Region

South Caucasus

Stories under this heading cover the South Caucasus – a region encompassing Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, as well as the unrecognised entities of Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Nagorno-Karabakh.

For those interested specifically in Armenian-Azerbaijani relations and events and developments in and around Nagorno-Karabakh following the 2020 44-day war, check out our sister page, KarabakhSpace.eu.

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Editor's choice
Commentary
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.
Editor's choice
Opinion
Opinion: Azerbaijan’s vision for Karabakh’s future does not envision autonomy or secession

Opinion: Azerbaijan’s vision for Karabakh’s future does not envision autonomy or secession

“Azerbaijan does not intend to grant its Karabakh region any special status that is different from other regions of the country, but it will ensure the provision of cultural rights and  guarantee the security of its inhabitants as is provided throughout the rest  of the Republic of Azerbaijan”, says Vasif Husseynov in this op-ed for commonspace.eu He says that Baku and Yerevan can agree on the specific arrangements under which these are provided. “The temporary deployment of international observer missions of the United Nations, the OSCE or the European Union can be also considered to ensure stable and peaceful transition of the region under the control of Azerbaijani government.“
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News
Tens of thousands in pro European rally in Tbilisi

Tens of thousands in pro European rally in Tbilisi

Tens of thousands of Georgians attended a pro European rally in Tbilisi on Monday (20 June) amid continuing controversy about the country's European asspirations. On Friday, the European Commission recommended to EU leaders to give Georgia a membership perspective, but stopped short of granting the country the same candidate status as it recommended for Ukraine and Moldova. The three countries, sometimes referred to as the "Trio" countries recently submitted an application for full membership of the European Union. The EU on its part has dealt with the applications with unusual speed, motivated primarily by a wish to send a positive signal to Ukraine as it continues to resist a Russian military invasion. The Commission has recommended to give candidate status to Ukraine and Moldova but stopped short of doing so as regards Georgia. "It is up to Georgia to accelerate (the reforms) and move towards this open door," commented Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. "Georgia must now come together politically to design a clear path towards structural reform and the EU,"  Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on twitter. "So we recommend to grant Georgia the European perspective, but to come back and assess how it meets a number of conditions before granting it candidate status."
Editor's choice
News
European Commission recommends to give candidate status to Ukraine and Moldova, and a membership perspective to Georgia

European Commission recommends to give candidate status to Ukraine and Moldova, and a membership perspective to Georgia

The EU should grant candidate status to Ukraine and Moldova, bringing them a step closer to bloc membership, while Georgia still has some work to do, but is given a membership perspective, the European Commission said on Friday (17 June). Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, said: “Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia share the strong and legitimate aspiration of joining the European Union. Today, we are sending them a clear signal of support in their aspirations, even as they face challenging circumstances. And we do so standing firm on our European values and standards, setting out the path they need to follow in order to join the EU. The Commission's opinions mark an inflection point in our relations. Indeed, this is a historic day for the people of Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia. We are confirming that they belong, in due time, in the European Union. The next steps are now in the hands of our Member States.”
Editor's choice
Opinion
Opinion: Autonomy within Azerbaijan is not a solution for the future of Karabakh

Opinion: Autonomy within Azerbaijan is not a solution for the future of Karabakh

As Armenia and Azerbaijan seek ways in which they can normalise relations between them, the discussion on the future of Nagorno-Karabakh, and particularly of the Armenian population living there, is also gathering pace. On 8 June commonspace.eu published an op-ed by Kamal Makili-Aliyev suggesting autonomy may be one way of moving relations forward. In this counter opinion, Vahagn Avedian disagrees and says that governance problems in Azerbaijan make the prospect of an autonomy within that country unattractive for the Armenian population of Karabakh. He argues that "the only viable path forward is still what the Madrid Principles envisioned, namely granting the Karabakh population the right to determine their future."
Editor's choice
News
Brussels sources say European Commission will recommend candidate status for Ukraine, but final decision is with the EU member states

Brussels sources say European Commission will recommend candidate status for Ukraine, but final decision is with the EU member states

The European Commission will recommend granting Ukraine official status as an EU candidate country, according to several officials familiar with deliberations that took place during a debate among commissioners on Monday. This was reported by the authoritative website Politico on Tuesday (14 June) The debate in the College of Commissioners followed a surprise visit Saturday by Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to Kyiv, where she discussed Ukraine’s membership bid with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. It was von der Leyen’s second trip to the Ukrainian capital since Russia’s full-scale invasion began in late February. Moldova and Georgia have also applied for candidate status, and officials said that commissioners were generally supportive of Moldova, where a staunchly pro-EU government is now in place, but that they were less confident about Georgia, which has suffered from pervasive political turmoil and notable democratic backsliding in recent years.
Editor's choice
Commentary
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.