EU’s “Soft Power” Strategy in Armenia

With the most important actors in the universal politics foreign political relations of any country constantly require conceptual correction and adjustment depending on the regional situation and global, worldwide processes. The term “soft power” has been included into the scientific application by American politician Joseph Nyei. Nye clearly distinguished the terms “soft power”, “hard power” and “reasonable power”. The “Soft Power” is a political strategy that, in the application of which once seeks to achieve the desired goals through voluntary participation, sympathy, unlike the “Hard Power”, which implies the elements of compulsion, up to ilitary power. And the “reasonable power” was interpreted by Nye as the gold median of the other two resources, that none of these methods will be applied, but skillfully combine these two. Nye considers “reasonable power” an approach that emphasizes the importance of the existence of a powerful military component, but also highlights the enormous amount of investments in alliances and institutions with a view of expanding their own influence, thus defining the legitimacy of its actions. Nye was not only a well-known professor and researcher, but also had been engaged in practical politics for a long time occupying key military, diplomatic, reconnaissance positions in US government. Nye considers the “Soft Power” as a completeness of internal and external political factors of the state:

External factors:

  • foreign policy and prestige in international affairs
  • global hierarchy and geopolitical status of the country
  • civilization status (in every country there is a national culture, but not every country that is considered as the heir of a specific civilization)
  • the model of political and economic development of the state
  • the state’s development strategy and the possibilities for its realization in everyday life
  • country’s information potential and communication mobility.

Internal factors:

  • ideology
  • quality of life and lifestyle
  • systematic values (including national ideas).

In international relations under the conditions of modernization of the toolkit used by states the observation and the comprehensive research of the “Soft Power” as an important component of foreign policy

“Soft Power” as a key tool for EU foreign policy (with the example of southern Caucasus)

For EU, the term “Soft Power” is a very active and effective applicable method for enlarging and deepening its own impact zones. In the recent years, EU’s activity in the southern Caucasus has considerably increased. The southern Caucasus as a component of the Black Sea-Caspian energy region and a natural corridor connecting with Central Asia, for EU, especially after the collapse of the USSR, acquires a strategic significance. This fact, of course, increases EU’s attention to such regional issues as conflicts, economic development and modernization of political systems, promotion of regional and interregional cooperation programs, etc. The southern Caucasus is remarkable by the abundance of external actors who pursue different, often contradictory interests here.

Such worlds the United States and Russia, and regional power centers such as Turkey and Iran, have an important role in this region. Their competition for the region’s communication capabilities and energy resources for strategic surveillance purposes greatly influences the development and implementation of EU’s southern Caucasus policy. It is impossible to ignore the interests of EU leading countries in the region which do not always coincide. This drives the necessity of adopting a common strategy over the southern Caucasus and the need to increase EU’s competitiveness. In this context, one of the primary issues is associated with the coordination or competition of interests of EU leading countries and other actors in the region. In this sense, the necessity of ensuring the EU’s strategic presence in southern Caucasus is evident particularly by implementing an independent policy aimed at maintaining regional security beside Russia and the United States. Under the conditions of Russia and US geopolitical competition, it is difficult for EU to strengthen its positions globally including the southern Caucasus. That’s why EU needs to adopt a common position which will also be a milestone for south Caucasian politics of individual member states.

From the other southern Caucasus actors, EU differs that despite the absence of a common strategy over the region it implements its policy through distinctly developed programs relying mainly on the reputation of its “Soft Power” and “honest intermediary” in the southern Caucasus.

From this perspective especially the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), Eastern Partnership, TRACECA, INOGATE as well as other support and cooperation programs are worthy of attention and assessment.

Generally, EU has repeatedly been criticized for passive role in this area, often for non-operative response to the taking place processes. 

EU’s “Soft Power” manifestation in Armenia

Post-Soviet countries, especially the South Caucasian, after the collapse of the USSR still remain at the center of attention of EU. EU is currently implementing classical toolkit of “Soft Power” in Armenia. Relations between EU and RA were regulated by the document “EU-RA Partnership and Cooperation Agreement”, which has come into force in 1999. It allows to carry out extensive cooperation in directions of political dialogue, trade, investment, economy, law-making processes and culture. Most EU financial assistance is provided in the form of sectoral budgetary support, that is to say, the amount is paid in case ofsatisfactionpecific targeted reforms. EU in Armenia manifestations of “Soft Power” concentrates in three priority directions:

  1. private sector development
  2. public administration sector reforms
  3. reforms in the justice sector ii

