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
Interview
Art-Gene Turns Nineteen: In Conversation with Tamar Melikishvili

Art-Gene Turns Nineteen: In Conversation with Tamar Melikishvili

July 2022 saw the 19th edition of what has become a staple event in the Georgian cultural calendar. Founded in 2003 by artists Tamar Melikishvili and Giorgi Baramidze, musicians Zaza Korinteli and Niaz Diasamidze, sculptor Nika Anjaparidze, and photographer Maria Lanevski, the Art-Gene music and crafts festival has played a huge role in reviving Georgia’s now thriving traditional cultural scene since its dog days of the early 2000s. Looking forward to Art-Gene’s 20th anniversary next year, commonspace.eu’s Deputy Editor Patrick Norén spoke to Tamar Melikishvili about Art-Gene’s origins, ethos, community, and future. Melikshvili told commonspace.eu that ‘if a country keeps and loves its own culture, it will become very open and interested in the culture of other countries. The world is nice because we are so different, but we also make one big picture, like a painter. When I am working on the canvas, all of these different moods and colours become one symphony, and that is what makes the picture interesting.’
Editor's choice
Commentary
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.
  • Opinion
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Editor's choice
Opinion
Opinion: US-Turkey relations are difficult but enduring

Opinion: US-Turkey relations are difficult but enduring

"The US needs Turkey to counter Russia in the Black Sea region, the Middle East, and the South Caucasus. Turkey can also be useful in the US strategy to contain China", argues Benyamin Poghosyan in this op-ed. However given the number of problems between the two countries US-Turkey relations may normalise, but they will continue to develop in the cooperation/competition framework, he argues.
Editor's choice
Opinion
Opinion: Resolving the crisis of legitimacy in Yemen is essential for any peace process to succeed

Opinion: Resolving the crisis of legitimacy in Yemen is essential for any peace process to succeed

The State’s lack of legitimacy in Yemen over many decades created a vacuum which has been exploited by key socio-political groups that felt marginalised, resulting in the erosion of the country’s sovereignty. In this op-ed Noman Ahmed argues that addressing this issue is key for any future peace process to succeed.
Editor's choice
Opinion
Six world leaders launch global conversation on multilateralism

Six world leaders launch global conversation on multilateralism

Six world leaders have have published a joint op-ed in which they called for a global conversation on multilateralism. The leaders said in the article published in several languages in media outlets across the world that there was an "opportunity to rebuild consensus for an international order based on multilateralism and the rule of law through efficient cooperation, solidarity and coordination." The signatories of the appeal are French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Senegalese President Macky Sall, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel.
Editor's choice
Opinion
Opinion: The elusive quest for peace in the Caucasus

Opinion: The elusive quest for peace in the Caucasus

Peace in the Caucasus for the last three decades has been elusive, and appears to remain so. Lulls between fighting sometimes offer some respite from the violence, but real peace remains absent. It is now needed more than ever, but the "Pax Putin" is not the solution, argues Dennis Sammut in this op-ed
Editor's choice
Opinion
Opinion: Yemen's grim reality

Opinion: Yemen's grim reality

Despite the recent expressions of unity within the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) following the al Ula summit, a unified approach towards Yemen appears unlikely. Continued external interference will exacerbate the political stalemate and add to the suffering of the Yemeni people, argue Mahmoud Shamsan and Noman Ahmed in this op-ed.
Editor's choice
Opinion
 Commentary: GCC leaders will meet this week to seek a unified approach to tackle many challenges ahead

Commentary: GCC leaders will meet this week to seek a unified approach to tackle many challenges ahead

Leaders from the six nation Gulf Co-operation Council meet in Saudi Arabia this week. After months of discussions the rift between Qatar and other GCC members appears to have been healed, opening the prospect for a unified approach to the challenges ahead.
Editor's choice
Opinion
New Year Message from the Managing Editor of commonspace.eu

New Year Message from the Managing Editor of commonspace.eu

We live in a world where disinformation has become widespread, and where open societies find themselves vulnerable to malicious attacks from dark forces wrapped in religious bigotry or false nationalism. Disinformation and Radicalisation have now become the biggest enemies of the values we cherish and our way of life. European civil society and think tank communities need to step up in the face of the current challenges.
Editor's choice
Opinion
Opinion: New twists in Armenian-Russian relations

