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EU: Solana Says Membership For Caucasus 'A Different Story'

Javier Solana (file photo) (epa) The EU has signed European Neighborhood Policy action plans with Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. Brussels will give these South Caucasus countries access to the EU market in return for commitment to political and economic reform. EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana on November 14 spoke to RFE/RL Armenian Service Director Harry Tamrazian and RFE/RL Azerbaijani Service acting Director Kenan Aliyev in Brussels.

RFE/RL: These neighborhood action plans seem to be a very interesting project. But what will they bring to the people of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia?

JavierSolana: It will bring to the people of Azerbaijan a lot. As you know this is a plan of cooperation with the government with your countries [Armenia, Azerbaijan] and also Georgia. It has an objective, an objective to bring all the countries closer to the European Union with a mechanism, the Neighborhood Policy, which is the same technology that we used with the countries that were finally members of the European Union. So we analyze different sectors of the governmental activity, in economics, in politics etc. and then we construct an action plan....

It will therefore be something on politics and something on the economy, all the sectors of the economy, not only macroeconomic but also microeconomic. And that is an important part of it. It is agreed between the government of the respective country and the European Union. Therefore it is done [and] you can do whatever you want to do. So if you do it properly, it's not the European Union governing your country, but it's you governing yourselves [while] receiving help from the European Union. So what does this bring to your people? If the government is good, if the government does things properly, the European Union is [going to continue helping your government.]
Being closer to the European Union doesn't mean being part of the European Union.

RFE/RL: And if the government is not good, then what?

Solana: Well if the government is not good, as you can imagine, the cooperation with that government will diminish. If the government [makes good use] of the help that we give, the Neighborhood Policy will keep on helping and increase the cooperation. So this is a bilateral agreement and therefore a bilateral gain. You do things better, you get more. You don't work sufficiently, the government doesn't do as much as it can, then [the government] will get less. But the political technology that's used is the same that has been used in the [new] countries of the European Union. Sector by sector, chapter by chapter in a very well-organized fashion. We have a tremendous experience in doing it.

RFE/RL: There are a lot of conflicts in this region. In Georgia, in Azerbaijan. Armenia and Azerbaijan are still in a state of war. There is a cease-fire, but they are still negotiating. The action plans say some things about "frozen conflicts." How is the EU planning to help these countries to cooperate and how is the EU planning to resolve these conflicts?

Solana: This approach that the European Union has established with you [the countries of the South Caucasus] has a bilateral component, because at the end the plan is for every country and is not the same for every country. But it has a common objective of helping to construct regional cooperation. I don't think that in the world of today, in the globalized world, countries that are in a particular part of our planet, in this case, in a very specific place, close to the European Union, close to the Black Sea, close to the Caspian Sea. This is a very important region because it unites two parts of the planet and therefore has a very important role.

But we would like those three countries to work among themselves as a region and that is the focus of the program we are establishing with you. And therefore we want to work with you as a region. As a consequence of that the conflicts that exist in the region have to be solved, otherwise it will be very difficult to construct [regional unity]....

Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov in Brussels to sign the accord (official site)

So the first thing, in order to have a region that works together, that can progress together, that can take advantage of all the added-value of working together, has to be accompanied by a resolution of what you have called "frozen conflicts." Now I hope very much that [the EU] will be a catalyst for good.

RFE/RL: European officials are talking about shared values. Foreign ministers are talking about shared values, but if you look at the situation on the ground, for instance in Azerbaijan or in Armenia, these countries are still struggling to hold free and fair elections. Still you can see political prisoners, media is attacked by the government. There's a hunger strike right now of 10 or 15 journalists protesting government pressure. Do they really share your European values? Some critics say that you are rewarding them not because of values, but because, for example in Azerbaijan, you [the EU] needs some energy, you need Azerbaijani oil and gas.

Solana: The example you use is wrong as we don't get any energy from Azerbaijan.

RFE/RL: But the EU signed an energy agreement with Azerbaijan last week?

Solana: Well, a memorandum of understanding. But most of [the EU's] energy doesn't come from Azerbaijan. For us Azerbaijan is not a source of energy as other countries are. We would like Azerbaijan to develop as it's an important country and we would like Armenia to develop as it's an important country. Now as far as values, we share the values of democracy and the rule of law.... What we are signing with you, the Neighborhood Policy, the action plans, these have elements that call very clearly for a direction.... That includes not only in doing good for the economy but also [doing good] for the democratic values that we defend and you defend.

RFE/RL: About the European Neighborhood Policy, can you give some hope that some day these countries will join the European Union or will you just shut the door?

Solana: You have to understand that the European Union does not have a vocation of [representing] half the world. We have the vocation of [being] a group of countries with very good and solid relations with the rest of the world and also the countries that are closer from a geographical point of view, and from a values point of view they will be closer to the European Union. But being closer to the European Union doesn't mean being part of the European Union. And of course we can sign with countries very profound cooperation agreements, but membership is a different story that can not be infinite in number, you have to understand that. We never say, "No," but we say let's keep on moving and let's keep on cooperating as much as possible. Both your countries [Armenia and Azerbaijan] have profound relationships with other regions of the world. You don't [have to have an exclusive relationship] vis a vis the European Union. You have other important countries and regions of the world, with which you have very solid relationships and you are not asking to be part of them. But with the European Union you have probably the closest and most comfortable relationships.

RFE/RL: Are you concerned about the deterioration of Russian-Georgian relations?

Solana: We are trying to help find solutions to the tensions of the [recent] period. I think the first thing that has to be done is to lower the temperature and in that direction we're working very hard. I hope both presidents will meet and they will talk frankly and they will try to lower the temperature. The Georgians have to know that they live in a region, in a place with problems, in the neighborhood, with South Ossetia, with Abkhazia, [problems with] defending their territorial integrity. But to solve these problems the people that live in Abkhazia, the people that live in South Ossetia, [must] have to want to continue being in Georgia and for that the Georgians have to work also.... They are going to have the same neighbors forever and therefore when you know you're going to have neighbors forever you try to think ahead and try to organize your life knowing that, and therefore trying to have good relations with the neighbors. It is true that within that neighborhood there is a huge country like Russia and sometimes it's more difficult to construct [a relationship] but that relationship has to be constructed.... So I think that most important at this point in time is to lower the temperature, to calm down and begin recuperating and normalize the relationship.

RFE/RL: If Kosovo gained independence, some people have argued it could become a precedent for the "frozen conflicts" in the former Soviet Union. What do you think about that?

Solana: My opinion is that no conflict is equal to the other and conflicts normally have an origin, they have a development, and they have a solution. And [it's unlikely that] the origin, the development, and the solution will be the same in the three conflicts.

EU Expands Eastward

EU Expands Eastward

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