EU takes the Caucasus under its wing

Agency WPS
What the Papers Say. Part B (Russia)
March 26, 2004, Friday


SOURCE: Nezavisimaya Gazeta, March 26, 2004, p. 5

by Rauf Mirkadyrov

Hejki Talvitije, special envoy of the European Union in the southern
Caucasus, has been touring the region for almost a week. The visit
was scheduled to begin with Azerbaijan, but Talvitije changed his
plans and visited Georgia first, where he himself said he contributed
to the Adzharian crisis management. In fact, the envoy did not come
to the region in the first place to settle conflicts between Tbilisi
and Batumi.

Talvitije informed regional leaders that the European Union has
agreed to include them in its New Neighbors Program. The final
decision will be made before June, he said; the European Union is
currently working on new recommendations for countries of the
southern Caucasus.

Some analysts believe that renewed activity by the European Union in
the southern Caucasus means it is aiming to challenge the United
States in the region, rather than Russia. On his recent visit to
Azerbaijan, Lynn Pascoe of the US State Department said that
Washington is closely monitoring the activities of the European Union
in the region, and would not surrender the initiative.

President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan will visit Brussels, official
capital of the European Union, in late May or early June. This was
announced during Talvitije’s visit by Antonius de Vries, economic
representative of the European Union in Azerbaijan. According to de
Vries, Aliyev is going to Brussels to discuss bilateral relations and
transportation of the Caspian oil to Europe. Aliyev will meet with
Romano Prodi of the European Commission and commissars Lajola di
Palassio (transportation and energy) and Chris Paten (foreign

Integration of countries of the southern Caucasus into European and
European-Atlantic structures may squeeze Russia from the region
altogether. Russia’s only strategic ally in the region, Armenia, will
face a difficult choice – succumbing to Moscow and stay away from
European structures or turn its back on the Kremlin. Anti-Russian
slogans could be heard in Yerevan on the eve of Talvitije’s visit.
Said Yerdjanik Abgarjan, a spokesman for Organization Armat and Party
of National Movement, “Continuation of economic and political
cooperation with Russia will cost Armenia its future.” Adbarjan is
convinced that the phrase “Armenia is a strategic ally of Russia”
should be used sparingly and cautiously, that Armenia should join
powerful international structures like the European Union or NATO, be
more pragmatic and try to have as little to do with Russia as

Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia fear that the European Union and
United States, intent on military-political expansion into the
region, will facilitate resolution of local conflicts in the manner
of the Adzharian crisis management. The latter persuaded everyone
that stability based on simply mothballing conflicts is extremely