The OSCE office in Armenia was an auxiliary tool for EU’s “Soft Power”. Europe’s Security and co-operation organization’s Yerevan office representing OSCE also had some EU influence, especially by those member states, which are also members of OSCE. This office helped Armenia to develop its democratic institutions and strengthen civil society. But with the intervention of Azerbaijan, that office was closed. Taking advantage of the consensus procedure adopted by that system, Azerbaijan prevented the implementation of the programs of that office in Armenia. After closing this office in Baku, in fact, preventing the activities of the Yerevan office Azerbaijan deprives OSCE from presence of full mission in southern Caucasus. Another important EU tool is EU Advisory Group in Armenia. One of the most important achievements of this group is the opening of a Diplomatic School that took place on 15 February 2010. The school was established with the support of EU Advisory Group, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and OSCE. One of the European “Soft Power” strategies is the support for reforms in education. The Bologna Process, which Armenia has joined in 2005, aims to create a united European space for higher education through the rapprochement and harmonization of educational systems of the European countries. From EU-funded educational programs in Armenia Tempus and Erasmus + can be distinguished. The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) also operates in Armenia. In Armenia EU also finances Eurasia Partnership Foundation. Established in 2007, the Eurasia Partnership Foundation (EPF) is an institutional successor to the Eurasia Foundation (EF) in Armenia since 1995. In 2006, EF / EPF launched its Armenia-Turkey dialogue and cooperation program which contributed to independent bilateral research, conferences and discussions, as well as other cross-border cooperation programs. Since 2007, the EPF has supported more than a dozen grant projects which aim to help Armenian organizations to establish cross-border contacts with their Turkish co-workers (The EP / EPF initially acted as a donor organization in this area, but was later involved in the implementation of the programs).

In October 2010, the Eurasia Partnership Foundation, the Union of Manufacturers and Businessmen of Armenia, the Yerevan Press Club and the International Center for Human Development, who signed a quadrilateral memorandum of cooperation in the context of Armenian-Turkish relations, won the tender of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) with the “Support to Armenia-Turkey rapprochement” program. This program provides implementation of works with three priority directions: business cooperation, civil society, and intergovernmental dialogue at an informal level. The Open Door Grant Package enables to support programs with new ideas about the process of rapprochement.iii

During 2016-2020 EU delegation will provide around 23 million euros for the development of Armenia’s private sector. The measures will include from the implementations of SME policies to activities aimed to become financial resources available.

Priority direction of exporting Armenian goods is EU which is also one of Armenia’s most important trading partners. From Armenia the European Union imports mostly ready products, raw materials, industrial products, as well as drinks and tobacco. Most of the imports from EU to Armenia are machinery and transport equipment, ready products, industrial products and chemicals. To Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP) under preferential trade regime export volumes from Armenia to EU as of 2015, has reached 116 million euros, registering a growth compared to 61 million euros in 2009.

The last and probably the largest manifestation of the “Soft Power” was demonstrated by the EU on 24 November 2017 when Armenia at EU Eastern Partnership Summit in Brussels signed the new Confederation of European Pest Management Associations (CEPA) agreement between the Republic of Armenia and EU around which the parties were negotiating for nearly two yearsiv. When in 2015 RA Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandyan in Brussels and EU high representative for the United Foreign and Security Policy Federica Mogherini came to an agreement on the start of negotiations on the agreement, from that day there were concerns that it would not be signed. The scepticism was mainly conditioned by failure of negotiations around Association Agreement, including Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Zone after nearly three years of negotiations in 2013. The objectives of the new agreement are to consolidate the comprehensive political and economic partnership and cooperation between the parties, strengthen the framework of political dialogue on all areas of mutual interest, to promote democracy in Armenia, political and economic cooperation, promote, preserve and strengthen peace. The agreement is quite similar to the unsigned Association Agreement: there is no economic sector here. This document seems to be quite serious and pretentious, but it is much harder to get it from the text to the applicable field. By agreement, EU will continue to remain the largest creditor in Armenia in the spheres of governance, private sector support and public administration reform. Through this document, Armenia will be the first Eastern Partnership country, which, at the same time, by joining with EEU will have similar agreement with EU. This agreement will ultimately allow Armenia not to consider Russia as a political battlefield.


Though “Soft Power” is perceived as a means of manipulative effect, nevertheless, it is more preferable as a means of exposure enhancement than the more rigid methods of impact. “Soft Power” implies not only influence, but also attractiveness, therefore, as a resource uses everything that inspires and captures, gives the ability to control and achieve the desired result. Both for “Soft Power” and “Hard Power” general is to reach their own goal by the influence on the other participants of action: the difference is between the means: if the “Hard Power” imposes and obliges, then the influence of the “Soft Power” is shaped by mechanisms of foreign policy actions and by more comprehensive cooperation on the basis of common values.

Today Armenia tries to diversify its policy being on the one hand as EEC member and having allied relations with Russia, on the other hand deepens relations with EU. As a result of the mutual cooperation and coalescence of the economy, Armenia will be able to partially avoid economic upheavals which occasionally occur on all poles. EU today possesses a very attractive toolkit for the Soft Power, which is today desirable for a number of countries, including Armenia. Involvement in making a statehood, reform processes and support for Armenia’s democratization makes EU an important actor in Armenia.

[1] Най Дж. Гибкая власть. Как добиться успеха в мировой политике. [Текст] – М.: Тренды, 2006. с. 32


[1]11  «Мягкая сила» ЕС: инструмент создания единственной сверхдержавы


Author: Rafayel Avdalyan. © All rights are reserved.

Translator: Anna Zakaryan.