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Why the Neutrality of Azerbaijan Is Important for the European Union

Fragile stability in the South Caucasus is hugely dependent on the neutrality or so-called balanced foreign policy course of the Republic of Azerbaijan. To substantiate this argument, this paper explores the historical and geopolitical factors in the region that conditioned the neutrality course of Azerbaijan and the stability in the South Caucasus. It further evaluates recent developments around the region and the EU's interests, responses, and shortcomings to deal with them; and eventually concludes that preservation and further consolidation of this foreign policy course of Azerbaijan also serves the best interest of the EU. Not only is it far from clear who is to be made resilient against what where there is no more or less benign government but, where countries are only just coming out of war, their first priority is national survival and their demand is for security guarantees. Would sovereignty and equality not be a better leitmotiv for EU strategy in the neighborhood? Sven Biscop1

Why the Neutrality of Azerbaijan Is Important for the European
Azerbaijan’s FM Mammadyarov (L) and EU Foreign Policy Chief Mogherini (C) address a press conference at the end of an EU-Azerbaijan Cooperation Council on April 4, 2019. EMMANUEL DUNAND / AFP / Getty Images
 

The EU and Azerbaijan have been working on a new treaty framework since 2017. A new treaty would replace the current Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) that entered into the force in 1999. How comprehensive and ambitious the new treaty is, is not yet clear. Many believe it is going to be like the Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA) signed between the EU and Armenia in 2017, which is not as ambitious as the Eastern Partnership Program (EaP). On the official website of the EU, negotiations with Azerbaijan are categorized as an upgraded version of the PCA.2 Armenia’s CEPA is also in the same category.3 Yet, we should also acknowledge the fact that Azerbaijan is not a member of the Eurasian Economic Union of Russia, which prevented Armenia from signing the EaP’s Association Agreement/Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area AA/DCFTA. This fact enables us to assume that, compared to Armenia, there are at least technically more options for Azerbaijan and the EU to cooperate. Although there are relatively more options for collaboration, the fundamental factor that must be acknowledged by the EU and Azerbaijan is the new treaty should avoid altering Azerbaijan’s neutrality, which is currently a determinant factor in assuring the fragile security, stability, and balance of power in the entire South Caucasus region.

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