Opinion: New twists in Armenian-Russian relations

"As a result of the November 10 trilateral statement, and deployment of Russian peacekeepers, Armenia now is more dependent on Russia than at any time since September 1991", writes Benyamin Poghosyan in this commentary. Furthermore, the deployment of Russian border troops in the Syunik region significantly increases Russian influence and leverage over Armenia, something which will definitely impact Armenia- Russia relations in the future.       
Editor's choice
Analysis
Questions remain as to who was behind deadly protests in Uzbekistan’s Karakalpakstan region

Questions remain as to who was behind deadly protests in Uzbekistan’s Karakalpakstan region

Two weeks after violent protests rocked Uzbekistan’s Karakalpakstan region, speculation continues about who was behind the turmoil that appeared to take officials in the capital, Tashkent, completely by surprise. This despite the fact that the reasons that triggered the unrest appear to be clear, namely proposed constitutional changes that promised to weaken the autonomy of the region, which occupies a territory, of 166,590 sq kms, and has a population of 1.9 million. Official reports say that 18 civilians were killed during the protests, 94 hospitalised, and hundreds more injured. The Uzbek Government has blamed unspecified foreign forces for being behind the unrest. Uzbekistan is a tightly managed country, where such unrest is by and large unheard of, and where the only country that has the potential to provoke such wide-spread disturbances is Russia, given its longstanding and deep rooted influence in Central Asia. Some Uzbek diplomats in Europe have been briefing that the disturbances were part of a planned “colour revolution”, although they did not quite explain what they meant by that. Uzbekistan is known to have been under considerable pressure from  Moscow in recent years to join Russia-led regional structures, such as the Eurasian Economic Union and the CSTO military alliance, but president Shavkat Mirziyoyev has so far resisted the pressure.
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. 
Editor's choice
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.  
Editor's choice
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.
Editor's choice
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.
Editor's choice
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.
Editor's choice
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.
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.
Editor's choice
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!
Editor's choice
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.
Editor's choice
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.
Editor's choice
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.
Editor's choice
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.
Editor's choice
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.
Editor's choice
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.
Editor's choice
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.
Editor's choice
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
Interview
Art-Gene Turns Nineteen: In Conversation with Tamar Melikishvili

Art-Gene Turns Nineteen: In Conversation with Tamar Melikishvili

July 2022 saw the 19th edition of what has become a staple event in the Georgian cultural calendar. Founded in 2003 by artists Tamar Melikishvili and Giorgi Baramidze, musicians Zaza Korinteli and Niaz Diasamidze, sculptor Nika Anjaparidze, and photographer Maria Lanevski, the Art-Gene music and crafts festival has played a huge role in reviving Georgia’s now thriving traditional cultural scene since its dog days of the early 2000s. Looking forward to Art-Gene’s 20th anniversary next year, commonspace.eu’s Deputy Editor Patrick Norén spoke to Tamar Melikishvili about Art-Gene’s origins, ethos, community, and future. Melikshvili told commonspace.eu that ‘if a country keeps and loves its own culture, it will become very open and interested in the culture of other countries. The world is nice because we are so different, but we also make one big picture, like a painter. When I am working on the canvas, all of these different moods and colours become one symphony, and that is what makes the picture interesting.’
Editor's choice
Interview
Brian Mefford: "I had no doubts the Ukrainians will fight to defend their country"

Brian Mefford: "I had no doubts the Ukrainians will fight to defend their country"

When Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Brian Mefford, an American long time resident and expert of Ukraine, knew exactly what he needed to do. Shifting his office from Kyiv to Warsaw he started a humanitarian operation that has already helped tens of thousands of Ukrainians. In this interview with commonspace.eu Mefford reflects on the response of Ukrainians to the Russian invasion, the current humanitarian situation, and the prospects for Ukraine after the war. “I have seen enormous changes in Ukraine since I arrived in 1999.  Ukraine is dramatically more European and focused on a future with the West as a partner. If Ukraine makes the tough changes needed during the war to enter the EU, it will speed the process of integration. War time is the easiest time to make radical changes. As I often point out, Abraham Lincoln didn’t wait till after the American Civil War to free the slaves, he specifically did it during the war because after the war it might not have been possible”, he argues.
Editor's choice
Interview
Interview with the Ambassador of Kazakhstan to the EU:  "We have very high hopes that the results of the referendum will have deep positive consequences for the future of our country"

