Three South Caucasus nations - ?· South Caucasus are uncomfortable with the post-Soviet ... three South…

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<ul><li><p>Over the last decade Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgiahave engaged selectively with the mutually re-enforcingprocesses of modernisation, democratisation andglobalisation. However, this selectiveness has seriouslyhampered the process of transition, and underminesefforts to secure for the three countries a privilegedrelationship with the European Union. On its part theEU has upped its game in the region in recent years,partly because the region's proximity, followingenlargement, makes it the natural next step for EUspecial engagement; partly due to its increasingeconomic and geostrategic importance; and partly inresponse to a desire in the region for a qualitativechange to the basis of the relationship.</p><p>The president of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliev, told agathering of his Cabinet of Ministers on 15 January 2013that he took issue with foreign leaders when theydescribed his country as post-Soviet. Leaders in theSouth Caucasus are uncomfortable with the post-Sovietlabel - and for good reason. The Soviet system in theSouth Caucasus was not only about one party rule andthe command economy. In its seventy-year hold over theregion, the system had made compromises with localcircumstances in its quest to retain power. This meantthat deep-rooted practises of patronage, corruption, clanloyalty and organised crime that it inherited fromcenturies past where often only superficially challenged,whilst in many instances they benefitted from thematerial progress that Communism had brought, andconsolidated themselves beneath the light veneer ofMarxism-Leninism. The Soviet legacy in the Caucasuswas, in that sense at least, more deeply entrenched andhad longer-lasting negative effects.</p><p>The post-1991 challenge consequently did not justrequire political and economic reform but also, if not</p><p>essentially, societal reform, requiring change in the waythat society was organised, and in the people's mind-set.All leaders who held power in the three countries after1991 had to face this challenge. Three processes cameinto play almost simultaneously: modernisation,democratisation and globalisation. In all three countriesthe political leaderships have paid lip service to allthree, but in reality they have embraced them onlyselectively. Progress on all three fronts has been patchy,and this has made the transition beyond the post-Sovietin the South Caucasus much slower than in the BalticStates, Central Europe or the Balkans. </p><p>Democratisation</p><p>Georgia joined the Council of Europe in 1999, followedby Armenia and Azerbaijan in 2001. In the run-up tothat, the three countries pushed forward with a numberof important reforms, some of which continue tounderpin their institutions. They abolished the deathpenalty, released political prisoners, took steps toeliminate torture, and held elections that whilst notflawless, were promising. They also became signatoriesof the European Convention on Human Rights andmany other Council of Europe conventions. Up to 2003the media in Georgia was thriving, and even in Armeniaand Azerbaijan a number of independent televisionchannels provided a measure of plurality. </p><p>Over the last decade things took a turn for the worse. A democratic deficit, institutional failure and humanrights abuses hindered reforms and helped breed aculture of impunity amongst senior officials and enabledcorruption to flourish, affecting progress in all spheres. Itis still too early to say whether the tide turned in 2012,as a result of what were perceived to be reasonablygood parliamentary elections in Armenia and Georgia</p><p>Democratisation, modernisation and globalisationThe EU and the hard tasks facing the </p><p>three South Caucasus nations</p><p>The King Baudouin Foundation and Compagnia di San Paolo are strategic partners of the European Policy Centre</p><p>BACKGROUND</p><p>Dennis Sammut</p><p>POLICY BRIEF14 February 2013</p></li><li><p>and a peaceful, even if bumpy transfer of power throughthe ballot box in Georgia.</p><p>Modernisation</p><p>The three current presidents, Serzh Sargsyan in Armenia,Ilham Aliev in Azerbaijan and Mikeil Saakashvili inGeorgia, have made modernisation the hallmark of theirpolicies. The presidents are often seen opening glitzybuildings, and modest scientific achievements are oftencited as examples of modernisation. </p><p>Modernisation is also often related to technology and allthree countries boast of important breakthroughs inareas as diverse as military equipment and medicine.The Azerbaijani president has just issued a decreeestablishing an Information Technologies University. Theimage of the leader as a builder was also promoted bythe president of Georgia, whose most popular electionslogan ahead of the October parliamentary electionswas "we will not let them destroy what we have built".The theme of a "developed and modern state" recursoften in President Aliev's speeches.