Visibly Invisible: EU Engagement in Conflict Resolution in the South Caucasus

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  • This article was downloaded by: [American Public University System]On: 30 December 2013, At: 07:00Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH,UK

    European SecurityPublication details, including instructions for authorsand subscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/feus20

    Visibly Invisible: EU Engagementin Conflict Resolution in theSouth CaucasusTracey C. German aa King's College London at the Joint Services Commandand Staff College , Swindon, UKPublished online: 03 Dec 2007.

    To cite this article: Tracey C. German (2007) Visibly Invisible: EU Engagement inConflict Resolution in the South Caucasus, European Security, 16:3-4, 357-374, DOI:10.1080/09662830701751141

    To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09662830701751141

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  • Visibly Invisible: EU Engagement inConflict Resolution in the SouthCaucasus

    TRACEY C. GERMANKings College London at the Joint Services Command and Staff College, Swindon, UK

    ABSTRACT This essay examines growing European Union (EU) involvement in theSouth Caucasus, focusing on efforts to resolve the protracted conflicts in the regions ofAbkhazia, South Ossetia and Nagorno-Karabakh. To date, the EU has occupied a backseat in conflict resolution efforts, supporting organisations such as the UN and OSCE,which have taken the lead role. However, over a decade of negotiations has produced fewtangible results and the EU now has the opportunity to play a much greater role. This essayargues that the EU needs to become more involved: it has a much wider range of tools at itsdisposal with which to influence the various situations and it is in its own interest to ensurethe stability of its neighbours.

    Introduction

    The accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the European Union (EU) in

    January 2007 has pushed the borders of the organisation eastwards to the Black

    Sea and ever closer to the volatile South Caucasus, which is divided by a series

    of unresolved conflicts. There has been growing unrest in the region in recent

    months: two sets of presidential elections and referenda on independence in

    Georgias secessionist region of South Ossetia held in November 2006 were

    followed by a rally calling for independence in Abkhazia, as well as a similar

    referendum in the disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh. These events have

    brought renewed international attention to an oft-overlooked, but increasingly

    tense, region, where the threat of violent conflict is high, as the aforementioned

    territories seek to sever ties with the central authorities and achieve de jure

    independence.

    Problems within the Caucasus can no longer be regarded as extraneous to the

    security of European states. Separatist disputes in Nagorno-Karabakh,

    Correspondence Address: Tracey C. German, Lecturer, Defence Studies Department, Kings College

    London at the Joint Services Command and Staff College, Watchfield, Swindon SN6 8TS. Email:

    tgerman.jscsc@defenceacademy.mod.uk

    ISSN 0966-2839 Print/1746-1545 Online/07/03-435718 # 2007 Taylor & FrancisDOI: 10.1080/09662830701751141

    European Security

    Vol. 16, Nos. 34, 357374, SeptemberDecember 2007

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  • Abkhazia and South Ossetia have implications not only for stability in the

    Caucasus region, but also for Europe and the wider international community.1

    These conflicts undermine regional stability, not just because of the threat of a

    renewal of fighting, but because they have created security vacuums that are

    outside of government control, providing ideal conditions for transnational

    security challenges such as terrorism, organised crime and illegal trafficking to

    flourish. They also undermine efforts to boost regional cooperation, hampering

    economic development and further destabilising the area.

    One of the principal aims of the EU in the wake of the 2004 enlargement

    process has been to expand the zone of prosperity, stability and security that

    its citizens enjoy out to its neighbours. This approach has developed from an

    understanding that the organisation cannot keep enlarging ad infinitum, that

    there is a need to find new ways of spreading security beyond its borders to

    ensure the long-term stability of the EU, together with the security of its

    citizens. Unstable peripheries, such as the South Caucasus, pose a threat

    because their instability could spill over into the security core and thus threaten

    the gains already accomplished there in terms of stable security. The EUs

    failure in the Balkans during the 1990s was its largest and most public failure as

    an international actor and prompted the realisation that peace and stability on

    the periphery are crucial to the security of the Union. Consequently, the EU

    has taken steps towards boosting its involvement in conflict resolution efforts in

    the South Caucasus.

    Recognition of the growing significance of the South Caucasus for European

    security is reflected in the EUs gradual engagement with the region,

    particularly with regard to conflict resolution. In February 2001 the General

    Affairs and External Relations Council declared that the EU was willing to play

    a more active political role in the South Caucasus, stating that it would seek

    ways of lending its support to prevent and resolve conflicts and assist in post-

    conflict rehabilitation.2 In addition to boosting its cooperation with the OSCE

    (Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe), UN (United Nations)

    and Council of Europe, the Council conclusions affirmed the organisations

    intention of reinforcing bilateral and multilateral dialogue with the South

    Caucasus states, a position affirmed in the organisations 2003 European

    Security Strategy (ESS), which identified the region as an area in which it

    would be taking a stronger and more active interest.3 Deepening EU

    engagement with the three countries of the South Caucasus was demonstrated

    by the appointment of the Unions Special Representative (EUSR) for the

    region in 2003 and the inclusion of the three states in the European

    Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), and in December 2005 Javier Solana, the

    EUs High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy, affirmed

    that the organisation was ready to play a greater role in efforts to resolve the

    long-running conflicts of the South Caucasus.4 Nevertheless, in spite of the

    numerous, well-intentioned declarations of interest, little of any substance with

    regards to conflict resolution has actually been achieved.

