Baku, Azerbaijan, Sept. 5
By Leman Zeynalova – Trend:
The negotiation process on concluding a new partnership agreement between Azerbaijan and the EU will continue rapidly, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Azerbaijan to the Kingdom of Belgium and Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, Head of the Mission to the European Union Fuad Isgandarov said in an interview with EURACTIV, Trend reports.
“We will now have a very rapid continuation of the process: on September 10, 11 and 12 there will be three video-conferences dedicated to trade and institutional parts of the agreement,” he said. “I think it’s a very good illustration of the dedicated approach of the Azerbaijani side to the negotiations process.”
Speaking about the timing of signing this agreement, he noted that from the very beginning, the sides didn’t have any time limitations.
“This was not the main goal of the negotiations,” he added. “For the Azerbaijani side, the idea was to have a comprehensive, strategically oriented agreement with our EU friends, beneficial for both sides. So, Azerbaijan was the first ever country to present its own draft for the bilateral agreement with the EU. When we started the negotiations, the EU side tabled a lot of changes. So, we worked not only on our proposal, but on the proposal of the EU side.”
“In the experience of the countries of central and eastern Europe, which are now EU members, it was always Brussels to table drafts for agreements, it was never the other way around,” he said. “We were the first. So we did have different but not contradicting streams in negotiations.”
Generally the sides managed to find mutually acceptable wording in a very short period of time, in two years, the diplomat noted.
“I think this is a very serious achievement,” he added. “And we never worried about time constraint. The EU side proposed to finalise these negotiations during the term of this Commission, with whom we have achieved substantial progress in our relations. It would be good idea to finalise these negotiations during this Commission, but it’s not our goal in itself.”
“EU has signed or initialed agreements with some of the countries of the region, but not yet with Azerbaijan,” he said. “It’s like constructing a building with windows, but without an entrance door. Can you imagine connectivity, transportation, energy or any other project in the region bypassing Azerbaijan?”
Commenting on a recent statement by a European Commission official, who said that Azerbaijan would like to sign the agreement, but doesn’t want “to pay the price”, the ambassador said that Azerbaijan has no bills to be paid to the EU.
“I don’t think that phrases like “paying prices” are the best way for comprehensive solutions in negotiations,” Isgandarov noted. “I remember how happy the EU countries were when they signed the Mercosur [a trade agreement of the EU with the four founding members (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay) as part of a bi-regional Association Agreement], after 20 years of negotiations. We don’t want to wait that much, and it’s in the interests of both sides.”
The European Council adopted a mandate for the European Commission and the high representative for foreign affairs and security policy to negotiate, on behalf of the EU and its member states, a comprehensive agreement with Azerbaijan in November 2016.
The new agreement should replace the 1996 partnership and cooperation agreement and should better take account of the shared objectives and challenges the EU and Azerbaijan face today.
The agreement will follow the principles endorsed in the 2015 review of the European Neighborhood Policy and offer a renewed basis for political dialogue and mutually beneficial cooperation between the EU and Azerbaijan.
Currently, bilateral relations between the EU and Azerbaijan are regulated on the basis of an agreement on partnership and cooperation that was signed in 1996 and entered into force in 1999.
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