Opinion, Analysis, Editorial, Interview, Commentary

Voices

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: After the Sochi summit, a qualitatively different stage in  Armenia-Azerbaijan negotiations

Opinion: After the Sochi summit, a qualitatively different stage in Armenia-Azerbaijan negotiations

The trilateral meeting between the leaders of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia, held in Sochi on 26 November, "was a constructive stage in the post-war peace process in the region and has opened up new prospects for peace and reconciliation between Armenia and Azerbaijan", says Vasif Huseynov in this op-ed.
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Editor's choice
Opinion
Opinion: After the Sochi summit, a qualitatively different stage in  Armenia-Azerbaijan negotiations

Opinion: After the Sochi summit, a qualitatively different stage in Armenia-Azerbaijan negotiations

The trilateral meeting between the leaders of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia, held in Sochi on 26 November, "was a constructive stage in the post-war peace process in the region and has opened up new prospects for peace and reconciliation between Armenia and Azerbaijan", says Vasif Huseynov in this op-ed.
Editor's choice
Opinion
Opinion: Brussels should develop a customised platform to take forward a trialogue with Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Opinion: Brussels should develop a customised platform to take forward a trialogue with Armenia and Azerbaijan.

"In their active search of new approaches and strategies, European officials should keep in mind that antagonizing Russia would result in unexpected developments in the region. Instead, stabilization of the situation requires cooperation with Moscow", writes Alexander Petrosyan in this op-ed
Editor's choice
Opinion
Two leaders; two meetings; two intermediaries

Two leaders; two meetings; two intermediaries

Sochi and Brussels will be two different meetings and they need to be approached differently by all sides. The EU should not try to replicate Sochi in Brussels. That would be both disingenuous and unachievable. But with some astute diplomacy and a measure of goodwill from all sides, the Brussels meeting can also be meaningful, and can in the long term end up being even more significant for the future peace and prosperity of the South Caucasus.
Editor's choice
Opinion
Opinion: Armenia's options in the face of coercive Azerbaijani tactics are limited

Opinion: Armenia's options in the face of coercive Azerbaijani tactics are limited

The developments of the last year proved that assessments according to which by taking some 8500 square km of territories in the 2020 Karabakh war, Azerbaijan will be satisfied and an era of peaceful development will be launched for Armenians, were highly exaggerated, and had little semblance to reality, argues Benyamin Poghosyan in this op-ed.
Editor's choice
Opinion
Opinion: In the South Caucasus, one year after a costly war, a glimmer of hope for peace

Opinion: In the South Caucasus, one year after a costly war, a glimmer of hope for peace

In a joint op-ed, Dr Benyamin Poghosyan and Dr Anar Valiyev discuss how Armenia and Azerbaijan have coped with the changed realities of the last year following the end of the 44-day Karabakh War and the signing of the Armenia-Azerbaijan-Russia trilateral declaration of 10 November 2021. They say the "war has redefined the South Caucasus, and it continues to do so. The heavy price paid by those who died should not be in vain. The opportunity for peace is now within the grasp of the people of the region. It will not be easy to achieve peace, nor is the risk of a spiral back to violence to be completely excluded. Which is why it is now time for cool heads, sober assessments, and careful but courageous steps, by the leaders, as well as by wider society.”
Editor's choice
Opinion
Opinion: On perception and interpretation, and the prospect of the Kaliningradisation of Armenia

Opinion: On perception and interpretation, and the prospect of the Kaliningradisation of Armenia

"When playing on Armenian vulnerabilities, both Azerbaijan and Turkey should take into account that each step aimed at increasing fears in Armenia leads to a new level of dependence on Russia", writes Alexander Petrosyan in this op-ed. "In the end, everything is a matter of interpretation and perception", he argues.
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Opinion
Opinion: One year after the  end of the 44 day Karabakh War there is hope for a more peaceful year ahead

Opinion: One year after the end of the 44 day Karabakh War there is hope for a more peaceful year ahead

A year has passed since the end of the 44 day Karabakh War. Relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan are generally stable despite periodic escalations, writes Vasif Husseynov. "The statements of the leaders from both sides along with some major developments promise a more peaceful year ahead", he argues.
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Opinion
Opinion: In the South Caucasus there is a new hope for peace

Opinion: In the South Caucasus there is a new hope for peace

For the first time in decades, in the South Caucasus there is a new hope for peace. In separate articles for our sister website, Karabakhspace.eu, Benyamin Poghosyan and Vasif Huseynov discuss recent developments, including the emerging role of Georgia as a trusted intermediary.
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Opinion
Opinion: Josep Borrell on the Conference on the future of Europe and what citizens want for Europe’s global role

Opinion: Josep Borrell on the Conference on the future of Europe and what citizens want for Europe’s global role

"The 'Conference on the Future of Europe' was launched in Spring this year to open a new debate with citizens to address Europe's challenges and priorities. Listening to citizens and giving them a say is also highly relevant when it comes to foreign and security policy. Citizens are expecting more from us, so we should heed their call for action and results", EU High Representative Josep Borrell wrote on his blog
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Opinion
Opinion: In the South Caucasus, Tehran has its red lines too

