German experts: Azerbaijan and Georgia to turn into regional hub
German political scientists Daniel Hamilton and Stefan Meister analyze the current situation in the countries participating in Eastern Partnership in the article Eastern Voices: Is the West Listening? for DGAP. They cite opinions of local experts who are Eastern Voices which the West has to listen to, according to Hamilton and Meister. Vestnik Kavkaza presents a part of the article dedicated to Armenia, Azerbaijan, and the regional competition between Russia and the West.
"More Western ownership and responsibilty is also needed in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Russia is using the conflict to play the conflict parties against each other, which prompts Anar Valiyev, in his chapter, to demand more engaged Western mediation. U.S. disengagment and EU weakness has left a significant vaccum in the region, which Russia is willing to fill. Yet instead of development and good governance, Russia offers stagnation and ongoing vulnerabilty. Thomas de Waal goes a step further by recommending a “technical expert group” for the Karabakh conflict that can work on scenarios for peacekeeping, reconstruction, rehabilitation of transport links and assisting the return of internally displaced persons. For de Waal, the main Western activities in the South Caucasus should be assistance for state building rather than for strategic alliance building.
Stepan and Hasmik Grigoryan argue that both Armenian and Azerbaijani authorities are using the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict to stay in power by mobilizing the public. More meetings between Armenian and Azerbaijani authorities and parliaments organized by the OSCE and the EU could help to facilitate common joint projects as a basis for building trust. But the main driver of change is likely to be more person-to-person contact and trust-building between the societies of both countries. The authors recommend an upgraded Western role in demanding more accountability from the Armenian authorities with regard to human rights, democracy and the rule of law. Furthermore, more Western engagement with regard to economic relations with Armenia is needed, for instance EU agreement to open its market to agricultural products.
In Azerbaijan, the current economic and political model is in a deep crisis, particularly because of low prices for oil and gas. Valiyev argues that the lack of economic diversification and good governance, together with the ongoing Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, renders Azerbaijan vulnerable to external and internal shocks. He highlights the country’s priority need for a well-trained young generation that can modernize public administration, public health, education, and the law system. Changes can only come from within, which for the current leadership seems to be the biggest threat, which leads it to conduct a repressive policy against civil society and any kind of opposition. How this young generation can break up the decrepit structures and the clientelistic system, however, remain an open question. Valiyev recommends greater Western investment in the exchange of young people, and in education, in Azerbajan. Joint educational programs would strengthen Western soft power in the region and could create a new generation of change. In addition, the West should invest in commercial infrastructure and transportation projects that could compete with the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union, and that could make Azerbaijan and Georgia a regional hub between Asia, Central Asia and Europe.