Policy Paper on Engaging Europe’s De-Facto States

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A new paper by Tom de Waal of Carnegie Europe considers how the European Union has acknowledged and engaged with three officially unrecognized European entities: the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Transdniestria and Abkhazia.

“Despite many problems, they are self-governing and stable, and they show no signs of collapsing,” writes de Waal. “They exercise internal sovereignty, even as they have no prospect of getting international recognition. This qualifies them as de facto states.”

De Waal argues that “better engagement with breakaway territories such as these is an overlooked resource in conflict resolution. If carried out in a clear-sighted and intelligent manner, it should benefit all sides. It should give citizens of the de facto states greater opportunities to be integrated into the world.”

The author also explains why the paper did not consider the case of Karabakh. “A second pair of post-Soviet unrecognized entities, Nagorny Karabakh and South Ossetia [also] have elements of being de facto states, however, in terms of their economy, security, and civil documentation, both are much more internationally isolated and more closely integrated into their patron states, Armenia and Russia, respectively.”

“In both cases, isolation and de facto integration with the patron state go hand in hand—for Nagorny Karabakh, a hardline policy in Azerbaijan to internationally isolate the territory also drives the process,” de Waal nores. “Thus, international engagement with these entities is so minimal that—for better or worse—there is currently little to say on the subject.”

A paper published three years earlier by Magdalena Grono of the International Crisis Group, similarly recommended greater EU engagement with post-Soviet de facto states, including Nagorno Karabakh.

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