EU-Azerbaijan: “attempts of blackmail will not succeed”
At July Plenary in Strasbourg MEPs recommended a list of conditions for a new EU-Azerbaijan agreement, underlining that the future deal must be ambitious and deliver concrete benefits; it has also to ensure respect to fundamental rights and freedoms; and must guarantee defeating corruption, money laundering and tax evasion.
Ensuring that core EU values and rights are respected is one of the conditions for deepening EU-Azerbaijan relations, said MEPs on Wednesday, June 4.
Parliament’s recommendation to negotiators for the EU-Azerbaijan Comprehensive Agreement, passed by 564 votes to 69, with 47 abstentions, it calls on the Council, EU Commission and the EU foreign policy chief to:
- ensure that the future agreement is ambitious and delivers tangible and concrete benefits to both sides, not only for large companies, but also for SMEs and citizens of the EU and of Azerbaijan;
- ensure that the deepening of EU-Azerbaijan relations is conditional upon it upholding and respecting democracy, the rule of law, good governance, human rights and fundamental freedoms,
- remind the Azerbaijani authorities that no comprehensive agreement will be ratified with a country that does not respect fundamental EU values and rights,
- ensure, before the negotiations are concluded, that Azerbaijan releases its political prisoners and prisoners of conscience,
- help Azerbaijan to develop a strong framework to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms and ensure that it respects the right to freedom of peaceful assembly,
- support reform of the judiciary aimed at ensuring its impartiality and independence from the executive,
- put in place specific provisions to help Azerbaijan to fight economic crime, including corruption, money laundering and tax evasion, and back investigations into laundering schemes, notably the “Laundromat” affair, and
- further support free and pluralistic media in Azerbaijan with editorial independence from dominant political and oligarchic groups and in line with EU standards.
MEPs hope that if negotiations advance speedily and all key conditions are met the new agreement could be signed before the next EU-Eastern Partnership summit in 2019. They also urge the EU side to ensure that the new agreement does not take effect provisionally until after the European Parliament has given its consent.
At present the EU-Azerbaijan relations are governed by the 1999 Partnership and Cooperation Agreement. Negotiations for a new agreement were launched on February 2017. The EU is Azerbaijan‘s top trading partner and its biggest export and import market, accounting for 48.6% of Azerbaijan’s total trade and providing its largest source of foreign direct investment.
“Azerbaijan is a reliable and predictable partner of European Union”, – said to Europe Diplomatic Ambassador of Azerbaijan, Fuad Isgandarov, the Head of the Mission to the European Union, commenting on MEPs concept.
“As you know, positive dynamics has always dominated our bilateral cooperation. Having this in mid, the new agreement will further enhance our mutually beneficial relationship and touch upon all the issues of interest for both sides. Negotiations continue and we hope for its earliest conclusion,” Ambassador continued.
“For this end, we also count on supportive actions from everyone who desire only the prosperity of EU-Azerbaijan relations and stand firm against all attempts to undermine our firm partnership,” H.E.Isgandarov said.
“Unfortunately it is not the first time that Press Service of EP in its press-release portrays mainly critical recommendations from adopted documents as preconditions for negotiations on new agreement. But document highlights Azerbaijan as an important partner and outlines broader avenues for future cooperation” – Ambassador underlined.
“Azerbaijan also has strong “red lines” on some issues of these negotiations with EU but never vocally highlighted them as preconditions. Our partners from EEAS are on the same position. Both sides understand mutual importance of negotiations on agreement, in which EU has as minimum no less interest than Azerbaijan.”
“Any attempt to blackmail each other or undermine negotiations will not succeed. We believe constructive spirit of negotiations will deliver fruitful results for all generations of citizens of both sides” – the diplomat concluded.