STRASBOURG–The European Parliament approved Thursday a report urging the EU to craft a strategy for proactive engagement with the critically important South Caucasus region.
The report, submitted by Bulgarian Socialist MEP Evgeni Kirilov, stresses the need for the EU to become an active player in the Caucasus. It says Europe must work to stabilize the region and encourage the development of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia.
“The main goal of the EU in the South Caucasus should be to help Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia became stable democratic states that can have good neighborly relations with one another, and be integrated with the EU policies,” Kirilov declared before the vote on his report entitled “The Need for a Strategy in the South Caucasus.”
“The South Caucasus is not only a region bordering the EU (i.e. Bulgaria and Romania through the Black Sea), but also a region of enormous strategic importance with respect to our economic and security policies because of its increasingly crucial role as an energy, transport and communications corridor connecting the Caspian Region and Central Asia with Europe,” said Kirilov.
He said he hoped that the EU’s most recent initiative for the region, the Eastern Partnership, will contribute substantially to the integration of the three South Caucasus states with the EU. Kirilov also said that the realization of the Nabucco gas transit pipeline project required deeper EU presence in the region. These developments, however, will fail to materialize, he noted, if the region’s unresolved conflicts remain frozen.
“These ambitious policies of the EU will be hard to realize because of the shadow cast by the unresolved conflicts in Georgia and Nagorno Karabakh. The conflict in Georgia in 2008 made the EU realize that it has to play a more active role in the region. This conclusion is even more valid for the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh between Armenia and Azerbaijan where EU’s absence is felt very strongly,” the Bulgarian Socialist MEP underscored.
Kirilov said the thousands of people displaced because of the region’s conflicts burden the development of the three states and are a serious humanitarian problem.
“The EU has the means and the expertise to contribute to the creation of a tolerant atmosphere in the Southern Caucasus,” he said.
Kirilov’s report, which was adopted with an overwhelming majority, was supported strongly by his Bulgarian colleague from the European People’s Party, Andrey Kovachev, who is the Chair of the Bulgarian delegation within the EPP-EP group.
“I welcome wholeheartedly the report of Mr. Kirilov which stresses the need for a more active EU role in the South Caucasus, a region whose positive development is in the interest not only for the neighboring Black Sea region – for which, unfortunately, the EU does not have a clear strategy as well – but also for the entire EU,” Kovachev stated during debates.
In his remarks, Kovachev expressed concern over the freeze in rapprochement talks between Turkey and Armenia and urged the EU to use its experience from the Balkans and Georgia to help settle the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
“The Lisbon Treaty has provided the EU with a framework for becoming a truly global actor. An example in that direction would be the participation of the EU as a member in the OSCE Minsk Group, while at present only the individual member states participate in the group,” Kovachev said. He was referring to the US, French and Russian-led OSCE body mediating for a settlement of the Karabakh conflict.