In June 2022, President of France Emmanuel Macron proposed European Political Community (EPC) after the Conference on the Future of Europe at the European Parliament. Through this proposal, Macron aimed to increase cooperation and develop a dialogue environment on important issues regarding the continent with the non-European Union (EU) countries. As a matter of fact, on 6-7 October 2022, the EPC started to become functional with the participation of 27 EU member countries and 17 non-EU member countries of Europe to discuss the issues such as security, energy, climate, and economy in Prague.
One of the most notable discussions at the meeting in Prague was the four-way meeting attended by the President of Azerbaijan Mr. Ilham Aliyev, the Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan, the President of France Emmanuel Macron, and the President of the Council of Europe Charles Michel.
According to the council’s statement on the talks, the parties reaffirmed their commitment to the United Nations (UN) Charter and the 1991 Alma Ata Declaration of Independence. In the quadrilateral meeting, it is also agreed to establish a civilian EU mission to the Armenian-Azerbaijani borderline, operating for a maximum of two months to assist with border commissions and facilitate confidence building between the two entities. The quadrilateral meeting at the EPC session can be viewed on two fronts — on the growing importance of the South Caucasus, and based on France’s bid to become a leader within the EU.
As Putin made clear at the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia, which began on 13 October 2022 in Astana, Kazakhstan, Asia has a key role in the formation of the new world order. The South Caucasus is in a strategic position to provide a link between Asia and Europe. With the Russian-Ukrainian War beginning on 24 February 2022, the process of designing international order has accelerated. How the South Caucasus countries adopt a strategy in the creation of the new architecture is crucial to the United States (US)-led West surrounding Russia and showing its dominance in the region. Therefore, the EU wants to increase its influence in the South Caucasus as a result of US politics.
Putin, on the other hand, used his energy weapon to subdue Western support for Ukraine, prompting Europe to battle an energy crisis that will deepen. Thus, Europe focused on alternatives to substitute Russian natural gas, and the Caucasus was the key region for energy geopolitics.
The need for Europe increased in the South Gas Corridor, which started operating on 31 December 2020 and transported Azerbaijani gas to Europe. Thus, under an agreement signed between the EU and Azerbaijan on 18 July 2022, Azerbaijan agreed to increase its exports to 20 billion cubic meters by 2027. Therefore, Azerbaijan, which the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen describes as a reliable energy partner, is thus seen as a contributing factor to the solution of problems arising from the Russian-Ukrainian War, as well as establishing a pillar of the EU’s quest for alternative suppliers. Armenia is developing its relationship with Western states, influenced by the fact that Nikol Pashinyan is a pro-Western leader. The influence of the French and the US over Armenia is seen to increase. The West wants to play an active role in improving relations with both countries, while also actively trying to resolve the Karabakh problem in the Azerbaijan-Armenia line. The ceasefire process began in 2020 with the liberation of Karabakh from the Armenian occupation and is known to have a fragile structure. The conflict began on 12 September 2022 and has shown this.
Meanwhile, Moscow was the main actor in providing a ceasefire in Karabakh. Russia’s focus on Ukraine today has given the West some leeway. Furthermore, claims that Russian Peacekeepers were sent to Ukraine are linked to one of the reasons for the conflict in the region by Moscow’s leadership over its failure to fulfill its duty to ensure peace. Thus, the presence of combat potential and Russia’s preoccupation facilitate the EU’s increased engagement in the peace process.
In this context, the EU has increased its diplomatic efforts to position its role as a mediating actor between Armenia and Azerbaijan. During the last meeting between Mr. Aliyev, Pashinyan, and Michel, held in Brussels on 31 August 2022, the two discussed issues such as unblocking transportation, humanitarian issues, border issues, and the maintenance of peace. The Prague Summit was held shortly afterward and discussed how to reconcile Azerbaijan with Armenia.
