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How far is South Caucasus from Europe?


Monday, 25 August 2008

Image Hijran Ali Islam, President of the Common House of Caucasus in Poland, PhD candidate of the Polish Academy of Science

The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990 and the disintegration of common political area have generated a set of critical problems in ethno political, social, economic and information spheres in each of the post Soviet states.


The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990 and the disintegration of common political area have generated a set of critical problems in ethno political, social, economic and information spheres in each of the post Soviet states. The most dangerous center of international tensions became the region of South Caucasus exceeding others “hot spots” of the former Union by its conflict potential. It has brought the changes of power structure, ideology, public relations, the character and direction of economic development, the priority in regional and international cooperation. I In this context, the situation that emerged in the countries of South Caucasus (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia) requires working over joint projects with the purpose of preventing future conflicts among people of the region. The idea of the “Caucasus House” is not new. It calls for joining all peoples and states of South Caucasus into a common equitable family. In April 1918 the Parliament of Transcaucasia declared the region as an Independent Federative Republic. Then, the Soviet Transcaucasian Federation that included Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia came to existence in 1922, and survived till 1936. But both these initiatives turned out to be unsuccessful.

To offer different approach to building the “Caucasus House” some scholars put forward the economic unity as the foundation for the structure. According to these views, the way to large-scale integration begins with intensive regional cooperation and similarity in dealing with social and economic problems of people of Caucasus. It requires also unification of their national markets into the “Caucasian Common market”.

According to Azerbaijani scholar Rafiq Aliyev: “The central component of the vision of the House has to be at this stage acceptance of the principle of international reconciliation, because the idea of the “Caucasus House” has to come, first of all, from the acknowledgment and true desire of all Caucasus people to be free and independent”. From such ideas and views it is possible to draw the conclusion that the vision of the “Caucasian House” may contribute to the achievement of political stability in the Caucasus region. The democratic character of “the Caucasian House” would provide equal rights to all its independent structures but, the question arises: how to achieve reconciliation if the neighboring people remain in the informational isolation about one another or they are under external informational influence from neighboring big power, for example Russia? It is not a secret that after the collapse of the Soviet Union, each country of the region had no possibility to create new traditions in their own informational policies. Instead they continued the “soviet experience” in this sphere. Consequently, the conduct of this information policy (external and internal) does not fit the criteria of the modern time, as well as the norms and principles of civilized societies.

Another important issue is the absence of common cultural and political orientation of the region. Although when citizens of each of the three countries find themselves in the West or the East, in Asia or Europe, they identify themselves as the natives of the Caucasus. In Western European countries there are many specialists who are not sure how to call exactly and correctly the Southern Caucasus region. Is it Eastern Europe or Western Asia? One can say - “Caucasus, as the South of Eurasia». As a result they refer to this region as Caucasus. In such perception of the European and Asiatic people the Caucasus region appears as monolithic, united organism, which serves as the bridge between two Continents. The unique geopolitical location of Caucasus gives it importance in cooperation with Europe and Asia. If “all ways lead to Rome”, the most important of them, - silk and oil, - pass through Caucasus.

The “TRACEA” program – transport corridor “Europe – Caucasus – Asia, which develops relations between the East and the West into Black and Caspian Seas, could be a good example. Speaking about the external orientation of the region, it would be desirable to hope that in the near future all three countries will strengthen their cooperation with the European Union. Skeptics assert that the process of integration into the EU can last many years. Such a possibility is not excluded. Yet, if the countries of South Caucasus do not want to remain at the periphery of globalization, they have to take active part in this process. It has to be remembered that the crucial point is not a membership in this organization, but an acceptance of the fundamental principles of the EU - tolerance as the attitude toward all people, respect of their right of self-determination, market economy and democratic system of the state control.

It has to be the basic motive in the realization of the “Concept of United information policy” for the “Caucasus House”. At the heart of this policy must be the creation of information space (net, matrix), which could be extended to all the territory of the region through radio, TV channels, and printed or electronic information sources. This concept could be cultivated at the basis of the EU Information policy, taking into account the Caucasian traditions of receiving and transferring of the information.

The estimated prognosis:

1. STAGE – theoretical activity - The working out of the concept by representatives: journalists, scientists and representatives of state and non-governmental organizations of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia.

- To propose this concept to the Government of the South Caucasus countries.

- At the meetings with representatives of Ministries of Foreign Affairs

- At the peace conferences and peace negotiations between the three countries.

- In the framework of Minsk Group OSCE activity in the Caucasus region.

2. STAGE – practical activity - The first phase of practical activity could be called the phase of “ethical clashes”. In realization of this concept and creation of the basic information area, representatives of all three countries will have equal right to use the time and space within the framework of the project. The process of “studying” and “recalling” each other is inevitable. Probably, it is the most critical moment in realization of the concept.

- The dialogue and discussion. This phase could be called the “phase of simple truth”, when the recipients will be ready to listen to opinions of the opposite side and show up interest to conduct discussion.

- The “Caucasus pathos” phase. This phase should smoothly develop into a dialogue. On one hand it is the calmest phase of all, on the other hand – it needs to attract attention from creators of this concept, because of the importance to stop Information Spam and to start with the next stage of the project. Otherwise the excessive length of this phase could threaten with a new conflict as a result of “the debates for no reason”.

3. STAGE – Phase of the Enlightening. At this stage it is necessary to increase information on the outside world in the South Caucasus region, specifically, about European countries and tasks of the European organizations. It is possible to use the methods of an educational program for providing important information in a simple form, with the aim to educate the population of the region, in what sphere and how the states of Southern Caucasus may cooperate with the EU.

- with the aim to increase cooperation and strengthen the relations between the EU and the “Caucasus House” in the sphere of the informational policy, the European community should be informed about the condition of the neighboring region.

In cooperation with the EU, the countries of South Caucasus will be obliged to maintain democratic principles and norms of this organization. With regard to the full membership of the region in the EU - this question will be solved by the peoples of Southern Caucasus when they feel ready to take such decision. Following the example of the European Union the countries of Southern Caucasus may establish “the Caucasian House”. The supreme goal for the Caucasian populations should be- the securing the right of the choice of each citizen of the region in a question of membership in the European family. In fact, the main issue is not the unity but the free consent of everyone to unify. In order to understand this, it is necessary to satisfy informational famine of the population in the region. Consequently, at this moment, the EU does not seem to the countries of South Caucasus to be “manna from heaven”, but only a “thorny path”, which leads the people of the region to a strong and peaceful Caucasus. 

«South Caucasus: democratization and regional security»,
Cakhadzor, Armenia

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