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Procedure : 2003/2225(INI)
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Document selected : A5-0052/2004

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PV 26/02/2004 - 4

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PV 26/02/2004 - 9.6

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Thursday, 26 February 2004 - Brussels
EU policy towards South Caucasus

European Parliament resolution with a European Parliament recommendation to the Council on EU policy towards the South Caucasus 2003/2225(INI))

The European Parliament,

–   having regard to the proposal for a recommendation to the Council by Per Gahrton on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group on EU Policy towards the South Caucasus (B5-0429/2003),

–   having regard to the Council Joint Action of 7 July 2003 concerning the appointment of an EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus,

–   having regard to the Partnership and Cooperation Agreements with Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia,

–   having regard to the European Union Programme for Prevention of Violent Conflicts, endorsed by the European Council in Göteborg on 15 and 16 June 2001,

–   having regard to the Council Joint Action of 25 June 2003 regarding a contribution from the European Union to the conflict settlement process in Georgia/South Ossetia,

–   having regard to the conclusions adopted on 19 November 1999 by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) at the Istanbul summit,

–   having regard to the recent parliamentary and presidential elections in Armenia and Azerbaijan,

–   having regard to the changes which Georgia underwent in November 2003 ('rose revolution'), with a new president, the forming of a government on 25 January 2004 and the forthcoming parliamentary elections of 28 March 2004,

–   having regard to its resolution of 20 November 2003 on Wider Europe - Neighbourhood: a new framework for relations with our eastern and southern neighbours(1),

–   having regard to the statement adopted at the meeting of the EU Foreign Ministers on 26 January 2004 instructing the Commission and the High Representative to examine how Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia could be included in the new "Wider Europe" initiative,

–   having regard to its Resolution of 18 January 2001 on the visa regime imposed by the Russian Federation on Georgia(2),

–   having regard to its Resolution of 11 March 1999 on support for the peace process in the Caucasus(3),

–   having regard to the Report of 4 April 2003 of its ad hoc delegation to Abkhazia/Georgia(4),

–   having regard to the Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament of 9 February 2004 on relations with Russia (COM(2004)106),

–   having regard to Rule 49(3) and Rule 104 of its Rules of Procedure,

–   having regard to the report of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Human Rights, Common Security and Defence Policy and the opinion of the Committee on Industry, External Trade, Research and Energy (A5-0052/2004),

A.   whereas the South Caucasus countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia) are all members of the Council of Europe and of the OSCE, underlining the common destiny that they share with Europe,

B.   whereas the South Caucasus bridges Europe with Central Asia and will in the future be a neighbouring region of the enlarged EU; whereas the countries of this region are favourably disposed to mutually beneficial partnerships with the EU,

C.   whereas these countries have stressed on many occasions their European vocation showing a deep interest in getting closer to the EU with a view to making an application for membership in the long term; whereas the resumption of regional cooperation is to be regarded as an essential step in this direction,

D.   whereas years of wars and turmoil have been followed by a period of continuing instability in the region; whereas until now only limited progress in state building, democratisation, consolidation of the rule of law, securing religious freedom and economic reform has been made and the region continues to run the risk of becoming caught in a downward spiral of insecurity and conflict, which prevents sustainable development and inhibits political reforms,

E.   whereas continuing conflicts and tensions between the three countries concerned are obstructing further European ambitions,

F.   whereas there is a concern over the lack of respect for democratic values, the rule of law and fundamental rights in the region and a need for further administrative and political reforms in order to secure further stability,

G.   whereas the elections which took place in 2003 in the three countries have been marked by widespread irregularities which led the OSCE, the Council of Europe and the EU observers to state that they fell short of international standards,

H.   whereas the presidential elections which took place on 4 January 2004 in Georgia, constituted, according to international observers, an improvement on previous votes and showed that the country's new leadership is committed to democracy,

I.   whereas the recent events proved once more the fragility of Georgian institutions and the urgency of a plan for the consolidation of democracy and the beginning of a process of reconciliation between all the parties of the Georgian society,

J.   whereas there is a need to create conditions which are conducive to durable democratic stability in the South Caucasus and to give impetus to economic development and cross-border cooperation; whereas this task cannot be accomplished without substantial international political, diplomatic and economic assistance,

K.   whereas the current deadlock in the peace processes in Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Nagorno-Karabakh is the main obstacle to resumption of dialogue and development of genuine regional cooperation,

