Interview News.az with political scientist Rasim Musabayov, an independent member of the Milli Majlis.
The European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs has passed a document on Armenia which suggests that the EU replace France as a co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group. Is this motivated by a desire to solve the conflict as soon as possible or to expand the EU presence in the region?
Europe is an economic giant while it remains politically tiny. And individual countries that join the EU are politically weightier actors in international affairs. Certainly, the European Parliament members are not too happy about this, especially the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs.
Therefore, this decision should be considered as a kind of a claim by the EU. The decision can also be described as dissatisfaction with the work of France, as well as an expression of the EU’s ambitions to have a weightier role in international affairs.
Will there be any difference for Azerbaijan if the EU replaces France in the Minsk Group?
In fact, it is unclear what France is still doing in the Minsk Group. The United States is clearly the superpower, therefore, it must be represented. As for Russia, it must also be represented in the Minsk Group, since Azerbaijan and Armenia were once parts of the Russian empire and in this view Russia has its interests in the region. But what is France doing in this group, what are its role and interests? There are no answers to these questions.
France can say that it participates in the Minsk Group because of the proximity of the Karabakh conflict to Europe. But then Europe should be represented in the group, rather than France. Therefore, France’s participation in the Minsk Group remains unclear. In this sense, Turkey has even more real interests than France does.
What procedural issues will the EU have to go through to replace France in the Minsk Group?
There are a number of collisions in the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs. For example, the Minsk Group is a format created by the OSCE. Therefore, it is difficult to imagine the transfer of this mandate from the OSCE to the European Parliament. In addition, France has to reject this mandate. The conflict sides also have to agree to the replacement of France in the Minsk Group. Thus, if the procedure to replace France with the EU starts, the parties and mediators in this conflict will shift to procedural issues instead of dealing with the problem.
It is also hard to see the decision of the European Parliament committee being quickly transformed into practical action. The decisions of the European Parliament committees rather take the forms of recommendations. If the European Parliament passes this decision, it will bring a new political reality to the process of the conflict settlement.
Can the EU influence the resolution of the Karabakh conflict if it replaces France in the Minsk Group?
The EU does not need to replace France in order to voice its position on the Karabakh conflict. In other words, if the EU wants to deal with mediation on Karabakh, it should not replace France in the Minsk Group. A statement by the EU high commissioner for foreign affairs, Catherine Ashton, proposing relevant initiatives and the organization of meetings between the presidents would be enough.
In addition, when the position of the OSCE Minsk Group is voiced, it reflects the opinion of all countries represented in the group, as well as their presidents. Meanwhile, if the EU replaces France in the Minsk Group, it will express the position of the EU. I do not think that today the EU president is more influential than the president of France, or that the foreign minister of France has less authority than the EU high commissioner for foreign affairs.
Today, Europe has only the capacity to stimulate. In other words, the EU can tell Armenia openly to “be a good girl” and have the increased assistance and investments. However, the EU has made similar proposals before but Armenia has not responded.
Can the prospects of EU admission for Azerbaijan and Armenia become leverage in EU hands to attain an agreement on the Karabakh conflict?
No, Azerbaijan’s and Armenia’s EU accession could take 20 to 30 years. This means that Azerbaijan will have to wait for both countries to become EU members and for the Karabakh conflict to be settled all by itself. However, naturally, the very prospect can have a positive impact on the conflict parties. But considering the current realities, the EU does not plan to expand through the admission of economically weak countries. The EU will not assume the burden of the Armenian economy where GDP per capita is $3,000.