Azerbaijan, Baku /corr Trend A.Gasimova /
Trend's Excluive intreview with the Minister of State for Europe, Gunter Gloser
Question: What importance does the European Union attach to the co-operation with the South Caucasus countries? What factors promote and broaden the co-operation and what factors impede it?
Answer: For the European Union, and the German Presidency especially, relations with the South Caucasus countries are of special importance. Germany very much supported the inclusion of the three South Caucasian countries in the European Neighbourhood Policy. With a view to avoid new dividing lines in Europe and to promote stability and prosperity within and beyond the new borders of the Union, the Commission pursues the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) through individual Action Plans for each partner country, including Azerbaijan . With the adoption of the Action Plans late last year the relations between the EU and the region have reached a new level.
The Azerbaijan Action Plan covers a timeframe of five years and is a broad tool for economic and political co-operation, carrying to a further stage the commitments and objectives contained in the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement. Implementation of the Action Plan will significantly advance the approximation of Azerbaijani legislation, norms and standards to those of the European Union. From 1991 to 2006 Azerbaijan received financial and technical assistance from the European Union close to 400 million Euros.
A further deepening of co-operation will very much depend on the reform processes in the country, both political as well as economic, and the speed of implementation of the Action plan.
The EU stands ready to support this process.
Question: What arrangements are being done for the forthcoming visit of the President of Azerbaijan , Ilham Aliyev, to Berlin ? What issues will be discussed during the visit?
Answer: During his visit to Berlin , President Aliyev met with the President of the German Bundesrat, Prime Minister Ringstorff and with Chancellor Merkel as well as with Foreign Minister Steinmeier, the Minister of the Economy, Glos, and with the Mayor of Berlin Wowereit. On 16 February, President Aliyev and Minister Glos opened a German-Azeri economic conference. The bilateral meetings focused on the strengthening of bilateral political and economic relations and the relations between the EU and Azerbaijan and other questions of international importance.
Question: What are the main tasks you are going to solve as the EU chairman-in-office? Is there a necessity for carrying out reforms within EU?
Answer: During its Presidency Germany intends to do its part to ensure that the European Union can successfully rise to the internal and external challenges it faces. Its priorities include continuation of the constitutional process, the viability of the European economic and social model, the area of freedom, security and justice, and expansion of the European area of security and stability. The European Council meetings (summits) will focus on shaping Europe's economic and social future (8 and 9 March) and on the future of the Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe (21 and 22 June).
The European Constitutional Treaty provides for the internal reforms needed to ensure the viability of the enlarged European Union. The German Presidency is currently holding in-depth consultations with all EU partners and institutions and makes a concerted effort to drive forward the EU reform process in line with the decisions taken at European level.
Question: Energy sphere is considered as an important element of stability and integration, an essential part of foreign policy and European security policy. How will this factor promote the proximity between Azerbaijan and EU?
Answer: Energy is an important issue in the dialogue between the EU and Azerbaijan , not least since the entry into force of the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement in 1999. Since this time, Azerbaijan has played an increasingly significant role in ensuring the energy supply to the EU Member States, both as an energy supplier and as a transit country. The Memorandum of Understanding on an Energy Partnership signed by President Aliyev and EU Commission President Barroso on 7 November 2006 reflects this enhanced status. The specific measures agreed, such as technical cooperation, the gradual harmonization of Azerbaijan 's laws with EU legislation and support for the development of renewable energies, will bring Azerbaijan and the EU even closer together on energy issues - to the benefit of both parties.
This kind of bilateral cooperation is rooted in a broader context. As well as the ENP, I am thinking particularly of the high-level energy dialogue in the Black Sea and Caspian Sea region which was launched at a ministerial conference in Baku in November 2004, as a result of which it has become known as the "Baku Initiative".
Question: Being the Minister of State for Europe of Germany how do you estimate current level of bilateral relations with Azerbaijan ? What directions of future cooperation do you think are the most relevant?
Answer: Our relations with Azerbaijan are close and dynamic. Bilateral trade has increased over 40% in
2006 and for the first time exceeded 1 billion Euro. The recent visits of both President Aliyev to Berlin and Foreign Minister Steinmeier to Baku are proof of the excellent state of bilateral relations.
The Action Plan of the European Neighbourhood Policy serves as a good framework for EU-Azerbaijan relations. As the Presidency of the European Council, Germany would like to further strengthen this Neighbourhood Policy and to intensify our relations with the Black Sea region including Azerbaijan .
Question: How could the conflicts in the South Caucasus be resolved? Will the EU remain passive observer of Armenia 's aggressive policy with respect to Azerbaijan , a country that becomes an important alternative source in providing the energy security of Europe ?
Answer: Germany and the European Union follow the development of Azerbaijan-Armenian relations very closely. As a member of the OSCE Minsk-Group, Germany supports negotiations between Azerbaijan and Armenia , convinced that only a consensual resolution of open bilateral questions can ensure stability and peace in the South Caucasus . We encourage both countries to negotiate an agreement on the basis of the proposals put forward by the Co-Chairs of the Minsk Group.