Azerbaijan - Council of Europe
After the restoration of independence Azerbaijan acquired favorable opportunities and perspectives in order to integrate into the world. Legal state building is implemented and transformation from totalitarism to democratic development is conducted in condition of cooperation with the U.S. and European countries, with democratic institutions and with non-governmental organizations. From the very beginning of independence, there were two factors that stipulated Azerbaijani integration to Europe:
Measures taken in protection of human rights, in establishment of political stability, legal and secular state building, and eventually in conduct of socio-economic reforms toward the establishment of market economy;
Favorable geopolitical location and rich natural resources of Azerbaijan that called the attention of the European international organizations to an active cooperation.
Although the Parliament of the Republic of Azerbaijan appealed to the Council of Europe in January 24, 1992 to obtain a “special guest” status the accession of our country to this organization was possible thanks to the national leader Heydar Aliyev’s consecutive and purposeful policy. Under his initiative death penalty was suspended in 1993 and subsequently abolished in 1998. Removal of death penalty was one of the crucial factors that determined its accession to the European family.
In the letter dated July 13, 1996, the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev requested the secretary general of the Council of Europe to consider Azerbaijan a full-fl edged member of the Council of Europe.
In the summit of the heads of states and governments of the member states of the Council of Europe the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev underpinned the willingness of Azerbaijan to join the Organization as the following: “We cultivate great hopes for support of the Council of Europe in the development of democratic changes. I am confident that Azerbaijan will be a full-fl edged member of the Council of Europe in the short run. We will do our utmost to meet high standards of modern European democracy”.
Further steps of the President Heydar Aliyev showed a strong willingness of Azerbaijan. That is, decrees of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan on “measures of implementation of cooperation program between the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Council of Europe dated July 8, 1996, measures in expanding cooperation between the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Council of Europe dated January 20, 1998, extending cooperation between the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Council of Europe and measures on defense of interests of the Republic of Azerbaijan in Europe dated May 14, 1999” are indicators of increased efforts made by Azerbaijan toward the accession to the Council of Europe.
The decrees recommended to accelerate the process of making up Criminal, Criminal-Procedural, Civil and Civil-Procedural Codes in accordance with the norms and standards adopted in the European countries, and eventually to study the issues related to Azerbaijan’s accession to a number of conventions and agreements. In the short run, the above mentioned codes and almost all laws with regard to law-enforcement bodies have been adopted in accordance with these recommendations by the Parliament of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
In the next session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in June, 2000 it was recommended to the Committee of Ministers to elect Azerbaijan a full-fl edged member of the Council of Europe.
Eventually, Azerbaijan was admitted as a full-fl edged member of the Council of Europe in January, 2001, and thus Azerbaijani diplomacy achieved a great triumph in its integration toward Europe. This event proved the accession of Azerbaijan to the Council of Europe in practice.
The President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev made his historic speech at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in January 25, 2001 in Strasbourg.
In his speech Heydar Aliyev defined the prime directions of mutual relations between this Organization and Azerbaijan. In fact, the issue mentioned in this speech was a program that constituted an integral part of foreign policy of the country for Azerbaijani delegation in PACE.
Along with the implementation of commitments of democratic transformation in its accession to the Council of Europe Azerbaijan as the full-fl edged member designed its national program to utilize opportunities provided by the Organization. The prime objectives of the program are:
To expose Armenian aggressive policy by disseminating Azerbaijani realities. Moreover, it sets forth to disseminate information on the genocide towards Azerbaijanis and occupation of the 20 percent of Azerbaijani territories by Armenians, to convey hardships of displaced persons whose rights are violated and to peacefully resolve the conflict that Azerbaijan is involved in provided that the territorial integrity is maintained;
To proceed a democratic and legal state building, to integrate into the Organization by acquiring European values in order to strengthen and develop the independence;
To ensure implementation of concrete obligations in order to carry on reforms in democratic and legal state building, development of civil society and protection of human rights;
To attain the chance of establishing diplomatic relations with the European countries in a high level, and demonstrate to these countries that Azerbaijani foreign policy is based on the principles of international law, such as the principles of coexistence and protection of peace and security;
To utilize the supreme principles of the Council of Europe in order to inform its goals and intentions.
Evidently, Azerbaijan’s objectives related to the membership of the Council of Europe overlapped with those of activities of developed countries within this Organization.
Thus, Azerbaijan obtained the opportunity to address its intentions and demands to the world community from this magnificent floor. It is of paramount importance to notably emphasize the productive work done by Mr. Ilham Aliyev in 2001-2003, who led the Azerbaijani delegation sent to Strasbourg on the occasion of this solemn event.
From the first session on, the documents reflecting the realities on the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno Karabakh conflict were disseminated as the consequence of the initiative and diplomatic activity of the head of the delegation of Azerbaijan to PACE, Mr. Ilham Aliyev. The MPs representing Azerbaijan in the Organization under the leadership of Mr.
Ilham Aliyev were establishing close relations with the members of the Council of Europe from different countries, and provided comprehensive information on the challenges of Azerbaijan, the occupation of the 20 percent of the territories by the Armenian armed forces and over a million refugees and displaced persons as the result of the occupation.
In the spring session of the PACE in April of 2001, information on expansion of narcotraffic and increase of terrorism in the occupied territories was conveyed to the European MPs. In this regard, the speech of the head of the Azerbaijani delegation Mr. Ilham Aliyev drew much attention. By calling attention that one of the centers of the organized crimes in Europe is in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan Mr. Ilham Aliyev stated: “the occupation of the 20 percent of the territories of Azerbaijan did not only bring about over a million of displaced persons, distraction of numerous cities, villages, monuments, cemeteries and the whole infrastructure, but also it resulted in the establishment of a favorable condition for the development of the organized crimes. The so-called “Nagorno Karabakh Republic” is used for drug cultivation and trafficking. Opium traffickers and drug dealers feel safe and comfortable.”
