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Foreign Policy Centre

Ideas for a fairer world

Caucasus and Central Asia


> Chinese Expansion in Central Asia: Problems and Perspectives

By Dr Catherine Owen.

Over the past two decades, China has been slowly but substantially increasing its presence in Central Asia. Most recently, it has initiated the ambitious new project, the Silk Road Economic Belt, which aims to connect Chinese and European markets via Central Asia. Having surpassed Russia as Central Asia's largest trading partner in 2009, China has invested billions into the economically ailing region and is the largest creditor to Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.

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> FPC Briefing: Russia's changing role in Central Asia - the post-Ukraine context, and implications

By Craig Oliphant.

FPC Senior Research Associate Craig Oliphant examines the strategic, economic and political challenges Russia faces dealing with the states of Central Asia. He explores the impact of the Ukraine crisis on the relationship between Russia and Central Asia and examines the growing influence of China in the region and what it means for Moscow's long-term role.

Download FPC Briefing: Russia's changing role in Central Asia (550 kilobyte PDF)

> The EU's approach to Azerbaijan: short-term gain, long-term pain

By Rebecca Vincent.

Over the past year, the Azerbaijani authorities have engaged in their worst human rights crackdown yet, working more aggressively than ever before to silence critical groups and individuals. By the end of 2014, there were reports of nearly 100 political prisoners in Azerbaijan, including many of the country's most prominent journalists and human rights defenders. The most active local human rights NGOs were shut down, and several international organisations were effectively driven out of the country. Authorities raided and then shut down the Baku office of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, one of the few remaining independent media outlets in the country.

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> Kant versus Machiavelli in Russia's Near Abroad.

By Dr Kevork Oskanian.

And so, the much-awaited Vilnius summit has ended in a whimper. Of the four states that were initially scheduled to initial their Association Agreements with the European Union last week, only two – Moldova and Georgia - have actually taken their crucial step towards the West. Both Armenia, and, more significantly, Eastern economic heavyweight Ukraine had, over the past few months, fallen by the wayside in quite unexpected U-turns, each of which had followed a familiar pattern: both countries' Heads of State headed to Moscow for unscheduled talks, during which they underwent sudden conversions to Putin's rival project, the Eurasian Union. Despite of strenuous denials, most observers reasonably assume these abrupt changes in the long-standing foreign policy objectives of both states to be the result of pressures exerted by the Kremlin.

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> FPC Briefing: The Resignation of Bidzina Ivanishvili and the Future of Georgian Politics

By Alexander Jackson.

FPC Research Associate Alexander Jackson examines the background of Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili's proposed resignation and explores what this might mean for the future of politics and civil society in Georgia.

Download FPC Briefing: The Resignation of Bidzina Ivanishvili (380 kilobyte PDF)

> Fundamental freedoms under attack in the run-up to Azerbaijan's presidential election

By Rebecca Vincent.

In Azerbaijan, the fundamental freedoms of expression, assembly, and association have been under attack for years, as set out in a number of previous articles. But in the months leading up to the country's 9th October presidential election, the Azerbaijani authorities have been engaged in a particularly vicious crackdown on citizens' exercise of these rights, in an apparent campaign to silence all forms of criticism and dissent.

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> Is Armenia Turning East?

By Mikayel Zolyan.

When on September 3rd 2013 Serzh Sargsyan, after meeting Russian president Vladimir Putin in Moscow, announced that Armenia has asked to join the Customs Union with Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, this came as a surprise. It came as a surprise for both for Armenian public, and for Armenia's partners in the West, most of all for EU officials responsible for the block's eastern policy. The reason: Armenia had already completed the negotiations regarding the Association Agreement with EU (including DCFTA) and was supposed to pre-sign the agreement in November. It has been made clear to Armenian authorities that membership in the Customs Union would be incompatible with the association process and especially with the DCFTA provisions. Armenian authorities seemed to understand that point and continued to claim their willingness to advance relations with Europe. As for the Customs Union, Armenian officials of various levels repeated numerous times that the country had no intention of joining, and moreover, that this was impossible given absence of a common border between Armenia and the countries of the Customs Union.

