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Commentary: Ukraine crisis helps Europe re-discover the meaning of the word “solidarity”

Commentary: Ukraine crisis helps Europe re-discover the meaning of the word “solidarity”

Since the start of the Russian invasion, the EU and its member states have given Ukraine billions of euros of budgetary assistance, have welcomed more than 3.7 million refugees, and have extended unprecedented levels of military assistance. Europe has re-discovered the meaning of the word solidarity, even if not all of the solidarity is altruistic but involves also a measure of self-preservation in the face of Putin's Russia naked aggressiveness and expansionist ambitions. Solidarity with Ukraine and Ukrainians is also ultimately in the interest of every European Union country and citizen. But this does not in any way lessen the significance of Europe’s support for Ukraine. Can this solidarity be sustained for the months, and probably years ahead, as Ukraine struggles to defeat Russia, and hopefully afterwards, victorious, start the difficult process of reconstruction? The decision to give Ukraine EU candidate status was in this regard significant, and indicates that the EU sees Ukraine as a long term commitment. For sure, as the winter cold starts biting and Putin plays politics with Russian gas supplies, there will be those who will question the value of Europe’s solidarity with Ukraine.  It is important they remain marginalised. For this, European leaders, decision makers and opinion shapers, need to communicate constantly to European citizens the righteousness of the decision to help Ukraine to stand up to Russia, and to help the Ukrainian people in their hour of need.
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Commentary: War or Peace in the South Caucasus?

Commentary: War or Peace in the South Caucasus?

In their report “The South Caucasus from war to peace: 30 measures between now and 2030”, published last April, Armenian and Azerbaijani experts made a stark statement: “All the ingredients for peace exist in the South Caucasus. All the ingredients for war exist too. What is in front of us is a choice.” Never have these words sounded so pertinent as in these last days when in Armenia and in Azerbaijan the sounds of war and the sounds of peace competed with each other, with little sign of compromise. Yet neither war, nor peace, is inevitable. It is a choice, and one that both sides can neither make lightly nor take for granted. This week has once more shown that Armenia and Azerbaijan, and Armenians and Azerbaijanis, face a choice between war and peace. The death and injury of yet more Armenians and Azerbaijanis should focus minds, and increase mutual determination to work for lasting peace and to avoid any steps that can bring another war nearer.
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Commentary: A historic decision leaves Ukrainians delighted, Moldovans ecstatic and Georgians grumpy

Commentary: A historic decision leaves Ukrainians delighted, Moldovans ecstatic and Georgians grumpy

the European Council which gathers the 27 EU member states and the institutions, agreed to give Ukraine and Moldova candidate status with immediate effect. It gave Georgia "a membership perspective", with candidate status in the future if they can get their act together quickly. The Ukrainians were delighted. President Zelensky described it as a victory and promised not to rest until Russia’s defeat and full membership had been secured. In Moldova, the pro European government was ecstatic. Things had moved much faster than they had anticipated. In Georgia the situation is different, and the country is somewhat grumpy. Georgians do not  like to be last, and in a sense in this process at which they were until last year at the centre, they find themselves lagging behind the other two trio countries. The government has tried to put on a brave face saying that being given a membership perspective was a victory for Georgia too. The opposition accuses the government of squandering a historic opportunity which will have long lasting impact. In many ways both are right. An EU membership perspective is important for Georgia, even if it is largely an abstract term. It consolidates the relationship. But it would have been much better for Georgia if they had been given candidate status with the others. The ball is now in the court of the Georgian politicians, and the world will be watching.
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US-Saudi Relations remain the bedrock for Gulf Security

