Diplomatic success or foreign policy victory?

Thu 14 December 2017 14:16 GMT | 14:16 Local Time

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The European Parliament has today approved the annual "EU foreign and security policy", which for the first time reaffirmed EU's commitments to support the territorial integrity of all Eastern Partnership countries within their internationally recognized borders.

The resolution was adopted by an overwhelming majority of votes (408 for and 132 against).

The resolution, prepared on the basis of the annual report by David McAllister, the chairman of the European Parliament's International Relations Committee, is doctrinal in nature and must be taken into account when formulating and implementing the foreign policy of the European Union. This was stated by the Vice President of the European Union for Foreign Policy, Federica Mogerini, who was present during the discussions.

This document is of fundamental importance for the relations of the EU with Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, which are involved in territorial conflicts.

First, the commitment to supporting the territorial integrity of the Eastern Partnership countries is for the first time outlined within the framework of the internationally recognized borders of all these states. Earlier such concretization was demonstrated only in relation to Ukraine. Attempts by the Armenian lobby again to "tie" this point only to Ukraine was defeated by the European Parliament by an overwhelming majority of votes - overwhelming to such an extent that there was no need to count votes!

Second, for the first time this commitment is expressed as an obligation of the European Union. Third, for the first time these definitions were used not in the general sense, but in the context of the settlement of all conflicts existing in the countries of the Eastern Partnership.

Fourth, the mandatory nature of this resolution practically nullifies all previous attempts by the Armenian lobby to fix its interests in the documents of the European Parliament, which have a recommendatory character. Thus, the phrases that could be interpreted "in an Armenian way", were reflected in the recommendations of the European Parliament to the EU External Relations Service while preparing the agenda for EU's participation in the 72nd General Assembly of the United Nations and the Brussels Summit of the Eastern Partnership. By the way, none of these formulations was taken into account when preparing documents for both the UN General Assembly and the Summit.

The last resolution of the European Parliament, dated Dec. 13, was a logical continuation of the process fixed in the joint statement of the Eastern Partnership Summit held in Brussels on Nov. 24 and which President Ilham Aliyev assessed as the diplomatic success of Azerbaijan.

To understand this shift in the EU foreign policy, it is necessary to understand that a few years ago the European Union categorically refused even to recognize (let alone support) the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, using other principles in the approach to the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict, rather than in evaluating other conflicts ...

...Brussels, 2011. The then president of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, after returning from a trip to the countries of the South Caucasus refused (!) his statements made in support of the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, documented during his public appearance in Baku ...

...Brussels, 2013. During the visit of President Ilham Aliyev to the EU, the European Commission annulled the signing of the final joint declaration due to the refusal (!) of the team of EU officials to fix mutual support for the territorial integrity of the parties. In response to this and other unfriendly actions of the EU, Azerbaijan decided to end the negotiations on The Association Agreement with the EU, the annual meetings of the Council, the Committee and the sectoral subcommittees of bilateral cooperation with the European Union ...

Riga Eastern Partnership Summit, May, 2015. The legacy of the "double standards" policy for Azerbaijan, left by the previous team, continued to poison our country's relations with the new leaders of the European Union. Thus, in the draft joint declaration of 28 EU member states and 6 Eastern Partnership countries, in spite of Azerbaijan's protest, there was used the terminology differentially evaluating conflicts in Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova on the one hand and the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict on the other hand. Then, President Ilham Aliyev made a principled decision that radically changed the negative trend in the relations between the European Union and Azerbaijan. He refused to participate in the Summit and instructed the Azerbaijani delegation to vote against the Joint Statement, which should be adopted by the consensus of all participating countries. According to some sources at the EU, after the Azerbaijani delegation refused to support the consensus on the Joint Statement, the President of the Council of the European Union Donald Tusk held a phone talk with President Ilham Aliyev. Only after that, Azerbaijan agreed to a consensus, though with the addition of the Azerbaijani delegation, adopted as part of the Joint Statement.

The significance of what happened at the Riga Summit cannot be overestimated. The clear position of President Aliyev demonstrated that Azerbaijan can not only limit bilateral cooperation with the EU exclusively on the economic agenda, but also withdraw from such an important multilateral project of the European Union as the Eastern Partnership. What, in fact, can turn this project into a formal substance, with a purely donor function of the European Union, without any political impact in terms of establishing interaction with Asian neighbors, without such system-forming elements of any multilateral process as infrastructure, transport, energy and economic components.

The EU paid dearly for curtsey to the occupant country... This was the reason for the unplanned visit of President of the EU Council Donald Tusk to Azerbaijan in July 2015, just one month after the Riga Summit.

In Baku, he issued an official statement on unequivocal support for the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and the need to resolve the Karabakh conflict on the basis of norms and principles of international law. This support was repeated in February 2016 in the statement of Mogherini during her visit to Baku. Tusk again officially announced the support of the EU to the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan during President Aliyev's visit to Brussels in February 2017

Thus, this principle was fixed in the doctrinal documents of both the executive and parliamentary institutions of the EU, as well as in the multilateral statements of the heads of state and governments. Moreover, the European Union clearly demonstrated a unified approach to resolving conflicts in the territory of Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova and Azerbaijan, without dividing them into "theirs" and "outsiders", without applying the policy of "double standards".

One can suggest that the life itself made Europeans reconsider approaches to these issues. Yet Catalonia and Crimea did not initiate, but only consolidated this process, which began long before the events in Barcelona. In addition, what prevented the European Union from pursuing a policy of differentiating approaches to conflict resolution in its "own" Spain, "associated" - Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova and seemingly "alien" Azerbaijan?

Or rather, who prevented? The answer is obvious. What President Ilham Aliyev named "a diplomatic success" in Brussels, because of his modesty, is his foreign policy victory achieved as a result of the foresight of the political trend in world politics, a correct assessment of the role and potential of the country in European projects, his stamina and professionalism, and the ability to maximize the effective use of the emerging situation in the national interest.

President Ilham Aliyev was not only able to instill in Europeans respect for his people and to convince them of the correctness of Azerbaijan's position. By and large, he is the author of such a qualitatively new and strategically important political trend in European politics for Azerbaijan as supporting the territorial integrity of the partner countries on the basis of the principle of inviolability of borders and the use of a unified approach to conflict resolution in all countries of the Eastern Partnership.

Future sporadic attempts by the Armenian lobby for levelling this trend are not ruled out, but they are unlikely to have such a significant effect. The opportunities for using the institutional platforms of the European Union and the Eastern Partnership to justify Armenia's aggression against Azerbaijan will be extremely limited.

This inspires confidence in the future of relations between Azerbaijan and the European Union. And first of all, the EU support for the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan within the framework of internationally recognized borders will be fixed in the new agreement on strategic partnership with the EU.

Nigar Guliyeva, Trend's Observer.

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