CAUCASUS COUNTRIES IN THE CONTEXT OF A CHANGING GEOPOLITICS

July 18, 2014 the Parliament of Georgia at an extraordinary meeting unanimously ratified the Association Agreement with the EU. Official Tbilisi sure that pro-Western orientation - the only way to strengthen the Georgian state and all-round development of the country. Last but not least it explains the historical and cultural characteristics of the country. 

 

That's why on the issue related to the signing of the Association Agreement with the EU, Georgia, between the representatives of all the political forces of the country was full consensus. Under extremely uncertain prospects of Georgia's membership in NATO, despite the escalation of the conflict with the West, the Russian Federation in connection with the events in Ukraine, Tbilisi will try to get the Europeans greater clarity in respect of its "European destiny" to solve the problem with the help of Brussels its territorial integrity as possible.

 

Security, the presence of unresolved conflicts and status disputes, the extreme heterogeneity of regional Caucasus make it highly problematic region. Involvement in the political processes of Transcaucasia leading international players - the U.S. and the EU and complicate an already difficult situation between Russia and the West.

 

Because of their heterogeneity, cultural, historical and religious factors, the region became the very area where all three variants of integration - Georgia with the European Union, the Eurasian Union with Armenia, Azerbaijan - a model of a balanced policy that provides no clear desire to join the integration projects - neither Russian nor Western and.

 

Two projects running Russia and the West - European and Eurasian, designed to prioritize post-Soviet countries in respect of their European or Eurasian choice. However, this choice is able to finalize the reorientation of post-Soviet countries in the West or Russia?

 

With the signing of the Association Agreement with the EU, June 27, 2014 by three former Soviet republics (Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine) united Europe was officially elevated to the rank of major political player in the post-Soviet space. Despite the many existing problems of the EU, the most tangible for the countries of the Caucasus is the political indecision and excessive bureaucracy in Brussels. Nevertheless, the EU attracts Transcaucasian countries its stable political and social institutions, democracy, and, in general, economic stability, which is the ideal of the "European dream". And despite its illusory nature, the EU has on the Transcaucasian countries where a greater impact than all Russian integration projects.

 

Of the three countries of the Caucasus alone Georgia managed to become a signatory. This was made possible as a result of a coherent and consistent policy towards Tbilisi Brussels-based commitment to liberal reforms and democratic standards; rate for the integration with the West, which is considered as Tbilisi geopolitical counterweight to Russian domination in the Caucasus; and finally, common goals defined mutual interests.

 

The other two countries in the region - Armenia, Azerbaijan and yet chose not to make any sudden moves towards closer union with the EU. However, their interest in cooperation with the EU is obvious and it is not excluded that in the future they can follow the example of Georgia.

 

Given the extremely favorable geopolitical situation of Georgia, as well as energy-rich Azerbaijan, the West began to examine the Caucasus part of its eastern policy. As part of running the EU energy project "Southern Gas Corridor", designed to diversify routes and sources of supply of Caspian energy resources to European markets. June 26, 2012 between Azerbaijan and Turkey signed an agreement on the Trans-Anatolian pipeline (TANAP) - one of the three elements of the "Southern Corridor". Just a year later, June 28, 2013 it was decided to implement the project Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAR) and, finally, December 17, 2013 was signed a final investment decision on "Shah Deniz-2." So it is no accident that during the visit of European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso to Azerbaijan, held June 14, 2014 on the eve of the signing of Moldova and Georgia Association Agreement with the EU, the two parties signed a protocol to the Agreement on Partnership and Cooperation Framework Agreement on the general principles of Azerbaijan's participation in EU programs. It's about developing a new format of cooperation, primarily in the energy sector, based on mutual interests and taking into account the changing situation in the world. Is not this the first step on the road Baku closer integration with the EU?

 

As for Armenia, Yerevan is currently ongoing regarded by the West as the only strategic ally of Russia in the region - from all countries of the Caucasus only Armenia is a candidate for membership of the Customs Union and the Eurasian Economic Union. However, in the case of Yerevan everything is not so simple.

