Mind the Normative Gap? The EU in the South Caucasus

Part of the Palgrave Studies in European Union Politics book series (PSEUP)


This chapter assesses the utility of the ‘Normative Power Europe’ (NPE) framework in explaining European Union (EU) external action in a troubled region of the ‘new neighbourhood’: the South Caucasus states of Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. The most pressing foreign policy challenges in these former Soviet countries include the establishment of political and economic stability and the settlement of the unresolved ethno-territorial disputes in Azerbaijan (Nagorno Karabakh) and Georgia (Abkhazia and South Ossetia). The EU’s policy towards the region falls mainly under the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), specifically the bi-lateral ENP action plans agreed in November 2006 with all three countries. Enlargement to the South Caucasus seems unlikely in the foreseeable future, but the region is situated across the Black Sea from Bulgaria and Romania, and is strategically important in oil and gas production and transit. ENP objectives emphasize the EU’s goal to create a ‘zone of prosperity and a friendly neighbourhood’ (European Commission 2003b), and include statements on contributing to conflict resolution. However, EU policy in the region is complicated by the constellation of powerful state actors that circle the South Caucasus region: the Russian Federation, Iran and Turkey. The EU’s incoherent policy towards Russia in particular impacts negatively on the EU’s role in the region, particularly as EU norms compete directly with Russian norms in the de facto states established in Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Nagorno Karabakh, and to a certain extent in Armenia and Azerbaijan. Russian influence in the Georgian separatist territories has been consolidated since the renewal of hostilities between Georgian and South Ossetian forces in August 2008, further weakening EU normative influence in these regions.


European Union North Atlantic Treaty Organization European Union Policy Constitutional Norm Security Sector Reform 
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© Emma J. Stewart 2011

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