EU, Azerbaijan Upbeat About Deepening Comprehensive Ties, Finalizing New Cooperation Accord

Fuad Muxtarlı Analysis 11 September 2018
EU, Azerbaijan Upbeat About Deepening Comprehensive Ties, Finalizing New Cooperation Accord

Relations with the European Union remains pivotal for Azerbaijan’s foreign policy priorities. Official Baku also attaches special importance and works hard towards signing privilaged contracts to further promote the all-out ties.

Outlining key areas of cooperation Azerbaijan wants to cooperate with the EU, Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov said the parties are close to signing a document, listing their “Partnership Priorities”. EU-Azerbaijani relations have been through ups and downs in the past for criticism of Azerbaijan’s human rights records and democratic situation though dialog has never ended to bring about a long-awaited comprehensive document to shed light on every aspect of the relations.

On the other hand, EU officials also in their public statements stressed the significance of deepening comprehensive relations with the South Caucasus nation of Azerbaijan rich in natural resources that are much wanted in resources poor Europe. EU High Representative Federica Mogherini called the most recent meeting of the EU-Azerbaijan Cooperation Council “constructive” and “forward looking”.

For his part, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev during his recent visit to Croatia hailed the ties with this pan-European organization. "Relations between Azerbaijan and the European Union are developing successfully," Ilham Aliyev said in Zagreb, making a statement for the press after talks with Croatian President K. Grabar-Kitarovich, according to official news agency Azertag.

"In July, this year in Brussels, Azerbaijan and the European Union signed a document `On priorities of cooperation’. That is, a very serious step was taken to sign an agreement with the European Union. Now Azerbaijan and the EU are working to sign a new agreement. The work on the new agreement between the European Union and Azerbaijan is moving well, and Croatia has always supported our cooperation with the European Union and contributes to this cooperation," the Azerbaijani leader said.

On the other hand, the latest from the European Commission is that this organization also set to step up efforts to complete signing of the document as soon as possible. “Our intention is to conclude the negotiations on a new agreement with Azerbaijan as soon as possible,” a spokesman for the EU said on September 10.

Negotiations towards a comprehensive new agreement between the European Union and Azerbaijan are ongoing and have been conducted on a regular basis both in Baku and Brussels.

“Our intention is to conclude negotiations without delay. Both sides have demonstrated a strong commitment to progressing in the talks and we are looking forward to the next round that will take place in the near future,” said the spokesperson

Discussions have been held in a constructive spirit and there is a strong will on both sides to have an ambitious agreement that replaces the current Partnership and Cooperation Agreement of 1996, reflecting the significant development of relations between EU and Azerbaijan since then, according to the EU spokesperson.

“This new agreement will broaden and deepen the scope of our relations, based on shared fundamental values and principles and taking into account the new global, political and economic interests we share and challenges face together. The agreement will cover political, sectoral, trade and economic relations,” the spokesperson added.

The EU spokesperson pointed out that the focus is on concluding an ambitious text that reflects well the current cooperation between EU and Azerbaijan, the fact that Azerbaijan is an important partner for the European Union and that allows our relationship to reach its full potential.

However, the spokesperson noted that no name has been decided yet for the new agreement.

“The conclusion of a new agreement is among the top priorities on our bilateral agenda, alongside with implementation of the recently-concluded EU-Azerbaijan Partnership Priorities, and cooperation within the framework of the Eastern Partnership initiative, namely the 20 deliverables for 2020.”

In November 2016, the EU Council issued a mandate to the European Commission and the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy to negotiate on behalf of the EU and its Member States a comprehensive agreement with Azerbaijan.

The new agreement should replace the partnership and cooperation agreement of 1996, which would make it possible to take greater account of the common goals and challenges facing the EU and Azerbaijan today.

The agreement will comply with the principles approved in 2015 in the document of the European Neighborhood Policy and will offer an updated basis for political dialogue and mutually beneficial cooperation between the EU and Azerbaijan.

At present, bilateral relations between the EU and Azerbaijan are regulated on the basis of the partnership and cooperation agreement, which was signed in 1996 and entered into force in 1999.

The new agreement provides for the approximation of Azerbaijan's legislation and procedures to the most important international and trade norms and standards of the EU, which should lead to improved access of Azerbaijani products to the EU markets.

For its part, even without signing the new agreement with the EU, Azerbaijan has been taking additional steps in connection with the increase in gas production and also intends to expand the geography of exports, President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev added in Zagreb.

"Azerbaijan has very large gas reserves. The confirmed gas reserves are 2.6 trillion cubic meters. This shows that we will take additional steps to extract gas and think about expanding the geography of exports," the Azerbaijani leader said.

Also the Croatian leader is eager to facilitate the transport of Azerbaijani gas through her country. "Croatia wants to become a hub in the region. To do this, we would like to become a participant in the construction of the South Gas Corridor (SGC) gas pipeline, which is being implemented at the initiative of Azerbaijan and which passes through the territory of several countries," President Grabar-Kitarovich said in Zagreb after the talks.

"We are also interested in the construction of a liquefied gas terminal on the island of Krk. This will expand the opportunities for access to energy markets for Azerbaijan," she added.

The Azerbaijani president also added that the relations between Azerbaijan and the European Union cover many areas: political reforms, economic cooperation, and cooperation in the energy and transport sectors.