No times to stand aside - the EU must act to the aid of Armenians fleeing Nagorno-Karabakh

Urgent call to address Nagorno-Karabakh crisis and EU's role in promoting peace and stability.

Oct 8, 2023
We Are Mountains monument

After a months-long campaign of blockading Nagorno-Karabakh, defying orders of the International Court of Justice and pushing the region into a humanitarian crisis, Azerbaijan launched a brutal large-scale military attack against the Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh on September 19th, 2023. In the maelstrom of the following events, most of the local ethnic Armenians, over 100,000, have fled Nagorno-Karabakh in fear for their life, chased by a long and bitter history of discrimination and violence against them and by irresponsible genocidal rhetorics of Azeri politicians.

The Azeri government has not only failed to safeguard the fundamental human rights of the ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh in the last year in the most blatant way. It actively pursues a strategy of brutality, displacement and destruction that leads to massive human suffering and is in violation of international laws. We call upon the leadership of the EU, in recognition of the human tragedies unfolding and the political and military responsibility of the Azeri government, to apply the maximum political pressure on the Azeri government to change track, including potential financial and political sanctions. We support the resolution of the European parliament approved on the 5th October, calling for targeted sanctions against the individuals in the Azerbaijani Government responsible for violations of human rights in Nagorno-Karabakh.  

The EU cannot stand aside silently in this crisis that spirals downwards with every passing hour. We welcome the announcement of immediate humanitarian assistance and financial help to the forcibly displaced population of Nagorno-Karabakh through the EU. The EU must do everything it can to support Armenia to host the Armeni population fleeing Nagorno-Karabakh. But we believe that the EU must go beyond this urgently needed aid. We believe that the EU has the responsibility, morally and as an international leader, to pull its political and economical weight to contribute to a long-term vision for a region, where the weakened military and political power of Russia has left a vacuum but also the possibility for change. The EU must stop financing autocratic regimes such as the Azeri government by purchasing fossil energy and thus should suspend the current Memorandum of Understanding on a Strategic Partnership in the Field of Energy between the EU and Azerbaijan.  Instead, the EU must step up political and economical support for democratic forces in the Caucasus. We therefore call upon the EU to offer concrete steps towards European integration to the democratically elected government of Armenia that provides the means to stabilise democracy in Armenia and aids economic development. It is time for the EU to initiate negotiations to upgrade the current Armenia-EU Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA) towards a full association agreement that contains, besides a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement, an EU candidacy perspective in the long-term. We welcome the decision of the Armenian parliament to ratify the founding statute of the International Criminal Court as an important step in this respect. Vice versa, we support the commitment of the EU commission to substantial infrastructure investments in Armenia up to 2.6bn€ through the Economic and Investment Plan.

One thing is clear. Military aggression and humanitarian law breaches must not be normalised as an instrument to solve territorial disputes and political conflicts. The EU has the means to provide strong and meaningful support and therefore the responsibility to act. Failing to do so would not only be inexcusable from a humanitarian perspective, it would be politically irresponsible and would contribute to further global instability and escalation.