EU and Azerbaijan agree ‘Partnership Priorities’

From left to right: Mammadyarov, Aliyev, Mogherini, Tusk. [Council]

A milestone in EU-Azerbaijan relations was reached in Brussels yesterday (11 July), with the end of negotiations of the EU-Azerbaijan Partnership Priorities in the presence of President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, and the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev.

The Partnership Priorities set the joint policy priorities that will guide and enhance the EU-Azerbaijan partnership over the coming years. Unlike Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia, Azerbaijan, a country rich in fossil fuels, seeks no EU association agreement. Unlike Belarus or Armenia, it also keeps its distance from Russia.

All these countries are members of the Eastern Partnership, an EU initiative launched in 2009. The EU now officially admits the principle of differentiation in its relations with the countries in its eastern neighbourhood.

The EU and Azerbaijan are in the process of negotiating a new bilateral agreement, with the Partnership Priorities signalling a common intention for an ambitious text.

Aliyev and Tusk met to discuss bilateral relations and “the regional context” which ranges from Ukraine and Iran to Afghanistan, a country which will feature high today, on the second day of the NATO summit, when leaders will welcome non-NATO partners including Aliyev, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Ukraine’s Petro Poroshenko.

EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini and Azerbaijan’s Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov signed the document marking the end of negotiations of the Partnership Priorities.

The four main areas of cooperation under the Partnership Priorities reflect those identified under the Eastern Partnership framework, namely:

  • Strengthening institutions and good governance. This includes the fight against corruption, public administration reform and capacity building for combating crime and terrorism;
  • Economic development and market opportunities. This includes the sustainable diversification of the economy, support for WTO membership, and improving the business and investment environments;
  • Connectivity, energy efficiency, environment and climate action. Building on the successful cooperation on energy connectivity and significant progress made on the Southern Gas Corridor, this includes support for Azerbaijan’s ability to operate as a trade, logistics and transport hub, regulatory assistance, sustainable management of resources;
  • Mobility and people-to-people contacts. This includes support to education and human capital, and providing more opportunities for EU and Azerbaijani citizens to meet and to share experiences.

The Partnership Priorities will also provide the policy framework for EU-Azerbaijan financial cooperation for 2018-2020.

“Through the 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 Neighbourhood Policy, including respect for human rights, democracy, the rule of law, and dialogue with civil society”, stated the communiqué, published by the European External Actions Service.

The Partnership Priorities will now be formally approved by the European Union and Azerbaijan and then adopted.

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