Details added after second paragraph (First version was posted at 11:20)
Azerbaijan, Baku, Jan.14 / Trend E. Ostapenko /
The EU is ready to start talks on the simplification of the visa regime, which will facilitate the movement of people and ensure further progress in expanding the partnership between the EU and Azerbaijan, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso told journalists in Baku today.
"Many issues of mutual interest link the EU and Azerbaijan. These include regional stability, energy security, and many others," Barroso said.
The Eastern Partnership Program defines the frameworks for such cooperation, he said.
"My visit to Baku is vivid evidence of the EU commitment to a partnership with Azerbaijan," Barroso said.
A delegation of the European Commission headed by Barroso arrived in Baku on Jan. 13. Barroso, accompanied by Commissioner for Energy Gunther Oettinger, is paying his first visit to Azerbaijan during his tenure as the European Commission president.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Barroso signed a joint declaration on the South Gas Corridor on Thursday.
Following the Baku visit, Barroso will pay a two-day visit to Ashgabat, where he will hold a meeting with Turkmen President Gurbangulu Berdimuhammedov to discuss the full scope of relations between the EU and the country. Relations between the EU and Azerbaijan began in 1990 with the launch of the European Commission's support for CIS countries in the framework of the TACIS program.
The EU and Azerbaijan signed an agreement on partnership, which entered into force in 1999. The sides have also cooperated within the European Neighborhood Policy since 2003.
In May 2010, Azerbaijani-EU relations entered a new phase with a partnership within the framework of the EU Eastern Partnership Program initiated by Poland and Sweden.
The Eastern Partnership is aimed at the political and economic rapprochement of six post-Soviet states - Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine and Belarus - and the EU. The program does not provide opportunities for EU membership, but involves facilitating the visa regime, energy cooperation and the introduction of free trade zones.