Armenia: a country Europe should take seriously for what it promises

Armenia has a fragile but dynamic democracy. like Georgia, it is fighting for its life to become a normal country, part of the European family.

Jun 2, 2024

Tigran Ghalumyan is a graduate of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens and Analyst at the Center for International Strategic Analysis in Greece as well as an expert on regional security & cooperation in the Southern Caucasus. Teun Janssen is an EU affairs expert and candidate for the European Parliament with Volt Europa. With the fight for a ‘’choice for Europe’’ visibly on display in Georgia, they shed light on the importance for Europe of another aspiring democracy in the Southern Caucasus: the Republic of Armenia. They share their perspective on what is changing in this country, and why it is crucial for Europe. 

This is the second part of the two-piece article, written by Teun. The first part is written by Tigran and can be found here.

Let’s be frank: the events of the last two years have shown us that no international relations are merely ‘’economic’’. Health can be weaponised. Energy can be weaponised. Trade can be weaponised. Information can be weaponised. At the same time, countries do not magically become liberal democracies through integrated supply chains and economic dependencies. In autocracies, (elite perceptions of) history, culture and security often shape their basic political reasoning and foreign policy actions much more than GDP growth or employment figures. 

But just because we were naive in thinking Putin could be reasoned with through a business case, and that we are still failing to apply this lesson to Europe’s structural dependencies on China, does not mean that dependencies don’t lead to peace. They just have to be deep, consistent and wholeheartedly supported by the societies of both sides. Europe has one very effective foreign policy tool: partnerships and enlargement with its neighbourhood. Public opinion polls in the Western Balkans, and especially in countries right on the frontline of Russia’s imperial aggression like Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia show massive enthusiasm for EU membership. The European flag and anthem are regular symbols in mass protests against corrupt governments. Such membership is seen as a choice for normalcy and a once in a generation opportunity for a positive future now that Russia is bogged down in Ukraine.

In welcoming these countries and taking responsibility to defend, reform and integrate them, the EU can stand strong and tall in an uncertain world, will become a bigger market full of investment opportunities (especially for smaller exporting countries like the Netherlands), and give new energy to our democratic, open societies. By stabilising our neighbourhood, we bring peace and security closer to home.

Enter Armenia.

This is a country which has its eyes wide open about its European future. Crammed in between a revisionist Russia, a hostile Azerbaijan and an ambivalent Turkey, it has very few options. Yet since a democratic revolution in 2018, it has a pro-Western government willing to make significant reforms. This provides an opportunity for a watershed change in its alignment with the West and the EU in particular. Stabilising Armenia means stabilising the Southern Caucasus as a whole. A proactive role for the EU in the Armenia-Azerbaijan peace process, backed by credible political support for Yerevan, would have positive spillover effects for security in the Southern Caucasus and beyond. 

Integrating Armenia more deeply with the EU would decrease Baku’s interest in military escalation, since it depends on continued energy exports to the EU. Stabilising the balance of power between Armenia and Azerbaijan could provide incentives for the regime in Iran to show restraint, as it currently feels threatened by Azerbaijan aligning with some of its regional rivals. A more democratic Armenia and Southern Caucasus as a whole could also provide for a more constructive relationship between the EU and Turkey, and set the scene for more transformative reform towards full EU membership. It will also bring new economic investment opportunities for European businesses. These include a vibrant IT and technology startup sector, water resources, and potential for clean energy production.

Zooming out to a geopolitical horizon, closer cooperation between the EU and Armenia would counter the Russia-Iran axis and its direct threat to our security. Finally, it would allow us to shape our end of the Chinese Middle Corridor transport route and create a more green, equitable and human rights friendly trading partnership with Central Asia.

Armenia has a fragile but dynamic democracy. like Georgia, it is fighting for its life to become a normal country, part of the European family.