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Time for liberal thinking in Nagarno-Karabakh conflict



Possible scenarios for the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, which is in its hottest phase of the last 30 years, are one of the most baffling problems for the international community in recent days. Whether the last hostility is “the storm before the calm” or relatively " the calm before the storm" is vital for the future of the region and perhaps the world, writes  Louse Auge.

Earlier, it was absolutely normal to make prognosis on the development of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict on two main scenarios.

The first and of course the desirable one was to find a solution to the conflict through peace talks. However, the failure of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs to mediate during long 26 years has cast a dark line over this scenario.

The second, but undesirable scenario was another war which also included following two major scenarios: war limited between Armenia and Azerbaijan or a larger-scale war fuelled by the intervention of external forces, first of all Turkey and Russia, turning it into a global catastrophe.

It is unreasonable for Turkey, a strategic ally of Azerbaijan, to intervene directly into this conflict without an additional third country factor, as the military capabilities of Azerbaijan, have proved it unnecessary. Thus, the main threat is the provocation of Russia by Armenia, which is suffering heavy military defeats against Azerbaijan.

It is no longer a secret that Armenia’s primary goal by subjecting densely populated residential areas of Azerbaijan, including those far away from the frontline, to heavy artillery and missile attacks demonstratively from the territories of Armenia, was to provoke Azerbaijan to take similar retaliatory measures, ultimately hoping for direct Russian military intervention. However, despite numerous attempts of Armenia, the restrained approach of the Azerbaijani political and military leadership, as well as the realpolitik and rational approach of the Russian political establishment, led by President Putin, dangerous, mindless and criminal efforts of Armenia have so far been thwarted.

After another talks in Geneva on October 30 between the foreign ministers of the countries’ in war and envoys from France, Russia and the United States, it became clearer that the only scenario in force now is for Armenia and Azerbaijan to resolve the conflict among themselves - by peace or war. Armenia's unwillingness to leave the occupied Azerbaijani territories voluntarily makes a peaceful solution impossible. Which unfortunately leaves only one scenario valid - war.

However, against the background of the international community's longstanding thesis that there is no military solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, a necessary question arises: a peaceful solution has not been possible, and 26 years of negotiations have failed to bring lasting peace to the region. But after one month of military confrontation, there are new realities on the ground now. Will the results of this war eventually bring peace and stability to the region?

Interestingly, by drawing some parallels between conflictology and economics, it is possible to clue an answer to this question. The fact that the war is fought only between Azerbaijan and Armenia and there is no outside interference, inevitably brings to mind the liberal economic theory in which economic relations are formed only on the basis of supply and demand without state intervention. According to the proponents of this theory, in this case, the market will be regulated by the "invisible hand", a metaphor, introduced by the 18th-century Scottish philosopher and economist Adam Smith. Liberalism defines the “invisible hand” as an unobservable market force that helps the demand and supply of goods in a free market to reach equilibrium automatically. This theory also supports the idea that shortcomings and crises in economic activity can be effectively addressed through an "invisible hand" based on pure market principles. On the other hand, although government intervention to the economy may have some regulatory effects, it will not be sustainable and long-lasting. Self-regulation of the market is a condition for economic stability.

Despite all its shortcomings and criticisms, this theory perhaps is the best solution to apply to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict at this stage.

Natural equilibrium in the region is possible only through mutual recognition and restoration of international borders. Without ensuring these basics, any outside interference or attempts to re-freeze the conflict will not bring a lasting solution and will eventually lead to future new wars.

So far, the battles of last month show that Azerbaijan is closer to determined victory in this war. As a result, Armenia will have to renounce its territorial claims once and for all, leaving no reason for further wars with Azerbaijan. The huge demographic, economic and military gap of Armenia against Azerbaijan and, as well as the absence of any claims of Azerbaijan to the territories of Armenia, will preclude a new war between the two countries in the future.

Thus, as painful as it may sound, if the world really wants a durable peace in the region, the only way now is to let the warring parties to find the necessary balance among themselves. "Laissez-faire, laissez-passer", as the liberals recap it nicely. And peace and stability, which many consider highly unlikely, will not be far off.

All opinions expressed in the above article are those of the author alone, and do not reflect any opinions on the part of EU Reporter.


Over 40 arrested in biggest-ever crackdown against drug ring smuggling cocaine from Brazil into Europe



In the early hours of the morning (27 November), more than a thousand police officers with the support of Europol carried out co-ordinated raids against the members of this highly professional criminal syndicate. Some 180 house searches were executed, resulting in the arrest of 45 suspects. 

The investigation uncovered that this drug trafficking network was responsible for the annual importation of at least 45 tonnes of cocaine into the main European seaports, with profits exceeding €100 million over the course of 6 months.