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> Putin's Caucasus Surprise: A Portent of Worse to Come?

By Dr Kevork Oskanian.

The European Union's eastward expansion and its soft-power influence on the states of the former Soviet Union has been a major feature of the continent's political environment since the fall of the Iron Curtain. The conditionalities of the Copenhagen criteria have arguably led to the accelerated democratisation of new members from the Baltics to Bulgaria; further to the East, the European Neighbourhood Policy's regional incarnation, the Eastern Partnership, has also provided the more 'problematic' states of the former Soviet Union with incentives to modernize and democratise. The promise of Association Agreements including membership of a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) with by far the world's largest economic bloc seemed to open the way towards diversification and greater prosperity, in what was - and still is - seen as a positive-sum game in both Brussels and the relevant former Soviet capitals.

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> FPC Briefing: Assessing Russia's role in Central Asia

By Craig Oliphant.

FPC Senior Research Associate Craig Oliphant assesses the key strategic policies, challenges and opportunities for Russia in relation to Central Asia. It explores the development of Russian led regional institutions and Russia's continuing role as the leading security actor in the region, while assessing the impact of China's increasing economic engagement in Central Asia.

Download FPC Briefing: Assessing Russia's role in Central Asia (380 kilobyte PDF)

> FPC Briefing: Putin's Eurasian Union- from pre-electoral sideshow to quest for empire?

By Dr Kevork Oskanian.

In this FPC Briefing Dr Kevork Oskanian examines President Putin's proposed Eurasian Union, looking both at Russia's objectives and how the project is viewed in the countries across the former Soviet Union. It looks at how such a proposal competes with the EU's Eastern Partnership and creates potential problems for WTO membership.

Download FPC Briefing: Putin's Eurasian Union- sideshow to empire? (450 kilobyte PDF)

> When the music dies: Azerbaijan one year after Eurovision

By Rebecca Vincent.

As an anticipated 125 million viewers tune in tonight (May 18th 2013) to watch the 2013 Eurovision Song Contest Final in Malmö, Sweden, it is worth considering how different this year's Eurovision experience has been from the 2012 contest held in Baku, Azerbaijan.

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> UN reviews Azerbaijan's human rights record amidst unprecedented crackdown

By Rebecca Vincent.

This is an important week for Azerbaijan at the United Nations (UN) in Geneva. Today (30 April 2013), the country will undergo its second Periodic Review Universal Periodic Review (UPR) by the UN Human Rights Council, which examines the human rights records of all UN Member States. Then, on 3 May, Azerbaijan will be reviewed by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights(CESCR) that examines countries' implementation of their obligations under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

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> Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan: Between Russia and the West

By Dr Kevork Oskanian.

Since their independence, the three South Caucasian states have come to adopt widely divergent strategic responses to the complex structural realities underlying their region's security landscape. Following the 2003 Rose Revolution, Georgia became unequivocally pro-Western: the goals of EU and NATO integration were firmly inscribed in two National Security Concepts, adopted in 2006 and 2011, which were recently confirmed in a rare bi-partisan parliamentary resolution uniting the otherwise fractious supporters of President Saakashvili and Prime Minister Ivanishvili. Over the past ten years, Armenia's pro-Russian orientation has, if anything, deepened, with Moscow gaining control of Yerevan's strategic industries and extending its basing rights till 2044; the Sargsyan regime has nevertheless maintained some elements of a 'complementary' foreign policy, most importantly an active engagement with the European Union, and, to a lesser extent, NATO. Azerbaijan's oil reserves, meanwhile, have allowed it to continue what it calls a 'multi-vectoral' approach, combining positive relations with Western states (mostly in the field of energy) with generally friendly interactions with Moscow.

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> Hello, Revolution? Post-Election Protests in Armenia Challenge the Official Results of the Presidential Election

By Mikayel Zolyan.