</p><p>Yet the danger is that this 'modernisation' is only aveneer for what remains an essentially unreformedsystem that away from the glare of publicity quicklyreverts to old practises and fails to address morefundamental structural problems. Behind the facades ofmodern buildings, old Soviet practises persist.</p><p>Globalisation</p><p>The regained statehood of Armenia, Azerbaijan andGeorgia in 1991 coincided with the advent of themobile phone, the Internet and mass movement ofpeople - a new era of globalisation that affected</p><p>practically all societies throughout the world regardlessof wealth, geography and political system. In manyways globalisation offered an opportunity for the threecountries, together and individually, to fast track theirdevelopment. By and large they have failed to do so. Sofar none of the three countries have shown the visionthat places like Dubai and Singapore did in the 1970s,despite the fact that both places are often cited asexamples that they wish to emulate. For example allthree countries could easily have become aviation hubsfor flights from Europe to Asia and vice versa. Instead,unfriendly civil aviation and airport practises mean thatmost world airlines do not even want to fly to the threecountries as an end destination, let alone use them as ahub for others. Similarly, protectionist policies have keptaway many investors. The single most importantinvestment in the region in the last twenty years was inthe oil sector in Azerbaijan. Its success can be attributedto the fact that through statute and practise it wasinsulated from the usual problems, to the point where it was sometimes referred to as a state within a state. In that sense its success was an exception, rather thanthe rule.</p><p>The unresolved conflicts and a measure of mutualdistrust between the three countries made regionalprojects cumbersome, if not outright impossible.Individually the three countries have remainedparochial in their thinking, despite their active foreign policies.</p><p>After a wobbly start, the European Union finally has astrategy towards the three countries and the region,one based on offering them a privileged partnershipand a commitment to accompany them through theirdifficult transition. However, for all sides there may be difficult decisions ahead.</p><p>STATE OF PLAY</p><p>Armenia</p><p>Armenia is the smallest and the poorest of the SouthCaucasus countries.1 For a while after independence, itposted impressive economic growth and was oftenreferred to as a Caucasian "tiger". However, a lot of theeconomic activity was related to real estate and thecountry suffered from the global economic downturn,and especially its effects on Russia. The country remainsdependant on Russia in many spheres, including defenceand the economy. The government in 2012 went to greatlengths to develop its relations with the EU, and Brusselswas impressed by the speed with which it implemented anumber of measures on the way to signing a Deep andComprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) and anAssociation Agreement. Armenia remains a troubledcountry. A recent attempt on the life of a presidentialcandidate brought back memories of the serious politicalviolence that has left the Armenian political worldscarred: the yet-to-be fully explained assassination of a</p><p>number of its key political leaders inside the parliamentbuilding in October 1999 and the violent suppression ofanti-government protests on 1 March 2008.</p><p>The May 2012 parliamentary elections returned apluralistic parliament with all the main opposition forcesrepresented. The government has, however, used itscomfortable majority to contain parliamentary oversight.The conflict with Azerbaijan over Karabakh is bleedingArmenia financially and is used by Turkey as a pretext formaintaining a border blockade which costs Armenia a lotof money. But this notwithstanding, Armenia's mainproblems are of its own making, or rather that of itspolitical elite. There is some hope that after the Februarypresidential elections, Serzh Sargsyan, whose re-electionis all but certain, will make important personnel changesto trigger the next set of reforms. But Sargsyan is cautiousand conservative by nature. Grand gestures are not hisstyle, and the one that he embarked on at the start of hisfirst term - the opening-up to Turkey - misfired. The only</p></li><li><p>issue on which he has cards to play, including some tospare, is Karabakh, in the form of Azerbaijani lands thatArmenia currently occupies, and a move on this issuemay be his best option.</p><p>Azerbaijan</p><p>Azerbaijan has in a very short time moved from beingthe most backward of the three republics to being theone with a legitimate claim to being the most advanced.The money flowing in from the export of oil and gas hasgiven the country in general, and its leadership inparticular, a self-confidence that was unimaginable inthe mid-1990s, when it was struggling to recover fromthe loss of huge chunks of its territory in its war withArmenia and the reality of having to deal with hundredsof thousands of people displaced by that conflict.Azerbaijan could easily have been described at thispoint as a failed state. Azerbaijanis at that point werewilling to accept that a spell of firm government wasnecessary. This was provided by Heidar Aliyev onassuming power in 1994, who however also setAzerbaijan on a pro-Western footing, embedded energyprojects within Western companies and created enoughpolitical space for Azerbaijan to be accepted into theCouncil of Europe in 2001.