Last Updated on Tuesday, 10 October, 2023 at 10:34 am by Andre Camilleri
In July of 2022 we learnt from Twitter, now X, that the President of the EU Commission flew to Azerbaijan to hold talks on the future of gas supplies. Back then, President von der Leyen explained that the EU required reliable partners for the supplies of gas. Let us all agree that relative to Russia, certainly Azerbaijan would have supplied the EU with gas ahead for winter. Just for this reason, it made Azerbaijan a more reliable partner. However, we need to remind everyone that sanctions on Azerbaijan were not imposed at that time, and still are not. Hence, from a commercial point of view it made the Azerbaijani authorities reliable partners in the eyes of the President of the EU Commission. However, comparing Azerbaijan to Russia and placing them as reliable partners just from a commercial point of view, is utterly flawed.
Last year I said that the EU values are in free fall. I based my argument not just on the sole premise of the reliability of additional supplies of gas, but on what was happening in Nagorno-Karabakh. Several political observers were telling me that the territories were disputed years before. Well, that is why it is called a conflict, irrespective of how long they have been disputed. Some told me that I must focus on the history of the region. Other observers even told me that the situation cannot be placed at par with what was happening in Ukraine. Let me be fair in my analysis and agree that the situation, in that current context, was perhaps different from a historical perspective. However, what I was trying to explain last year, was, that while Russia’s attention shifted primarily on Ukraine, Armenians were left on their own, whereas Turkey kept on assisting Azerbaijan. Consequently, Azerbaijan amassed additional military capabilities.
Given that the EU signed an agreement with Azerbaijan on additional supplies of gas, the latter seized the opportunity to consolidate additional powers and used its political leverage while they were meeting in the European Political Community format. Certainly, President Ilham Aliyev was observing each and every move and I hasten to add that he pledged to take over the disputed territories at the same time that the EU was completely focused on the war in Ukraine. A few months down the line we can conclude that the military strategy was achieved. We all know what is happening in the region. Armenians are being pushed out of their territories. It is heart-breaking to see mothers holding the hands of their children leaving everything behind and the EU issuing statements with a risible political discourse of just taking note and being worried. Certainly, we are all worried. It is not a false equivalence to say that what is happening in Nagorno-Karabakh is akin to what is happening in Ukraine. However, it is not Russia this time but Azerbaijan, who according to President von der Leyen, the latter are reliable partners.
Today, the European Political Community are meeting in Granada. It is the third meeting, followed by an informal meeting of the European Council. Well, the idea is to build on the preceding work carried out against the backdrop of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, primarily to sort out the mess and explore possibilities of how leaders can make Europe more resilient, prosperous and geostrategic. From a geostrategic perspective, it is outrageous to allow one of the partners to sit around the table without issuing any positions other than taking note. Hopefully, it is an opportunity to use diplomatic channels to stop what Armenia is calling as ethnic cleansing. Truly, I hope that Armenia delivers a strong message while seated at the negotiations table.
Clearly, if the European Commission and its president do not condemn what is happening, surely, they would be appeasing President Aliyev. Frankly, the statements issued by the EEAS were of just taking note of the situation. It reminded me of the public sector emails replying to have taken note of it. Indeed, the EU took note of what is happening in Nagorno-Karabakh, and it stopped at that. Undeniably, a growing flow of ethnic Armenian refugees flew Nagorno-Karabakh, after Azerbaijan took over the disputed region two weeks ago. Hitherto, over 100,000 people crossed to Armenia. Actually, they were left homeless and penniless. Just to put things into perspective, the figure adds to more than 80% of the Nagorno-Karabakh’s population. Certainly, it is raising the alarm about Azerbaijan’s plans to declare the enclave as part of their territory.
Meanwhile, the High Representative convened a meeting of the EU Foreign ministers in Kyiv. Personally, I am not sure what political messages they are trying to signal to the rest of the world. Perhaps, they are trying to bring Poland closer to Ukraine, as Warsaw recently stopped supplying weapons to Kyiv in a move to arm itself instead. The reason relates to a dispute over Ukraine’s agricultural exports which was flooding and interfering with the Polish agricultural markets. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Orban vetoed the 500m tranche of the European Peace facility to negotiate a deal to remove Hungary’s largest bank from the list of war sponsors, while Slovakia seems to have elected a pro-Russian politician, who made it clear from the outset that military support for Ukraine would certainly be removed. And on the other side of the Atlantic it seems that it is getting difficult to convince Congress on the next assistance package to Ukraine.
On the other hand, the High Representative explained that the meeting was historic in view that Ukraine is a candidate country and a prospective member of the EU. Technically, the message was to bring some positive news to Ukrainians. Meanwhile, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba accentuated the importance of the required ammunitions and military aid needed for Ukraine to resist Russia, especially those coming from the European Peace Facility. Personally, I think that by the time of the next EU elections, the problem might become more pronounced, especially from an economic perspective. The EU is clearly entrapped in an awful political situation. However, by next year, many of the lousy chess players, who devised such a dreadful political outcome, would be wiped off the chessboard. And that is when the main chess players will be invited as honorary members to the Critical Raw Materials Club, just like many other redundant politicians receive invitations as honorary members of golf clubs.