of the relations between the two countries: Either they will now agree on normalization of relations and put an end to their hostilities, or they will remain stuck in these disputes for years to come. Hopefully, peace efforts will prevail over the agendas of nationalist groups and their external allies, writes Dr Vasif Huseynov in this op-ed
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Opinion
Opinion: China expands its military co-operation with Iran as it emerges as the main counterweight to US influence on the Eurasian landmass

Opinion: China expands its military co-operation with Iran as it emerges as the main counterweight to US influence on the Eurasian landmass

The visit last week of China's Defence Minister Wei Fenghe to Tehran marked a significant moment in the development of Chinese-Iranian military co-operation. Iran is becoming an increasingly important factor in Russia and China's efforts to create a partnership on the Eurasian landmass which can balance the US influence, writes Benyamin Poghosyan in this op-ed for commonspace.eu
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Opinion
Russia’s war against Ukraine: where do we stand and what can the future bring?

Russia’s war against Ukraine: where do we stand and what can the future bring?

"Two months into the war against Ukraine there is no end in sight and Russia’s most recent actions even point to an intensification of the fight. The Russian leadership must stop the aggression and reconsider the unacceptable path it has chosen: for the sake of Ukraine, Russia, Europe and the wider world", says Josep Borrell, EU High Representative for foreign and security policy in this article which first appeared on his blog on the website of the European External Action Service on 26 April 2022. In the article the head of the EU diplomacy says that "Defending Ukraine from Russia’s invasion is rejecting the law of the jungle, the notion that “might makes right”. Being “neutral” is a false concept here. One country has invaded another one. Putting them on the same footing fails to differentiate between the attacker and the attacked. Such “neutrality” may respond, of course, to a variety of reasons, from hidden alignment to fear of reprisals, but it becomes in practice support to Russia and its war of aggression."
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Opinion
Opinion: Brussels summit has given a new momentum to Armenia-Azerbaijan peace prospects

Opinion: Brussels summit has given a new momentum to Armenia-Azerbaijan peace prospects

"In the days since the Brussels summit of the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan on April 6, diplomatic activity around the peace process between the two countries has intensified. In contrast to the first year after the Second Karabakh War, the role of the EU in this context has grown and provides a viable alternative to the Russia-led track in the negotiations", writes Vasif Huseynov in this op-ed. "Against this backdrop, as agreed in Brussels, Armenia and Azerbaijan have launched the preparatory work for a peace treaty which triggered a bilateral phone conversation between the Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers - the first time this happened in recent decades. These developments are not welcome by Russia-aligned revanchist forces in Armenia, separatist groups in Azerbaijani Karabakh, or, to some extent, by Russia."
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Opinion
Opinion: Quo Vadis Nagorno-Karabakh?

Opinion: Quo Vadis Nagorno-Karabakh?

Nikol Pashinyan delivered a significant speech to the Armenian parliament last week on the eve of the launch of negotiations on an Armenia-Azerbaijan peace treaty. In this op-ed, Benyamin Poghosyan says that his comments on the future of Nagorno-Karabakh sent shock waves across society in Armenia and in Nagorno-Karabakh itself. Poghosyan argues that if Russia manages to keep its influence in the post-soviet space after the Ukraine war, it will probably come to an agreement with Azerbaijan and keep its troops in Karabakh after 2025, extending “de - jure Azerbaijan de - facto Russia” status for Nagorno Karabakh beyond 2025, and securing the presence of Armenians in Karabakh. However, if the war in Ukraine makes Russia significantly weaker in the post-soviet space, Azerbaijan may use the peace treaty with Armenia to force Russian troops out of Karabakh successfully. In that case, no international guarantees or promises of Azerbaijan will prevent the rapid exodus of Armenians from Karabakh.   
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Opinion
Opinion: A game-changing Aliyev-Pashinyan-Michel summit in Brussels

Opinion: A game-changing Aliyev-Pashinyan-Michel summit in Brussels

This week's summit of Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev and Armenian prime minister Nikol Pashinyan, mediated by European Council president Charles Michel, marks a growing mediating role for the EU, something which is welcomed by both Baku and Yerevan, writes Vasif Husseynov in this op-ed. There are now two separate tracks in the peace process, one led by Brussels, the other by Moscow. So far they are complimentary, and should remain so, he argues
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Opinion
Opinion: A resumption of the Iran nuclear deal is also good for Armenia

