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European Parliament`s annual report: Azerbaijan strengthening its standing

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Baku, 19 December 2018 – Newtimes.az

There has been a tendency for international organizations to take a fair attitude towards Azerbaijanin the last few years. This has manifested itself in their documents and resolutions. The European Union is adopting more and more documents recognizing Azerbaijani realities. One of them was adopted on December 12. The European Parliament`s annual report on the implementation of the Common Foreign and Security Policy expressed support for the EU partners’ sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity. This means that the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict can only be solved within the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and in compliance with norms and principles of international law. It is extremely important. The report also outlines the EU`s vision for global developments, which allows to look at the issue from a geopolitical perspective. In this context, we will analyze some points featured in the European Parliament report.

European Parliament report: acknowledgement of realities

The European Parliament`s plenary session heard the Committee on Foreign Affairs` annual report on the implementation of the Common Foreign and Security Policy. David McAllister, German politician, chair of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, was rapporteur of the 29-point report. The report was adopted by the majority of votes. (see Annual report on the implementation of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (2018/2097(INI)) / europarl.europa.eu, 26 November, 2018).

Experts believe that two points in this report are worth paying attention to. First of all, what is interesting is how the EU assesses its foreign policy because experts make mixed forecasts about the political future of the organization. So the EU`s vision for its fate is of particular interest. The second point is about the EU`s attitude towards regional conflicts. In this context, Brussels` stance on decades-long conflicts in the South Caucasus causes interest.

Against a background of these principles, the EU`s policy towards new independent states is worth paying attention to. This issue has gained topicality in the past few years. The reason is that geopolitical and political processes in the post-Soviet area have accelerated, which requires objective assessment of the emerging factors.

Most importantly it is not a coincidence that the report was adopted by the majority of votes. In behind-the-scenes developments, there has been a tough competition between those advocating self-determination and territorial integrity principles. Several pro-Armenian MEPs (members of the European Parliament) attempted to exaggerate the right to self-determination. They suffered a heavy defeat in Brussels in 2017 when the Eastern Partnership summit adopted a joint declaration, expressing support for sovereignty, territorial integrity and inviolability of borders of partner countries. And the report adopted on December 12, 2018, is a logical follow-up.

In addition, this document highlights the principles of the EU`s approach to geopolitical processes. The organization has started drawing certain conclusions from the global processes, which manifested itself in the annual report.

The EU believes that its security environment is now more volatile, unpredictable, complex and ambiguous than at any time since the end of the Cold War, confronted with interstate conflicts, natural disasters, terrorism, failed states, cyber-attacks and hybrid warfare (see previous source).This situation necessitates the EU focusing on two major points: ensuring its own security and developing constructive relations with neighbouring countries. Brussels believes that "the EU has a growing responsibility to safeguard its own security while defending its interests and value”.

The report describes maintenance of relations with neighbouring countries as a key foreign policy priority for Brussels. It is also one of the EU`s strategic goals. So the organization`s security depends on the state of its relations with neighbouring countries. The EU regards the safeguarding of its interests and values as the cornerstone of its activity. This testifies to the organization`s commitment to its global geopolitical leadership claims.

Setting itself such a goal is not an easy task. According to the report, the EU’s population is in decline and forecast to account for just 5 % of the world’s population around 2050, compared to 13 % in 1960. The organization is facing a growing demographic problem. "… more than half of the world’s population growth by 2050 is expected to occur in Africa, which is expected to account for 1.3 billion of the additional 2.4 billion people on the planet; whereas the concentration of this growth in some of the poorest countries will lead to a series of new challenges which, if not addressed immediately, will have destructive effects both for the countries in question and for the European Union,” the report says.

Brussels seemingly drew this conclusion given the unprecedented migration and refugee crisis facing Europe. Against a background of declining European population, an increase in the number of people of different backgrounds and cultures poses a threat to Europeans as a race. This tendency may worsen demographic situation in the EU, causing new problems.

The report warns of the possible emergence of a new balance of global geopolitical power by 2050 (see previous source). "…by 2050, China, the US and India may have become the world’s leading economic powers, with even greater political clout, while in a long-term redistribution of economic and political weight, none of the world’s largest economies will be an EU member state and the European Union will thus face a radically different balance of world power which will require renewed efforts to enhance existing global governance institutions,” the report says.

