By Harry Tamrazian in BrusselsBelow is an RFE/RL Armenian Service interview with EU High Commissioner for Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana.
Q.: What will the European Neighborhood Action Plan bring to the people of Armenia and Azerbaijan?
A.: This is a plan of cooperation with the governments of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. It has an objective to bring the three countries closer to the European Union with a mechanism that we have used with countries that finally became members of the European Union. The important part of it is that it is agreed between the governments of the respective countries and the European Union. That is, it is not the EU that will be governing your countries, but you will govern yourselves and will receive help from the EU. If the government is good, if it does things properly, it will receive help accordingly.
Q.: And what if the government is not good?
A.: In that case the cooperation with the government will diminish. If the government takes advantage of the help, the element of the neighborhood policy is to keep on help and increase the cooperation. If you do things better you’ll get more. If the government fails to do sufficiently it will get less. This is the same political technology that was applied to countries that later became EU members, sector by sector, chapter by chapter in a very well-organized fashion that we have tremendous experience in.
Q.: The Action Plan mentions something about frozen conflicts. How is the EU planning to help the countries of the region to have cooperation?
A.: These countries are close to the EU, the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, this is a very important region because it unites two parts of the planet and therefore it may have a very important role. But we would like those three countries also to work among themselves and that is also the focus of the program. We want to work with you as a region, and as a consequence of that the conflicts that exist in the regions will be resolved, otherwise it will be very difficult to construct a region if you have conflict among themselves. So we want to have a region that works together, that can progress together, that can take advantage of all the added value of working together, which is accompanied by the resolution of what you call frozen conflicts. I hope very much that we will be a catalyst for good in the matter of peace and not the opposite.
Q.: Do the countries of the region really share European values? Do you reward them because of values or because, as critics say, for example, in Azerbaijan you need oil?
A.: The example you bring is very wrong. Most of the energy doesn’t come from Azerbaijan, for us Azerbaijan is not a source of energy as other countries are. We want Azerbaijan and Armenia to develop because they are important countries.
The values that we share are the values of democracy and rule of law. And we are establishing an action plan with you that requires governments not only to do well in economy, but also properly guard the democratic values that we and you defend.
Q.: Can you give hope that these countries can one day become members of the EU?
A.: The EU is a group of countries with very good and solid relations with the rest of the world and also the countries we have will be closer to the EU from the geographical point of view and from the viewpoint of shared values. But being close to the EU doesn’t mean being part of it. We can sign very profound cooperation agreements with countries, but membership is a different story… We never say no, we always say let’s keep on moving, cooperating as much as possible.
Q.: What do you tell Turkey regarding its closed border with Armenia?
A.: I’ve always told them [Turkey] that this is necessary and good for Turkey and Armenia to open their borders. We don’t defend in any case closed borders, we defend open borders and movement of trade, people, goods. This is very important in today’s global world where you cannot be closed, you have to be open by definition. We would like very much to see Armenia and Turkey cooperate. History is history, we have to look into the future, not to the past.
Q. Can Kosovo create a precedent for other conflicts?
A.: No conflict is like the other. Conflicts normally have origin, development and solution. And it is very unlikely that all the three elements are the same in different conflicts. You can learn from some conflict, but cannot apply the same model. There is no clone-ation.