Author: Samir VELIYEV
The victorious military campaign of Azerbaijan, which liberated the Armenian-occupied territories in just 44 days, has exposed many problematic topics both in regional and in international politics. In particular, it once again showed that the practice of double standards practices in some Western states is still active in relation to Azerbaijan and Turkey. For the sake of their geopolitical interests in the region, the parliaments of France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg adopted anti-Azerbaijani resolutions with the defeat of Armenia.
Biased resolutions and... nothing
It all started when on November 25, 2020 the French Senate adopted a resolution demanding "the recognition of Daghlig Garabagh". On December 3, the French National Assembly overwhelmingly approved a draft resolution submitted by the faction of the right-wing party Republicans. With striking consistency, on December 9, the Dutch parliament passed a resolution on an urgent and final settlement of the Daghlig Garabagh conflict in order to “ensure lasting security for the population of (Daghlig Garabagh, R+) and to bring (the unrecognized republic, R+) a status that provides continuous protection and safety". Less than ten days later, on December 18, the House of Representatives of the Belgian Parliament also condemned "deliberate attacks by Azerbaijan on civilians, the use of cluster munitions and phosphorus bombs." The preamble to the resolution also contains a statement an the right of “the Armenian people of Artsakh to self-determination” and “non-use of force as the main international principles adopted by the OSCE Minsk Group, which were grossly violated by Azerbaijan”.
Finally, on December 24, the Chamber of Deputies of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg adopted a resolution urging the country's authorities to "initiate a political process leading to the final status of Daghlig Garabagh." The document proposed to advocate "for an independent investigation of documented war crimes, including the use of cluster munitions, attacks on civilian infrastructure", "to guarantee the protection of Armenian monasteries, churches and monuments."
Remarkably, all four countries are the countries of the European Union and the most zealous advocates of European unity, the principles on which this unity is based. But in fact, these principles are in clear contradiction with the resolutions adopted in the parliaments of all four countries, which casts doubt on the competence, or elementary political literacy, of the elected representatives from France and the Benelux.
Also, it was amazing to see the coordination of actions in all four parliaments. It seemed that this four-act play had its own scriptwriter and director.
Most observers believe that the resolutions were directed not only and not so much against Azerbaijan as against Turkey. After all, Turkey renders unconditional political support to Baku. And after the victory of Azerbaijan in Garabagh, Turkey has significantly strengthened its authority in the South Caucasus. Either way, the European deputies have already voted and their parliaments have adopted resolutions. So what?
Parliaments of France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg: no place for law?
Immediately after the adoption of these ridiculous decisions, the executive bodies of all the four states had to admit that the resolutions had no practical significance and would not in any way affect the foreign policy of these states. The question is why they had to make these senseless decisions if that was the case. But even more interesting is what exactly is holding back the political elites in Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam and Luxembourg, who have obvious sympathies for Armenia, not to implement the absurd demands of their deputies.
However funny it may sound but it is the law of these states, namely their obligations within the EU that makes this impossible. Thus, one of the principal documents of the European Union is the EU's Global Strategy on Foreign and Security Policy. The section of this document entitled European Security System expressly states that "sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of states, inviolability of borders and peaceful settlement of disputes are the key components of the European security system. These principles are the same for all states located within and outside the EU borders ”. If so, what are these calls for granting independence to Daghlig Garabagh voiced in the resolutions of the parliaments? These are not just calls for the recognition of the separatist entity, but also calls for changing the borders of Azerbaijan, revising the country's territorial integrity. The principle of the peaceful settlement of disputes laid down in the above EU strategy has been grossly violated by Armenia itself, which for more than 25 years has forcibly occupied the Azerbaijani territories. At the same time, for all these years, not a single parliament has not demanded Yerevan liberate foreign lands.
In the practice of bilateral relations, all European states have recognized the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan with Daghlig Garabagh considered an integral part of the Republic of Azerbaijan. Even the French President Emmanuel Macron, at a meeting with representatives of the Armenian diaspora, was forced to recognize the sovereignty of Azerbaijan over its entire territory. He stated that “according to international law, Daghlig Garabagh and other seven adjacent regions are recognized by the United Nations as the territory of Azerbaijan. Therefore, if there is no desire for a sovereign state, do not touch on this issue."
France VS the right of nations to self-determination
In general, France is the last EU country that has a right to talk about the "right of nations to self-determination." Why? Let’s see below.
Throughout its history, the French political system has tried to minimize by all means the regional and ethnic differences, which it considered a potential danger of separatism.
