No Turkey, No Caucasus: should the EU turn towards the Southeast?

Article published on Jan. 22, 2003
community published
Article published on Jan. 22, 2003

This article has not been vetted by an editor at Paris HQ

The dissolution of the Soviet Empire has caused for some of the States born, or reborn, from its ashes a problem with regard to their international place, and even historical-geographical definition.

This has been the situation in Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. These three Countries turned immediately to the European institutions and its members, to cement the independence that in 1991 seemed merely formal. A basic problem appeared immediately, the same that has appeared and is appearing even today as regards Turkey: are these Countries European or not? The European Council almost immediately decided yes and began the process to welcome them into its bosom.

But it is above all the European Union to whom all three Countries turn. Thats what the Georgian President Sheverdnadze declared in his first speech before the European Parliament, in March 18th. The south Caucasian region must shake off its high rate of corruption, create a new business class independent from the current powerful elite and strengthen the young and fragile democratic institutions. Each Country must, first of all, conquer the real sovereignity on its territory and the population who lives there, in order to take them out of the control of the various criminal groups. The resolution of the conflicts of the past decade is the conditio sine qua non to reduce ethnic conflicts and to create that true regional cooperation that the Union has rightly considered necessary to improve the living conditions of all three States. The United States are working in this direction. Since Autumn 2001 they have been training the Georgian frontier guards and the Azeri police for the war against terror. A more active involvement of the Union would not have the negative consequences this one has had because, on one side it would act on a structural level, and on the other side it would act in harmony and cooperation with the neighbouring Countries. In 2001 the European Parliament discussed the proposal to create a southern version of the northern dimension created for the three Baltic Republics. In that case different cross-frontier initiatives have been created by the Union, the above-mentioned three States and all the neighbouring Countries, Russia included. A corner stone was the clear outlook of adhesion of the three States. The Union is already pushing for a policy of cooperation between the three Republics and the neighbouring States. It has, for example, indicated to Turkey the reopening of the frontiers with Armenia as one of the pre-conditions to beginning the adhesion negotiations. The Anatolian State has a key-position in the future of the Caucasian region. The project, dreamt up at the beginning of the Nineties, to extend its influence up to Eastern Turkestan (nowadays the Chinese province of Xinjiang) has waned. Apart from some rhetoric action, Ankara doesnt have the economic or political strength to follow such an ambitious aggregative scheme. The same structural weakness stops Russia from remaining the heart of a union of the post-Soviet regions. Today Turkey turns to the European Union that, enlarging to the ex-Soviet-satellites of East Europe, proposes itself as a centre of aggregation free from the hegemonic plans of a single State. The relationships with Ankara are the real test bench for the Union, if it wants to play a more active role in the world, starting in the neighbouring regions. If the Union thinks the traffic of drugs and illegal immigrants, the terrorism that is growing in a badly controlled territory, and the growing fluxes of economy and politics, all of which pass through Caucasus need its attention, the Union must turn to Caucasus. The shape, which is a outlook of adherence or a new Pact of Stability, is for now irrelevant. Without Turkey there will be no common border with these little Republics. Above all, if we exclude the entrance of Turkey, the Union will be condemned to be shut into the borders fixed in Copenhagen and that big corridor of goods, energy and culture that is East Europe, will stop at the Balkans, without going on to Caucasus.