Interview with the Ambassador of Kazakhstan to the EU: "We have very high hopes that the results of the referendum will have deep positive consequences for the future of our country"

On Sunday, 5 June, the people of Kazakhstan voted overwhelmingly in favour of big changes to the country's constitution which envisage a redistribution of presidential powers to various other state organs and a system of checks and balances. The changes complement other ongoing political and economic reforms that have been initiated by president Kassym-Jomart Tokayev over the last three years. Commonspace.eu interviewed Ambassador Margulan Baimukhan, Head of the Mission of Kazakhstan to the EU about the importance of the constitutional changes, the role of Kazakhstan in Central Asia and the changes taking place in his country. "We have very high hopes that the results of the referendum will have deep positive consequences for the future of our country. It brings us one step closer to become a democratic state. Most importantly for me is that the referendum result paves the way for increasing the participation of the population in the governance of the country. It will nurture the culture of people in standing and defending their rights", the Ambassador said. Ambassador Baimukhan also spoke about the relations of his country with the European Union.  "The European Union was, is and will be at the forefront of our foreign policy agenda."
Editor's choice
Interview
Interview with Ukrainian politician and activist Hanna Hopko: "Russia will not break us"

Interview with Ukrainian politician and activist Hanna Hopko: "Russia will not break us"

One hundred days ago, on 24 February, Russia invaded Ukraine in an attempt to overthrow the country's democratic government and install a puppet regime. This objective failed, but the war goes on, especially in the Donbass region where heavy fighting is taking place. Commonspace.eu interviewed Hanna Hopko, a Ukrainian politician and activist, who previously served as Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Ukrainian Parliament and is today at the forefront of several important humanitarian initiatives. Hopko  speaks about Ukraine's frustration with Europe's long standing failure to appreciate Ukraine properly. She speaks about the heroism of young Ukrainians who are fighting off current Russian aggression, and recalls the loss of some of her own friends who have died in battle or have been imprisoned. Hopko however remains optimistic about the future, referring to the Ukraine Recovery Plan that is already being prepared. She speaks about the country's hopes to be granted EU candidate status later this month: "Ukraine will not except any plan B. Only candidate status.  Our aspiration to apply to EU membership is a result of the long fight of Ukrainians for the right to be part of a free European family. It is based on our achievements in transformations of the country despite Russian continues efforts to break us." Read the interview in full.
Editor's choice
Interview
Opinion: "Our ambition in Kosovo is to transform our young and vibrant democracy into the most prosperous nation in the region"

Opinion: "Our ambition in Kosovo is to transform our young and vibrant democracy into the most prosperous nation in the region"

Recently, the Government of Kosovo submitted a formal application to join the Council of Europe as a full member. The international community remains divided on the issue of Kosovo's international recognition. Yet in the few years since its independence Kosovo has made great strides forward, and today has one of the most dynamic economies in the Western Balkans, a vibrant cultural life, and a solid track record on human rights and the fight against corruption. commonspace.eu interviewed the Ambassador of Kosovo to the Netherlands, Dren Doli, about the current state of play in relations between Kosovo and Serbia, and on the thorny issue of whether the recognition of Kosovo has emboldened secessionist movements elsewhere. Ambassador Doli said that "the tendency to use Kosovo as a model for other cases is a strategy to generalise the rules that guide the creation of states and inflict confusion, deflect the truth, and deny the significance of objective arguments that differentiate Kosovo from other cases". Doli told commonspace.eu that "Kosovo is one of the rare examples of successful democratic state-building supported by western democracies". Ambassador Doli said that the government of Kosovo is committed to further develop and improve its relations with Serbia and welcomes any initiative  by the EU and the US in this direction.
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
Editor's choice
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.
Editor's choice
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.
Editor's choice
Commentary
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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Opinion: The quest for peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan can follow many paths, all of which need to be explored and exploited

Opinion: The quest for peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan can follow many paths, all of which need to be explored and exploited