It is no coincidence that France has not yet ratified the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages adopted on November 5, 1992. The charter represents the obligation of the Council of Europe to protect national minorities as well as the local languages used by traditional minorities. In addition, France completely ignored another, no less important document related to the protection of the rights of national minorities – the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities adopted three years later – in 1995. It requires the signatories not only to respect the ethnic, cultural, linguistic and religious identity of any person belonging to a national minority, but also to create appropriate conditions for the expression, preservation and development of their identities.
However, the French authorities, traditionally considering all citizens of their country to be French, believe that the requirements of this convention cannot apply to the country. Indeed, at the heart of the French national idea, or French nationalism, supported by almost all the leading political parties in the country, is the principle of a single French nation.
French legal norms do not imply the division of citizens based on ethnic differences. The linguistic unity is defined in the Constitution of France as a principle of the indivisibility of the Republic and the unity of the French people. The French language, according to article 2 of the Constitution of the Fifth Republic, is the only official language of the country. That is why the French political vocabulary does not contain the concept of "national minority" and even "nationality". In the French lexicon, the word “nationalité” means exclusively “citizenship”, and the adjectives “national”, “nationale” mean belonging to the state. Since the French Republic proceeds from the concept of "nation" – a people who owns the state and national sovereignty, as stipulated in article 3 of the French Constitution, there is no room for Bretons, Corsicans, Alsatians or other ethnic groups within this concept. All citizens of the French Republic, regardless of their ethnic background, are officially referred to as the French. That is why official statistics do not record the number of representatives of various ethnic groups of the country. Although, according to unofficial estimates, more than 10% of the French population are ethnic minorities.
Undoubtedly, under such conditions, any discussions of the attitude of the French political elites to the above charters has so far caused heated political discussions. That is why despite the approval of accession to the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages by the government of L. Jospin in 1992, the Constitutional Council considered that it contains provisions contrary to the Constitution. That is why the charter is yet to be ratified by Paris. By the way, in 2011 and 2015 France made attempts to re-discuss the issue with no effect though. In 2015, the French Council of State issued an advisory opinion in which it finally rejected the draft law on the ratification of the charter.
In a situation when autonomist processes were gaining momentum in other European neighbouring countries and regions inhabited by national minorities, France has violently prevented any attempts of national minorities to demand greater or complete independence for themselves. In 2013, the February issue of a Bretons magazine, which contained survey data on the desire of the inhabitants of Brittany to gain independence from France, was withdrawn from circulation. This is not surprising, since in France any attempt at the indivisibility of the French state is a criminal and punishable act according to the Criminal Code of the country. The state proclaimed the country "one and indivisible", resolutely rejecting any form of autonomy, let alone federalism.
At the same time, such a tough policy only contributed to the growth of separatism stirring up radical sentiments in the borderlands.
France and Benelux do not mean the whole of Europe
The resolutions, which have significantly reduced the prestige of France and the Benelux countries in Azerbaijan, also weakened the political positions of these countries in South Caucasus.
On November 18, 2020, accepting the credentials of the newly appointed ambassador of the Netherlands to Azerbaijan Paulina Eiseman, President Ilham Aliyev said: “The Parliament of the Netherlands, unfortunately, has decided on sanctions against Azerbaijan, as well as Turkey. My assistant said that during the discussions, the Dutch Foreign Minister came up with a more balanced approach. But the parliament made such an unbalanced and unfair decision that, of course, will not contribute to closer relations between our countries." This fully applies to the neighbours of the Netherlands.
Fortunately, there are other forces in the EU, including the parliamentarians from other countries, who have different views. Such as a visit of Italian parliamentarians to Azerbaijan in December 2020. The visit was also very important in terms of bringing to the world the truth about the state of the liberated territories of Azerbaijan, about the enormous damage caused during the years of the Armenian occupation. The guests visited Aghdam and Ganja, and gave an objective assessment of what they saw.
Italy is one of those countries that supports Azerbaijan. Therefore, it was a very indicative visit to Azerbaijan at such a crucial moment when our country begins to restore its liberated territories. Italy is one of the very important political, trade and economic partners of Azerbaijan in Europe. Moreover, it is Azerbaijan's main partner in the EU. Last year, the construction of the Southern Gas Corridor was completed, with the final destination being Italy.
Undoubtedly, Italy is a winner, as it opens up opportunities for those projects that will be carried out in the liberated territories. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has repeatedly said that relevant proposals have already been made to Italian companies. Those who have taken an anti-Azerbaijani position will hardly be able to take advantage of the partnership with Azerbaijan.
The position of Italian parliamentarians shows that there are those in Europe who objectively assess the situation and try to convey it to the wider international community. After all, it is an objective political and legal assessment of the consequences of the Armenian occupation that will contribute to the strengthening of peace and stability in the region and will prevent a repetition of similar conflicts in any other place of the world.