TODAY.AZ / Politics

Integration processes in South Caucasus: Azerbaijan makes own choice

23 December 2013 [12:25] - TODAY.AZ
The countries of the former Soviet Union are experiencing a period of great geopolitical change.

The majority of them found themselves involved in a dispute between the European Union and the Customs Union, the latter which includes Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus.

Georgia and Moldova opted for the EU, other, such as Kyrgyzstan and Armenia decided to join the CU. Some countries are still sitting on the fence, trying to decide which sid offer the greatest advantages.

Some, such as Ukraine are opting for both groups.

Other countries meanwhile have no plans to participate in any of these unions. Azerbaijan is one of them. Azerbaijani officials repeatedly stated that the country is ready to cooperate and is interested in development relations with both the EU and the CU but does not intend to join one or the other.

Azerbaijan is pursuing a multilateral foreign policy and sees no need to change such an approach, Azerbaijani Deputy Foreign Minister Araz Azimov said in October.

"Adherence to a particular one-sided format, in my opinion, would be inappropriate, because Azerbaijan should not look into one direction," he said.

Meanwhile Azerbaijan and other Turkic countries born from the ashes of the Soviet Union in 1991 reflected on the creation of their own integration organization in cooperation with Turkey for the last 22 years. Such a Union is not a real prospect in the short and medium term, though perhaps in the future things might change.

Kazakhstan is already a member of the CU, who's creation was the idea of its president, Nursultan Nazarbayev ago. The Kazakh president seems unlikely to shift away form his close cooperation with Russia, although Astana maintains very close relations with Washington.

Another Turkic country Kyrgyzstan is intensifying its cooperation with Russia and plans on joining the CU in near future.

"Without Russia we have no separate future," Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambaev said last year.

Turkmenistan is pursuing a neutrality policy and will not participate in any union.

The geographical location of remaining Turkic countries - Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and Turkey will hinder the functioning of custom unions created by them if such a union is created. Uzbekistan is cut off from Azerbaijan by the Caspian Sea and the major part of Azerbaijan's territory is linked with Turkey only by air connection. So the facilitation of customs procedures between these countries will not give perceptible profit to none of them.

The possible union between Azerbaijan and Turkey might be more profitable if it involves Georgia. The three countries have good relations and are implementing a number of common transit projects of regional and world importance. The idea of such a union is also not new. Moreover in 2008 Turkey proposed to create a Caucasus Alliance with the involvement of Russia and Armenia under the aegis of the U.S. and the parties discussed the initiative at the highest level. But the attempt failed due to unresolved Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan and strained relations between Georgia and Russia. These problems still exist in bilateral relations between the countries. Thus the countries will unlikely be able to work within common integration organization. Moreover, Georgia has different intentions now. The country is looking forward to joining the EU.

The integration of the unions present the countries with two sides of a coin. In every country there are proponents and opponents of joing a union or not joining.

The laws adopted within both the EU and CU have affected some spheres of the economy and ruined small and medium businesses for a number of people in European countries as well as in Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia. For Azerbaijan any union will bring more shortcoming than advantages. First of all, the country will have to abandon its multilateral foreign relations for the sake of certain countries and will partially loose its independence influenced by common internal laws of some alliance.

As a quite all-sufficient country with a stable developing economy Azerbaijan does not feel the need to join any regional alliances and unlikely will agree to restrict its independent decisions by internal rules of any union.



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