Trend's exclusive interview with European Union's Special Representative for South Caucasus Peter Semneby
Question: When exactly will you arrive in Azerbaijan?
Answer: I have the intention of visiting all three countries in the South Caucasus with regular intervals. I just returned from the successful EU troika visit, which also brought me to Azerbaijan. I intend to come to Azerbaijan at least once more before the end of the year.
Question: What are the objectives of your visit to Azerbaijan in November? Who are you planning to meet during the visit?
Answer: The purpose will be to discuss some aspects of the European Neighbourhood Action Plan, which are particularly relevant for my activities, in particular the political parts, such as conflict resolution, the development of democratic institutions, the rule of law, human rights, and regional cooperation.
As usual, I will discuss the issue of conflict resolution. Although the negotiations on Nagorny Karabakh are the responsibility of the Minsk Group, there is a lot the EU can do to support their work and create conditions for confidence-building. I believe that the lack of contacts between Azeris and the people in Karabakh is a serious problem. There is a similar situation in Georgia, in particular between Georgians and Abkhaz, who have not had any significant contacts for one and a half decades. The lack of contact and the development of societies in different directions make a peaceful resolution more and more difficult as time passes. Therefore, we should think about how to gradually create conditions for interaction and contacts between the communities.
When the Action Plan is adopted, the EU and Azerbaijan will enter a new and much more active phase in their relationship. I am very happy that Azerbaijan has made the choice to deepen its relationship with the European Union. This is very much a mutually beneficial relationship. The EU made a strategic choice by extending the European Neighbourhood Policy to the countries of the South Caucasus, and I believe that the Azeri decision to accept the offer represents a strategic choice as well.
I do not yet know exactly whom I will meet on my next visit, but I usually see a range of the highest political leaders, senior officials in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as media, civil society and opposition representatives.
Question: When and where will the ENP Action Plan be finally approved? What steps will be taken after the approval?
Answer: The Action Plan is scheduled to be formally approved at the meeting of the Cooperation Council in mid-November. This also marks the formal start of programming. Beginning next year, funding will be available under the so-called European Neighbourhood Policy Instrument. In order to be able to support the implementation of the action plan as effectively as possible, the European Commission is planning to open a Delegation in Baku in early 2007.
Question: Will you visit Georgia and Armenia too? Which meetings are you planning to hold in those countries?
Answer: Yes, I will also go to Armenia and Georgia before the end of the year. I usually have very similar programmes in all countries: government, media, civil society and opposition. In Georgia, I also pay special attention to areas where the EU has recently been active with advice, in particular the judicial sector and border management. The support that we have given to Georgia in these areas can in some ways serve as inspiration for our relations with Azerbaijan, as we now move into the implementation of the Action Plan.