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EU's Cross-Border Cooperation and Conflict Transformation at Contested Borders in the European Neighbourhood: Lessons from the Turkish-Armenian Border

2019-05-01
Dogangun, Gokten
Karadağ, Yelda
In the post-Cold War period, the European Union's neighbourhood policy towards its emerging eastern neighbours aims to surround the European Union (EU) with a ring of secure, stable and prosperous neighbouring countries. Advancing conflict transformation through cross-border cooperation initiatives constitutes a crucial part of the European neighbourhood policy. Cross-border interaction and cooperation are expected to lessen the heavy burden of sealed borders by decreasing isolation and indifference and promoting mutual interaction, dialogue and confidence-building between conflicting parties. However, there are several ethno-political contestations whose historical animosities cast a shadow on the effectiveness of the EU's neighbourhood and cross-border cooperation policies for conflict transformation. The Turkish-Armenian case testifies to the persistence of physical and mental borders that stem from competing historical memories, longstanding grievances and contesting national claims, as well as from regional dynamics. This article aims to assess the impact of the EU's neighbourhood policy and cross-border cooperation initiatives on conflict transformation on the Turkish-Armenian border. The EU's policies have remained partially relevant and effectual by initiating interaction and dialogue at the civil societal level. Advancing conflict transformation at the political level, however, would require the EU to develop a more comprehensive framework that considers the cross-cutting context of the competing historical memories and regional dynamics and shifts that currently undermine the impact of further transformative attempts.