Brussels` forecasts are not confined to these matters since the report provides a wide overview of the EU`s situation. "…the new world order is increasingly characterized by asymmetry, with numerous non-state actors having expanded their influence over the past decade, from NGOs advocating human rights, fair trade and sustainable management of natural resources, to transnational corporations influencing government policy, to social media activists calling for democratic change; whereas international organized criminal groups and terrorist organizations are attempting to undermine democratic principles; whereas, nevertheless, the multilateralism to which Europe is deeply attached is increasingly called into question, yet no emergent state or non-state actor can impose an incontestable world view.” (see previous source).

Threat to EU from two directions: between cooperation and chaos

This poses a threat to the EU from two directions. Firstly, the multilateralism to which Europe is deeply attached is increasingly called into question. Countries are facing confrontations, with armed conflicts and uncertainty growing. Secondly, no emergent state or non-state actor can impose an incontestable world view. So responsibility will rest with the existing superpowers, including the EU.

Against this background, the report says global public opinion became cognizant of "the need for transnational solutions to address transnational problems and for multilateral organizations to improve global governance” (seeprevious source). "…almost one fourth of the world’s population live in fragile states or societies; whereas these increasingly are a breeding ground for socio-economic inequality which, together with climate change, is an immediate challenge to stability, democracy and peace.”

The report also expresses the EU`s concern that it’s "aspirational global leadership and influence have been undermined as a result of the financial crisis, its management of the unprecedented migration and refugee crisis, rising Euroscepticism, the proliferation of crises on our doorstep, a lack of consistency in foreign policy, rising skepticism of European public opinion on the projection of force abroad and the lack of effective strategic autonomy of the EU, which has given rise to a tendency to respond to events rather than to shape them; whereas the EU nonetheless remains the world leader in regulatory standards.” (seeprevious source).

The EU says "powers such as China or Russia are trying to fill this vacuum and are seeking to challenge, rather than embrace, existing global governance based on international law; whereas the latter states have a different approach to development cooperation which is not linked to improvements in the rule of law or other democratic reforms”.

The EU also focuses on the U.S., Iran as well as several international terrorist organizations. The report describes the United States` decision to withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran as a great threat to security in the Middle East, and calls Washington`s imposing secondary sanctions on European companies doing legitimate business with Iran "deeply regrettable”. It "undermines European economic sovereignty, thereby highlighting the EU’s problematic reliance on the dollar trading system”.

"ISIS, Al Qaeda, and other international terrorist organizations still pose a significant threat to Europe and the nations of the world,” the European Parliament says in the report. "European security is based on the ambition of a common strategic autonomy, as underlined in the Union's Global Strategy; whereas an ambitious, credible and effective common foreign policy must be supported by adequate financial resources and means and must be based on a coherent, timely and consistent approach by the Member States.” (see previous source). In other words, Brussels is determined to realize the EU`s global strategy.

The report says that "the time has come for the European Union to take its destiny into its own hands”. "…the EU should embrace its role as a fully-fledged, sovereign political and economic power in international relations that helps to resolve conflicts worldwide and shapes global governance; stresses therefore that a genuinely common European foreign and security policy, based on strategic autonomy and its integration, including in terms of capabilities, in the areas of industry and operations, is needed to promote our common interests as well as our principles and values.” The EU is convinced that no single EU member state can respond effectively to today’s global challenges on its own, and that by pulling their weight together within the EU, the member states can exert an influence on the world stage that they would not otherwise possess. However, the EU regrets the fact that the member states "all too often prioritize their national interests, regardless of the possible consequences at a European level, thereby undermining the EU’s unity, consistency and effectiveness”.

All these necessitate the organization reconsidering its external relations. The report stresses that "the European approach to external relations is characterized by:promoting and safeguarding universal values such as peace, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, including minority rights; a commitment to multilateralism and a rules-based international order with the support of the UN system and regional organizations such as the OSCE; an emphasis on conflict prevention and management, mediation, peaceful conflict resolution, peacebuilding and institution building;  the promotion of sustainable development, aid and economic cooperation, fair trade, climate-friendly agreements and alternative sources of energy.” (see previous source).

