interview with Alev Curpedin-Balgi, Executive Director of Black Sea and Caspian Sea International Fund
– Share, please, your thoughts on the prospects of Azerbaijan’s integration to Europe
Azerbaijan’s geostrategic location enables it to engage in major regional initiatives and projects of global significance. Since, geographically Azerbaijan is located in a close neighborhood it serves as a gate and corridor for Europe to Central Asia. Therefore, it is impossible to imagine European policy towards its neighborhood by putting away Azerbaijan. On the other hand, the aspirations of Azerbaijan for European integration are natural and commendable. As you witness, European Union which constitutes a political and economic gravity center of Europe is constantly developing its policy towards its partners. Eastern Partnership is a tailored and specific initiative which offers wide range of cooperation. It envisages visa facilitation, free trade and association agreements with partner countries. Democratic civil society building is a key domain which EU would like to work with Azerbaijan in the years ahead. These are common values that Europe should keep on sharing generously and without any prejudice with Azerbaijan. In its turn, Azerbaijan demonstrates that it is indeed willing and capable to absorb European values without becoming necessarily a European. I think this is the major point of which European partners mostly run ignorant either unintentionally or deliberately. Since I am closely working with countries in Black Sea-Caspian Sea region I can infer and distinguish the rationale and pace of European integration in the concerned countries. The rationale behind the EU initiatives should not be devised and promoted as “one-size fits all”. Individual needs of partner countries should be analyzed thoroughly before pushing them all together into one destination. These countries face different challenges which require a solemn involvement. Without doing so, EU itself may become a “loser” though initial strategy is designed for win-win purpose.
– It is clear that energy is the more productive direction of the cooperation of Azerbaijan with the European Union. But what you can say about the prospects of the interaction between Baku and the united Europe in the other fields?
Both Europe and Azerbaijan should not define their future relations solely on energy security, which the latter has made huge steps in this regard namely through TANAP and TAP. Azerbaijan’s significant contribution to Europe’s energy security should not be ignored. There is a big space for cooperation, mainly in the field of building democratic civil society and fostering trade. Fatigue and lack of enthusiasm is an undesired situation which both parties should avoid in the future of relations.
– What do you think about Karabakh problem and its settlement?
The basis of settlement of Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is unambiguous – UN Security Council resolutions adopted in this framework retain its legitimacy. Documents and decisions of other international organizations adopted in this framework so far do not question the principles of territorial integrity and sovereignty of conflicting states. Peaceful means remains a unique and common accepted way by world community in resolution of the conflict. The roadmap should be developed on this legal background. It is embarrassing that 20 years of “status-quo” adds more pressure to the current situation. Generations substitute each other and I guess neither Armenians nor Azerbaijanis would wish to inherit this burden from their predecessors. Idle time is a good remedy to relieve the pains but certainly not effective to change the reality. The reality in our case is an ongoing occupation and lack of necessary international engagement to help to restore peace in the region.
– What kind of role may international organization play in the reconciliation of belligerents?
In order to emphasize the need for earliest resolution of Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in European public opinion and garner adequate attention to the graveness of the situation we, Black Sea – Caspian Sea international fund for cooperation and partnership have developed a project analyzing the background and consequences of all conflicts in the Wider Black Sea region. As you might be aware, the cost of conflicts prevails mostly on the lives of mere people which usually politicians are either unaware or ignorant. We believe that these people especially those who are direct victims of dreadful conflicts deserve a chance to voice their agony over the conflict. They can send a serious signal to their respective politicians or governors to seriously engage in conflict resolution. Our experts are already on the track with a view to contribute to confidence-building between both communities of Nagorno-Karabakh and we are determined to succeed in our project despite some hurdles.