Azerbaijan, Baku, Oct. 20 / Trend E. Ostapenko /
Parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan can be a good opportunity to show the ability of a young democratic country to respond to existing challenges, David Lidington, British State Minister for European Affairs, on a visit to Baku, said.
"Azerbaijan will have a good opportunity in parliamentary elections next month to demonstrate its neighbors and the EU that despite this country has young democracy, it is able to respond to urgent problems," he said at the Azerbaijan University of Languages.
The state minister will stay in Baku from Wednesday to Friday. The purpose of his visit is to strengthen bilateral relations and develop cooperation between British and Azerbaijani businessmen.
"We would like elections to be held in accordance with international standards. We would also like Azerbaijan to take into account the OSCE recommendations of 2008, especially in freedom of press and freedom of assembly, the state minister said. If Azerbaijan copes with this problem, it will be much easier for the UK and other countries of Azerbaijan to advocate its further integration.
Parliamentary elections are scheduled for Nov. 7. The election campaign was officially launched on September 3. Previous legislative elections were held in November 2005. Parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan are held by the majority system in 125 electoral constituencies.
He said that the British Government believes that membership in the EU and European integration without the prospect of membership must be available to all European countries striving for it. Azerbaijan is among them.
"The integration and the way to EU membership is a complex process. It requires a combination of actual political leadership in the partner countries, as well as support and technical expertise from the European Union," he said.
Azerbaijan is in the process of negotiations on the Association Agreement with the EU. The first round of talks with three South Caucasus countries was held in mid-July. The agreements are based on joint obligations to develop common values and cover a wide range of areas, including political dialogue, justice, freedom and security, as well as trade and cooperation.
"I believe that Azerbaijan will be able to benefit from further integration and completion of the Association Agreement mainly in the access to EU markets," Lidington, a member of the British Conservative Party, said.
However, this is possible after Azerbaijan achieves significant progress in democratic, judicial and economic reforms, he added.
Azerbaijan will have to take some difficult decisions for this, he said.
He said that the EU is ready to assist and support in implementing these reforms.
"The result will be a huge impetus to the modernization of Azerbaijan. It is a major national interest of the country," he said.