Since the disintegration of the Soviet Union, Southern Caucasus 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 Nagorno-Karabakh (Armenia/Azerbaijan). Taking account of 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 Nagorno-Karabakh conflict). The mandates of the two EU Special Representatives (one for 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.
The relations between Georgia and the Russian Federation continue to be strained. Tensions recurred in the conflict areas of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. An armed confrontation between Georgian and Russian troops in South Ossetia took place in August 2008. In the course of the crisis, Russia recognized these two territories as “independent”, whereupon Georgia cut all diplomatic ties and left the CIS. Moreover, Russia militated against Georgia’s ambitions to join NATO. In reaction to the conflict, the European Union deployed a civilian EU Monitoring Mission on 1 October 2008. An international and independent fact-finding mission was launched by the EU on 2 December 2008. It was led by the Swiss diplomat Heidi Tagliavini and examined the causes and development of the conflict in Georgia.
With respect to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict involving Armenia and Azerbaijan, no substantial progress was achieved despite efforts made by the OSCE-Minsk-Group.
All three Southern Caucasian states (Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia) regard rapprochement to Euro-Atlantic structures as essential goals of their foreign policy.
The Eastern Partnership – the specific eastern dimension of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) – was created at the Prague Summit on 7 May 2009. Negotiations on association agreements with Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, launched in July 2010, are advancing. Upon implementation of the respective recommendations of the Commission, negotiations on deep and comprehensive free trade agreements with Armenia and Georgia could follow.
The next Eastern Partnership Summit will take place from 29 to 30 September 2011 in Warsaw.