L.   whereas in all the three areas of conflict, Russia can make a decisive contribution to attempts to reach a peaceful and lasting settlement; whereas, in particular, without a political end to the war in Chechnya, it will not be possible to bring about stabilisation in the Caucasus,

M.   whereas at the recent OSCE Ministerial Summit held in Maastricht on 1 and 2 December 2003, the EU reaffirmed the need to reach an early agreement between the parties on the duration and modalities of the functioning of the Russian military bases within the territory of Georgia,

N.   whereas conflicts in the region have driven hundreds of thousands of people from their homes and not all of them have been granted the status of refugee or Internally Displaced Person (IDP); whereas many are in urgent need of assistance to ensure that their basic needs are met, as well as the need for access to education for their children in their mother tongue,

O.   whereas in past years, the EU humanitarian aid for the region decreased significantly despite continuing need for food, health care and basic products for IDPs and refugees, as well as for inhabitants of areas of immediate tension; whereas in 2002 no humanitarian aid was provided for IDPs and refugees in Azerbaijan,

P.   whereas the issue of the closure of the Medzamor nuclear power plant, which is located in an earthquake zone in Armenia, is especially sensitive because of the shortages of electricity, and because prior development of alternative energy supply is needed; underlines the need to develop an effective regional energy market, to improve the efficiency of the electricity grid and establish an energy-saving policy,

Q.   whereas, due to its geographical location, the South Caucasus can play an increased role in strengthening international security; whereas if it is instead left out of the evolving networks of interdependence and cooperation, the susceptibility of the South Caucasus states to the danger of instability from neighbouring regions would increase,

R.   whereas the EU provides significant assistance to the South Caucasus states in the form of grants for implementation of major transport, energy and telecommunication projects, as well as assistance in structural reform; whereas, regrettably, it has not yet developed an ambitious strategy, to the extent that these three countries continue today to be excluded from the 'Wider Europe - New Neighbourhood' initiative,

S.   whereas in the coming decade the region will become increasingly important for energy supply to the EU, which is the world's largest importer of oil and gas,

T.   whereas the INOGATE and TRACECA assistance programmes are crucial for promoting development of economic cooperation with and among the South Caucasus states,

U.   whereas criticisms have been directed by international civil society against the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline project,

V.   whereas forms of regional cooperation are taking shape, as illustrated by the creation of the GUUAM Union (Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Moldova) and the BSDC Organisation (Black Sea Economics Cooperation), the latter is the only organisation where Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan meet regularly and exchange contacts; highlights that countries that have the potential to be involved are excluded due to the existing conflicts, whereas the EU should find ways to duly support such forms of regional cooperation,

W.   whereas the EU has a great potential to play a constructive role in the region as a civil power, with experience in successfully employing economic incentives linked to political and diplomatic initiatives, and as an actor with the capacity to share responsibility together with other major international actors for promoting peace and security in the region,

X.   whereas the EU must play an increased role in the South Caucasus, especially in the area of conflict resolution, political and economic reform and intra-regional cooperation,