    358 T. C. German

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  • This essay examines growing EU involvement in the South Caucasus,

    focusing on efforts to resolve the protracted conflicts in the regions of

    Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Nagorno-Karabakh. To date, the EU has

    occupied a back seat in conflict resolution efforts, supporting organisations

    such as the UN and OSCE, which have taken the lead role. However, over a

    decade of negotiations has produced few tangible results and the EU now has

    the opportunity to play a much greater role. This essay argues that the EU

    needs to become more involved. It has a much wider range of tools at its

    disposal with which to influence the various situations and it is greatly in its

    own interest to ensure the stability of its neighbours.

    Mechanisms for Deepening Engagement

    The key strategic location of the South Caucasus, squeezed between the Black

    and Caspian Seas, Iran, Russia and Turkey, make it an area of increasing

    significance in the contemporary security environment, particularly given

    regional instability and the potential threat to western economic interests

    associated with its energy resources and transport infrastructure. The European

    Parliaments 2004 Gahrton report recognised its growing importance, stating

    that due to its geographical location, the South Caucasus can play an increased

    role in strengthening international security; whereas if it is instead left out of

    the evolving networks of interdependence and co-operation, the susceptibility

    of the South Caucasus states to the danger of export of instability from

    neighbouring regions would increase.5

    Energy represents one of the most important aspects of the growing

    significance of the region and the EU has a keen self-interest in the

    development of stability and security in the Caucasus.6 The region is a vital

    transit route for oil and gas from the land-locked Caspian Sea to international

    markets, a role boosted with the commissioning of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan

    (BTC) and South Caucasus (SCP) export pipelines, essential elements in

    developing the hydrocarbon base in the Caspian basin. The Caspian is set to

    become an important source of oil and gas for EU member-states as they seek

    to diversify sources to secure supply and avoid over-reliance on any one

    country. By 2020 it is estimated that two-thirds of the EUs energy requirements

    will be imported, with European gas consumption in particular set to grow

    dramatically over the coming decades as indigenous reserves decline. Conse-

    quently, EU member-states are going to become increasingly reliant on

    suppliers located on the organisations periphery, particularly to the East and

    South. Thus, there is a need to ensure reliable and stable export routes, and

    energy security has become a significant factor driving deepening engagement

    with the Caucasus region.

    The need to stabilise the periphery was recognised in the 2003 ESS, which

    spoke of preventative engagement and the ability to act before countries

    around us deteriorate,7 and has given rise to the development of the ENP,

    EU Engagement in Conflict Resolution in the South Caucasus 359

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  • which is seen as one way of stabilising the periphery without enlarging further.

    The EU has included the South Caucasus in the ENP with the aim of

    advocating political and economic reform, supporting conflict prevention and

    resolution, and enhancing intra-regional cooperation.8 The inclusion of the

    three South Caucasus states is of considerable significance, recognising the

    importance of the region to an expanding EU. A resolution on the ENP issued

    by the European Parliament in January 2006 stressed the importance of

    peaceful development on the European continent and in neighbouring areas,

    stating that the EU must help settle conflicts in the Caucasus region. It

    described the ongoing conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh as an impediment to the

    development of Armenia and Azerbaijan and regional cooperation as well as

    the effective implementation of the European neighbourhood policy.9

    The ENP is viewed as a way to address the EUs relations with its new

    neighbours and promote its shared values, such as democracy, human rights

    and the rule of law, in the hope of promoting stability. The EUs external

    relations commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner has described it as the EUs

    newest foreign policy instrument, aimed at using the organisations soft power

    to leverage reforms that will facilitate the expansion of the zone of prosperity,

    stability and security.10 Crucially, Ferrero-Waldner believes it is about

    encouraging reform from within*not imposing it from without. It is hopedthat by encouraging stable democratic development within a country, the ENP

    can play a key role in conflict resolution. As Ferrero-Waldner affirms, through

    promoting democracy and regional cooperation, boosting national reform

    programmes and improving the socio-economic prospects of the region, it can

    contribute to a more positive climate for conflict settlement. The concept of

    encouraging reform within a country is rooted in the belief that the EU will

    have an adequate level of influence. However, one of the major drawbacks of

    the ENP is that, while it is based on the same positive conditionality that

    underpins enlargement and rewards progress in reforms with inducements such

    as an even deeper relationship with the EU, the greatest potential incentive*membership*is not on offer. This means that the organisation has much lessinfluence, not just in terms of its relationships with ENP countries, but also in

    terms of conflict resolution.

    Although the ENP does not offer potential membership of the EU, it does

    offer a privileged relationship with the aim of sharing the Unions stability and

    prosperity. The relationship is supposed to be mutually beneficial with the EU

    serving as a major source of investment and trade for the region, which has

    considerable potential for economic growth. The organisation has bilateral

    trade relations with each country in the South Caucasus, as opposed to the

    region as a whole and the level of trade with the three countries varies

    considerably, thereby impacting on the level of influence that the EU is able to

    exert. Azerbaijan is the EUs largest trading partner in the region, whilst trade

    with Armenia is limited. Thus, trade leverage also varies considerably. In 2005,

    Azerbaijan had a positive trade balance with the EU with exports amounting to

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  • nearly t2.4bn, predominantly oil, gas and cotton, whilst imports from the EU

    totalled t1.5bn. Nevertheless, despite being the EUs largest trading partner in

    the South Caucasus, Azerbaijans share of total EU imports was only 0.2 per

    cent and 0.14 per cent of total exports.11 By contrast, Armenia accounted for

    only 0.04 per cent of total EU imports in 2005, with exports to the region

    amounting to t528m, predominan...