Preparations are under way for a fourth meeting between Armenian prime minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev, facilitated by the president of the European Council Charles Michel. Even a year ago such a process would have been unthinkable. There is no more than one format in which Armenia and Azerbaijan pursue their quest for peace. But options are also available in the way the two leaders can work to achieve the ultimate goal, a peace agreement that will hail a new era of lasting peace in the region. In this commentary, Dennis Sammut says there are many roads open on the way to lasting peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and all need to be explored and exploited. Developing trade relations, intensive people to people contacts, establishing diplomatic relations in stages, facilitated travel between the two countries including direct air travel –  are all important steps that can and should be taken in the process of normalising relations. Most of them can be agreed and start giving results in months not years. The process can be supported by an intensive programme of confidence building measures that will help build trust at various layers of society.
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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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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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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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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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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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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".
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Opinion
Opinion: Adapting to new realities, the EU boosts its role in the South Caucasus

Opinion: Adapting to new realities, the EU boosts its role in the South Caucasus

"The EU’s reconsideration of its policies towards Armenia and Azerbaijan and its pursuit of a more balanced approach is likely to buttress the EU’s place in the post-war peace process and help it to play a more impactful mediating role", writes Vasif Husseynov in this op-ed. "If successful, this promises to have larger regional, and possibly geopolitical implications, for the South Caucasus, since the Armenia-Azerbaijan peace negotiations have so far been pursued mainly through the sole mediation of Russia".
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Opinion: Beyond the rhetoric in Beijing

Opinion: Beyond the rhetoric in Beijing

Neither Russia nor China are interested in complete decoupling from the West, and both would like to maintain cooperative relations with the EU while fighting back against US pressure, argues Benyamin Poghosyan in this op-ed. In this context a Russia – China alliance against the 'Collective west" and the establishment of a new “iron curtain” completely separating them from Europe is possibly the worst outcome for Beijing and Moscow.
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Armenia-Azerbaijan connectivity is crucial for the future of the South Caucasus, and important also for partners beyond

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

Johnny Melikian and Ramazan Samadov are members of a Joint Liaison Group of Armenian and Azerbaijani experts preparing a report on how confidence building measures can support lasting peace in the South Caucasus. In this joint paper they discuss the important role of connectivity, which they say is a key factor in building the region's future.
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Opinion: Unlike Ukraine, Azerbaijan has not put all its eggs in one basket

Opinion: Unlike Ukraine, Azerbaijan has not put all its eggs in one basket

"For the countries in Eastern Europe and the South Caucasus, the current crisis between the West and Russia over Ukraine along with the US-Russian dialogue on European security issues are of existential importance in terms of their independent statehood and sovereignty", writes Vasif Huseynov in this op-ed. Almost all the former Soviet states in the region are under the risk of facing similar threats that now jeopardize Ukraine’s national security.
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Opinion: Elections in Turkey next year may bring the Erdogan era to an end

Opinion: Elections in Turkey next year may bring the Erdogan era to an end

2023 will be a crucial elections year in Turkey, and their is no certainty that president Erdogan and his AK Party can maintain there hold on power, argues Benyamin Poghosyan in this op-ed. The stakes are high and political turmoil will have implications way beyond Turkey itself.
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Opinion
Opinion: UNBA makes a landmark contribution to Ukraine as a state governed by Law

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

In essence, European standards in relation to the status and operation of the Ukraine National Bar Association have been in place for more than nine years, writes Lydia Izovitova. This is a truly landmark contribution to the development of Ukraine as a state governed by law. This important achievement turns the constitutional rights and freedoms of citizens into real opportunities, and provides a mechanism for their protection, primarily from the encroachments by the State.
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Opinion: New Dutch government installed, as a gentle pro-European breeze blows over The Hague

Opinion: New Dutch government installed, as a gentle pro-European breeze blows over The Hague

A new government for The Netherlands was installed on Monday (10 January) made up of a coalition of four political parties: VVD, D66, CDA, and ChristenUnie. One important feature of the coalition agreement is its positive and optimistic approach towards the European Union. Is this then the end of Euroscepticism in the Netherlands? Maximiliaan van Lange analyses in this article for commonspace.eu the background to the formation of the fourth Rutte Cabinet (Rutte IV) and examines how the Netherlands will now pursue its objectives within the European Union.