1.  Addresses the following recommendations to the Council:

   to establish a set of initial minimum requirements for the South Caucasus countries to fulfil, in order to be included in the "Wider Europe - New Neighbourhood" policies; to increase EU efforts for peace and stability in the region, through the creation of stronger incentives for reform and for cooperation among parties to conflicts; increased EU engagement in the region should be based on a willingness to act as mediator in conflicts and promoter of reforms; EU assistance and deepened cooperation should be clearly linked with progress in key areas such as conflict resolution, respect for fundamental rights, the rule of law and democratic values, and progress measured against clear benchmarks;
   to support the promising renewal in Georgia through democratisation programmes;
   to request the Commission to enhance EU assistance programmes; to conduct a dialogue with Turkey on its and the EU's policies and actions vis-à-vis the region;
   to urge, in this regard, Turkey to be fully committed to its candidate status and to take the necessary steps to establish good-neighbourly relations with the countries, with particular regard to the lifting the trade restrictions and the gradual reopening of the land border with Armenia; the European Parliament reiterates its position set out in its Resolution of 18 June 1987 on a political solution to the Armenian question; calls on Turkey and Armenia to promote good neighbourliness in order to defuse tension and calls on Turkish and Armenian academics, social organisations and NGOs to embark on a dialogue with each other in order to overcome the tragic experiences of the past;
   to follow up its appointment of an EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus, which the European Parliament has called for, and providing him with all the necessary resources to make his action effective and visible and to enable him to contribute both to implementing the EU's policy goals in the region and to bringing the policies of the three states in the region closer together with a view to the development of a common approach to their common problems;
   to keep the European Parliament informed, via the EU Special Representative, about developments in the region and the work carried out by the EU Special Representative; his regular reports, as well as the final comprehensive written report at the end of the mission, which are required under the Joint Action, should also be presented to the European Parliament;
   to urge Member States which are involved in conflicts resolution in the region to actively cooperate with the EU Special Representative;
   to give the South Caucasus region a defined status in the "Wider Europe - New Neighbourhood" policy, in accordance with the principle of avoiding the creation of new dividing lines in Europe, to stimulate the countries in the region to advance in political and economic reforms, while at the same time confirming the EU's wish to increase its political and conflict resolution roles in the region;
   to consider, nevertheless that beyond the concerns about conflict resolution, bringing the EU closer to the South Caucasus countries, members of the Council of Europe, whose long-term European vocation has been acknowledged many times, will allow the creation of a democratic area of stability, prosperity and good neighbourly relations;
   to maintain the principle of cooperation, both within the region and with the EU, as a key objective in developing relations with the South Caucasus region and the neighbouring countries and in promoting intraregional cooperation;
   to ensure that the reform of the financial protocols will not result in failure to supply urgently needed aid and support;
   to request the Commission to further support the South Caucasus Anti-Drug Programme managed by the UNDP which is of great importance for socio-economic and political stability of the Southern Caucasus;
   to give its full support to the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and to the United Nations in their efforts to solve the regional frozen conflicts; to commit the European Union to act as mediator in the search for peaceful solutions;
   to call upon all the countries in the region not to block efforts to bring the three states closer together by demanding a resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict as a precondition;
   to ensure together with the Commission, the full use of Community instruments for conflict prevention, focusing on humanitarian assistance for IDPs and refugees, de-mining, food security, water supply and environment avoiding, however, the duplication of existing international mechanisms for conflict resolution and reconciliation; the European Parliament underlines that existing agreements and commitments in relation to conflict zones and security arrangements must be respected;
   to include the question of the three peace processes in South Caucasus and the future of the region in the development of the EU-Russia partnership to create the necessary momentum to overcome the present deadlock and to engage Russia in a long-term policy of conflict management; the European Parliament rejects the recent statements by the Russian President Putin and Foreign Minister Ivanov stating that Russia retains the option to make use of pre-emptive strikes on bordering countries in case of danger;
   to urge the Russian Federation to respect its commitments taken in 1999 OSCE Istanbul Summit on the reduction and withdrawal of the Russian military forces from the territory of Georgia and to take note that the free consent of the host country is mandatory for the presence of foreign military bases on its territory; the European Parliament points out to the Government of Georgia the necessity to take early measures to address social and economic consequences of the withdrawal of the Russian military bases;
   to increase with the Commission TACIS- democracy programmes for the region with regard, in particular, to the consolidation of democratic institutions, the development and strengthening of civil society and the support for independent media;
   to express concern to the Azerbaijani authorities about the human rights situation and the independence of the media in the country; to urge, in particular, the Azerbaijani government and the competent authorities to carry out a full, transparent and thorough investigation about the events which took place after the presidential elections of 15 October 2003;
   to act upon the European Parliament's proposal to develop a Stability Pact for the South Caucasus, drawing lessons from the experience of the Stability Pact for south-east Europe; such a pact should include neighbouring states and other important actors in the region and territories with breakaway pretensions should be involved in an appropriate way;
