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Work Package 4 – Neighbourhood

Research Approach and Geographical Focus

Theoretical guidance for WP4 work was provided by the framework developed in WP2 which employed the concepts of de- and re-territorialisation of nation states through the lenses of trans-national flows. WP4 finds conceptual guidance in frameworks that try to overcome the "territorial trap". The researchers identify political spaces by looking at flows and power-relations beyond the nation states.

The permeability of the Turkey-Caucasus border has increased significantly the social and economic interactions. The research addresses the question of whether Turkey is able to develop leverages powerful enough to impact positively on the regional and domestic dynamics in the Caucasus, whether soft power and the force of attraction can become a vector of influence to be used in the field of preventive diplomacy and mitigation of tensions.

The research focused on influences from Turkey to Armenia, Adjara, Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh and the North Caucasus. The study considered state and non-state actors. Also Iranian influences in Azerbaijan were explored. The research relies mainly on qualitative data collected in the respective entities by the research team.

Preliminary Results

The inter-societal interactions between Turkey and the Caucasus are complex. Diaspora groups play a significant role. Abkhaz and Circassian diaspora take, for example, a lead in channeling Turkish influences in Abkhazia. Diaspora groups employ substantially varying strategies. Some groups are mainly active in their homelands in the Caucasus. Others advocate cultural rights and are politically active in Turkey.

Actions of ethnic Caucasian groups resulted in some spill-over of tensions. This made Turkey an insider to the dynamics in the Caucasus. The Chechen, Georgian-Abkhazian and the Nagorno-Karabakh wars have become part of the domestic Turkish agenda. The study on Armenia indicated that Turkey has an indirect impact on the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. The main drivers for establishing ties between Turkey and Armenia are NGOs and think tanks.

Turkey´s Caucasus policy clearly lacks the resources that the EU can mobilize for its Neighbourhood Policy. However, Turkey's proximity to the region is a major asset. The permeability of the Turkey-Caucasus border increases social and economic interactions and flows. Migration flows show that cross border movements from the Caucasus to Turkey are mainly economically motivated. Large number of temporary migrants (especially domestic workers from Georgia), students and professionals (especially from Azerbaijan) come to Turkey in steady increasing numbers. Abkhaz migration from Turkey to Abkhazia has been welcome by the Abkhaz authorities. Nevertheless, integration into the Abkhaz society has been hard. The Abkhaz authorities failed to develop integration policies.

Iranian influence on Shia Islam was very strong in the 1990s. After 2002, the struggle against "Iranian influence" has served as a political and legal basis for massive intervention in the religious sphere, including arrests. Thus, the material flows coming from the Iranian government have been stopped. Nevertheless, the revival of Shia groups in Azerbaijan has renewed the (historically based) links to Iranian religious authorities. Azerbaijan recently has started to incorporate this religious factor into its bilateral relation to Iran.

WP4 Researchers:
Ankara Policy Center
Burcu Punsmann
Hülya Demirdirek
Hasan Kanbolat

Geowel Research
George Welton
Davit Jijelava
Tamar Burduli
William Dunbar
Nino Siprashivili
Hamed Kazemzadeh
Levan Kakhishvili

German Institute for International Studies and Security Affairs
Franziska Smolnik
Yana Zabanova
Andrea Weiss

Kabardino-Balkaria State University
Oksana Kundetova

Khazar University
Murat Nasibov
Ariz Huseynov

University of Fribourg
Ansgar Jödicke