This international sting, led by the Portuguese, Belgian and Brazilian authorities, was carried out simultaneously by agencies from three different continents, with coordination efforts facilitated by Europol:

  • Europe: Portuguese Judicial Police (Polícia Judiciária), Belgian Federal Judicial Police (Federale Gerechtelijke Politie, Police Judiciaire Fédérale), Spanish National Police (Policia Nacional), Dutch Police (Politie) and the Romanian Police (Poliția Română)
  • South America: Brazilian Federal Police (Policia Federal)
  • Middle East: Dubai Police Force and Dubai State Security

Results in brief 

  • 45 arrests in Brazil (38), Belgium (4), Spain (1) and Dubai (2).
  • 179 house searches.
  • Over €12m in cash seized in Portugal, €300,000 in cash seized in Belgium and over R$1m and US$169,000 in cash seized in Brazil.
  • 70 luxury vehicles seized in Brazil, Belgium and Spain and 37 aircrafts seized in Brazil.
  • 163 houses seized in Brazil worth in excess of R$132m, two houses seized in Spain worth €4m, and two apartments seized in Portugal worth €2.5m.
  • Financial assets of 10 individuals frozen in Spain.

Global co-operation 

In the framework of intelligence activities underway with its operational counterparts, Europol developed reliable intelligence concerning the international drug trafficking and money laundering activities of a Brazilian organized crime network operating in several EU countries.

The criminal syndicate had direct contact with drug cartels in Brazil and other South American source countries who were responsible for the preparation and the shipments of cocaine in maritime containers bound to major European seaports.

The scale of cocaine importation from Brazil to Europe under their control and command is massive and over 52 tonnes of cocaine were seized by law enforcement over the course of the investigation.

In April 2020, Europol brought together the involved countries who have since been working closely together to establish a joint strategy to bring down the whole network. The main targets were identified on either sides of the Atlantic Ocean.

Since then, Europol has provided continuous intelligence development and analysis to support the field investigators. During the action day, a total of 8 of its officers were deployed on-the-ground in Portugal, Belgium and Brazil to assist there the national authorities, ensuring swift analysis of new data as it was being collected during the action and adjusting the strategy as required.

Commenting on this operation, Europol’s Deputy Director Wil van Gemert said: "This operation highlights the complex structure and vast reach of Brazilian organized crime groups in Europe. The scale of the challenge faced today by police worldwide calls for a coordinated approach to tackle the drug trade across continents. The commitment of our partner countries to work via Europol underpinned the success of this operation and serves as a continued global call to action."

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Navalny calls on Europe to follow the money



The European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee held an exchange of views with representatives of the Russian political opposition and NGOs on the current political and socio-economic situation in Russia.

Among the speakers was Alexei Navalny, who has recently recovered from being poisoned with a nerve agent similar to the one used in the Salisbury attack targeted at Sergei Skirpal and his daughter. 

Navalny called on Europe to adopt a new strategy towards Russia, that meets the new developments in Russian state leadership. He said that the forthcoming elections for the State Duma would be an absolutely crucial event and that everyone should be able to participate. If opposition politicians are not allowed to participate he asked the European Parliament and every European politician not to recognize the outcome.

Navalny told MEPs that it was not enough to sanction those responsible for carrying out his poisoning and that there was little sense in sanctioning those who didn’t travel a lot or who didn’t own assets in Europe. Instead, he said the main question that should be asked is who gained financially from Putin’s regime. Navalny pointed to the oligarchs, not just the old ones, but the new ones in Putin’s inner circle, with name-checks for Usmanov and Roman Abramovich. He said that these sanctions would be warmly welcomed by most Russians. 

On the various decisions of the European Court of Human Rights that have been ignored by the Russian judiciary, Navalny said it would be very easy to sanction them to prevent them from traveling to Europe and it would be very effective.

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Commission approves German scheme to compensate accommodation providers in the field of child and youth education for damages suffered due to the coronavirus outbreak



The European Commission approved, under EU state aid rules, a German scheme to compensate accommodation providers for child and youth education for the loss of revenue caused by the coronavirus outbreak. The public support will take the form of direct grants. The scheme will compensate up to 60% of the loss of revenues incurred by eligible beneficiaries in the period between the beginning of the lockdown (which started on different dates across the regional states) and 31 July 2020 when their accommodation facilities had to be closed due to the restrictive measures implemented in Germany.

When calculating the loss of revenue, any reductions in costs resulting from income generated during the lockdown and any possible financial aid granted or actually paid out by the state (and in particular granted under scheme SA.58464) or third parties to cope with the consequences of the coronavirus outbreak will be deducted. At the central government level, facilities eligible to apply will have at their disposal a budget of up to €75 million.

However, these funds are not earmarked exclusively for this scheme. In addition, regional authorities (at Länder or local level) may also make use of this scheme from the local budgets. In any event, the scheme ensures that the same eligible costs cannot be compensated twice by different administrative levels. The Commission assessed the measure under Article 107(2)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, which enables the Commission to approve state aid measures granted by member states to compensate specific companies or specific sectors for the damages caused by exceptional occurrences, such as the coronavirus outbreak.

The Commission found that the German scheme will compensate damages that are directly linked to the coronavirus outbreak. It also found that the measure is proportionate, as the envisaged compensation does not exceed what is necessary to make good the damages. The Commission therefore concluded that the scheme is in line with EU state aid rules.

More information on actions taken by the Commission to address the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic can be found here. The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.59228 in the state aid register on the Commission's competition website.

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