The Nagorno-Karabakh Republic has managed to pursue a dynamic European and global foreign policy. Not bad for a country that wasn’t officially recognized. Lucas Goetz stated this in his article published in Open Democracy website.
Lucas Goetz particularly stated: “Even before the polls closed, reactions from the international community came in. A spokesperson of the European foreign policy Chief Federica Mogherini stated that ‘the European Union does not recognize the constitutional and legal framework of the elections’. The United States State Department indicated that ‘it will not accept the results of the elections’. Romania’s foreign ministry labeled the elections ‘illegal’. For Spain they were ‘illegitimate’. Ukraine stated that the results of the elections cannot have ‘any legal consequences’.
These statements concerned an election which was described by about 100 international observers as ‘in line with international standards’, ‘orderly, free, secret and equal’ with a turnout ‘many European countries would dream of’. The only problem was that these parliamentary elections took place in an internationally unrecognized state: the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.”
“The Nagorno-Karabakh Republic has actively sought to strengthen its ties with Europe, which is home to a large Armenian community. In doing so it has bypassed traditional diplomatic channels and used other means to attract wider support for its cause.
David Melkumyan has recently been elected to the National Assembly of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. ‘The top priority is achieving international recognition’ he says. ‘We have not been recognized by any country, so we have a lot of work ahead of us. Europe is a natural choice for us because we identify ourselves as Europeans and share the European values.’
Eduardo Lorenzo Ochoa is the director of European Friends of Armenia. He believes that despite not being able to secure recognition from the European Union and its members states, Nagorno-Karabakh is successful in its foreign policy.
‘There is an EU Nagorno-Karabakh friendship group in the European Parliament which supports Nagorno-Karabakh,’ he argues. ‘It has within its ranks MEP’s from all important groups within the European Parliament. The European Parliament has also adopted three documents encouraging European institutions to engage with civil society in Nagorno-Karabakh. Nagorno-Karabakh has been visited by the vice-president of the European Parliament. That is not bad at all for a country that ‘officially does not exist’.
In April Mr Melkumyan’s party, the Democratic Party of Artsakh became an ‘associated member’ of the European Free Alliance, a European political party which has 12 MEP’s in the European Parliament. Shortly after this was made public, the Azeri ministry of foreign affairs released an angry press release, followed by an even angrier phone call to the European Free Alliance headquarters in Brussels.
Eduardo Lorenzo Ochoa is not surprised by the Azeri reaction. ‘For Azerbaijan this is a defeat. For them this should not have happened because to them the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic should not exist and they believe that people should respect this,’ he says. ‘Secondly it is also a defeat because the ruling party of Azerbaijan has not been able to enter any European political party itself.’
Being an unrecognized state limits the diplomatic options of Nagorno-Karabakh. Though it cannot open embassies abroad, it has however opened ‘permanent missions’, or ‘representations’ in countries where there is a big Armenian community such as the United States, France, Germany and Lebanon. Even though they are not officially recognized as embassies, they facilitate Nagorno-Karabakh representatives meeting foreign politicians and diplomats. These representations are also actively conducting an ‘information campaign…aimed at politicians and media in order to gain recognition for Nagorno-Karabakh.’
‘The missions in Paris in Washington are working reasonably well. I do not think it is a coincidence that another Nagorno-Karabakh friendship group exists in the French national assembly,’ says Mr Lorenzo Ochoa. Märta-Lisa Magnusson agrees: ‘They give lectures, organize cultural activities and meet audiences in the countries were they are established. They are quite successful in keeping Nagorno-Karabakh on the international agenda’.
With an estimated eight million Armenians living outside of Armenia or the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, the Diaspora is of paramount importance to the Nagorno-Karabakh republic’s international efforts. Countries like France boast a large Armenian population, many of which are descendants of immigrants who arrived after the Armenian Genocide. In France they play a prominent role in the political, economical and cultural life of the country.
André Gumuchdjian is a third generation Armenian who lives in Antwerp. His grandfather arrived in Belgium in 1908. He maintains a very strong link with the country of his ancestors and was until recently the vice-president of the Armenian Committee in Belgium.
‘I think that for many Armenians Nagorno-Karabakh represents a revenge on history,’ he says. ‘Instead of always losing, for once it is us who won something. The Diaspora loves Karabakh for its pro-active and positive side. The trauma of what we lost 100 years ago is still there and we have not resolved the issue; not only have we lost territories but Turkey still has not recognized the Genocide. Karabakh is the story of Armenians who succeed, rather than Armenians which get massacred.’
As an entrepreneur Mr Gumuchdjian has actively invested in the local economy. ‘I have started several economic projects in Karabakh; agriculture being one of them,’ he explains. ‘I only take part in projects which have economic perspective, this is done to develop the country, create employment but also not to lose money. I try to encourage others to do so as well. Despite remaining problems there are interesting options in Karabakh. In my case, the economy is in the service of the affective’.
‘The Diaspora has helped a lot in terms of raising awareness. 15 years ago nobody knew about Nagorno-Karabakh besides the terrible images we saw on the television during the war,’ remembers Mr Lorenzo Ochoa. ‘The Diaspora is raising awareness and some of them also participate financially. In Nagorno-Karabakh you will frequently see signs point out that the road you are driving on has been financed by, for example, the Armenians in Argentina’.
Mr Melkumyan who is also a member of the Standing Committee on Foreign Relations in the Nagorno-Karabakh National Assembly also emphasizes the importance of the Diaspora: ‘You know how strong the Armenian Diaspora is throughout the world,’ he says. ‘If you find one single Armenian citizen or person of Armenian origin, he will be willing to represent Nagorno-Karabakh.‘
For Mr Gumuchdjian it is inconceivable for Nagorno-Karabakh ever to return under Azeri dominion. ‘It will remain an independent entity. For the moment living in peace with its neighbor is sadly not on the cards. I am interested in seeing Karabakh developing economically and I want the population to live without worries because its first right should be to live in security. The future of Karabakh is independent.’
Undeterred by the obvious obstacles the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic has managed to conduct an independent foreign policy securing itself a place on the European agenda and in public consciousness. It looks unlikely that Azerbaijan, despite its frequent threats, will try to take Nagorno-Karabakh by force in the foreseeable future,” the author concluded.