US-Saudi Relations remain the bedrock for Gulf Security

US President Joe Biden will visit Saudi Arabia on July 15 and 16 upon the invitation of King Salman. The US president will meet with the king and his Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman “to discuss areas of bilateral cooperation as well as joint efforts to address regional and global challenges.” A statement from the White House said that Biden will also attend a Summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council plus Egypt, Iraq and Jordan while in the Kingdom. “The President appreciates King Salman’s leadership and his invitation. He looks forward to this important visit to Saudi Arabia, which has been a strategic partner of the United States for nearly eight decades,” the statement read. In this commentary the state of relations between the United States and Saudi Arabia is discussed in the light of tensions between the two sides over the last years.  “Now, it appears that the two sides are ready to make up. Biden will travel to Riyadh next month, and US officials have been in and out of the Saudi capital in recent weeks, softening the ground and preparing for the visit. Biden is right in working towards a reset. US-Saudi relations remain the bedrock for Gulf security.” It adds that “when Joe Biden visits Riyadh next month he has his work cut out for him. It will be a hugely important visit to a country where personalities still count. Both sides appear ready to put the difficult last few years in their relationship behind them. This is good for both, as well as for the rest of the world.”
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Commentary: The tangled tale of Armenian-Azerbaijani relations

Commentary: The tangled tale of Armenian-Azerbaijani relations

After the violence of the early 1990s the conflict between Armenians and Azerbaijanis settled down for nearly three decades of uneasy truce, tempered with low-intensity violence, and the occasional outburst of more serious fighting, and accompanied by a flawed peace process that failed to bring peace, and in the end could not prevent war. The 44-day Karabakh War in autumn 2020 changed the reality on the ground and yesterday’s winners became losers and vice versa. The Russians appeared to emerge from the 44-day war the sole arbiters to oversee the new situation, but since no one really wanted this – except the Russians themselves – an alternative has unexpectedly emerged, with the EU playing an increasingly important role as mediator and facilitator, working with the sides towards a comprehensive peace. Whilst the war decided some issues, many details remain unresolved, and as Armenia and Azerbaijan tiptoe into a peace process these issues are coming to the fore. Over the course of the last few days, commonspace.eu ran three op-eds dealing with some of these issues written by Benyamin Poghosyan who addressed the issue of peacekeeping, Kamal Makili-Aliyev who wrote about autonomy status as a way of resolving outstanding issues, and Vasif Husseynov who dealt with the geo-strategic context of the peace process. They touched very important issues at the heart of the current debates. Armenian-Azerbaijani relations are a tangled tale, burdened with the baggage of history, traumatised by the blood of thousands who died in the conflict over decades, and poisoned by toxic propaganda that keeps coming out from both sides despite the diplomatic moves towards peace. Unpacking all this will take time. Building enough trust and confidence to move forward will take longer. But the journey has started, and despite all the spoilers, even the end is now in sight.
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Editorial
Editorial: Give Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine EU candidate status now!

Editorial: Give Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine EU candidate status now!

In the next few days the European Commission will announce its opinion on the request of Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine for European Union candidate status. A decision will then be taken by the 27 member states in the European Council at the end of this month. “Candidate Status” is the beginning of a journey for any country that wants to join the European Union. In the case of many successful candidates in the past, the process has often taken a decade or more. In the case of others, such as Turkey, the process does not appear to have an end in sight. In short candidate status is not an automatic ticket to EU membership, simply a political expression of the will of the applicant and of the EU to embark on the journey. This notwithstanding the EU has been increasingly hesitant to give a membership perspective to the trio. This is partly due to the so called “enlargement fatigue”, partly because there are those within the member states and the institutions who do not think Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine should be in the EU, period! These sceptics have been caught on the wrong foot by the war in Ukraine, the heroism of the Ukrainian resistance to the Russian invasion, and the decision of the trio to bring forward their request for candidate status and to ask that it be dealt with urgently. Clearly, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine are not ready for EU membership today, but that is not what is on the agenda now. The many challenges facing the three countries should not be hidden under the carpet, and the political elites in Tbilisi, Chisinau and Kyiv must assume their responsibility to ensure political, economic and judicial reforms are implemented more comprehensively and more speedily. But for now, candidate status, especially in the present context, is primarily a political decision and a political statement, and it should be extended to the three countries now!
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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: 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: 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.