Statement by H.E. Mr. Elmar Mammadyarov, Foreign Minister of the Republic of Azerbaijan
at the Eastern Partnership Foreign Ministers´ Meeting
13 May 2019, Brussels
Dear Madame Mogherini,
I would like to extend my gratitude to our colleagues from the European External Action Service and the European Commission for the organization of today’s meeting to mark the 10th Anniversary of the Eastern Partnership.
I would say that the partnership with the European Union is one of the main priorities of the foreign policy of Azerbaijan.
EU is still the main trade partner of Azerbaijan, taking approximately 42% share of our foreign trade turnover. The EU is also the biggest investor in Azerbaijan. I am proud to say that a traditional joint EU-Azerbaijan Business Forum attracts many representatives of EU’s various industries and services sector. And the next business forum will be held in Baku on June 13, 2019. I believe that various companies from some, if not many countries of the EU will represent Europe’s industry and its business objectives with Azerbaijan.
We are interested in making progress on our bilateral track through quality-based negotiations on a new bilateral agreement with the EU. I highly value a positive spirit of ongoing negotiations. We learn a lot about each other. From each other. It is a very fruitful exercise in itself.
Besides the signature of the Partnership Priorities document, which will act as a basis for our sectoral cooperation for couple of years, we have launched two new sectoral formats with the EU last year – Security and Transport Dialogues, where we discuss a whole set of issues, and that helps us to understand each other better.
The last Eastern Partnership (EaP) Summit in Brussels in 2017 suggested that cooperation within EaP should be based on realistic considerations of various challenges in the region. Focus must be made on the benefits and potential value-added for countries, which have different degrees of political and trade cooperation with the EU. Last Summit endorsed “20 Deliverables for 2020” document with concrete objectives to achieve. We believe that once implemented, those deliverables will have a potential to bring a greater degree of resilience, prosperity, development and connectivity to our region. But the discussions on “20 Deliverables for 2020” must take place as in between equal partners. Success of that process will depend on tangible results. Some of those goals are also in line with Azerbaijan’s strategic roadmaps on key sectors.
Institutional and structural reforms are being continued in order to ensure a sustainable economic development and socio-economic growth in Azerbaijan. As the result of reforms carried out and the improved business climate, Azerbaijan ranks 25th in the world, according to the latest “Doing Business Report” published by the World Bank. Also, according to the assessment of the Davos World Economic Forum, Azerbaijan is ranked 34th with respect to the quality of growth.
The Government of Azerbaijan continues to carry out large-scale programs to ensure that our citizens fully enjoy all human rights and fundamental freedoms. In this regard, it is necessary to highlight the recently adopted State Program on the Development of Justice in 2019-2023, which aims at further legislative and structural measures to improve performance of judiciary.
Now, moving to trade and connectivity, I would like to stop at few important issues.
Due to its geography and strategy to establish a natural bridge between Asia and Europe, Azerbaijan has always been an active participant and key enabler of regional and trans-regional connectivity initiatives. Because of this, connectivity stands high for Azerbaijan both in a bilateral agenda with the EU and in a multilateral track of EaP. In the field of transport, the extension of the indicative maps of the Trans-European Networks to Azerbaijan and further to Asia can provide a solid platform to promote regional trade corridors together. In fact, port and rail administrations, as well as some private logistics companies from Georgia, Ukraine Poland, Romania, Austria, Germany are already there with Azerbaijan in some regional trade corridors. That list continues to grow. Many from Europe are interested to partner with Azerbaijan in this strategic trade area. Azerbaijan shares own opportunites and infrastructure with neighbours and the countries in Asia and Europe. East-West, North-South and some synergies are possible here as well, especially if we take note of EU’s various cooperation strategies with some Asian countries. Azerbaijan goes beyond its land borders to create more trade dynamic across the wider region, and doing so despite being a land-locked country. Therefore, we have established credible partnerships with the ports from the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Romania, just to name a few.
In the field of energy, we continue our strategic partnership through the implementation of the Southern Gas Corridor (SGC). A major part of works on this project have been already finalized. Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) is in the very final stage of construction. We also think about a gradual geographic extension of our Gas Corridor. However, a more predictable environment can attract more natural gas from Azerbaijan to the EU. That’s why it is very important to ensure a regulatory predictability by the EU for the next stages of the development of the Corridor. I would like to use this opportunity to call on my colleagues from some European capitals to do their utmost possible to ensure that the Gas Corridor becomes a joint success of Azerbaijan and the EU.
Promoting mobility and people-to-people contacts is a very important dimension of the EU-Azerbaijan cooperation. Mobility Partnership, as well as Readmission and Visa facilitation agreements have been immensely contributing to this dimension and Azerbaijani side is committed to the full and effective implementation of these documents. A successful implementation of Readmission and Visa Facilitation agreements may lead to the perspectives of visa liberalization in the near future.
Today, Azerbaijan enjoys very good, somewhere strategic relations with almost all of its neighbors. Relations with the neighbors are the priority. Azerbaijan has proved itself as a reliable partner in the region, just as it did so in its relations with the EU. Unfortunately, the EU’s and Azerbaijan’s neighbourhood have things to get improved. Some regional perspectives such as regional connectivity, trade projects, and few other initiatives remain a hostage to unresolved conflicts. An ongoing occupation by Armenia of the territory of Azerbaijan prevents us from taking the whole region to another level of cooperation. We need to unlock a whole potential of the region. If we are to move together with EaP, so as to help the EU realize its neighbourhood policy objectives, the issues of resolution of conflicts and de-occupation must be addressed. As the European Parliament resolution of October 2013 on the European Neighborhood Policy condemned that, EU’s one partner country cannot occupy the territories of its another partner country. So, this is not only the UNSC, the UN Charter or OSCE documents – this is EU’s legislative body calling things with its own names. We believe that the future and success of EaP depends on maintaining security and stability in the region.
Therefore, a full support and compliance by all EaP stakeholders, including the EU and its member states, to the principles of territorial integrity and inviolability of internationally recognized borders should be preserved and streamlined in all documents on all levels and in all frameworks.
In the end let me stress that the democratic development of Armenia will transfer it into following of substantial talks with Azerbaijan, which means that brutally ethnically cleansed Azerbaijanis would manage to return back to the places of their origin.