One of the foreign policy priorities of Azerbaijan is cooperation with the European Union (www.europa.eu.int). Strategic location of Azerbaijan at the crossroads of Europe and Asia explains strong interest of the European Union member-states in developing political and economic relations with Azerbaijan.
In 1998 the EU nominated its Special Envoy to Azerbaijan and Azerbaijan established its Permanent Mission to the European Communities in the year 2000.
In July 2003 the EU appointed a Special Representative to the South Caucasus whose mandate is to (a) to assist the countries carry out political and economic reforms, notably in the fields of rule of law, democratisation, human rights, good governance, development and poverty reduction; (b) in accordance with existing mechanisms, to prevent conflicts in the region, to assist in the resolution of conflicts, and to prepare the return of peace, including through promoting the return of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs); (c) to engage constructively with key national actors neighbouring the region; (d) to encourage and to support further cooperation between States of the region, in particular between the States of the South Caucasus, including on economic, energy and transport issues; (e) to enhance EU effectiveness and visibility in the region.
Since 1991 Azerbaijan has received ECU 333 mln. worth of EU humanitarian, technical, food and emergency assistance.
On June 22, 1999 Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (signed on April 22, 1996 in Luxemburg) between the EU member-states and Azerbaijan entered into force, thus signifying a higher level of cooperation between our countries.
The objectives of the Agreement are as follows:
- To provide an appropriate framework for the political dialogue between the parties allowing the development of political relations
- To support Azerbaijan's efforts to consolidate its democracy and to develop its economy and to complete the transition into a market economy
- To promote trade and investment and harmonious economic, social, financial, scientific, technological and cultural cooperation
As envisaged by the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA), Cooperation Council (meets annually) determines major guidelines of cooperation and Cooperation Committee (meets annually) assists the Council in its activities by giving recommendations. Subcommittee on Trade and Economic Issues works under the authority of the Cooperation Committee and discusses trade, investment and other issues related to economic cooperation under the PCA.
So far 5 meetings of the Council (on October 12, 1999, October 10, 2000, October 30, 2001, October 1, 2002, September 30, 2003) and 4 meetings of Committee (on March 27, 2000, 25 June 2001, 12 July, 2002, 09 June 2003) and 4 meetings of Subcommittee (on July 21, 2000, 30 April 2002, March 14, 2003, April 22, 2004) have been held.
The EU supports the economic reforms in Azerbaijan by transfer of relevant technical assistance and expertise through TACIS program. (www.tacis.org) TACIS (Technical Assistance to the Commonwealth of Independent States) program was established in 1991 with the purpose to provide technical assistance to the 12 countries of the former Soviet Union and Mongolia. Under the TACIS indicative program for Azerbaijan, priority is given to the three areas of cooperation: infrastructure, private sector and human resources development. The key TACIS multi-country network projects related to Azerbaijan are TRACECA and INOGATE
TRACECA (Transport corridor Europe - Caucasus - Asia) was established in May 1993 at the Conference in Brussels where ministers of trade and transport of the 8 original founder states (5 Central Asian states and 3 South Caucasus states) met (www.traceca.org). It aims to support their political and economic independence by enhancing their capacity to access European and world markets through alternative transport routes and to encourage further regional cooperation among the partner states.
On the initiative of the Presidents of Azerbaijan and Georgia and with the support of EU TACIS-TRACECA program an international conference on "Restoration of the Historic Silk Road" was held on September 8, 1998 in Baku. Representatives of 32 countries and 12 international organizations took part at the conference. The most important achievement of the conference was the signing by the heads of delegations of Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkey, Ukraine, Moldova, Romania and Bulgaria of the "Basic Multilateral Agreement on International Transport for the Development of the Transport Corridor Europe - Caucasus - Asia" (Basic Agreement) and Technical Annexes to the Basic Agreement on:
- international rail transport
- international road transport
- international commercial maritime navigation
- customs procedures and documents handling
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Azerbaijan is the Depositary of the Basic Agreement and its Technical Annexes.
To regulate the issues of implementation and the application of the provisions of the Basic Agreement the member- states agreed to establish an Inter-Governmental Commission (IGC) consisting of highest intergovernmental authorities of the member-states or their representatives with full authority to take decisions under the Basic Agreement.
On February 21, 2001 official opening of the office of the Permanent Secretariat of IGC TRACECA in Baku was held during the visit of the EU high officials: Minister of Foreign Affairs, representative of Swedish presidency in EU Anna Lindh, the Commissioner for External Relations Christopher Patten, Secretary-General/High Representative of Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana.
TRACECA project envisages implementation of 25 technical assistance and 11 investment projects with Azerbaijan being a party to 26 of them with total value exceeding 100 mln euro.
INOGATE (interstate oil and gas transportation to Europe) is the main regional initiative within the framework of EU assistance to newly-independent states. (www.inogate.org) The signing of the Umbrella Agreement on establishment of interstate oil and gas transportation framework in Kiev in July 1999 by 15 states (including Azerbaijan) laid the legal basis of INOGATE.
The first phase of the program stipulates the implementation of 10 projects with total value exceeding 50 mln ECU, of which 5 projects are directly related to Azerbaijan. INOGATE opens up new perspectives for Azerbaijan as well as other newly-independent states to implement trans-boundary projects and acts as a catalyst for attracting investment from international financial institutions and private investment funds, based on advantages of international agreements on transit of hydrocarbon resources.