Mediamax talked to Stefan Meister, the head of the Program for International Order and Democracy at the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP).
Stefan Meister was one of the moderators of the Armenian PM Nikol Pashinyan’s meeting with the German experts held at DGAP on March 2, 2023.
Some of the Armenian media qualified Pashinyan’s visit to Berlin as a “breakthrough” and noted that Germany is “entering the game” in the South Caucasus. Is there any reason to believe that the working visit of the Armenian Prime Minister was something out of the ordinary?
I think we have to see this visit in the framework of a growing interest of Germany to support the activities of the EU in the South Caucasus and specifically on Nagorno Karabakh and between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Also Azerbaijani president Aliyev plans to come next week to Berlin and both the Chancellor and the Foreign Office are more interested in the region.
I would not say this is a breakthrough or any big step towards more German ownership in the region but there is an increasing understanding also in the big member states of the EU, that we need to engage more with other post-Soviet regions since Russia is weakened with its war in Ukraine.
I would not expect any big initiatives from Germany, there are too many other priorities but more support for the EU, in the negotiations, demining and improving situation on the ground.
Photo: Armenia Prime Minister’s press office
Furthermore more German investment and economic engagement was discussed and is planned.
In our last interview you said that “the EU should further internationalize the conflict pushing for a EU Monitoring Mission between both states until a border agreement has been decided”. Do you consider the decision to send a mission of 100 people to Armenia for two years an effective step in this direction?
It is one important step to bring more transparency into any escalation on the border and prevent attacks from the Azerbaijani side. It is a step for more EU engagement and ownership in the conflict, which is positive. But it is not enough, the EU needs to shift from a facilitator to a negotiator and work more conceptional with the conflict parties on the key issues.
The Russian Foreign Ministry several times expressed dissatisfaction at various levels with the sending of the EU mission, and one of the statements even contained a hidden threat. Do you think the Russian side can take real action against the EU observers?
I think it is Russia’s way to show dissatisfaction about more EU engagement and they are losing their dominant role as a “negotiator” in the conflict. But I do not think that Russia will escalate with the EU Monitoring Mission, they have no interest in escalation because it will bind troops and energy which they need for Ukraine. There might be provocations, but I do not expect something bigger from the Russian side at this point.