Why size matters.


The Armenian opposition activists that rallied around defeated presidential candidate Raffi Hovannesian in the aftermath of the 18 February Presidential elections have been faced with a common dilemma – their protests are large, but not as yet large enough to force the government’s hand. In political events in the South Caucasus this has proved a critical factor before. More…

The EU and the elusive quest for freedom of speech in the South Caucasus: Keep the message simple and consistent.

The European Union has few tools at its disposal when responding to threats to freedom of speech in the South Caucasus, except for its moral authority. The institution and its member states are not perfect by far, but together they represent the best practise on issues related to human rights and democratic traditions. Governments and people in the South Caucasus recognise this even if they do not always admit it.

eu flagThe events of the last few days in the three South Caucasus countries caused concern. None was serious enough to trigger a crisis but all were serious enough to raise alarm bells and to highlight the question as to what is the end game of the EU with regards to the region on this issue. The soul searching has started and it will continue, probably until November or thereabouts when the EU expects either to welcome Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia closer to it through Association Agreements, or relegate all or some of them to the status of trade partners. More…


cew collageIn an end of year essay on the state of play in the South Caucasus, long time regional analyst Dennis Sammut says that democrats in the South Caucasus, and their friends, need not be ecstatic about the achievements of 2012. But they can allow themselves a moment of optimism and satisfaction.

Fragile gains give hope

There has not been a single revolution. The three Presidents who held office at the beginning of the year were still sitting in their palaces as the year end approached. Yet in many respects 2012 has been an unprecedented and momentous year for the countries of the South Caucasus and one that is bound to leave its mark on the future politics of the region.

By and large democracy has won. An opposition party thrashed the ruling party in parliamentary  elections in Georgia. Parliamentary elections in Armenia were deemed better than previous ones and five political forces gained seats in the new National Assembly, and in Azerbaijan pro-democracy activists carved a larger space for their activity through clever use of new media, whilst a much predicted post Eurovision crack-down on dissent failed to materialise.

The fragile gains of 2012 give hope that the region has turned the corner in its efforts towards democratic state-building, but democracy is far from secure. There remains a serious democratic deficit and none of this year’s gains are as yet consolidated, so they can easily be swept away. But for once, it does no harm to be optimistic. More…

Editorial Comment: Nothing less than ‘Zero Tolerance’ to election fraud is acceptable!

Georgia goes to the polls in a few days’ time. What happens on 1 October will determine the future of the country for a long time. It is for the Georgian people to decide who they want to govern them and what sort of future they want for their country. But Europe has a duty to observe this process carefully, and to give a true and fair assessment afterwards. Thousands of observers and journalists will be in Georgia these days to do just that.

On too many occasions Europe’s vision of Georgia has been clouded by considerations that are certainly not valid for the current circumstances. Georgia has a damaged society, partly a result of a style of government in recent years that has been confrontational in its approach. The prisons torture scandal over the last days has further exacerbated the problem. The European Union and the United States, Georgia’s two main friends in the world, should have done more in the past years to help raise concerns and address serious shortcomings in the field of democratic governance, human rights and the rule of law. More…