Opinion: A resumption of the Iran nuclear deal is also good for Armenia

Reports from Vienna suggest that Iran and the world powers are close to agreeing on restoring the Iran Nuclear Deal. For a moment it appeared that the negotiations were going to get entangled in the current Ukraine crisis, but it appears that Iran has dissuaded Russia from doing so. In this op-ed for commonspace.eu Benyamin Poghosyan says a deal would be good for neighbouring countries like Armenia who are keen to exploit trade opportunities with Iran.
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Opinion
Opinion: The people of the South Caucasus deserve a better and more peaceful future

Opinion: The people of the South Caucasus deserve a better and more peaceful future

Ahmad Alili and Stepan Grigoryan are members of a Joint Liaison Group of Armenian and Azerbaijani experts currently finalising a report on how confidence-building measures can support lasting peace in the South Caucasus. In this jointly written paper they say that the crisis in Ukraine has reminded the people of the South Caucasus of the horrors of war. “In the South Caucasus people have suffered enough from violent conflict. They deserve a better and more peaceful future, and all of us should contribute to that objective”, they write in this opinion paper.
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Opinion
Opinion: Three summits, one message - Mr Putin we will make sure your aggression in Ukraine will fail

Opinion: Three summits, one message - Mr Putin we will make sure your aggression in Ukraine will fail

One month after Mr Putin launched an unprovoked war against Russia's neighbour Ukraine, despite being warned of the serious consequences if he did that, the leaders attending the summits in Brussels  had one important message: Mr Putin, we will not let you get away with this. We are united in making sure that your aggression against Ukraine fails. It cannot be otherwise, writes Dennis Sammut in this op-ed. If Putin destroys the Ukrainian state, and the rest of the world does nothing, then we will be back to the dark days of the 1930s. No country or society in the world will be able to feel safe again.
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Opinion
Opinion: There is still a chance Russia will be a spoiler in the Armenia-Turkey normalisation process

Opinion: There is still a chance Russia will be a spoiler in the Armenia-Turkey normalisation process

As long as Turkey maintains a fairly neutral stance on the Ukraine issue, Russia will not interfere in the current efforts to normalise Armenian-Turkish relations, says Benyamin Poghosyan in this op-ed. "However, if Turkey changes its policy towards Russia, and joins the anti-Russian sanctions the situation may change. In such case, this may break the Russian – Turkish understanding for the post-2020 South Caucasus. Russia may assume the role of spoiler in the Armenia – Turkey normalization process, significantly slowing down the movement towards establishing diplomatic relations and opening up borders." 
Editor's choice
Analysis
Macron gets a second chance to push for a new type of French partnership with Africa

Macron gets a second chance to push for a new type of French partnership with Africa

The re-election of Emmanuel Macron as President of the French Republic was the occasion for many congratulations from African heads of state with most leaders hailing the French president's "brilliant" election. Yet on the continent, not everyone is so enthusiastic, and speculation is high how France’s Africa policy will play out during Macron’s second term. The silence of Bamako, Conakry and Ouagadougou reflects the challenges of Emmanuel Macron's African policy in the years to come. Macron has put a great deal of energy into opening a new chapter in the relationship between France and Africa, but the results have been below expectations. A sustainable and mutually beneficial relationship is very important in these new, uncertain times. Whether it is through the gas alternative proposed by some North African countries, or the emergence of new partnerships in the Sahel and in English-speaking Africa, France will have to play a prominent role and has much to gain from being close with Africa. 
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Analysis
Fear and lack of trust are an obstacle for peaceful co-existence between Armenians and Azerbaijanis in Nagorno-Karabakh

Fear and lack of trust are an obstacle for peaceful co-existence between Armenians and Azerbaijanis in Nagorno-Karabakh