   to promote, in the framework of the proposed Stability Pact, economic cooperation in the areas of lowering trade barriers, development of energy, transport and communication networks, increased freedom of movement for persons, improved border management, measures against cross-border crime and cooperation on environmental issues; the European Parliament considers that progress in these areas on the one hand and on direct security issues on the other could be mutually reinforcing;
   to request the Commission to set up twinning programmes between Nagorno Karabakh, South Ossetia and Abkhazia from one side, and regions with special status in the EU countries from the other side so as to exchange experiences and find concrete solutions which respect the principle of territorial integrity of the countries concerned as well as the right of self-rule for minorities;
   to follow closely, together with the Commission, developments in Georgia, to provide all necessary financial and technical assistance to the authorities so as to support, stabilise and rebuild the institutions and to define a strategy for reforms and prepare forthcoming elections, in particular the repeat parliamentary elections planned for 28 March 2004;
   to ask from the three countries, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, where foreign investment is necessary to their development, the creation of strong and transparent legal framework that will ensure such investments and to fully support such initiatives from them;
   to ensure that the European Investment Bank also grants credits to the countries of South Caucasus, in particular to projects supporting small and medium-sized businesses, and for sustainable infrastructure investments;
   to request the Commission to give priority to augmenting programmes giving students from the South Caucasus the opportunity to study at universities and colleges in the European Union;
   to set up some specific tools for cultural and scientific cooperation with the South Caucasus countries in the framework of the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement concluded with these states; considers, therefore, that for example, an involvement of the Union in the Armenian CANDEL synchrotron project would be a sign of encouragement to this project which concerned chiefly the European scientific teams;
   to take fully into account the importance of the EU further supporting the rehabilitation of energy, transport and telecommunication networks in the region;
   to give consideration to financial support for development of the energy supply system in the region with particular regard to Armenia and Georgia, taking in consideration the EU applied policy in the case of Soviet type nuclear reactors in Lithuania, Slovakia, and Bulgaria, esspecially for the Medzamor nuclear power plant;
   to fully take into account the strategic importance of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline; to urge the countries concerned to apply to this project the standards provided in Council Directive 85/337/EEC of 27 June 1985 on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment(5) and, furthermore, to avoid any steps which could result in creating conditions for additional instability and insecurity in the region; the European Parliament points out, that particular account must be taken of security and anti-terrorism measures in constructing the pipeline;
   to call on the states of the region to promote open cooperation, from which none of the states is excluded, with regard to the use of energy resources and routes of pipelines, in order to make an effective contribution to restoring regional stability;
   to call on the Commission and the Member States, as regards the transport of oil, to use their influence to ensure that no single-hull tankers leave Caspian and Black Sea ports to sail in those waters and, as regards the amendment to the MARPOL Convention adopted in December 2003, which lays down a transitional period to 2010, to tighten up the provisions still further, which could be achieved if, for example, the Member States were to request the IMO to declare the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea particularly sensitive areas;
   to support the development and stability of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia and to refrain from any involvement in conflicts based on the importance of oil in the region;
   to express concern at the recent decision of the Russian Federation to introduce the facilitated visa regime to the citizens of Adjaria, without consulting Georgian authorities, as well as of recent arrangements to speed up the process of provision of Russian citizenship to the citizens of Abkhazia and Adjaria;
   to find an overall solution to the refugee problem, which affects all of the states in the region; to point out that, while refugee return should form part of negotiated settlements, refugees and displaced persons should not be exploited as tools in conflicts; to recommend that the countries concerned not exploit the plight of displaced people, but make every effort to grant them physical security and well-being;
   to insist that under no circumstances should the displaced population be used as an argument for political aims and that durable solutions, including integration for those who wish to integrate, should be elaborated and implemented without delay in full co-operation with the international community;
   to give high priority to the creation of the necessary conditions for the safe and dignified return of IDPs to the Gali district in Abkhazia; to emphasise the duty of all relevant parties to cooperate in order to make this possible;
   to develop multi-presidency programmes for cooperation on Justice and Home Affairs with the South Caucasus states, emphasising the fight against terrorism, organised crime, drug trafficking, small arms trading, kidnapping, and other criminal activities with important destabilising effects which lead to insecurity and weaken the state and social structures;
   to welcome individual Member States' provision of assistance in areas such as the strengthening of border controls, tax collection, customs and the fight against corruption and terrorism; believes that Member States with recent own experience in transition to democracy and functioning market economy can deliver particularly valuable assistance and advice; calls for this potential to be harnessed;
   to point out to the countries that the flexible mechanisms of the Kyoto Protocol could help them to invest and modernise;
   to remind the three South Caucasus Republics, especially Azerbaijan and Georgia which have concluded reciprocal Bilateral Immunity Agreements with the US, that the support for the International Criminal Court is an important element of cooperation with the EU;

2.  Instructs its President to forward this Recommendation to the Council and, for information, to the Commission, the UN, the OSCE and the Council of Europe as well as the Governments and Parliaments of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Russia, Turkey and Iran.

(1) P5_TA(2003)0520.
(2) OJ C 262, 18.9.2001, p. 259.
(3) OJ C 175, 21.6.1999, p. 251.
(4) PE 331.196.
(5) OJ L 175, 5.7.1985, p. 40.

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