Senior Karabakh delegation debates with EU policy makers
An AGBU Europe round table
October 2008 - A delegation from Nagorno-Karabakh visited Brussels from
October 14 to 17 to take part in a round table hosted by AGBU Europe in
partnership with the Heinrich Böll Foundation Brussels office. The
delegation was composed of Eduard Atanesyan, Deputy foreign Affairs
Minister of Nagorno Karabakh and David Babayan, Head of the Information
Department of the Office of the President of Karabakh.
The Round table brought together representatives of various organizations and institutions involved in European policy in the region, including NGOs, Think Tanks, Embassies and the European Institutions. Azerbaijani diplomats and NGOs in Brussels, though invited, did not attend.
Karabakh is one of the 3 territories in the Caucasus which declared independence at the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union. After successfully defending its independence in an unequal and devastating war with Azerbaijan between 1992 and 1994, this small republic of 145 000 inhabitants struggled to rebuild itself, to establish a functioning state and to develop.
This is the first visit to Brussels by a delegation from Karabakh since 1999. The visit aimed to allow EU decision-makers and experts to establish contact with representatives from Karabakh and to inform them about the country’s situation. Even though the EU’s interest in the South Caucasus has increased considerably in recent years, it has abstained from establishing relations with Karabakh, even at the most informal level. The EU's special representative for the South Caucasus has not yet travelled to Karabakh, though he has visited other unrecognized republics in the region.
The round table reviewed the state of Karabakh’s economy, state and society. Karabakh’s economy started from nothing after it was entirely destroyed in the war but it is now developing fast. It faces challenges similar to those of most other post-soviet republic, compounded by the absence of international assistance and by potential investors’ reticence caused by the country’s unrecognized status. On the other hand, the speakers claimed that governance and democratic standards, facilitated by the country’s small size, are rather more advanced in Karabakh than in the neighbouring South Caucasian republics.
Over the last 14 years, negotiations have been pursued under the aegis of the Minsk group of the OSCE to seek agreement on Karabakh's final status. In this context, both Babayan and Atanesyan explained their government’s positions in the context of the negotiations by describing their territory’s specific situation and its experience of a terrible war. Karabakh aspires to being included as a party in the negotiations on its future status, which it is still excluded from. In a lively discussion regarding the right of return of Azeris refugees from Karabakh, Babayan confirmed that they were welcome to return, providing that those involve accept the jurisdiction of Nagorno-Karabakh. He insisted however, that refugees should not be used as pawns in a political game, and that negotiations on the topic should genuinely aim to satisfy their right of return.
This round table, held on Octobre 16, was the first in a series of round tables and events which AGBU Europe will be organizing in the context of its work with the European institutions. The next event to be organized will be a conference, on November 13 next, on the Rediscovery of Armenian Heritage in Turkey. For more information, see www.agbueurope.org.
AGBU at: www.agbueurope .org
Inside Europe's Karabakh page at: www.insideeurope.org/index.php