A recent survey of women from the large community of Azerbaijanis displaced by the conflict in Nagorno Karabakh in the 1990s shows that fear and lack of trust are an obstacle for peaceful co-existence between Armenians and Azerbaijanis in Nagorno-Karabakh. The survey is part of a report, “IDP Women: needs assessment for post conflict life, including expectations for safe return home”, prepared by Khalisa Shahverdiyeva on behalf of the Azerbaijani NGO “Women’s empowerment for sustainable development”. Following the 2020 Karabakh war a new situation has emerged which opened the prospect of the return of hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijanis displaced by the fighting in the 1990s to their place of origin, and in many cases to live together or in close proximity with Armenian communities. The survey covered 590 internally displaced women, while 30 more women were interviewed to get a tentative picture of their needs and expectations, including their fears and concerns for peace-building and returning home.  The overwhelming majority (87.55%) of respondents highlighted the necessity of being free from danger as a decisive factor behind their decision to relocate. Consequently, the full-scale clearance of landmines supported by a guarantee of non-resumption of armed hostilities have been underscored as key factors for IDPs’ return home.  
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Analysis
Ukraine poses a dilemma to the three South Caucasus countries, but they have still one important card they can play

Ukraine poses a dilemma to the three South Caucasus countries, but they have still one important card they can play

Dennis Sammut, Director of LINKS Europe and Managing Editor of Commonspace.eu discusses how the countries of the South Caucasus have reacted to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and what they should do next. “In the present circumstances, the strongest card that the three countries have, if they choose to play it, is regional co-operation and an informal loosely co-ordinated common approach”, he says. All the Russian strategy in the South Caucasus in the last thirty years has been built  on the premise of adversity and unhealthy competition between and within the three countries. Debunking this will be a major victory for all the countries and people in the region.
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Analysis
Opinion: If Russia is able to keep its "big power" status after the Ukraine crisis, it will seek to work with Iran and Armenia to contain Turkish influence in the South Caucasus

Opinion: If Russia is able to keep its "big power" status after the Ukraine crisis, it will seek to work with Iran and Armenia to contain Turkish influence in the South Caucasus

"If Russia successfully resists the unprecedented pressure from the West and remains one of the main poles in the emerging multipolar world, its interests lie in balancing Turkish influence in its neighborhood, including the South Caucasus. It does not imply that Russia and Turkey will stop their economic cooperation. It simply means that Russia will seek to prevent Turkish dominance over the South Caucasus", writes Benyamin Poghosyan in this analysis on current geo-politics in the South Caucasus.
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Analysis
Isolated

Isolated

In a historic vote in the United Nations General Assembly condemning Russian aggression against Ukraine on Wednesday (2 March), Putin's Russia found itself isolated from the rest of the international community, with only North Korea, Belarus, Eritrea and Syria supporting its position in the 193 member world body. 141 countries voted for the resolution, 5 voted against and 35 abstained. 12 countries were absent. The vote was a stark revelation of Russia's isolation in the international community as it pursues its aggression against Ukraine. In a similar situation in 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea, a UN General Assembly resolution condemning the move received the support of 100 countries. This time the number was up by 41 countries, sending a resounding diplomatic message. The number of abstentions in 2014 was 58, compared to 35 this time. 24 countries were absent in 2014, this time only 12. Those supporting the Russian position in 2014 were 11, this time the number is down to 5.
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Analysis
The 6th Eastern Partnership summit is a defining moment in the relationship between the EU and its Eastern Neighbours

The 6th Eastern Partnership summit is a defining moment in the relationship between the EU and its Eastern Neighbours

The summit of the leaders of the European Union and of the countries of the Eastern Partnership takes place in Brussels tomorrow (Wednesday, 15 December). It promises to be a defining moment in the relationship between the EU and its neighbours to the east: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. In this analysis, the research team of commonspace.eu explore the issues under discussion and explore why for the first time an EaP summit has attracted considerable public attention.
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Analysis
Analysis: Central Asian countries need to remain focused on reforms despite new security threats

Analysis: Central Asian countries need to remain focused on reforms despite new security threats

The countries of Central Asia are at an important crossroads. The events in Afghanistan are not going to make their choices either more simple or more easy. Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan have taken very important steps in the last few years on the path to reform. It is important that they stay the course, and it is important for the EU and other western countries to help them in this task. If possible this should be done without adversarial engagement with either Russia or China, even though are likely to put obstacles in the way. Central Asia does not need another "great game". It needs support so it can develop and evolve for the benefit of its people, and so that the radical elements that have been successful in Afghanistan can be stopped in their stride. 
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Analysis
Analysis: When hunting down civil society, don’t shoot yourself in the foot

Analysis: When hunting down civil society, don’t shoot yourself in the foot

In recent weeks, Alexander Lukashenko’s regime in Belarus has ordered the mass closure of NGOs, calling them “bandits and foreign agents”. One year to the day since the disputed 9 August 2020 presidential elections, for commonspace.eu, Maryia Ditchkowska looks at some of the organisations targeted, why it is unlikely to seriously impact support for the pro-democractic movement, and what has prompted this particular crackdown.
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Analysis
Analysis: The Armenian parliamentary snap election – a way out or a new wave of chaos?

