Azerbaijani progress in migration is best way to reach liberalization of visa regime with EU: European Commissioner Policy Benita Ferrero-Waldner (INTERVIEW)
Azerbaijan, Baku, Nov. 26 / Trend E. Ostapenko /
European Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy Benita Ferrero-Waldner spoke in an exclusive interview with Trend European Desk on the eve of her abdication.
Trend : Is the European Union ready to compromise to six member countries of Eastern Partnership program, including Azerbaijan, in such matters as the simplification of visa program and the establishment of a free trade area? What recommendations could the EU offer to the Government of Azerbaijan in term of simplifying the visa program?
Benita Ferrero-Waldner: The Eastern Partnership is an initiative which strives at developing the EU's ties with the six partner countries at bilateral level and at fostering contacts and cooperation between the partner countries through the multilateral platforms.
A central aspect of broadening and deepening our bilateral relationship with partner countries is the prospect of Association Agreements, provided that partner countries meet a number of political and economic criteria.
I am aware that the possibility of making travel to the European Union easier for citizens in our partner countries is a key issue for the governments of the partner countries. Therefore, the Eastern Partnership foresees the prospect for negotiation of visa facilitation/re-admission agreements and on full visa liberalisation as a long term goal for individual partner countries on a case-by-case basis provided that conditions for well-managed and secure mobility are in place. Visa facilitation is related to a number of other issues such as migration, readmission issues and security and reliability of travel documents. Therefore, the best way forward for Azerbaijan will be to make overall progress on migration issues.
Q.: Could the establishment of the position of EU Minister of Foreign Affairs increase the EU role in resolving conflicts, including the territorial conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh?
A.: First of all, the EU has welcomed the progress achieved this year within the OSCE Minsk Group and we of course call upon all partners at the table to continue working for finding a solution which would bring an end to this conflict. It has unfortunately cost too many lives and brought misery to too many innocent people.
The EU has always offered to contribute to the resolution of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict through confidence building measures and hopes that these can be accepted by both sides. It is too soon to say whether the EU might play a more prominent role in the future in resolving regional conflicts.
Q.: The Azerbaijani Foreign Minister stated that the Armenian side was holding unconstructive position in the negotiations over the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, drawing back to the issues that had been discussed and coordinated. Do you think such Armenia's unconstructive position could be linked with the ongoing closing in Turkish-Armenian relations?
A.: It is clear that there can only be a negotiated solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and it is the responsibility of the two sides to make serious efforts to resolving the outstanding issues. We certainly hope that the rapprochement between Turkey and Armenia will have a beneficial effect on political developments in the whole region.
Q.: What is the significance of the Southern Corridor project for Europe? What is the role of the Caspian region, and in particular Azerbaijan, in diversification of energy supplies to Europe?
A.: The Southern Corridor is one of the priority energy projects of the European Union to diversify its energy sources in the context of a growing demand for imported energy. Diversification for us includes not only diversification of transport routes but also of the sources of energy and kinds of energy.
Therefore efforts are being made to link up with resources in Central Asia, the Middle East and Iraq in particular. We hope that Azerbaijan will seize this opportunity to play an important double role- both as a producer and a transit country and to our mutual benefit.
Q.: Establishment of the European Army has become topical recently. How realistic are these plans? Is the EU prepared to assign its human resources for the security matters beyond Europe?
A.: There are no plans to create an army of the European Union. However, crisis prevention and crisis management have become an important aspect of European Foreign and Security Policy.
Over the past years the European Union has strengthened its capacities to activate both military and civilian forces from EU Member States for crisis situations. Civilian missions in the area of police, monitoring and rule of law missions have become an integral part of the EU's Security and Defense Policy (ESDP).
The 27 Member States have to decide on every new ESDP mission - be it military or civilian. The geographic range of deployment is always outside the European Union and the majority of the current thirteen ESDP missions are outside Europe, like for instance Afghanistan, Iraq, Congo, Guinea-Bissau and occupied Palestinian Territory or off the coast of Somalia.
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