RELATIONSHIPS OF AZERBAIJAN WITH EU AND NATO ARE VITAL AND STRATEGIC
Developing and strengthening partnership with the EU and NATO in political, economic and humanitarian fields is one of the priorities of Azerbaijan’s foreign policy. Cooperation with the European Union and NATO can undoubtedly help Azerbaijan achieve many its goals, and Baku is therefore interested in advancing the country’s bilateral relations. It is vital that the cooperation between Azerbaijan and the EU is based on efficiency, equal partnership, mutual understanding and respect.
A week ago Federica Mogherini, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan, Elmar Mammadyarov, marked the end of negotiations of the EU-Azerbaijan Partnership Priorities in the presence of President of the European Council Donald Tusk and President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev.
The Partnership Priorities represent an important step forward in EU-Azerbaijan relations, given that they set the joint policy priorities that will guide and enhance partnership between the EU and Azerbaijan over the coming years. While also staying true to the principle of differentiation in the EU’s relations with the countries to its east, 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.
In Azerbaijan, not only has the sociopolitical atmosphere changed dramatically, but modern institutions of power have grown – in particular, there are elements of “electronic government” (e-government). This is most clearly reflected in the quality of public administration and public services. A true breakthrough in this regard was the establishment of the Azerbaijan Service and Assessment Network under the State Agency for Services to Citizens and Social Innovation.
ASAN has a “one-stop shop” principle at its center, where 10 government entities and about 30 private companies provide services in a public-private partnership. More than 230 services are provided, including birth, death and marriage registration; identity cards; passports; driver’s licenses; real-estate records; immigrant status and other civic services. Subsidiary services include banking and insurance, legal, medical, tourism and air travel.
Services in the centers are rendered based on the “single space” approach. Thus, a citizen can benefit from various public and private services in one center, a single administrative building. The State Agency is an entirely new and neutral body that, in accordance with its status, sets standards, optimizes services, monitors and assesses service-providing entities.
• 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 and sustainable management of resources.
Azerbaijan intends to build a strategic partnership with the EU beyond the energy sector. According to the Memorandum of Understanding on strategic partnership in the energy field signed between Azerbaijan and the EU in 2006, it is possible to extend this strategic partnership to other sectors. Azerbaijan, as an energy-rich country and net exporter of hydrocarbons, expressed its genuine interest and political will in helping the EU develop the concept of the Southern Gas Corridor.
Azerbaijan is making its great contribution to energy security in Europe not only through diversified routes of supply, but most importantly by enabling diversified sources of those supplies.
The Partnership Priorities will also provide the policy framework for financial cooperation for 2018 to 2020. Through the Partnership Priorities, the EU and Azerbaijan are renewing their commitment to an ambitious and comprehensive agenda.
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 European Union.
AT THE same time Azerbaijan is conducting political dialogue with NATO on a broad range of issues of common concern based on the Partnership for Peace principles. Within the political dialogue, which is held in different formats and levels, issues like partnerships, regional security, the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict, contributions to Afghanistan, energy security, etc., are topics of bilateral discussions and consultations. The high-level political dialogue based on mutual understanding promotes progress in practical cooperation. The PfP Presentation Document (1996), Planning and Review Process (1997) and Individual Partnership Action Plan (2004) Documents are the main national papers that define key principles and goals of Azerbaijan’s individual partnership with NATO.
Since 2002, Azerbaijani peacekeepers have been serving in Afghanistan shoulder-to-shoulder with NATO soldiers. In January 2018, Azerbaijan increased the number of its servicemen in the Resolute Support mission by 30%, bringing them to 120 people.
Azerbaijan also provides transport and logistical support for the “Strong Support” mission. The commissioning of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway in October last year facilitated provision of significant transit support for this mission.
President Aliyev participated in the meeting of the North Atlantic Council at the level of Heads of State and Government with Resolute Support operational partner nations and potential operational partner nations and stated: “Azerbaijan, a country suffering from Armenian aggression which has resulted in the occupation of 20% of its internationally recognized territory and a country with a million citizens subjected to horrific ethnic cleansing, is well aware of the economic and humanitarian consequences of occupation and destruction. Azerbaijan appreciates the continued support of NATO and member-states of this organization for the political independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of our country, and a settlement of the conflict with Armenia based on these principles. Azerbaijan will continue to provide assistance in eliminating security threats facing Afghanistan, achieving peace and development of the country.”
Azerbaijan as a secular, tolerant and multicultural state in the Islamic world, is steadily pursuing the modernization of the country in all areas, and it is important that the EU and NATO, as strong and powerful partners, be participate and contribute in this process.
The writer is a political analyst.