Eastern Partnership summit statement 'not legally binding' – Richard Giragosian

09:56 • 01.11.17



In an interview with Tert.am, Director of the Regional Studies Center Richard Giragosian commented upon EU Eastern Partnership’s summit statement, particularly the anti-Armenian wordings enshrined in the document.

Noting that the statment has no legally binding effect, the expert attributed the undesired formulations to Azerbaijan’s weaker positions on the diplomatic arena, as well as the EU’s interest to crown the summit with success.


Mr Giragosian, now that the Commissioner for European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn announced the Agreement between EU and Armenia will be undoubtedly signed at the Eastern Partnership Summit, there are no doubts about the signing of the document. Doubts have now emerged over possible formulations. The available information suggests that there may be wordings potentially harming Armenia’s position on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Do you think the EU will support the principles of territorial integrity and inviolability of borders with respect to all the conflicts (taking it to account the fact that it will be in the interests of Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia)?


There has been some concern over the delay in preparing the new EU-Armenia Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA) for signing at the 24 November EU summit in Brussels.  And while there is still some concern that the CEPA will possibly be delayed, attention has shifted away from the Agreement and to the summit declaration.


First of all, it is important to note that no matter what happens at the 24 November Brussels summit, any delay in signing does not impact the Agreement itself.  Armenia was able to regain European confidence and, in a rare “second chance,” was able to “initial” the new EU-Armenia Agreement in March 2017.   And this new EU-Armenia CEPA presents a fresh start for the deepening of relations between the two parties in the wake of Armenia’s abortive Association Agreement and related Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA). Despite a difficult and complicated context, both the EU and Armenia have demonstrated the necessary political will to negotiate a new compromise agreement that takes into account Armenia’s commitments and limitations as a member of the Eurasian Economic Union.


A second observation is that although Armenian diplomacy is and should be engaged in a constructive debate over the text of the accompanying declaration, the summit statement is not legally binding and the significance is limited.  In other words, although there is a risk of any text setting a new diplomatic precedent or influencing policy, the Agreement is far more important than the declaration.  For that reason, I am less concerned over any reference to either territorial integrity and even less worried about any “weakening” of the Karabakh issue. 

And my lack of worry or concern also stems from the fact that the public standing and diplomatic prestige of Azerbaijan has been greatly weakened in recent months.  Months of serious scandals, cases of Azerbaijani-linked corruption and a series of new stories detailing Azerbaijani bribes of European officials have only eroded Azerbaijan’s position, which has thereby only lessened any danger or risk for Armenia and Karabakh.   

Do you think Azerbaijan will try to fix the issue of territorial integrity and inviolability of borders in connection with all the conflicts? Will it succeed here?


This is a good question, mainly for one reason: Azerbaijan is not only unpredictable, but its “diplomatic strategy” is neither diplomatic nor strategic.  Rather, it is maximalist and lacks either logic or prudence, making any likelihood of success over the issues of territorial integrity and inviolability of borders a very difficult challenge for Azerbaijan.


We are aware of Azerbaijan's earlier attempts to avoid signing the EaP summit declarations. What kind of acts we should expect this time?


Again, Azerbaijan is as unpredictable as it is emotional on these issues, and it lacks the necessary patience for diplomacy to succeed. For these reasons, they may try to engage in drama or theater, and may threaten to sabotage the summit, but this “bluff and bluster” will not work for the simple reasons that Azerbaijan is much weaker in the European diplomatic arena and, second, because the EU itself needs the summit to be a success.


Chairman of the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Foreign Relations Armen Ashotyan noticeably had concerns over the wordings in the declaration. What should Armenia do to prevent the Azerbaijanis from realizing their goals? Do you think Armenia is working on it?


Although I am not fully aware of the detailed negotiations, for the reasons stated above, I am more confident of Armenia’s diplomatic capabilities and like Mr. Ashotyan, see the threat not from our own diplomatic corps but from questionable “friends” in the EU, like the case of Hungary, for one obvious example.  Nevertheless, it seems clear that Armenia will garner greater diplomatic dividends from the summit and will actually, through the CEPA, save and salvage the EU Eastern Partnership itself by delivering a rare success for the EU as seen in the new Armenia-EU strategic agreement.

 

 

Hripsime Hovhannisyan





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