This firm position was a turning point in dealing with the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict in PACE. The British MP Terry Davis was appointed a PACE rapporteur on Nagorno Karabakh. Armenia objection to the decision of the appointment of PACE rapporteur on Nagorno Karabakh did not yield any result.
Adoption of the Resolution of 1416 dated January 25, 2005 is one of the crucial steps taken toward the resolution of the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno Karabakh conflict. The resolution states: “The Parliamentary Assembly regrets that the Nagorno Karabakh conflict remains unresolved regardless of the onset of hostilities more than a decade. Hundred of thousands of people are displaced and live in miserable conditions. Considerable part of the Azerbaijani territory remains under the occupation of the Armenian armed forces, and the separatist forces still control the Nagorno Karabakh region.”
Measures taken towards the accession to the Council of Europe show the willingness of Azerbaijan to study from the Organization in secular state building of the independent Azerbaijan.
Fundamental reforms are conducted in the legislation. The Constitution of Azerbaijan ensures supremacy of the international law.
As a result of legal reforms every person possesses the personal freedom and inviolability, the fair and open investigation of the cases by impartial and independent judges and insurance of human protection have been set. Presently, multiparty system is functioning in the country, political freedom, freedom of expression and consciousness, the rights of minorities, equality before the law, presumption of innocence have been insured, legal foundation of elections and referendum have been established which give a guarantee for holding democratic and free elections in the country.
The Constitutional Court has been established, death penalty was abolished, censorship was removed and the independence of a court is maintained. A three-level judicial system was set up, the 60 percent of the judge contingent was updated through the elections in accordance with the international standards. The state program is implemented on the protection of human rights and on the improvement of respective mechanisms.
Azerbaijani government carried out the commitments undertaken before the Council of Europe on time and the Commissioner (Ombudsman) institution was set up. In addition, the President of Azerbaijan issues decrees of pardoning on a regular basis. Moreover, new electronic mass media, Public television, was established. The government has considered every progressive recommendations that contribute to the democratic development of the country, and created a favorable condition for PACE co-rapporteur to conduct a regular monitoring.
The cooperation between Azerbaijan and the Council of Europe has extended recently. The delegation of Azerbaijan join events in different structures of the Organization and convey the position of the country on related issues. At the same time, representatives of the Organization hold official meetings while visiting Azerbaijan and exchange views on further expansion of cooperation. The process underway in Azerbaijan is closely observed and adequate reactions are made by the Council of Europe.
The discussion of the Presidential elections in the Bureau and Standing Committees of PACE proves it. Representatives of countries speaking over the report of the head of the elections observation mission of PACE unequivocally mentioned that the Presidential elections meet the democratic principles and the standards of the Council of Europe. The decision of the election observation mission was positive with regard to the Parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan this year.
Numerous events of the Council of Europe are held in Baku. The conference “intercultural dialogue is the basis of sustainable development and peace in Europe and in its neighboring regions” of Ministers of Culture of the member countries is of paramount significance. It is not accidental that such magnificent event was held in the capital of Azerbaijan.
Representatives of various continents and religions took concrete measures in the formation of cultural cooperation. At the same time, prospect of intercultural relations in maintaining peace and sustainable development in Europe and in its neighboring states was discussed in the conference held with the joint organization of the Council of Europe and Azerbaijani government.
Moreover, holding the seventh conference of the ministers of the Council of Europe responsible for equality between males and females in May 25, 2010 in Baku on “Gender equality: ensurance of de-jure and de-facto equality” was of immense significance. The first lady of Azerbaijan, good will ambassador of UNESCO and ISESCO and MP of the Parliament Mehriban Aliyeva participated and made a speech in the conference and stated as the following: “I express my gratitude to the Council of Europe for making a decision to hold the conference in Baku. I believe that one of the key reasons of holding this conference in Baku is Azerbaijan’s firm standing on gender equality and of having a concrete strategy.”
It is of great importance to note that the election of the heads of the Azerbaijani delegation to PACE, Ilham Aliyev and Samad Seyidov, as the vice-presidents shows the positive attitude of the Organizations to Azerbaijan.
Thus, currently, Azerbaijan deservedly prove its accession to the Council of Europe with its activity in the democratic transformation, including the logical outcome of reforms conducted.
In the last ten years courageous and fundamental measures were taken in the Republic of Azerbaijan, a member of the Council of Europe, on the protection of human rights and freedoms as the result of purposeful policy pursued on the basis of world experience.
The President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev clearly stated the outcome of cooperation of our country with this Organization as the follows: “Constructive cooperation, suggestions, recommendations, shared experience – all of them contributed to further democratization of Azerbaijani society and to being a full-fl edged member of the European family.”
On January 26, 2011, an official reception was held in the building of the Council of Europe to mark the 10th anniversary of the country's membership of the Council of Europe. The event was attended by senior officials from Azerbaijan and the Council of Europe. On January 23, two reports concerning Azerbaijan were discussed during the winter session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe: “Fulfillment of commitments by Azerbaijan” and “The follow up to the issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan”. During the debate of the report “Fulfillment of commitments by Azerbaijan” the reporters noted that Azerbaijan had achieved significant development in the field of democracy.
The Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe has passed from Austria to Azerbaijan at the 124th session of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe held on May 6, 2014 in Vienna. Thus Azerbaijan held the chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe for the first time since had become a member of the Council of Europe in 2001.
On June 24, 2014, the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan H.E. Mr. Ilham Aliyev delivered a speech at the summer session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
At present Azerbaijan is a party to 60 international treaties concluded within the framework of the Council of Europe.