</p><p>What ensued after his son Ilham took over in 2003 issomewhat perplexing. Rather than acceleratingpolitical reform, Ilham Aliev became the most vocalexponent of the creed: 'modernise first, democratiselater'. Modernisation manifests itself in grandiosebuildings, a polished new crop of political cadres anddiplomats, an emphasis on IT, and recently, sendingthe first Azerbaijani telecommunications satellite into space: "Who would have thought a few years ago," asked Aliev, "that Azerbaijan was going tobecome a spacefaring nation?"2 Aliev also declared2013 "The Year of information and communicationtechnologies".</p><p>The government narrative of a modern, successful,prosperous Azerbaijan is backed up by the revenuesfrom oil and gas that Azerbaijan is now receiving. Thenarrative is, however, constantly being challenged byactivists from a young generation that is much lessdifferential to authority than its predecessors. Theyaccuse the government of gross human rights abusesand massive corruption and of establishing a totalitarianstate. Both narratives do not tell the whole story, even ifthere is an element of truth in both.</p><p>All the conditions exist for Azerbaijan to become amodern, developed state, but it is not there yet. Outsidethe newly constructed boulevards of Baku lays anotherAzerbaijan that is often forgotten until some populareruption, as happened in Guba in 2012, or this year inIsmaili. Furthermore, the issue of Nagorno-Karabakhremains unfinished business for Azerbaijan. There isnothing modern in either the discourse or the approachthat either Azerbaijan or Armenia are using to achieve</p><p>their objectives in this field and it is time for both torethink their strategy.</p><p>Georgia</p><p>Georgia's post-communist period has been full ofconvulsions: civil war, ethnic conflict, a laissez-fairegovernment followed by one tightly controlled by asmall inner circle around the president, and now, aftera long and bitter election campaign, a situation ofpolitical co-habitation between a president who is inhis final months in power and a government that wasswept to victory on the basis of the unpopularity andmistakes of its predecessors, but which has as yet toshow its mettle.</p><p>The Georgians are fast learners and adaptable, and inthe right circumstances have the ability to turn theircountry into a great success story. A lot of hope ispinned on new Prime Minister Bidhzina Ivanishvili andhis management and entrepreneurial skills. ButIvanishvili - while astute in many ways - sometimescomes across as a rather clumsy political operator. Hischoice of government members is controversial andmay yet come to haunt him. He has failed to reach outto sectors of society that should be his natural allies.Badly-worded statements, especially on foreign policy,have created unnecessary confusion and questionsabout Georgia's future direction. However, his attemptsto reach out to Russia are commendable.</p><p>Georgia remains well placed to take modernisation,democratisation and globalisation together and makea great leap forward. Whilst it does not have theliquidity of Azerbaijan, or the diaspora networksupport of Armenia, Georgia's geographic locationand the talents of its population give it the potential tobecome the region's stimulus on both the politicaland economic fronts.</p><p>Common Problems</p><p>All three countries still face serious problems with theindependence of their judiciaries, the operation of themedia, and customs and tax policies and practises. Thethree countries would benefit enormously from veryintensive regional co-operation. But this has provedextremely elusive. Quite apart from the fact thatArmenia and Azerbaijan remain technically in a state ofwar with each other, there is a sense of false competitionbetween the three which makes co-operation at bestdifficult, and in practice almost impossible.</p><p>The EU and other players</p><p>The EU has upped its game in the region in recentyears, partly because the region is the natural nextstep for EU special engagement, partly due to itsincreasing economic and geostrategic importance,and partly in response to a desire in the region for aqualitative change to the basis of the relationship. The</p></li><li><p>European Policy Centre Rsidence Palace, 155 rue de la Loi, 1040 Brussels, Belgium Tel: +32 (0)2 231 03 40 Fax: +32 (0)2 231 07 04 Email: info@epc.eu Website: www.epc.eu</p><p>With the support of the Europe for CitizensProgramme of the European Union.</p><p>By engaging selectively with the processes ofdemocratisation, modernisation and globalisation overthe last decade, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia havedelayed their own processes of development. Attemptsto ignore the complementarity of the three processes,and to prioritise one over the other, have hamperedreforms and left the region lagging behin...</p></li></ul>

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