“It is difficult to speak about common standards of the EU”
Interview by Orkhan Sattarov, the head of the European bureau of Vestnik Kavkaza
Vestnik Kavkaza publishes a series of interview with political scientists of the European Union, who express a European point of view on relations between the EU and the South Caucasus countries. The German expert on post-Soviet space Heiko Langner answers question on European integration of Georgia and Turkey, the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement, and ties with Armenia.
- How does Europe view efforts by the new Georgian government to meet European standards?
- We can hardly speak about common European standards – they hardly exist even in political practice of the EU itself. Political systems and democratic standards inside Europe are very different. European democratic standards should be accepted as certain political limits for the EU members. However, in reality it is not always so. For example, Hungary and Berlusconi’s Italy had shifted from the common European course in the past years.
The new Georgian government, as well as other countries, has a right for its own democratic way. Certain democratic progress is registered in Georgia, and it is a reason for moderate optimism. But it depends on changes in the social practice, and time should pass for us to see a result.
- Should we expect a more active mediatory role from the Minsk Group of the OSCE in the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement now, when the OSCE is headed by Switzerland which is well-known for its peacemaking diplomacy? What steps can it take in the direction?
- Switzerland has long mediatory experience, including in difficult international issues. Due to its neutrality, Switzerland deserves to be a reliable and powerful mediator. From this point of view, it would be positive, if Switzerland used its chairmanship in the OSCE to contribute to the peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. First of all, we should speak about certain measures on improvement of trust between the sides of the conflict. The way to peace is long and difficult and Russia’s participation is necessary.
- Do you think cooperation between Armenia and the EU is possible, despite Yerevan’s decision to join the Customs Union? If not, in what spheres can contacts be maintained?
- Armenia had been using instruments of the European Neighborhood Policy more actively than Georgia. Therefore, a political interest exists. However, Armenia has great political and economic dependence on Russia and has little room for European integration. Armenia can undertake political maneuvers only in spheres which are not very important for Russia.
The EU should continue working with Armenia for further liberalization of its economy, mainly to boost European investments. The EU should also cooperate in strengthening the borders of Armenia to prevent illegal migration.
- What are the instruments of influence on Russia by the EU in the issue of the South Stream, concerning European laws? What concessions does the EU expect from Gazprom?
- Russia is an exporter of raw material resources, and it has a beneficial position for providing its own interests. Moreover, when disputes occur, general energy policy turns into waste paper, and priority is given to national interests of certain EU members. Russia prefers bilateral agreements as well, and it has proved to be a reliable partner. Problems which occurred with power resources’ supplies last year were connected with such transit countries as Ukraine and Belarus, as Moscow had disputes with them on gas prices and volumes.
- How did the readmission agreement stimulate Turkey’s membership in the EU? What are obstacles in the way of the event?
- The readmission agreement didn’t influence positively the process of Turkey’s accession to the EU. The agreement serves only sordid interests of the EU which wants to establish its antihuman migration policy on external borders. The EU strives for signing such agreements almost with all bordering and transit countries to secure itself from illegal migration. The talks with Turkey were provided by some dishonest members of the EU, especially France and Germany. The countries don’t want full membership of Turkey in the EU. My position is simple – the talks on Turkish membership in the EU should have an aim of full membership of the country in the European Union. When Turkey meets Copenhagen criteria and its population vote for membership in the EU, the country should be accepted to the Union immediately. Democratic Turkey which follows human and minorities’ rights could play an important role of a bridge between the East and the West, being the EU members.