Post-election protests are the rule rather than the exception, when it comes to elections in many post-Soviet countries. However, even for a place as turbulent as post-Soviet Caucasus, when a presidential candidate, who came second (according to official results), starts a hunger strike, this is something unusual. That is exactly what is happening in Armenia these days. Raffi Hovannisian, opposition leader, who received 36.7 % according to the official results of the February 18th elections, is continuing his hunger strike in Yerevan's central Liberty Square. While Hovannisian's result is already quite impressive compared to post-Soviet standards (incumbent Serzh Sargsyan received 58.6 %), opposition supporters claim that the election has been stolen and the real winner is Hovannisian. Hovannisian calls on Sargsyan, whom he refers to as 'former president', to leave the post and vows to fight for justice, whatever the price. Mass rallies in support of Hovannisian's claims started immediately on the day after the presidential elections on February 18 and continue to this day, albeit with less enthusiasm than in the beginning.

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> FPC Briefing: Results of Preliminary Analysis of February 18th 2013 Presidential Election in Armenia

By Zaven Kalayjian, Sassoon Kosian.

Policy Forum Armenia's Zaven Kalayjian and Sassoon Kosian present a statistical analysis of voting patterns in the Armenian Presidential Election held on February 18th 2013 that indicates serious irregularities took place , bringing the final result into question.

Download Analysis of February 2013 Presidential Election in Armenia (720 kilobyte PDF)

> Votes on two key resolutions highlight PACE's mixed approach to human rights in Azerbaijan

By Rebecca Vincent.

The vote on 23 January 2013 by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on two key resolutions pertaining to the human rights situation in Azerbaijan marked the end of a significant era for the country. The honouring of obligations and commitments by Azerbaijan passed in a vote of 196 in favour and 13 against, and The follow-up to the issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan failed to pass with a vote of 79 in favour and 125 against.

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> FPC Briefing: Armenia's 2012 Parliamentary Election

By Hamazasp Danielyan, Anna Jenderejian.

In this FPC briefing Hamazasp Danielyan and Anna Jenderejian from Policy Forum Armenia set out some of the findings of their recent report into Armenia's 2012 parliamentary elections. They use statistical data to argue that while some improvements were made on polling day and on the issue of ballot stuffing, real concerns still exist over vote counting, paid and multiple voting and the use of the identities of those who have emigrated.

Download FPC Briefing: Armenia's 2012 Parliamentary Election (360 kilobyte PDF)

> New human rights campaign seeks to improve climate for artistic freedom of expression in Azerbaijan

By Rebecca Vincent.

Azerbaijan's repressive freedom of expression climate affects many sectors of society – the media community, non-governmental organisations, youth movements and political parties, among others. But a new human rights campaign, launched today (10 December 2012), seeks to address restrictions on the right to freedom of expression of Azerbaijan's artists – a population whose rights have so far received little attention.

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> The EU and Nagorno-Karabakh conflict resolution

By Ulvi Pepinova.

Nagorno-Karabakh, a holy land, a historical heritage claimed by Azerbaijan and Armenia, two former Soviet republics who gained independence in 1991, has encountered a lengthy tug of war rather than a celebration of a peaceful coexistence. On going peace-making efforts for almost two decades under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk Group remain fruitless and scepticism over the performance of the geopolitical actors prevails.

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> FPC Briefing: Time for Georgia to become European

By Denis MacShane MP.

As Vladimir Putin broods in the Kremlin wondering what his next foreign policy moves should be, is Georgia on his mind? The small Black Sea and Caucasus state has always been a bother for Russia. With its 3,000 years of history and one of the oldest languages in the world, the heady mix of ski-able mountains and tropical coastal resorts, the mélange of nationalities – Georgian, Armenian, Azeri, Turkic, Abkhazian, Ossetian (the best conductor in England, the LSO 's Valery Gergiev, is Ossetian) with minority languages and religions in addition to one of the oldest orthodox churches in the world, Georgia is the most exotic of all the nations that once formed part of the Tsarist then Soviet imperium.