Opinion: In the South Caucasus, Tehran has its red lines too

For 30 years, Iran has adopted a cautious approach to developments in the South Caucasus, wary of the risk of encirclement. Iran's current massive military drills on the border with Azerbaijan are meant to send a signal that Tehran has its red lines too, argues Benyamin Poghosyan in this op-ed for commonspace.eu
Editor's choice
Opinion
Opinion: For the EU strategic autonomy is as yet only an aspiration, but one worth pursuing

Opinion: For the EU strategic autonomy is as yet only an aspiration, but one worth pursuing

The establishment of AUKUS, and subsequent submarine dispute, has exposed once more the EU's strategic vulnerability. At present the EU has no common foreign policy and no European armed forces capability, and strategic autonomy remains an illusion. But it is not a wrong goal to pursue, argues Maximiliaan van Lange in this op-ed.
Editor's choice
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. 
Editor's choice
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.
Editor's choice
Analysis
Analysis: Why what happens in Greenland matters

Analysis: Why what happens in Greenland matters

The snap elections for the parliament of Greenland last Tuesday (6 April) attracted unusual interest from major powers who have been watching the political and economic impact of the election results on their interests in the Arctic region. Among them, the Chinese, who have invested in the Kvanefjeld mine on the island. Maximiliaan van Lange analyses the background to the recent Greenlandic general elections, and the Island's geostrategic position in the Arctic in this article for commonspace.eu.
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Analysis
Analysis: Can Arctic routes provide an alternative to the Suez Canal as a major east-west trade route?

Analysis: Can Arctic routes provide an alternative to the Suez Canal as a major east-west trade route?

The recent blockage of the Suez Canal by the 400-metre-long 'Ever Given' container ship exposed the vulnerability of global trade routes. It reopened the debate about alternative routes, including the opening of the Northern Sea Route via northern Russia, and the Northwest Passage via northern Canada. These routes, however, are not without their problems. Maximiliaan van Lange analyses the background and current thinking in this article for commonspace.eu.
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Analysis
The death penalty remains a big issue in EU-Bahrain relations

The death penalty remains a big issue in EU-Bahrain relations

The European Parliament recently adopted a toughly worded resolution on the human rights situation in Bahrain focusing in particular on the cases of death row inmates and human rights defenders. The resolution exposed the dilemmas in Europe as the EU seeks closer relations with the Gulf states, but where concerns about the human rights situation in the region remain high.
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Analysis
Analysis: In the Middle East, the Biden presidency will impact five key areas

Analysis: In the Middle East, the Biden presidency will impact five key areas

The demise of the Trump administration and the return of Joe Biden to the White House, this time as president, will have more consequences than usual, with immediate changes expected in both the style and substance of leadership. The incoming administration will have a full in-tray of issues that need to be dealt with urgently. When it comes to the Gulf region and the wider Middle East, there will be five areas where important changes are likely.
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Analysis
Burkina Faso votes despite violent insurgency

Burkina Faso votes despite violent insurgency

Voting took place on Sunday (22 November) in presidential and parliamentary elections in Burkina Faso, a landlocked country in the Sahel Region of Africa. The elections were overshadowed by violence from an Islamist insurgency. President Kabore is expected to win reelection, while opposition candidates have warned of "massive electoral fraud." Official results are not expected for some days
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Analysis
Tensions rise between Morocco and the POLISARIO Front in Western Sahara

Tensions rise between Morocco and the POLISARIO Front in Western Sahara

The UN, through its mission – MINURSO, is still expected to maintain the ceasefire, and take quick steps to determine the political future of the Sahara. Yet the effectiveness of MINURSO, without a renewed commitment from Morocco and the Polisario Front, is doubtful.
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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
Editorial
Editorial: War is never a solution!

Editorial: War is never a solution!

The Caucasus region has been plunged back into war. From yesterday morning fighting has been taking place between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces across the line of contact in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone.
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Editorial
Editorial: On Karabakh, unconventional diplomacy is now needed more than ever

Editorial: On Karabakh, unconventional diplomacy is now needed more than ever

In the Karabakh peace process there has been a reluctance by track 1 participants to engage properly with track II initiatives. The EU supported EPNK process has shown that unconventional diplomacy has much to contribute, and its energy must now be put to good use.
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Editorial
Editorial: The European Union is resolute in its commitment to the South Caucasus region

Editorial: The European Union is resolute in its commitment to the South Caucasus region

Toivo Klaar's appointment as the new EU Special Representative to the region comes at an important moment in the EU's relations with the countries of the South Caucasus, and is an expression of the EU's long-standing committment to the region and its people.
Editor's choice
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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Interview
Medoev: "Our independence is irreversible". Commonspace exclusive interview with South Ossetia's envoy in Moscow.

Medoev: "Our independence is irreversible". Commonspace exclusive interview with South Ossetia's envoy in Moscow.

