Azerbaijan – European Union
Since 1993 Azerbaijan has declared its interest in relations with the European Union and started to set relations with the EU in different fields. Azerbaijan’s advantageous geographic location and rich natural resources make our country interesting for the EU. The relations of Azerbaijan with the EU are being implemented mostly within the framework of different programmes.
In order to establish relations with newly independent states, conduct democratic reforms, found market economy infrastructure, develop trade, transport and customs, the EU launched the TACIS programme in the 1990s and finances it. The EU’s other initiative is the Transport Corridor Europe-Caucasus-Asia Project (TRACECA) project launched in May 1993 at a Brussels conference featuring representatives of Central Asian and Caucasian nations. The project implies restoration of Great Silk Way in new conditions, reinstatement and development of transport-communication infrastructure. The EU provides assistance to the Project via a technical aid programme. The key point in implementation of TRACECA was the international conference held in Baku on September 8-9, 1998 featuring representatives of 32 nations and 13 international organizations. The Basic Multilateral Agreement on International Transport for Development of the Europe-Caucasus-Asia Corridor that reflects technical and economic aspects of implementation of the Europe-Caucasus-Asia Corridor was signed in the conference. Intensive activity of TRACECA has had a significant role in socio-economic life of Azerbaijan, including in shipping profits, development of transport infrastructure, opening of new jobs, etc. The Permanent Secretariat of the TRACECA Inter-Governmental Commission was officially opened on February 21, 2001 and implements coordination.
The Treaty of Partnership and Cooperation signed on April 22, 1996 opened a new stage in relations between Azerbaijan and the EU. The treaty that came into force in 1999 and is a legal-normative basis of mutual relations was characterized by Heydar Aliyev as “a historic event for Azerbaijan”. The treaty aimed at development of mutual relations in different fields of society such as political, economic, cultural, social, and so on. According to the treaty, the aims of the partnership are following:
- Developing political dialogue between the parties and establishing relevant frame for it.
- Strengthening democracy and assisting in completing transition to market economy.
- Expanding trade and investment between the parties for achieving sustainable development.
- Establishing a basis for cooperation in legislative, financial, civil, scientific, technological, and cultural fields.
By 23 November 1999 decree of the Azerbaijani President, a state committee was founded for implementing obligations of the treaty, expanding and regulating the relations with the EU.
After the Treaty of Partnership and Cooperation came into force, one of the positive changes in relations between the EU and Azerbaijan was structural organization of these relations. Activity of the established bodies – the Cooperation Council and committee on parliamentary cooperation secured sustainability, regularity and systematization of mutual relations.
Since 1999 inter-parliamentary cooperation has been intensively developing. One of the main directions of these relations was the inter-parliamentary cooperation with the first meeting held in April 2000. The discussion of the document titled “Caucasian nations towards EU membership: new challenge from the European Parliament” in committee meeting was a reflection of the progress in the relations.
The first meeting of the Cooperation Council took place on October 10, 1999. The following issues were discussed in a number of meetings: ways of solution of regional conflicts, cooperation, role of international programmes like TACIS, TRACECA, INOGATE, reforms in Azerbaijan, integration with economic and political structures of Europe, security issues, unification of court system, freedom of press.
The EU’s attitude towards the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has been changing in recent years. The EU’s statements on Nagorno-Karabakh adopted in 1992-1993 didn’t distinguish the occupant state from the occupied one. However, the Declaration on behalf of EU presidency on Presidential elections regarding the presidential elections held in so-called Nagorno-Karabakh Republic in August 2002 openly and concretely stated “the EU doesn’t recognize independence of Nagorno-Karabakh”, “the EU supports Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity”, and that Armenia is a belligerent party. On May 20, 2010 the European Parliament adopted a resolution titled “Requirement on the EU’s strategy in South Caucasus”. The resolution included issues on regulation of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh. The resolution also emphasized necessity of regulation of the conflict within the framework of international law norms and principles and territorial integrity, rights of refugees and IDPs, necessity of their return to their homeland.
Another important step in development of mutual relations was the institution of permanent representation of the Azerbaijani Republic to the EU according to the presidential decree on organized security of activity of representation of the Azerbaijani Republic to the EU issued on April 3, 2000 and the appointment of the EU’s special representative to South Caucasus in July 2003. The representation of the European Commission to the Azerbaijani Republic has been functioning since February 4, 2008.
A new stage in the EU-Azerbaijani relations started in 2004. Azerbaijan received an opportunity to conduct some of economic, political, legal, and administrative reforms within the framework of the EU’s New Neighborhood Policy and to get the EU’s technical and financial assistance. Within the framework of the programme, Azerbaijan also got an opportunity of access quote to the EU market and free circulation of employees, goods, services, and investment-capital resources.
Having considered the start of a new stage of Azerbaijan’s European integration as a result of Azerbaijan’s joining New Neighborhood Policy, President Ilham Aliyev issued a decree on June 1, 2005 on establishing a state commission for Azerbaijan’s integration into the EU. The decree implied setting up working groups with the EU on political, economic, transport, energy, security, human rights, democratization, humanitarian, scientific-educational and other fields of cooperation. The Azerbaijan-EU activity plan was adopted within the framework of the European neighborhood policy in November 2006. The EU allocated 92 million euro for implementing the plan. Ilham Aliyev was the first South Caucasian leader to have been invited to Brussels (May 2004) within the framework of programme. All these facts prove that the EU attaches a great importance to Azerbaijan. During his visit President Ilham Aliyev stated that “Integration to the European Union is our strategic goal”.
During President Ilham Aliyev’s visit to Brussels in November 2006, a memorandum was signed between Azerbaijan and the EU on close cooperation on energy. The EU’s New Neighborhood Policy with the South Caucasian nations confirms the union’s serious interest in the region.
The EU initiated the Eastern Partnership. According to the project, the EU plans to provide assistance worth 600 million euro to 6 countries (Azerbaijan, Belarus, Moldova, Ukraine, Georgia, and Armenia) till 2013.
The Eastern Partnership includes three main goals: 1) Comprehensive Institutional Building programmes; 2) Pilot Regional Development Programmes on removing economic inequality among partner countries and social inequality within countries; 3) Implementation of Eastern Partnership Multisided Dimension.
President Ilham Aliyev’s working visit to the Belgian Kingdom in 2009, his meetings with the EU authorities, the visit of the chairman of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso to Baku in January 2011, the signed documents reaffirmed that the relations between Azerbaijan and the EU are successfully developing within the framework of the European Neighborhood Policy and this cooperation has entered a new stage since the realization of the Eastern Partnership initiative.
After the biased resolution adopted by the European Parliament on situation of the human rights in Azerbaijan on September 18, 2014, coldness has been observed in the relationship between Azerbaijan and the above-mentioned organization.
In June, 2015, on the eve of the European Games held in Azerbaijan the tendentious campaign conducted by the European Parliament against our country was intensified. By adopting another biased resolution concerning Azerbaijan on September 10, 2015, the European Parliament displayed reluctance in the normalization of relations. Consequently the Milli Majlis (National Assembly) of the Republic of Azerbaijan adopted a resolution on walkout of the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly, also the planned high-level visit of the delegation of the European External Action Service was postponed.
Milli Majlis of the Republic of Azerbaijan adopted a resolution on restoration of cooperation between the Milli Majlis and European Parliament at the session dated September 30, 2016.