The report underlines that EU external action "has a direct impact on our citizens’ lives, both within and outside the European Union, be it by supporting peace, economic cooperation, security and stability within and outside our borders, preventing crises before they happen, managing them to avoid negative spillover effects or facilitating peaceful conflict resolution”.

Ilham Aliyev`s successes: support for territorial integrity and sovereignty

The points highlighted in the European Parliament`s annual report allow to draw important geopolitical conclusions. Most importantly, the current situation necessitates the EU reconsidering its internal and external policy. According to the report, current EU policies may no longer suffice to promote a stable and prosperous neighbourhood. The European Union needs to change in order to renew its role in the global politics. Ensuring conflict resolution in its neighbourhood is one of the priority tasks for the EU in this regard because otherwise, those regions will pose a threat to the organization, even put its existence at risk and undermine international cooperation. Then Brussels will have to seriously reconsider its Eastern Partnership initiative and its role in conflict resolution.

The EU therefore has been trying to distance itself from double standard approach to regional conflicts after the Riga Summit of 2015. What should be admitted is that some groups have been seriously impeding this process. Pro-Armenian forces in Europe play a special role here. There are factions lobbying for Yerevan in the European Parliament. European Friends of Armenia (EuFoA) is one of them. This faction is bribing MEPs into lying. Interestingly, the number of Armenia`s sympathizers has been decreasing in the past two years. This is why all too often the EU is adopting documents deemed unsatisfactory by Armenia. The European Parliament`s annual report is very remarkable in this context.

The report reiterates "the EU’s commitment to support its partners’ sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity; underlines the need to address all frozen conflicts in accordance with international law, norms and principles, to increase support to conflict-affected residents, internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees and to counter attempts at destabilization from third countries…” It condemns "Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and military intervention in Eastern Ukraine” as well as "the continued militarization and deteriorating security and humanitarian situation in the Georgian occupied territories”. (see previous source).

Two important conclusions can be drawn from this formula. The first is that the EU recognizes sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of all its partners, including Azerbaijan. Secondly, the EU reiterates that Ukraine and Georgia suffered from occupation. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev played an exceptional role in the EU`s recognizing sovereignty, independence and territorial integrityof the country.

Back at the Riga Summit, Ilham Aliyev explained shortcomings of the EU`s associate membership. However, he expressed Azerbaijan`s commitment to building strategic partnership with the organization and put forward a specific program. After considering the Azerbaijani President`s proposals, Brussels made appropriate conclusions. Among them, the EU affirmed recognition of Azerbaijan`s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrityin 2007.

Ilham Aliyev proved that Azerbaijan wants to establish sincere relations with the EU not only in political area. By implementing programs in socio-economic, trade, energy, transport and logistic fields, Baku proved itself to be a reliable and key partner. This has seriously affected Brussels` double-standard policy. 

The aforementioned analysis shows that although the European Parliament`s annual report is approaching justice,it still has certain shortcomings. For example, while the report calls Russia an occupying country, it does not mention Armenia. It reiterates that Ukraine and Georgia faced occupation, but does not stress Azerbaijan`s case. But why? The reason is that Brussels has not yet got completely rid of its double-standard syndrome.

But experience shows that President Ilham Aliyev will make Brussels admit this too. It is the Azerbaijani leader`s very successful foreign policy that lies behind every document supporting Azerbaijan. It is Ilham Aliyev`s political will and diplomatic skills that matter.

By implementing effective programs, Ilham Aliyev will once again prove that Azerbaijan adheres to statehood principles more than any other country in the South Caucasus and that it is a reliable and prospective partner. If the EU does not want its neighbours to pose a threat, then it should defend justice and play a role in satisfying Azerbaijan`s fair demands. In the interest of its own existence, Brussels should get completely ridof double-standard approach in its South Caucasus policy.We consider the European Parliament`s annual report as another step towards this. This document represents vital importance and is another triumph of the Azerbaijani President`s foreign policy.

Kamal Adigozalov

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