The EPC meeting, which brings a new perspective to European integration, shows that the EU will seize every opportunity that comes before the West in terms of the EU’s involvement in the region, especially in the Karabakh conflict. It is noteworthy that the contacts within the scope of the EPC took place in the form of 3+1 (France), unlike the Brussels meetings. Because France is a country that is a part of the Minsk Trio working on the solution to the problem and is also frequently criticized by Azerbaijan for not being neutral. Its close relations with Armenia and the presence of the Armenian Diaspora in France mean that Paris does not have the qualifications to act as a mediator. However, as it can be understood from the meetings in Prague, France, which did not want to be pushed out of the problem, took its place at the table where the peace talks were discussed.
The desire of the Paris administration to lead EU policies both within the AST and in the South Caucasus can be interpreted as the effort of France, who lost the leadership seat in European defense to Germany, to protect the political wing of Europe. For this reason, Macron made an assertive statement about the four-way meeting, using the phrase “permanent peace for the Caucasus.”
A few days after the meeting, Macron said that Russia has destabilized the Caucasus region and beyond; and it has been claimed that he deliberately provoked the conflicts between Azerbaijan and Armenia in September 2022. It is understood from these two statements of the French leader that; the EU marginalized Russia in the region and said, “Putin, from the conflict; The West feeds on peace. It tries to create an image of “We will solve your problem.” Paris is leading the way in delivering this message.
In light of all these developments, factors such as the increasing importance of the region, Russia’s preoccupation in Ukraine, and ensuring energy supply security and continuity have increased the EU’s interest in the region. The primary objective of the EU is to break Russia’s dominance in the region and to reach the energy resources in the region. France’s goal is to become the leading actor in the Union’s Caucasus policy and to strengthen its position in the EU. In this environment, the Yerevan administration hopes to increase the economic prosperity of the country by reducing its dependence on Russia. However, at a time when Europe’s need for Azerbaijani energy is increasing, Baku wants to solve the issue in a way that will register its victory on the field.
As a result, the discussion of the Karabakh Issue at the first meeting of the EPC held in Prague showed the importance attached to the issue by the EU and this allowed the union to compensate for the failure of the Minsk Trio. The establishment of a suitable ground for reconciliation between Azerbaijan and Armenia facilitates the EU’s acting as a mediator and thereby penetrating the Caucasus.
 “Statement Following Quadrilateral Meeting Between President Aliyev, Prime Minister Pashinyan, President Macron And President Michel, 6 October 2022”, Council of European Union, https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2022/10/07/statement-following-quadrilateral-meeting-between-president-aliyev-prime-minister-pashinyan-president-macron-and-president-michel-6-october-2022/, (Date of Accession: 13.10.2022).
 Emre Gürkan Abay, “Rusya Devlet Başkanı Putin: Çok Kutuplu Dünyada Asya’da Yeni Güç Merkezleri Gelişiyor”, Anadolu Ajansı, https://www.aa.com.tr/tr/dunya/rusya-devlet-baskani-putin-cok-kutuplu-dunyada-asya-da-yeni-guc-merkezleri-gelisiyor/2710152, (Date of Accession: 15.10.2022).
 “Statement by President Von Der Leyen With Azerbaijani President Aliyev”, European Commission, https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/statement224583, (Date of Accession: 13.10.2022).
 “Baku Claims Russian Peacekeepers Relocated From Karabakh to Ukraine, Moscow Denies Reports”, Jam News, https://jam-news.net/baku-claims-russian-peacekeepers-relocated-from-karabakh-to-ukraine-moscow-denies-reports/, (Date of Accession: 13.10.2022).
 “Press Statement By President Charles Michel Following the Trilateral Meeting with President Aliyev of Azerbaijan and Prime Minister Pashinyan of Armenia, 31 August 2022”, Council of European Union, https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2022/08/31/press-statement-by-president-charles-michel-following-the-trilateral-meeting-with-president-aliyev-of-azerbaijan-and-prime-minister-pashinayn-of-armenia-31-august-2022/, (Date of Accession: 13.10.2022).
 “France Accuses Russia of Stoking Armenia, Azerbaijan Conflict”, Reuters, https://www.reuters.com/world/france-accuses-russia-stoking-armenia-azerbaijan-conflict-2022-10-12/, (Date of Accession: 13.10.2022).