Analysis: The Armenian parliamentary snap election – a way out or a new wave of chaos?

The 20 June parliamentary elections in Armenia are the most competitive and inclusive in the country’s history with three former presidents challenging the rule of incumbent prime minister, Nikol Pashinyan. In a detailed analysis for commonspace.eu, Alexander Petrosyan looks at the main protagonists and what they stand for, and what is important to watch out for.
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Editorial
MARIUPOL: the name of a city etched in history with the blood of its people

MARIUPOL: the name of a city etched in history with the blood of its people

The war in Ukraine is likely to continue for some time, and after that it will be an uneasy peace that will follow. For Ukrainians this is an existential battle - whether they want their country to continue to live. For the Kremlin it is existential too. A humiliating defeat in Ukraine will seriously undermine the legitimacy of the regime. There are therefore likely to be many battles ahead, many heroic Ukrainian cities to add to the catalogue of history. But for sure Mariupol's name will forever be associated with the heroism of its people, with the war crimes committed by the Kremlin in Ukraine, and with the futility and irrationality of war.
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Editorial
On International Women's Day we salute the courage of the women of Ukraine

On International Women's Day we salute the courage of the women of Ukraine

8 March is International Women's Day - an occasion to celebrate the role of women in our societies, an opportunity to re-affirm their right for equality, a time to remember that across the world millions of women still do not have such rights and are often treated inhumanely.  This year we celebrate International Women's Day at a time when the world is watching in horror as the Russian invasion of Ukraine unfolds. For nearly two weeks now Russian forces have committed atrocities against peaceful civilian communities. Millions of Ukrainians have been displaced, nearly two million to neighbouring European countries. The world has watched in awe as Ukrainians put up a stiff resistance to the invaders. And none more so than Ukrainian women who are playing a leading role in the resistance.
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Editorial
Editorial: Give Ukraine and the other trio countries an EU membership perspective now

Editorial: Give Ukraine and the other trio countries an EU membership perspective now

A European Parliament resolution yesterday urged EU countries to work towards granting Ukraine EU candidate status. A membership perspective in the form of candidate status is not membership. It is a political signal that the door of membership is open, and an opportunity to focus minds on all the sides to start the long and laborious process of EU membership. Whilst the resolution of the European Parliament speaks only about Ukraine, the three trio countries should be given the membership perspective and candidate status simultaneously. All three are very determined in pursuing this path; all three have strong Association Agreements with the EU; and all three are under considerable Russian pressure. A membership perspective will strengthen the hand of those working for reforms in these countries. It will also send another message to Putin's Russia that its nefarious policy towards the neighbours has failed. Now is the right time to do that. Give Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia a membership perspective now! Give them candidate status and work with them to make this an achievable task within this decade.
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Editorial
Editorial: End this Genocide of a nation and hold those responsible to account

Editorial: End this Genocide of a nation and hold those responsible to account

In front of the eyes of the whole world President Putin is conducting a genocide against the Ukrainian people. Having one week ago questioned the very existence of Ukraine, he subsequently unleashed the whole military might of Russia against it. The heroic scenes of resistance across the whole of Ukraine has been simply inspirational and has forced governments across the world to step up their response against this naked violence and aggression. The world must show unity of purpose in rejecting Putin's aggression and in holding him and his immediate circle accountable. Those who end up on the wrong side of history will be eternally ashamed of their mistake.
Editor's choice
Editorial
Editorial: It seems that in Moscow they forgot how to count from 1 to 3

Editorial: It seems that in Moscow they forgot how to count from 1 to 3

The Russians persisted in presenting a gathering in Moscow on Friday as a meeting of " 3 + 3 ", when in fact only five countries were present, and it was more the case of 2 + 3. Diplomatic deceit is not the basis on which South Caucasus regional co-operation should be built.
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Editorial
Editorial: Thank you Mrs Merkel, Welcome Mr Scholz

