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South Caucasus: The State of the Unions

Georgia on July 18 legislatively cemented its European aspirations, while Armenia set a new date for a trip in the opposite direction— integration with the Russian-centric Eurasian Economic Union. The last but not least in the South Caucasus trio, Azerbaijan, remains content with its status as the region’s geopolitical maverick, but wants more appreciation from the European Union.

With EU officials on hand in Tbilisi, the Georgian parliament unanimously ratified the signed association and free-trade agreements with the European Union, and Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili declared, in case there was any doubt, that the country’s European path is "irreversible."

For one thing, they’ve drunk on it.  “The ratification of this agreement will not be valid if we don’t chase it with a glass of wine,” observed Parliamentary Speaker Davit Usupashvili, inviting all to move on to the reception.

The session opened with the Georgian national anthem and closed with the EU anthem

Moldova, a fellow EU-enthusiast (and serious wine-producer), ratified the agreements earlier this month, while Ukraine is expected to do the same shortly.

But, as often happens in the South Caucasus, Armenia and Azerbaijan had their own tales to tell as well.

After missing a few earlier targets, Armenia set October as its date for entering the Eurasian Economic Union, Moscow’s response to the European Union. Speculation runs rife about the reasons for the repeated delays, but Yerevan says the deadline's for real this time, and the necessary
agreement will be signed.

Tightly-ruled Azerbaijan, for its part, has chosen to stay away from all Unions, whatever advantages they may bring, but still is hypersensitive to criticism from the EU.

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, who is one of the architects of the EU’s Eastern Partnership Program for former Soviet republics, recently said that Azerbaijan’s authoritarian path would create problems for the European Union should the sides take their relationship to a new level.

In a marked departure from Baku’s usual official tone toward Brussels, Azerbaijani Presidential Deputy Chief of Staff Novruz Mammadov countered that Bildt is like a parrot who repeats what it hears, while failing to grasp the “essence of the global political processes.”

Bildt does not appear to have responded publicly.

But maybe Azerbaijan figures it can afford such testy announcements. With an eye on its oil and gas riches, both Unions, European and Eurasian, would like to see this country on their side.    

 

South Caucasus: The State of the Unions

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