Confederate commonwealth can become basis for integration of South Caucasus countries
For centuries, the South Caucasus has often acted as an arena of confrontation between major world powers. Located at the junction of cultures and civilizations, this region managed was a part of several empires (Roman, Ottoman, Persian, Russian). At one time, it was a part of the largest socialist state in history. Today, South Caucasus is a geopolitical space divided by complex ethnic conflicts that hinder implementation of mutually beneficial initiatives aimed at realizing existing economic potential of the entire region. Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia urgently need strong regional integration, otherwise sovereignty of the republics can be seriously hurt due to politics of the world geopolitical centers, for which space between Europe and Central Asia is of extreme strategic importance.
When it was a part of various empires, the South Caucasus had unitary form of government. Regional states began to appear in the South Caucasus in May of 1918, after two revolutions and the collapse of the Russian Empire. A lot of intellectuals, who received education in the best educational institutions of Russia and Western Europe, came to power.
Today, when those countries became independent states, principles of confederative commonwealth can become most acceptable basis for integration. Although confederation is politically weaker than unitary or federative state, it allows to adopt more flexible governance principles. In fact, it's designed to resolve primary problems of the region by creating only those government bodies that are necessary to resolve specific problems. In other words, strict vertical of power, which usually accompanies federal and unitary state, is replaced by permanently operating confederation governing bodies, which don't have that much power, and resolutions they adopt don't have direct effect, since they're not addressed directly to citizens, but to authorities of members of the confederation.
Supranational principle of forming governing bodies is a necessary condition for preservation of national sovereignty of the peoples of the South Caucasus. In this case, recognition of self-proclaimed entities becomes possible only as part of confederation. In other words, principle of territorial integrity of the republics can be observed this way. The fate of Karabakh, Abkhazia and South Ossetia cannot be determined based on results of the war. Recognition of independence of self-proclaimed entities may result in mutual accusations of supporting local separatism. As part of the Soviet Union, this region functioned on the basis of federalism principles. But considering ethnic characteristics of the region, federalism principles are not capable of ensuring equality between small and numerous nations. Autonomous existence of certain ethnic groups forces latter to continuously defend their own sovereignty, and semi-marginal politics and isolation often become sources of interethnic tensions.
Features of confederative government system allow to ease off national relations, preventing outbreaks of local separatism. Needs of compact living ethnic groups are no longer that relevant due to equal representation of all peoples. It's important to note that the nature of autonomous separatism usually lies in negative perception of changes in the ethnic map of a particular region. For example, today's Abkhazia doesn't know what to think about prospect of return of more than two hundred thousand Georgian IDPs, since at the household level, Abkhazians fear restoration of the ethnic balance between Abkhazian and Georgian national communities, which existed in 1989. According to the last All-Union Population Census, the share of Abkhazians in the Abkhaz ASSR was 18%, while Georgians - 45%. Situation in Nagorno-Karabakh is also paradoxical. During the blockade years, mentality of Armenian population of the former autonomy had strong notion that if Azerbaijani population returns, Armenians of Karabakh will be forced to leave the region, just like Armenians of Nakhichevan. Free interpretation of Heydar Aliyev’s 2002 interview with the Zerkalo newspaper adds fuel to the fire. In this interview, he confirms that he supported Azerbaijani community of Karabakh, promoting its increase, thereby overcoming ethnic isolation of the former Armenian autonomy.
Integration of the South Caucasus will facilitate free movement of goods, services and money. Considering the fact that largest economies of Russia, Turkey and Iran are neighbors of the South Caucasian republics, economies of Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan need to coordinate economic, financial and social policies to prevent population outflows and create unified position on regional foreign trade and foreign economic relations with third countries. At the beginning of the 20th century, creation of confederative cooperation model was problematic due to intervention of external forces, in particular the Entente countries.
Today Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia have a chance to achieve quick and significant results in the framework of trilateral cooperation, if they manage to unite position on closer cooperation with Europe, Asia and the Middle East, thus creating favorable conditions for themselves.