Editorial: Thank you Mrs Merkel, Welcome Mr Scholz

Strong leadership in and by Germany is necessary if Europe is to succeed in meeting the challenges of the future. Tomorrow Mr Scholz will travel to Paris and Brussels for meetings with the French President and with the EU leadership.
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Editorial
Editorial Comment: Towards a crucial Eastern Partnership Summit

Editorial Comment: Towards a crucial Eastern Partnership Summit

The foreign ministers of the EU27 and the Eastern Partnership countries met in Brussels this week to take stock of the progress to date and actively prepare for the upcoming Summit. Various sources told commonspace.eu that it was a positive meeting.
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Editorial
Commentary: The West needs more than a charm offensive if it wants to maintain its relevance in the GCC space

Commentary: The West needs more than a charm offensive if it wants to maintain its relevance in the GCC space

Throughout the oil boom in the last quarter of the 20th century and since, the GCC countries were seen in the United States, Britain, France and elsewhere in Europe through the prism of being major oil exporters and arms importers. Western countries and the Arab Gulf monarchies need each other. But for their friendship to last it needs to be rebuilt on a different basis than has been the case so far.
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Editorial
Editorial:	TRACECA poised to play an increasingly important role in the connectivity Europe-Caucasus-Asia

Editorial: TRACECA poised to play an increasingly important role in the connectivity Europe-Caucasus-Asia

TRACECA is a child of the EU’s ambition to be a global player. The EU should not forget, nor ignore, nor sideline, TRACECA’s work. Instead it should recognise that TRACECA has shown it is resilient and adaptable. The next phase of EU-IGC TRACECA co-operation must therefore be more strategic, and more ambitious.
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Editorial
Editorial: On Belarus, the EU must now act quickly and decisively

Editorial: On Belarus, the EU must now act quickly and decisively

The forced diversion by Belarus of a flight between two EU member states on Sunday (23 May) constitutes an act of international piracy at the heart of Europe. Under President Lukashenko, Belarus is now a pirate state, and must be treated like one. This will undoubtedly cause some pain to the Belarusian people who are not to blame for the recklessness of their leader, but this is now inevitable. 
Editor's choice
Editorial
The debate about Europe's role in the neighbourhood and the world

The debate about Europe's role in the neighbourhood and the world

commonspace.eu is evolving. We are stepping up as part of our mission to contribute to the debate about Europe’s future role in the world, and we are expanding our coverage to include the whole European neighbourhood to the East and to the South. We aim to provide accurate news and original analysis, and offer a forum for diverse views and opinions.
Editor's choice
Interview
In an interview with commonspace.eu Armenian Deputy Foreign Minister Paruyr Hovhannisyan describes EU-Armenia relations as "very diverse, multifaceted and dynamic"

In an interview with commonspace.eu Armenian Deputy Foreign Minister Paruyr Hovhannisyan describes EU-Armenia relations as "very diverse, multifaceted and dynamic"

In November of last year Paruyr Hovhannisyan was appointed Deputy Foreign Minister of Armenia with responsibility for relations with the European Union. This week he was in Brussels where he had meetings with officials from the EU institutions. Commonspace.eu spoke with the Deputy Foreign Minister on the current state of Armenia-EU relations and prospects for the future. Hovhannissian described relations as very diverse, multifaceted and dynamic.
Editor's choice
Interview
GEU Podcast: Giving EU citizens a voice on foreign policy – with Dr Dennis Sammut

GEU Podcast: Giving EU citizens a voice on foreign policy – with Dr Dennis Sammut

“I think what is important is that the issue of international affairs is understood not to be an elitist sphere but something that impacts the lives of everyone in one way or another; and as a result, discussions on foreign policy need to be extended to include the wider citizenry. This is a challenge going forward and an increasingly important one.” – Dr Dennis Sammut on the latest final episode of Global Europe Unpacked
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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.
Editor's choice
Interview
Interview: Georgia's Deputy Foreign Minister, Teimuraz Janjalia, says his country's commitment to the process of reform holds stronger than ever

Interview: Georgia's Deputy Foreign Minister, Teimuraz Janjalia, says his country's commitment to the process of reform holds stronger than ever

In an exclusive interview with commonspace.eu on the margins of his visit this week to The Hague, Georgia's Deputy Foreign Minister, Teimuraz Janjalia reiterated  his country's commitment to the Association Agreement signed with the EU in 2014. "The Association Agreement provides a basis for a strong value-based partnership between EU and Georgia, and we remain firmly committed to it".
Editor's choice
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.
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Interview
GEU Podcast: The Conference on the Future of Europe: let your voice be heard – with Didier Herbert and Saskia Bruines