In this exclusive interview with commonspace.eu South Ossetia's envoy to Moscow blames Georgia for starting the 2008 war, and the international community for complacency bordering on complicity. He dismisses the role of civil society in resolution of the conflict and says Russia was the salvation of the Ossetian people.
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Interview
"Our approach is peaceful". Exclusive interview with Georgia's Minister for Reintegration, Paata Zakareshvili

"Our approach is peaceful". Exclusive interview with Georgia's Minister for Reintegration, Paata Zakareshvili

In an exclusive interview with CommonspaceEXTRA, Georgia's Minister for Reintegration, Paata Zakareshvili emphasizes continuity in the policy of the Georgian government towards the conflict regions but a very different approach in their implementation. Will this be enough for a breakthrough in the current negotiations?
Editor's choice
Commentary
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
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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Commentary
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
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
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
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
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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Commentary
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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Commentary
Commentary: A shaken EU fires opening shots in long war of attrition with Belarus

Commentary: A shaken EU fires opening shots in long war of attrition with Belarus

The united European response to the brazen Belarusian snatching of an opposition figure from a commercial airplane of a European airline flying between two European capitals was swift and strong. Nothing dramatic will happen overnight as a result, but make no mistake about it, this was the opening shot of what is likely to be a long and messy war of attrition against Belarus that may last for years. On Belarus now, the EU's mind is set. The process will start and will be sustained.
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Commentary
Commentary: Lavrov's travels and travails in the South Caucasus

Commentary: Lavrov's travels and travails in the South Caucasus

The Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, was in Armenia and in Azerbaijan in the last days. Bilateral issues were discussed in both Baku and Yerevan during his visit, however, it was the regional situation that dominated the discussions in both capitals, and in particular, the implementation in practice of the 10 November “Trilateral Declaration” signed by Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia. This is proving easier said than done, and some are asking if Russia has not taken on a poisoned chalice.
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Commentary
Commentary: Mohammed bin Salman and his quest to reinterpret the relationship between state and religion  in Saudi Arabia

Commentary: Mohammed bin Salman and his quest to reinterpret the relationship between state and religion in Saudi Arabia

In a recent wide-ranging interview Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, appeared to be reinterpreting – if not exactly redefining – the relationship between state and religion in the Kingdom. This is highly dangerous and uncharted territory for a Saudi leader, but something that is absolutely necessary if the Kingdom is to reinvent itself as a modern progressive state, whilst respecting the religious foundations which are part of its legacy and legitimacy.

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Editor's choice
Opinion
Opinion: After the Sochi summit, a qualitatively different stage in  Armenia-Azerbaijan negotiations

Opinion: After the Sochi summit, a qualitatively different stage in Armenia-Azerbaijan negotiations

The trilateral meeting between the leaders of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia, held in Sochi on 26 November, "was a constructive stage in the post-war peace process in the region and has opened up new prospects for peace and reconciliation between Armenia and Azerbaijan", says Vasif Huseynov in this op-ed.
Editor's choice
Opinion
Opinion: Brussels should develop a customised platform to take forward a trialogue with Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Opinion: Brussels should develop a customised platform to take forward a trialogue with Armenia and Azerbaijan.

"In their active search of new approaches and strategies, European officials should keep in mind that antagonizing Russia would result in unexpected developments in the region. Instead, stabilization of the situation requires cooperation with Moscow", writes Alexander Petrosyan in this op-ed
Editor's choice
Opinion
Two leaders; two meetings; two intermediaries

Two leaders; two meetings; two intermediaries

Sochi and Brussels will be two different meetings and they need to be approached differently by all sides. The EU should not try to replicate Sochi in Brussels. That would be both disingenuous and unachievable. But with some astute diplomacy and a measure of goodwill from all sides, the Brussels meeting can also be meaningful, and can in the long term end up being even more significant for the future peace and prosperity of the South Caucasus.
Editor's choice
Opinion
Opinion: Armenia's options in the face of coercive Azerbaijani tactics are limited

Opinion: Armenia's options in the face of coercive Azerbaijani tactics are limited

The developments of the last year proved that assessments according to which by taking some 8500 square km of territories in the 2020 Karabakh war, Azerbaijan will be satisfied and an era of peaceful development will be launched for Armenians, were highly exaggerated, and had little semblance to reality, argues Benyamin Poghosyan in this op-ed.
Editor's choice
Commentary
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
Editor's choice
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.
Editor's choice
Opinion
Opinion: In the South Caucasus, one year after a costly war, a glimmer of hope for peace

Opinion: In the South Caucasus, one year after a costly war, a glimmer of hope for peace

In a joint op-ed, Dr Benyamin Poghosyan and Dr Anar Valiyev discuss how Armenia and Azerbaijan have coped with the changed realities of the last year following the end of the 44-day Karabakh War and the signing of the Armenia-Azerbaijan-Russia trilateral declaration of 10 November 2021. They say the "war has redefined the South Caucasus, and it continues to do so. The heavy price paid by those who died should not be in vain. The opportunity for peace is now within the grasp of the people of the region. It will not be easy to achieve peace, nor is the risk of a spiral back to violence to be completely excluded. Which is why it is now time for cool heads, sober assessments, and careful but courageous steps, by the leaders, as well as by wider society.”