By Emmet Tuohy
In the post-Communist political philosophy tradition, the concept of “civil society” (an ostensibly flourishing collection of independent organizations freely able to pursue their interests, ranging from activist groups to bird-watching clubs, from academic institutions to bricklayers’ unions) is distinguished from “political society,” i.e., that dominated by the personnel and ideology of the state itself.
Continue reading Astroturf or Grass? Civil Society, the EU, and the Eastern Partnership
By Licínia Simão
The conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh started in 1988, initially as a political demand by the Karabakh authorities for formal inclusion in the Armenian Socialist Soviet Republic. It rapidly escalated into violent confrontation, as Azerbaijani authorities refused this demand and Moscow proved too absent to manage the contestation. The final days of the USSR were particularly violent in this region of the world and thirty years after the conflict escalated into a violent confrontation there has been no peace and there are no perspectives of a way out of the status quo. Besides the obvious human costs of the war, the permanence of this protracted conflict has had an immense negative impact in the post-Soviet transition of Armenia and Azerbaijan, as well as of Nagorno-Karabakh. Democratic institutions have been pressured to produce leaderships that have the management of war as their main priority; democratic choices have fallen victim of militarisation; regional partnerships have been skewed to produce alliances and balances of power. In this scenario, what challenges does democracy face in the region, thirty years into this war?
Continue reading Thirty years of war over Nagorno-Karabakh: what are the challenges for democracy?
By Emmet Tuohy
Commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Helsinki Final Act in 2015, OSCE chairman-in-office Ivica Dačić (then, as now, foreign minister of Serbia) called the agreement a “historic triumph of cooperation over conflict that set the stage for the end of the Cold War.” In historical context, that is certainly true enough. Yet, even then, given the well-known events in Ukraine the previous year—specifically Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the military intervention in the Donbas region—there was ample cause to prompt a reassessment of the long-term impact of the Helsinki agreements. Former Estonian president Toomas Hendrik Ilves argued that the main principle of the Act—that hat state borders cannot be changed by force—was „no longer valid.” But if the problem is the emergence of a „new Cold War,” then perhaps the Cold War era can be the source of a solution?
Continue reading Helsinki 2.0 – An Old-School Solution to an Old-School Problem?
By Emmet Tuohy
Much as the related “Ukraine fatigue” pandemic swept Washington in the aftermath of the 2004-05 Orange Revolution, Eastern Partnership (EaP) fatigue is alas an increasingly common illness among many contemporary observers, both within the EU and in the six partner countries. Even in Tallinn—the capital of one of the most enthusiastic and effective supporters of the EaP—one occasionally hears critiques (if more often whispered or off-the-record) that the initiative is “irrelevant” or “ineffective.” And its showcase event, the biennial Eastern Partnership Summit, was (accurately) described as “low-key” and “aimed at avoid[ing] drama.” Following Shakespeare’s Danish prince—who was actually, frequent misquoting aside, talking about a rather more final state of repose—are the EaP’s dreams of ever-closer European integration eastward simply dead? Or, like Hamlet, has the initiative found a reason to keep going?
Continue reading To Sleep, Perchance to Reform: The Continued Relevance of the EU’s Eastern Partnership
By Licínia Simão
The month of April 2018 in Armenia was marked by an unprecedented level of popular mobilization demanding the resignation of Prime-minister Serzh Sargsyan and the end of the corrupt system he enabled as President over the last decade. He announced his resignation on April 23, following 11 days of protests in Yerevan and other major Armenian cities. By May, the “Velvet Revolution” had catapulted to power. Armenia’s case is a clear evidence of the domestic desire for democracy of the societies of the South Caucasus and the steps they are ready to take when these dreams are not fulfilled, neither by their leaders nor international partners. Continue reading Armenian Dreams of Democracy
The Eurasia Democratic Security Network (EDSN), a project by the Center for Social Sciences with the generous funding of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), is seeking applicants for its 2018-19 Research and Policy Fellowship.
Continue reading Call for Applications: EDSN Fellowship 2018-19
By Emmet Tuohy
On the level of cooperation among the “B3” countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, progress towards accomplishing concrete and needed goals on energy (as well as transport) infrastructure has lagged badly. Not only has this lack of cooperation hampered each country’s ability to pursue its policies effectively in within Euro-Atlantic institutions, but it also threatens their security in this situation.
Continue reading Baltic Cooperation and its Impact on Conditionality: the Case of Astravets Chance
By Lincoln Mitchell
Bidzina Ivanishvili’s decision to return to a formal role as Chair of the Georgian Dream (GD) is more interesting for its timing than for the action itself. Ivanishvili, despite his protestations to the contrary, has never fully removed himself from Georgian political life since stepping down as Prime Minister in November of 2013. Over the last four and a half years his role has diminished somewhat, but major Georgian Dream, and government, decisions are rarely made without his input.
Continue reading Ivanshvili Returns After Never Really Leaving
By Levan Kakhishvili
Support for the European Union in Georgia is surprisingly high. When Georgia was granted a visa-free travel to the Schengen area, former British Ambassador to Georgia Alexandra Hall Hall wrote: “While this [visa-free travel] is a landmark achievement for Georgia, counterintuitively, in some respects it is a bigger deal for the EU.” The logic behind this statement is that against the background of Brexit, Georgia celebrating a “small step” on its path to Europeanization is a heartening sign that “the post-Cold War ideal of a Europe ‘whole, free, and at peace’” was still alive.
Continue reading Georgia’s European Integration, Ethnic Minorities, and Russian Propaganda
By Zaur Shiriyev
A draft law on the “Status of the Armed Forces” was introduced by the Parliamentary Committee on Defense, Security and Anti-Corruption in mid-November, and on 1 December it was heard by Parliament. The amendments were adopted upon a second hearing with a majority vote on 15 December. The issue was first on the agenda back in 2012 and 2013, when it was announced that the Parliament Committee on Defense, Security and Anti-Corruption would introduce a new law on the Status of Armed Forces and Other Armed Units. However, clearly, the law only happened recently.
Continue reading Azerbaijan’s New Law on Status of Armed Forces: Changes and Implications