GEU Podcast: The Conference on the Future of Europe: let your voice be heard – with Didier Herbert and Saskia Bruines

In this introductory episode for series two of Global Europe Unpacked, produced in collaboration with the City of The Hague, Will Murray speaks to the Head of Representation for the European Commission in the Netherlands, Didier Herbert, about how the Conference on the Future of Europe is taking shape, and how people can – and why they should – get involved. Will then shares a conversation with The Hague’s Deputy Mayor, Saskia Bruines, about the importance of bridging the gap between the local and the international, and how her city of peace and justice is contributing to the initiative.
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Interview
Interview: Lasha Darsalia discusses Georgia's relations with Russia and South Caucasus regional co-operation

Interview: Lasha Darsalia discusses Georgia's relations with Russia and South Caucasus regional co-operation

Lasha Darsalia, Deputy Foreign Minister of Georgia discusses relations with Russia, and how Georgia views the recent agreement ending the Karabakh War in this exclusive interview with commonspace.eu. He also lays his vision for South Caucasus regional co-operation.
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Commentary
Europeans must recognise the challenges ahead, and prepare for them

Europeans must recognise the challenges ahead, and prepare for them

The international community, and particularly the European Union -  because this remains first and foremost a European problem - has to prepare itself for three huge challenges ahead: rebuilding and embracing Ukraine; rebuilding European security in a way that it can deal with a Russian threat in the future; and determining how to deal with a wounded and weakened Russia which in the short term can be even more dangerous. All European, from the leaders at the top, to the citizens at the grass roots must accept the truth as it is: there is now a new reality which requires a different response; there is a huge cost, which all Europeans will be expected to pay; there are risks and dangers that we all thought were buried in the past, which now need to be prepared for. Europe has the strength and the resilience, the resources and the capacities, necessary to deal with these challenges as long as the enormity of the current and emerging situation is well understood, and properly addressed.
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Commentary
A bad day for UN as Russia vetoes Security Council resolution; China, India and UAE abstain

A bad day for UN as Russia vetoes Security Council resolution; China, India and UAE abstain

For those who are believers in multilateralism and a rules based international system last night's developments in the UN Security Council were a dark and disappointing moment. The Council considered a resolution put forward by more than sixty UN member states, which strongly condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and called on Moscow to withdraw its troops immediately and provide safe access for humanitarian relief work. Russia, which has veto power as one of five permanent members of the council, voted against it and vetoed it as was expected. Eleven countries voted in favour. There was disappointment that three countries - China, India and UAE - abstained.
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Commentary
The sight of refugees on their own continent unsettles Europeans

The sight of refugees on their own continent unsettles Europeans

The  sight of refugees on their own continent amid the rumblings of war unsettles Europeans, many of who thought these were things of the past. Within the EU, a younger generation brought up in an era of peace and relative prosperity is struggling to understand the news coming out of Ukraine, and the human tragedy that is about to unfold unless there is some last minute diplomatic breakthrough. Indeed, for Europeans, Ukraine is the wake-up call they had hoped they would never get again.
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Commentary: Important moment for Europe's "Strategic Compass for security and defence"

Commentary: Important moment for Europe's "Strategic Compass for security and defence"

The "Strategic Compass" is designed to answer three questions: Which challenges and threats does Europe face? How can the EU better pool its assets and manage them effectively? And what is the best way to project Europe's influence both as a regional and global actor
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Commentary: The debate about the “Corridors War” is not based on reality

Commentary: The debate about the “Corridors War” is not based on reality

The "corridors war", currently being hotly debated among experts, pundits, and policy-making circles in the South Caucasus, is largely based on wishful thinking rather than hard facts. In reality the options are rather limited, argues Benyamin Poghosyan in this op-ed.
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Georgia Elections: Beginning of the end or the end of the beginning?

Georgia Elections: Beginning of the end or the end of the beginning?

Georgians are voting today in the second round of local elections to choose Mayors and local Councillors in a number of key cities where the first round of voting, held on 2 October was inconclusive. The total number of voters eligible to vote in the second round is 2,088,722 - around half of which in the capital, Tbilisi. Georgians appear to be tired of the non stop polorised politics that has dominated public life in recent years, but it is unlikely that the elections will bring a closure to the huge divide within Georgian society.
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Commentary: What next for Mirziyoyev and for Uzbekistan?