 

Currently, regional isolation in which Armenia was a result of the closure of two land borders - with Turkey and Azerbaijan does not allow it to become a transit state having access to Europe. However, the prospect of normalization of Armenian-Turkish relations can change this situation. And it is this consideration does not allow neither Armenia nor Brussels ignore reciprocal process integration. Armenian leadership notes that "Yerevan aimed at deepening cooperation and continuation of relations with the EU, do not contradict membership in the Customs Union." It seems that today Armenia and the EU are going to start the process of integration, excluding mutual obligations, ie on a simplified scenario.

 

Nevertheless, despite the movement towards the South Caucasus countries of the EU, can we say that in the long run it will wear the progressive nature?

 

Certainly, the post-Soviet states to strengthen cooperation with the EU gives them a reasonable chance to integrate with it, despite the serious socio-economic studies awaiting them on the path of integration with Brussels. This should contribute to the transformation of the state and economic institutions of these countries in the European manner. The end result of this process will determine the degree of "European quality" "associated" countries. But how they can join the single European market? And how successful will develop the political component of the Association Agreement, which provides the transformation of these countries in their own functioning democratic state.

 

Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA), which is part of the Association Agreement, designed to open up new markets for Europe, to undo most of customs duties on the import of goods and to introduce a single set of standards for admission to the European markets. However, the underdeveloped economy of post-Soviet countries may not be ready for the competition, and the discrepancy of the goods with the EU requirements will block their access to the market. At the same time, the boundaries of "associated" countries of Europe will be open to playing by their own rules. However, it is possible that these countries will be able to overcome the thorny path towards the "European dream" that will depend primarily on themselves and no one else. This will require time-consuming and yet it - the only thing that is obvious.

 

Nevertheless, the main question is how the two countries of the Caucasus - Georgia and Azerbaijan will be able to cope with their tasks, related mainly to the restoration of the territorial integrity, as well as ongoing ethno-political conflicts in their territory. These problems are very important for Georgia, which lost 20% of its territory as a result of the events of August 2008, and Azerbaijan, with the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh from him. And, despite the fact that the issue of sovereignty was always acutely faced by these countries, however, the problem of preserving the territorial integrity has been and remains a matter for them "life or death." Moreover, these countries have and understanding that this problem alone it can not be resolved, and, mainly due to their inability to provide political stability and cohesion of the nation. It mostly for Georgia, given the country's territorial structure (it includes more than 25 sub-ethnic groups and ethnographic), and therefore is a kind of Russian micromodel.

 

So it is no accident that Georgia and Azerbaijan expressed their support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine. March 27, 2014 Baku and Tbilisi to support UN General Assembly resolution on Ukraine condemning Moscow's position on the situation in Crimea. Characteristically, while both countries managed to maintain diplomatic politesse in Russia's actions in Ukraine. Baku remained true to its policies to support the territorial integrity of post-Soviet countries, while remaining below the "red lines" in relations with the Kremlin. And the president of Georgia, Giorgi Margvelashvili called on the international community to "calm, but in principle" to evaluate the actions of Russia against Ukraine. "

 

This means, first, a growing understanding of these countries to the fact that the key to resolving their territorial integrity is in Russian asset - their northern neighbor, which occupies an extremely proactive in post-Soviet countries.

 

Second, these countries full awareness of the enormous value that represents the Russian Federation for the space of the former USSR. Recent experience has shown that Russia is prepared to take real steps to defend its interests here. This, according to Moscow, require both security issues and economic considerations.

 

Third, the post-Soviet countries can not ignore the fact that we live in an era when international law creates conditions for its interpretation in different directions, and it sets a precedent in the absence of the necessary reforms or new architecture of international institutions - the UN, OSCE, IMF WTO, the IAEA and other Crimean script as it can not be clearly demonstrated.

 

Nevertheless, the pursuit of the Transcaucasian countries toward integration with Europe should not be taken as a steady trend that can not be reversed. It is possible that financial programs with the establishment and strengthening of European status of these countries, they can cause severe frustration until you change the "main and only" foreign ally. Thus, despite the different degree of involvement of the South Caucasus countries in the process of integration with the West, it seems that they will continue to balance the ambitions of Moscow and those of the West for a long time. All of this will hinder their movement towards the EU, which will be of rotationally progressive nature and therefore resemble the "running is not the place."

 

 

World media monitoring

 

 

25.07.2014

 

 

 
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