Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission articulated several fascinating theses during her visit to Azerbaijan and Armenia. First, she visited Baku where she attended the Southern Gas Corridor Advisory Council Second Ministerial Meeting of and exchanged views with nation’s top leaders. She then travelled to Yerevan. While in Baku, she emphasized particular attention that EU paid to cooperation with Azerbaijan. She also highlighted important role played by Azerbaijan in ensuring Europe’s energy security, which should be seen as for Brussels, relations with Azerbaijan are of strategic significance. In Yerevan, she stated that the EU was not looking for satellites and that Europe needed strong partners. In fact, those messages indicate the priorities in the organization’s South Caucasus policy. One could guess that this posture could have implications within the global geopolitical environment.
Energy Diplomacy in Europe’s Security Policy: Status Changes
The experts evaluate Mogherini’s visit to the South Caucasus countries from the perspective of the Western geopolitical course. In both Baku and Yerevan, EU’s top diplomat made it clear that attitude of the organization to the range of issues contains important aspects of the cooperation prospects between the EU and the countries of the region. This is a rather significant thesis against the backdrop of complex geopolitical processes happening in the region of the Middle East.
Mogherini touched upon some principal elements of EU-Azerbaijan relationship as she delivered her remarks during the Second Ministerial Meeting of the Southern Gas Corridor Advisory Council (see: Bakıda “Cənub qaz dəhlizi” Məşvərət Şurası çərçivəsində nazirlərin ikinci toplantısı keçirilib / AZƏRTAC, 29 February 2016). First, it becomes evident that the EU views its relations with Azerbaijan in a broader geopolitical context. According to Mogherini, there was one contentious aspect, related to organization’s performance that had to be addressed. It stems from the fact that “energy policy within the European Union is not always linked with the foreign policy”. Such statement by the EU official attests to differences within the organization.
In particular, Mogherini pointed to lack of coherence between the EU’s domestic energy policy and the organization’s foreign policy. Indeed, this is a serious handicap in the present historic phase as it imperils the means of ensuring energy security under the current geopolitical circumstances. Foreign and domestic policy must complement one another, while bearing in mind that energy security is an integral component of national security.
Yet there is another principal issue. Successful coupling of energy and foreign policies is directly connected with implementation of policy that is transparent, genuine and fair. The policy that is immune from double standards. That is to say, if Mogherini indeed desires to see the realization of the abovementioned thesis the EU must revisit its political course.
In this sense, Mogherini’s admissions are fascinating: ”The value which we in the EU attach to initiative of the Southern Gas Corridor is evident: both Maroš and I are here to take part in this meeting. The Southern Gas Corridor is an essential element in the EU’s Energy Security Strategy, and energy diplomacy is a fundamental part of our work on Foreign Affairs and Security Policy… Together with Maroš Šefčovič, we started this year with a shared idea that within the European Union the energy policy is not always linked with the foreign policy. In the Commission, we are trying to merge better that policy among the 28 member states. Because today, regardless where the issue of energy takes us, it is obvious that it remains a part of our security and foreign relations, as well as an element of regional network” (see: same reference).
Apparently, energy diplomacy is gaining greater relevance in the foreign and security policy of the EU. In that sense, the Southern Gas Corridor goes beyond the framework of EU energy policy and stands as key element of regional security and economic integration. “It is about enlarging and deepening political, economic and social ties with a number of partners in a wider region” (see: same reference).
Warning to Yerevan: “Uncertain Certainty”
European official described the geopolitical manifestation of that approach in the following fashion, ”The Southern Gas Corridor and the Caspian region are clearly part of our key priorities” (see: previous reference). Certainly one aspect of that course must be related to the settlement of the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno Karabakh conflict. In this connection Mogherini said, “The unresolved Nagorno-Karabakh conflict poses a serious risk for the stability of the region. The EU will keep working towards a fair and sustainable peaceful solution” (see: same reference). In her personal blog, she mentioned discussing with Azerbaijan’s leaders the issues related to Iran and situation between Turkey and Russia (see: Returning from Azerbaijan and Armenia / Federicamogherini.net, 2 March 2016).
Her visit to Yerevan also evokes interest in light of her abovementioned remarks. What were the messages that EU High Representatives conveyed in Yerevan? Armenian expert community is having trouble in assessing the outcome of Federica Mogherini’s visit to Armenia (see: В итоге визита Могерини в Армению / “Lragir.am”, 2 March 2016). Assisting refugees from Syria was the only issue that was properly addressed. There was no clear position on the rest of the problems. Relevance of EU-Armenia was reiterated in general terms and views were exchanged on restoring the ties that have been on decline since 2013.
It seems that Mogherini’s visit to Yerevan was a mere courtesy call and act of adding balance to her visit to Azerbaijan (see: previous reference). One of her comments made in Armenia that had sufficient essence went unnoticed by the Armenian experts. “We don’t need satellites, we need partners, and strong ones” said Mogherini (see: Могерини: партнёрство ЕС с Арменией положительно скажется на всем регионе / “REGNUM”, 1 March 2016).
In Baku Mogherini clearly stated that EU-Azerbaijan cooperation was a special priority issue. In line with this logic, Azerbaijan is obviously acknowledged as a reliable and strong partner. Whereas use of the term “satellite” with respect to Armenia is illustrative of attitude to different countries in the South Caucasus. That is why the experts in Armenia describe the EU-Armenia relations as ”uncertain certainty” (see: Арам Аматуни. Армения-ЕС: неопределенная определенность / “1in.am”, 6 March 2016). Element of uncertainty for the Armenians was Mogherini’s position reiterating the need to change the status quo in the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. That was her response to the question asked by an Armenian journalist in Yerevan (see: Могерини: Статус-кво в Карабахском конфликте должен быть изменен / “Кавказ Online”, 2 March 2016).
Thus, ideas expressed by Mogherini during her visit to the South Caucasus demonstrate that Europe is making certain changes to its policy vis-à-vis this region. Brussels once again emphasizes Azerbaijan’s significance for the region and shows greater acknowledgment of the fact. In the meantime, it is interested in taking actions aimed at saving Armenia from becoming a total fiefdom. Until now, Yerevan has failed to produce a tangible program. Ending its dependence on Russia is a daunting task. Lack of independence in the policies pursued for years has engendered numerous problems. Summary of the abovementioned is the following: the EU is expected to attach greater importance to cooperation with Azerbaijan. Yet this does not mean imply that Brussels would easily give up its policy of double standards.