Prof. Dr. Melanie Sully

Alliance for Democracy at the OSCE

The Alliance for Democracy Armenia gave a statement to the plenary at the OSCE in Warsaw. Gevorg Melikyan an independent expert gives his thoughts.

Gevorg Melikyan Alliance for Democracy Armenia at the Plenary OSCE/ODIHR meeting

Warsaw 2015

To achieve tangible results in supporting democratic reforms including gender equality, tolerance, non-discrimination and domestic violence, the European Institutions should implement more tailored and adopted approaches to the partner countries by using more effective tools and leverage when elaborating policies. I also advocate more tangible support to civil society if political elites in place fail to provide more democracy.

For example, countries of the Eastern Partnership tackle issues with democracy differently based on different realities in place. Ignoring those dynamics means creating more problems rather than fixing the existing ones.

Let’s take the case of Belarus. Belarus is the only Eastern Partnership country whose membership to the Council of Europe was stopped almost two decades ago for known reasons. While using sanctions can work for a country, like Iran, they can be harmful for another. Although there are now fewer cases of detentions of journalists, administrative fines, internet becomes more widespread, and political prisoners have been released, European policies towards Belarus still remain drastic instead of using more flexible tools and less radical approaches. Obviously, there is still a long way to go to tackle a number of shortcomings and challenges in the field of democracy and human rights, but it would be more effective to provide also more venues of cooperation and dialogue, especially with civil society rather than pushing the country away, limiting opportunities and creating more isolation. The longer the punishment and isolation last, the less effective it is and gives local authorities more time to maneuver and get adapted to sanctions.

In the case of Azerbaijan, the European Parliament rightly adopted a resolution condemning the persecution of human rights defenders  However, failing to provide other options of pressure than sanctions in the long term, can radicalize Azerbaijan, render it more repressive and it can become even more threatening to Armenia’s and Nagorno-Karabagh Republic’s security and to its own people as well.

A differentiated approach was needed for Armenia as well when Armenia was on the verge to seriously reduce its European integration after Armenia’s sudden U-turn towards Russia just before the Vilnius Summit in 2013 under certain circumstances. To some, this unfortunate choice can be explained, among others, by the lack of fully effective and tailored approaches and alternatives provided by the European institutions. But fortunately, the European Institutions got the point and didn’t stop cooperating with Armenia, which despite an internal discontent and lack of domestic approval became part of the Eurasian Economic Union. European institutions should continue the implementation of their policies and pay even more attention to strengthening the civil society in Armenia as a more effective and vibrant alternative to less democracy in place.

The use of sticks and carrots shouldn’t be limited to sticks only. For some countries, this can lead to facing a dilemma without alternative. So, more inclusive policies are needed. I am also convinced that more cooperation with countries with less democracy and the implementation of more inclusive policies can be beneficial for all sides.

(This is a personal view and in no way necessarily reflects the position of Go-Governance; articles are published for the purpose of debate and free opinion)