Commentary: What next for Mirziyoyev and for Uzbekistan?

Uzbek president Shovkat Mirzyoyev, re-elected for a second term on Sunday said there is no going back for his country. However it is not clear yet if Uzbekistan is slowly but surely moving out of its autocratic past into a pluralistic political process, because there are contradictory signs.
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Commentary:  State-building cannot be imposed from outside; the EU and others must learn lessons from Afghanistan

Commentary: State-building cannot be imposed from outside; the EU and others must learn lessons from Afghanistan

A state cannot be built from outside, with a foreign army standing on top of it to supervise the process, argues Dennis Sammut in this commentary. As the EU expands its global ambitions, it must be aware of the risks of "mission creep" and make sure the mistakes in Afghanistan are not repeated.
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Commentary: The EU reinforces its position in the South Caucasus before the upcoming EaP Summit

Commentary: The EU reinforces its position in the South Caucasus before the upcoming EaP Summit

In preparation for its Eastern Partnership Summit (EaP) in December, and after drastic regional shifts, the EU is trying hard to improve its position in the South Caucasus. In this commentary for commonspace.eu, Mahammad Mammadov unpacks the EU's strategy in Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia, looking at what can be gleaned from its recent high-profile visits to the region and billions in newly declared financial assistance.
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Commentary: Action with appeasement needs to be France’s strategy to ensure the survival of its unique secular model

Commentary: Action with appeasement needs to be France’s strategy to ensure the survival of its unique secular model

Over the last years, France has faced criticism for its perceived stance against Islam. In this commentary for commonspace.eu, Camille Victor suggests that this stems from a misunderstanding of France's unique interpretation of secularism, arguing that the preservation of the French secular model requires finding ways to appease rising tensions whilst simultaneously acting against very real threats to the country's core republican values.
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All set for Armenia's early parliamentary elections on 20 June

All set for Armenia's early parliamentary elections on 20 June

2,581,093 voters are eligible to vote in Armenia's early parliamentary elections being held on 20 June. This was announced on Monday in Yerevan by the country's Central Elections Commission. The Central Elections Commission has also approved 26 parties and blocs to participate in the elections which some see more as a referendum on Nikol Pashinyan, his policies, his style of government, his strengths, and his weaknesses.

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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
Opinion: The Armenia-Azerbaijan peace process proceeds despite challenges

Opinion: The Armenia-Azerbaijan peace process proceeds despite challenges

The Armenia-Azerbaijan peace process is passing through a critical stage which will determine the future of the relations between the two countries: Either they will now agree on normalization of relations and put an end to their hostilities, or they will remain stuck in these disputes for years to come. Hopefully, peace efforts will prevail over the agendas of nationalist groups and their external allies, writes Dr Vasif Huseynov in this op-ed
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Opinion: China expands its military co-operation with Iran as it emerges as the main counterweight to US influence on the Eurasian landmass

Opinion: China expands its military co-operation with Iran as it emerges as the main counterweight to US influence on the Eurasian landmass

The visit last week of China's Defence Minister Wei Fenghe to Tehran marked a significant moment in the development of Chinese-Iranian military co-operation. Iran is becoming an increasingly important factor in Russia and China's efforts to create a partnership on the Eurasian landmass which can balance the US influence, writes Benyamin Poghosyan in this op-ed for commonspace.eu
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Analysis
Macron gets a second chance to push for a new type of French partnership with Africa

Macron gets a second chance to push for a new type of French partnership with Africa

The re-election of Emmanuel Macron as President of the French Republic was the occasion for many congratulations from African heads of state with most leaders hailing the French president's "brilliant" election. Yet on the continent, not everyone is so enthusiastic, and speculation is high how France’s Africa policy will play out during Macron’s second term. The silence of Bamako, Conakry and Ouagadougou reflects the challenges of Emmanuel Macron's African policy in the years to come. Macron has put a great deal of energy into opening a new chapter in the relationship between France and Africa, but the results have been below expectations. A sustainable and mutually beneficial relationship is very important in these new, uncertain times. Whether it is through the gas alternative proposed by some North African countries, or the emergence of new partnerships in the Sahel and in English-speaking Africa, France will have to play a prominent role and has much to gain from being close with Africa. 
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Opinion
Russia’s war against Ukraine: where do we stand and what can the future bring?

