What the civilian EU Mission in Armenia can achieve

With its new civilian mission in Armenia, the EU can build confidence on the ground in border areas and contribute to the normalisation of relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan
A house destroyed during the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war | Photo: Alamy

By Andrey Kovatchev

Andrey Kovatchev (BG, EPP) is the European Parliament’s Standing Rapporteur on Armenia

27 Feb 2023

Over the past years, we have witnessed a series of security challenges impacting Armenia: the outbreak of the Nagorno-Karabakh war in 2020, the incursion into the country’s territory last September, and now, a blockade of the Lachin corridor, which continues to have grave consequences for the 120,000 inhabitants of Nagorno-Karabakh.  

The European Parliament has not shied away from reacting strongly to these developments, with three urgent resolutions over the past two years and calls for the Council and the Commission to engage in the region more actively. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine and the complex geopolitical situation have demonstrated to Armenians that the country’s long-standing reliance on the Collective Security Treaty Organization led by Russia is an insufficient guarantee for peace. This situation has the potential to push Armenia to diversify its security guarantors, which is where the European Union can and has stepped up in its role. A strong EU presence on the ground gives hope for a peaceful resolution to the conflict. 

The EU has progressively become more engaged in conflict resolution, with the 6 October 2022 quadrilateral meeting between the leaders of the bloc, Armenia, Azerbaijan and France, and the resulting launch of the EU Monitoring Capacity in Armenia (EUMCAP).  

From its launch on 20 October 2022 until the completion of its activites on 19 December 2022, the EUMCAP contributed to the de-escalation of the situation on the border and a drastic decrease in ceasefire violations. According to the EUMM Special Report, the mission was perceived “as a positive and stabilising actor on the ground, particularly by the local Armenian population”. It is regrettable that only Armenia, and not Azerbaijan, agreed to host the mission on its side of the border – I believe it would have had an even bigger impact if both countries had allowed EU monitors. 

After the end of  the EUMCAP’s mandate, a second, specifically dedicated civilian EU Mission in Armenia (EUMA) under the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy was established. It became operational on 20 February. With its two-year mandate, the EUMA is a logical continuation in the efforts towards normalisation of relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan on the ground. 

Until recently, it was difficult to imagine any EU presence on the ground

As expressed in my report on EU-Armenia relations, which was adopted in the EP’s Committee on Foreign Affairs on 9 February, I sincerely welcome the decision to deploy the EUMA. Like its predecessor, this mission will be deployed along the Armenian side of the border with Azerbaijan to monitor adherence to the ceasefire and the work of the border commissions. It represents an important and unprecedented achievement for both Armenia and the EU. Indeed, until recently, it was difficult to imagine any EU presence on the ground. 

The EUMA will also raise the visibility of the EU in Armenia and contribute to the further strengthening of ties between Armenia and the bloc and its Member States. With its feet on the ground, both with the EU Delegation in Armenia, and now also with the EUMA, the EU has a historic opportunity to implement strategic convergence and to enhance cooperation under the framework of numerous sectoral agreements and the landmark Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement.  

If we work together and seize this unprecedented momentum, there is a lot to gain for the EU, which can grow its role as a relevant and engaged actor in the region, as well as for Armenia and for the resolution of the long-standing conflict with Azerbaijan. 

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