Download FPC Briefing: Time for Georgia to Become European (320 kilobyte PDF)

> FPC Briefing: Armenia's Economy since Independence

By Dr David Grigorian.

Dr David Grigorian, Senior Economist at the International Monetary Fund's Monetary and Capital Markets Department and a co-founder of Policy Forum Armenia, gives an in-depth analysis of Armenia's economic development from independence and to the present day. He argues that better governance is crucial to efforts to reform the economy, tackle public debt and improve long-term growth prospects.

Download FPC Briefing: Armenia's Economy since Independence (390 kilobyte PDF)

> FPC Briefing: Comrades in arms, or a marriage of convenience?

By Alexander Jackson, Alexander Jackson.

FPC Research Associate Alex Jackson gives us his analysis of the new alliance between billionaire businessman Bidzina Ivanishvili and Western-feted opposition leader Irakli Alasania, that has been shaking up Georgian politics in recent weeks.

Download FPC Briefing: Comrades in arms, or a marriage of convenience (320 kilobyte PDF)

> Ensuring Armenia meets its commitment to European values

By Adam Hug. Source: E! Sharp

Bright future? Europe has diverse incentives to deploy to help consolidate democracy in Yerevan.

Over the past few weeks, Armenia has experienced a level of political turbulence not seen since 2008, as large crowds gathered to commemorate the third anniversary of the March 1 post-election protests that were strongly suppressed by the Armenian government, a move fiercely condemned by the international community.

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> Kazakhstan at a Crossroads: Kazakhstan and the world

By Dr Feng Zhang, Adam Hug.

This third paper in the Kazakhstan at a Crossroads series explores some of Kazakhstan's international relationships with the EU, Russia and China.

Download Kazakhstan at a Crossroads: Kazakhstan and the world (360 kilobyte PDF)

> Kazakhstan at a Crossroads: Governance, Corruption & International Investment

By Adam Hug.

In the second report in our three paper Kazakhstan at a Crossroads series supported by the Civil Activity Fund, Adam Hug explores some of Kazakhstan's recent economic problems and the challenges the country faces reforming its economic governance for the benefit of citizens and international investors alike. The report looks at issues including the politicisation of corruption, resource nationalism and internet restrictions. It argues that continued engagement with Kazakhstan must address fundamental governance concerns as well as short-term economic gains.

Download Kazakhstan at a Crossroads: Governance and Economy report (440 kilobyte PDF)

> FPC Briefing: The costs of believing you are not in the Game- Kyrgyzstan

By Hema Kotecha.

This FPC Briefing by Hema Kotecha explores some of the major challenges facing the Otunbaeva-led interim government and the international community in Kyrgyzstan after the April uprising and June's ethnic violence.

Download FPC Briefing: The costs of believing you are not in the Game (260 kilobyte PDF)

> Kazakhstan at a Crossroads: Human Rights and Democracy

By Adam Hug.

2010 stands as a landmark year in the history of Kazakhstan and for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). It will be the first time a Central Asian nation takes the leadership role of a major international political organisation, but also Kazakhstan will be the first non-democracy to become the OSCE's Chairman-in-Office. Kazakhstan will be under the international spotlight to an extent it has not seen since independence. Against that backdrop the Foreign Policy Centre is publishing a series of three detailed background papers assessing a number of key issues in Kazakhstan that will be followed by a pamphlet. The first paper, focusing on human rights and democracy, is now available to download.

Download Kazakhstan at a Crossroads: Human Rights and Democracy (390 kilobyte PDF)

> Keeping Georgia on Europe's mind

By Adam Hug. Source: E!Sharp

The EU has the tools to nurture democracy in Tbilisi, argues Adam Hug, FPC Policy Director, in an article for E!Sharp:

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> ENP: Georgia is top of the class

By Dick Leonard. Source: European Voice

Time to upgrade its action plan, argues Dick Leonard

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