Russia’s war against Ukraine: where do we stand and what can the future bring?

"Two months into the war against Ukraine there is no end in sight and Russia’s most recent actions even point to an intensification of the fight. The Russian leadership must stop the aggression and reconsider the unacceptable path it has chosen: for the sake of Ukraine, Russia, Europe and the wider world", says Josep Borrell, EU High Representative for foreign and security policy in this article which first appeared on his blog on the website of the European External Action Service on 26 April 2022. In the article the head of the EU diplomacy says that "Defending Ukraine from Russia’s invasion is rejecting the law of the jungle, the notion that “might makes right”. Being “neutral” is a false concept here. One country has invaded another one. Putting them on the same footing fails to differentiate between the attacker and the attacked. Such “neutrality” may respond, of course, to a variety of reasons, from hidden alignment to fear of reprisals, but it becomes in practice support to Russia and its war of aggression."
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Analysis
Fear and lack of trust are an obstacle for peaceful co-existence between Armenians and Azerbaijanis in Nagorno-Karabakh

Fear and lack of trust are an obstacle for peaceful co-existence between Armenians and Azerbaijanis in Nagorno-Karabakh

A recent survey of women from the large community of Azerbaijanis displaced by the conflict in Nagorno Karabakh in the 1990s shows that fear and lack of trust are an obstacle for peaceful co-existence between Armenians and Azerbaijanis in Nagorno-Karabakh. The survey is part of a report, “IDP Women: needs assessment for post conflict life, including expectations for safe return home”, prepared by Khalisa Shahverdiyeva on behalf of the Azerbaijani NGO “Women’s empowerment for sustainable development”. Following the 2020 Karabakh war a new situation has emerged which opened the prospect of the return of hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijanis displaced by the fighting in the 1990s to their place of origin, and in many cases to live together or in close proximity with Armenian communities. The survey covered 590 internally displaced women, while 30 more women were interviewed to get a tentative picture of their needs and expectations, including their fears and concerns for peace-building and returning home.  The overwhelming majority (87.55%) of respondents highlighted the necessity of being free from danger as a decisive factor behind their decision to relocate. Consequently, the full-scale clearance of landmines supported by a guarantee of non-resumption of armed hostilities have been underscored as key factors for IDPs’ return home.  
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Opinion
Opinion: Brussels summit has given a new momentum to Armenia-Azerbaijan peace prospects

Opinion: Brussels summit has given a new momentum to Armenia-Azerbaijan peace prospects

"In the days since the Brussels summit of the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan on April 6, diplomatic activity around the peace process between the two countries has intensified. In contrast to the first year after the Second Karabakh War, the role of the EU in this context has grown and provides a viable alternative to the Russia-led track in the negotiations", writes Vasif Huseynov in this op-ed. "Against this backdrop, as agreed in Brussels, Armenia and Azerbaijan have launched the preparatory work for a peace treaty which triggered a bilateral phone conversation between the Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers - the first time this happened in recent decades. These developments are not welcome by Russia-aligned revanchist forces in Armenia, separatist groups in Azerbaijani Karabakh, or, to some extent, by Russia."
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Opinion
Opinion: Quo Vadis Nagorno-Karabakh?

Opinion: Quo Vadis Nagorno-Karabakh?

Nikol Pashinyan delivered a significant speech to the Armenian parliament last week on the eve of the launch of negotiations on an Armenia-Azerbaijan peace treaty. In this op-ed, Benyamin Poghosyan says that his comments on the future of Nagorno-Karabakh sent shock waves across society in Armenia and in Nagorno-Karabakh itself. Poghosyan argues that if Russia manages to keep its influence in the post-soviet space after the Ukraine war, it will probably come to an agreement with Azerbaijan and keep its troops in Karabakh after 2025, extending “de - jure Azerbaijan de - facto Russia” status for Nagorno Karabakh beyond 2025, and securing the presence of Armenians in Karabakh. However, if the war in Ukraine makes Russia significantly weaker in the post-soviet space, Azerbaijan may use the peace treaty with Armenia to force Russian troops out of Karabakh successfully. In that case, no international guarantees or promises of Azerbaijan will prevent the rapid exodus of Armenians from Karabakh.