October 10, 2023
EU must give Armenia a European Perspective
Germany and Europe now urgently need to become more involved in avoiding further destabilization of Armenia, increasing Azerbaijan’s brutal action and preventing a conflagration in the region. A guest post

By Katrin Bannach, Marcel Röthig, Stephan Malerius, Sonja Schiffers

After the violent capture of Nagorno-Karabakh by Azerbaijan, Armenia faces the greatest challenges and an uncertain future. Russia has not fulfilled its role as a traditional protector and Armenian ally, is putting the country under increasing pressure and has de facto sided with Azerbaijan. On the one hand, Russian inaction is a sign of the decline of Russian power of influence in the region. On the other hand, it is obvious that Russia is fueling the disappointment of many Armenians with the leadership, which has been democratically legitimized since the Velvet Revolution in 2018, in order to push the unwelcome government of Nikol Pashinyans out of office and replace it with loyal forces to Muslim.

After the victory in Nagorno-Karabakh, the Azerbaijani leadership is now calling for an extraterritorial corridor through Armenia to his exclave of Nakhchivan with history revision and aggressive rhetoric. There is a real danger that, given the Armenian inferiority, Russia’s tacit tolerance and a hesitant reaction by West Azerbaijan, seeks the path of violence once again to enforce its maximum demands. An Azerbaijani offensive on Armenian territory under international law and a violent occupation of land in southern Armenia has become more likely after the military escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh. The events of recent months have shown that appeals are no longer sufficient. In this case, the EU must react with tough sanctions to aggression as it has done after Russia’s full invasion of Ukraine.

Germany and Europe now urgently need to become more involved in avoiding further destabilization of Armenia, to increase Azerbaijan’s brutal action and prevent a conflagration in the region. The young Armenian democracy needs support towards a European future, even if this path will be rocky due to the dependency on Russia.

Germany and France should play a joint leading role within the European Union for Armenia and the efforts to achieve peace with Azerbaijan. They should now send clear political signals such as visa liberalization and Armenia’s participation in the European Peace Facility. In addition, the European observer mission in Armenia needs to be increased in personnel and extended in its mandate. Azerbaijan must be allowed to enable the presence of the mission on the Azerbaijani side of the border and in Nagorno-Karabakh. Such a concession would be a clear signal of Azerbaijan’s desire to achieve peace and further cooperation with the EU. At the same time, Germany and France should work on sanctions plans in the event that Azerbaijan attacks Armenia.
Demonstration in Armenien: Menschen protestieren Ende September gegen Premierminister Nikol Paschinjan.
Demonstration in Armenia: People protest against Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan at the end of September. dpa

The integration of more than 100,000 people from Nagorno-Karabakh will be a century task for Armenia. Germany and the EU have already made commitments but should extend them and adapt to long-term humanitarian aid, for example in the construction of residential districts, psychosocial support and the granting of an economic perspective for displaced persons, for example through small loans for agriculture and crafts.

Germany should significantly expand its political and diplomatic presence in Armenia. This is mainly about visibility in the south of Armenia. The model can be France, which opened a Consulate General in the province of Sjunik. This would make Germany and France an important counterpoint to the presence of Russia and Iran in the region. In view of the current security situation, it is also necessary to send a permanently present German military attaché to Yerevan. The staff of the German visa office in Yerevan should also be increased: months of waiting times for a German visa are an unacceptable condition, which is particularly frustrating for young, excellently trained people from Armenia.

As a close partner of Azerbaijan, Turkey has a key role to play in tackling the crisis. The process of normalization between Armenia and Turkey has begun and must be supported much more decisively by Europe. Turkey would benefit enormously from a stable situation and the opening of the Armenian borders. The EU must make it clear to Ankara that a further escalation of violence between Armenia and Azerbaijan is not in the interest of Turkey. This is also an important role for Germany.

For more than 30 years, the preservation of Nagorno-Karabakh was Armenia’s unifying political vision. With the loss of Nagorno-Yj Karabakh, the turning around Russia, and the danger of a war with Azerbaijan, Armenian democracy lacks a long-term vision. Young people there have long recognized their future as part of Europe. It is therefore important to give Armenia a European perspective. To this end, it is important to build the basics today.

Marcel Röthig is the country’s representative of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan
Stephan Malerius is Head of Regional Political Dialogue South Caucasus of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation
Sonja Schiffers is Head of the South Caucasus Regional Office of the Heinrich Böll Foundation
Katrin Bannach is the project manager of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom in the South Caucasus