Southern Caucasus

Since the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the Southern Caucasus (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia) has been faced with a number of territorial conflicts which have remained unresolved so far, such as those in Abkhazia and South Ossetia (Georgia) and Nagornyi-Karabakh (Armenia/Azerbaijan). Taking into account the importance of the region, the EU has launched several assistance programmes (making it the largest single donor to the region) and is involved in the efforts aimed at settling the conflicts (France holds one of the three co-chairs in the Minsk Group for the resolution of the Nagornyi-Karabakh conflict). The mandates of the two EU Special Representatives (one for the Southern Caucasus and one for the crisis in Georgia) have been merged into one. The objectives of the mandate include conflict prevention, enhanced cooperation between the three neighbouring countries as well as increased effectiveness and visibility of the EU in the region.

An armed confrontation between Georgian and Russian troops in Georgia took place in August 2008. In the course of the crisis, Russia recognized Abkhazia as well as South Ossetia as “independent”, whereupon Georgia cut all diplomatic ties with Russia.   In reaction to the conflict, the European Union deployed a civilian EU Monitoring Mission on 01 October 2008 as Russia spoke out against prolongation of OSCE and UN presences in Georgia proper as well as in Abkhazia and South Ossetia At the Geneva international discussions on the conflict in Georgia no decisive progress has been achieved yet.

The relations between Georgia and the Russian Federation continue to be strained. Tensions still prevail in the conflict areas of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The new government (since 2012) and the newly elected President are pursuing a more pragmatic approach towards Russia. As a result, the Russian embargo of Georgian goods was eased. With respect to the Nagornyi-Karabakh conflict involving Armenia and Azerbaijan, no substantial progress was made despite efforts made by the OSCE-Minsk-Group.

The foreign policy of three Southern Caucasian states has recently drifted into different directions. Georgia is seeking rapprochement to Euro-Atlantic structures and initialled the EU Association Agreement at the Eastern Partnership Summit meeting on 29 November 2013 in Vilnius. The Agreement will be signed end of June 2014. The creation of a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) is also part of the Association Agreement. Georgia benefits from the “more for more” principle of the Eastern Partnership. It provides for a special assistance to the most advances partnership countries by means of ENI, the partnership’s financial tool. Armenia which already had finalized its negotiations on the Association Agreement, unexpectedly declared in September 2013 to be willing to join the Russian-led Customs Union. Azerbaijan seems to navigate putting emphasis on its strong energy role.