Azerbaijan & EU draw together positions on pivotal issues: What remains unanswered?

Farid Hajili Feature 12 July 2018
Azerbaijan & EU draw together positions on pivotal issues: What remains unanswered?

Azerbaijan and the European Union signed a document on the priorities of the partnership in Brussels on Wednesday. In the presence of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and President of the European Council Donald Tusk, EU High Representative Federica Mogherini and Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov signed the document that marked the end of negotiations of the EU-Azerbaijan Partnership Priorities.

As previously reported, on November 14, 2016, the EU Council approved the mandate for the European Commission and the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy to negotiate a new agreement with Azerbaijan. The new agreement should replace the 1996 agreement on partnership and cooperation. Negotiations on the new agreement started on February 7, 2017.

According to the EU, the Partnership Priorities represent an important step forward in EU-Azerbaijan relations and will guide and enhance this partnership over the coming years. While also staying true to the principle of differentiation in the EU's relations with the Eastern Neighborhood countries, the four main areas of cooperation under the Partnership Priorities reflect those identified under the Eastern Partnership framework, namely:

  • Strengthening institutions and good governance;
  • Economic development and market opportunities;
  • Connectivity, energy efficiency, environment and climate action;
  • Mobility and people-to-people contacts.

The Partnership Priorities will also provide the policy framework for EU-Azerbaijan financial cooperation for 2018-2020. According to the EU press release, through these Partnership Priorities, the EU and Azerbaijan renew their commitment to an ambitious and comprehensive agenda. The agenda will reflect the values and principles of the European Neighborhood Policy, including respect for human rights, democracy, the rule of law, and dialogue with civil society. Together with the ongoing negotiations for a new bilateral agreement, the conclusion of the Partnership Priorities signals a clear intention to enhance the EU-Azerbaijan relationship to bring positive results for the benefit of the people of Azerbaijan and the EU. The Partnership Priorities will now be formally approved by the EU and Azerbaijan before being adopted.

European Commissioner for Budget and Human Resources Gunther Oettinger said earlier that Brussels and Baku expect to sign in 2019 a new agreement on strategic partnership with the EU member states and their neighbors within the internationally recognized borders.

Another paragraph of the Joint Declaration emphasized that all conflicts that have occurred on the territory of the Eastern Partnership countries should be resolved on the basis of norms and principles of international law.

The resolution of the European Parliament adopted in 2013 notes that the occupation of the territory of a Eastern Partnership member country by another country of the organization violates the fundamental principles and objectives of the Eastern Partnership and stresses that the conflict must be resolved on the basis of UN Security Council resolutions No.822, 853, 874 and 884.

But it is worth noting that the words of European officials often differ from deeds. Yes, indeed, Brussels through the lips of Mogherini and other leaders expressed support for the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. But at the same time, we do not hear about the EU demanding that Armenia free all the occupied lands of Azerbaijan, including Nagorno-Karabakh.

By and large, the EU has not openly acknowledged the fact of the occupation of territories of Azerbaijan by a neighboring aggressive state. If they make such statements, then, so to speak, they are lip service. Although a clearer EU position on the fact of occupation and, in general, on the Karabakh settlement is needed. And this should be fixed in the text of the new agreement, which is to be signed by Baku and Brussels.

Since we mentioned new agreements, we cannot help mentioning the political speculations of official Yerevan, using the signing of the agreement between Armenia and the EU signed during a summit of the Eastern Partnership.

It was initially obvious that Yerevan would use this agreement in its provocations around Karabakh. That is why the Azerbaijani diplomacy had to prevent the signing of this agreement anyway. On the other hand, all the details of this agreement have not yet been disclosed.

It cannot be ruled out that one of the points here may relate to the right of the nation to self-determination, and there may also be other points that to some extent justify the occupation of Azerbaijani territories. After all, it is no accident that in the preamble of this agreement, the Helsinki Final Act is mentioned and it can be interpreted in different ways. It is no accident that Armenian Deputy Foreign Minister Karen Nazaryan wants the EU in its agreements with Azerbaijan to note a paragraph on the Karabakh settlement.

Armenians are currently speculating on these agreements. At least it would not hurt to reveal what the details of the agreement between Yerevan and the European Union are in detail. Another EU game is supposedly the provision of a visa-free regime to Azerbaijan, but so far, the EU is not in a hurry on this issue. After all, the EU does not mind playing a double game. And it's time for the Azerbaijani diplomacy to pose a question point-blank and resolutely demand from the EU condemnation of Armenia for the occupation of Azerbaijani territories.