Two of four summits held in Prague under the aegis of the EU attracted attention of world media the most: on the issues of Polish-Swedish initiative of Eastern Partnership and “Southern Corridor – New Silk Road”. Participants of these summits singed political declarations.
Two others concerned the cooperation of the EU with Canada and the problems of employment within the EU states.
The EU included into the Eastern Partnership six former Soviet states – Ukraine, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia and Belarus and the interests to the Prague presentation of this initiative has been lately fueled by Mass Media and politicians because Moscow treated this promising project of Brussels pretty cautiously and sometimes even hostile. Moreover, Russia expresses uncertainty about further development of Russia-EU relations, as the EU gained two special partners Belarus and Armenia, two strategic allies of Russia. In spite of repeated statements of organizers and participants of the summit that the Eastern Partnership and its projects is not against anybody, Moscow treats it openly as a tool reducing influence of Russia within Post-Soviet area. And they observe this initiative as a process of NATO expansion to East only by other means. And united Europe with this kind of partnership strives to stabilize the situation within its Eastern boarders. And it intends to invest 600 million Euro into economies of these six Post-Soviet states up to 2013.
> Southern Corridor - New Silk Road
Brussels promises to include them into the free trade area, and this is impossible without being a member of WTO. Out of six Eastern European partners of the EU, Armenia and Belarus are not the WTO members. So trade options promised by the EU are different for the six countries.
Even more long-term perspective is the abolishment of visas in exchange for structural reforms, called to struggle against corruption and to establish democratic standards. And hopes of Ukraine and Georgia to join the EU are postponed for indefinite period. Such unclear perspectives resulted from the summit of Eastern Partnership. And Presidents of France and Poland, Prime Ministers of Italy and Britain decided not to visit it at all in the last moment. This all incited the observers to perceive the EU presentation of Eastern Partnership as a performance.
More curious and significant appeared to be another summit – the summit on Nagorny Karabakh, which included the President of Azerbaijan Aliyev and the President of Armenia Sargsyan.
Co-chairs of this summit – French, American and Russian parties – also participated in it. They were French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, the US State Secretary Assistant Matthew Bryza and Russian Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador Yuri Merzlyakov. Prague also welcomed the meeting of the President Aliyev and the President Sargsyan within the territory of the US Embassy. Experts estimated the results of this meeting pretty incredulously.
As known, Turkey and Armenia have begun negotiations to improve their relations. And first of all on the issue of borders opening.
The President Aliyev reacted harshly on the possible decision of borders opening before resolution or at least the start of resolution of the issue on the territory around Karabakh, Azerbaijani territories primarily and Karabakh in general. Matthew Bryza believes that both Presidents move forward step by step. Maybe they haven’t come to the turning point, but they have laid the road to it. The representative of the US State Department expressed his hope, that the “turning point” will be possible in a month when Presidents meet in Saint Petersburg, where Economic Forum will take place. But at the same time he specified that he didn’t yet know whether this turning point would include the return of territories. But I know, said Bryza to reporters, it is possible to include this idea into the concept of the turning point in order to find the common ground between all the parties. It is possible and we are trying to achieve that at the moment, noted the diplomat.
The representative of Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in his turn confirmed that there are no principal contradictions between intermediaries Russia, the USA and France as the EU representative around Karabakh situation. But there were no such unanimity during another energy summit of “Southern Corridor – New Silk Road”. Russia and the USA, also Ukraine participated with it as observers. The EU intends to diversify the sources and ways of energy supplies to Europe.
It’s a fundamental issue for Europe.
In Prague the chairman of the EC Jose Manuel Barroso, Javier Solana and other European authorities stated that the project of “Southern Corridor – New Silk Road” is of the highest priority for the European Union. And the pipeline Nabucco should become an accelerator of the “New Silk Road”.
Russian observer, Deputy Minister of Energy, noted that Russia doesn’t question the significance of diversification.
However, new transit ways should lie through Russia and territories controlled by Russia. For Moscow this is the only way of assuring the security of transit. Neither the EU nor the USA agree. They are convinced that only other transit ways will prevent monopoly. Matthew Bryza told during the interview to the radio “Eho Moskvy”, that there was a period when the USA supported 5 pipelines. The first one is Baku-Novorossisk, through Russia.
To create competitiveness the USA decided to construct new pipelines Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan and Baku-Supsa suggesting that the oil manufacturer Lucoil will join this project. But it decided not to participate in it due political reasons. Now the case is over South Caucasian gas pipeline. Russia doesn’t produce gas in Azerbaijan, but in future if Russia, if Gazprom wants, it may become a shareholder of this enterprise. But only a monetary one. Gazprom shouldn’t control the Southern corridor as Northern.
Political declaration on the gas pipeline Nabucco construction signed in Prague is very important. It should result into real projects.
This document was signed by the representatives of Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey and Egypt. And Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan refused to sign it. Their refusal wasn’t a surprise for the participants of the energy summit. But still the USA and the EU are optimistic to work with them. But latest failures of Russian-Turkmen summit in Moscow and negotiations in Ashgabat can’t inspire the gas monopolist.
There are reasons to suggest that the wait approach of the parties refused to sign the declaration has its time limits that will be mostly defined by the EU as well as the USA. The intensification of Obama’s Administration activity within Central Asia region is expected after the visit of the US President in Moscow this July. At the same time many experts note that financial resources for American Eastern partnership are redirected from Eastern Europe to Central Asia. Kazakhstan will gain special stress within this partnership. This country is the first of former USSR republics to head OSCE next year. The same as within the issues of energy supplies diversification and energy security, the USA and Russia have also strong contradictions within the activity of this international organization. And Russia in addition intends to establish new structure of European security.
Prague declaration specifies that the parties of the Nabucco pipeline project are involved into the development of intergovernmental agreement on the project to be signed till June 2009. In addition Jose Manuel Barroso refuted the reports of some Mass Media stating that Turkey participates within Nabucco project due to successful talks on the EU joining.
It’s noteworthy, that the EU hopes, that the Central Asia states that have joined the project will become the source of filling the designed pipeline. Except for them, only Iran has the potential to provide gas for Nabucco, but this country is under international sanctions and can’t be invited to participate in the project now. It’s curious, that Ukraine also refused to sign the declaration as it is engaged within the accomplishment of the project “White Stream”, that competes with the interests of Turkey.
> White Stream
As considered, Prague Summits on Karabakh and Nabucco were significant events the results of which will sufficiently influence the political situation of the countries of Caspian-Caucasian region and the policy of Post Soviet area of the EU and the USA. It is most likely to reveal during the oncoming summit of the EU and Russia in Khabarovsk in May.