Trend's exclusive interview with the EU commissioner on Foreign Relationships and European Security, Benita FerreroValdner prior to her tour of the region
Question: Are the arrangements of the EU trio to tour the South Caucasus region in October confirmed? What is the route and program of the visit?
Answer: Yes, the itinerary is now confirmed. On 2nd and 3rd October the troika will travel first to Yerevan, then to Tbilisi, and lastly to Baku. We will meet political leaders at the highest level, to discuss progress in the Neighbourhood Policy Action Plans that we are developing with each country, and the latest political situation in the region, including the frozen conflicts.
Question: Azerbaijan urges that some items of the Action Plan for the ENP do not take into account the country's interests. What items of the Action Plan are still to be co ordinated with Azerbaijan?
Answer: The EU has been consulting with the Azeri government on an Action Plan to build on the existing Partnership and Co operation Agreement. It is a plan that brings tangible benefits to both partners offering you a closer relationship with the EU, opening up new opportunities for you in the huge European market, including the Energy market, the chance for Azerbaijan to participate in EU programmes, and a closer partnership on many issues of common interest.
Everything in the plan is there by mutual agreement and I am not aware of any Azeri interests that have been neglected quite the contrary.
I hope that the Action Plan can be finalised in time to be endorsed by the EU Azerbaijan Co operation Council in mid November.
Question: Addressing the Caspian Outlook 2008 Forum you stated that the EU will support the reconstruction of important infrastructure facilities and civil society projects in South Ossetia, Abkhazia and Nagorno-Karabakh. Does it not mean the EU's support to a separatist regime and the non-recognition of the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and Georgia?
Answer: Not at all: we are completely committed to the territorial integrity of both countries.
We very much want to see a diplomatic solution to all the conflicts in the region. That means that right now, cool heads must prevail. An escalation of tension could reignite conflicts with devastating consequences for the whole region.
The EU will play its part in working for peace. The Neighbourhood Policy is not a conflict prevention or settlement mechanism. But, by promoting democracy and regional co operation, boosting national reform programmes, and helping to improve socio economic prospects, I believe we can contribute to creating the right climate for a settlement.
It is in that context that we say we are willing to do what we can in terms of financial aid to support the reconstruction of the conflict areas.