Trend's exclusive interview with the Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador of France to Azerbaijan, Bernard due Chaffout
Question: in the beginning of 2007 the Presidents of Azerbaijan and France will pay mutual visits. What are your expectations from the French President's First Visit to Baku? What major issues will be discussed during the visit?
Answer: For the time being it is too premature to speak about the topics of mutual visits, which will be paid in January 2007, or more probably in March. Taking into consideration that the heads of the states themselves will select the topics for discussion, including the actual issues of the world policy, it would be a bit incorrect to answer this question on their behalf.
Nevertheless, I am sure that along with the bilateral relationships, it will be very interesting for French President Jacques Chirac to know President Ilham Aiyev's ideas on the issues of the world's concern. Undoubtedly, the French President's first visit to Azerbaijan will give impetus to the bilateral cooperation and friendship.
Question: France holds one of the leading positions in terms of investments into Azerbaijan. Are you satisfied with the current economic relationships between the two countries?
Answer: Indeed, economic relations between the two countries are on an excellent level and in 2005 the turnover of goods reached EUR 500mln. There is still potential for further development of relationships in some sphere, including food industry, production of drinkable water, public services (automobile roads, parking, and water), and electricity distribution network. French companies lead worldwide and can share with Azerbaijan experience and knowledge.
Question: A French company, Total, came out with an initiative on the construction of a new terminal in the Azerbaijani section of the Caspian for the oil admission through the Baku-Ceyhan. Is the idea still actual?
Answer: An idea by Total on the constriction of a new terminal in the Azerbaijani section of the Caspian for the oil admission through the Baku-Ceyhan is still actual.
Question: The adoption of a legislation penalizing for denial from the so-called Armenian genocide' at the French Parliament caused resonance worldwide, including Azerbaijan. They frequently sound statements on the toughening of bilateral relationships, as well as removal of France from the co-chairmanship at the OSCE Minsk Group. What are your views on outlet from the situation?
Answer: The adoption of a legislation penalizing denial of the Armenian genocide' at the French Parliament, does not mean that the law will enact into law even today. The legislation should pass long and by-stage procedure: first the Senate should include it into the agenda, then the Senate is to adopt the law on identical text (content), submitted by the Assembly.
Taking into consideration the friendly attitude of the Senate Chairman, Christian Ponsle, towards Azerbaijan, I would doubt it. In case there is any difference between the contents, which would be voted at the National Assembly and the Senate, there will be hearings to achieve a common text (content) and the law will have to get an approval of the President, who can return the document to the parliament for re-consideration. Unless the document passes the barriers until April 2007, the proposal will be regarded as inefficient. Moreover, the legislation will be considered at the Constitution Board, which can regard the document as contradictory to the principles of freedom of idea and speech specified by the Constitution of France.
In any case it is not dealt with the government which comes out against the law and considers the document to be inconsiderable and inappropriate. It is dealt with the forwarding a proposal on the bill at the parliament.
The government and the President are involved in the foreign policy of France. The co-chairmanship of France at the OSCE Minsk Group is not under disposal of the parliament, but the government, in particular, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Thus, there is no ground to remove France from the composition of the Minsk Group, where for many years it has taken neutral and objective position on the peaceable resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. There is no ground to discuss the co-chairmanship of France at the Minsk Group.
With respect to the bilateral relationships between two countries I'd say that in this stage there is no ground to affect on the approval of a bill at the National assembly on the first reading. The Azerbaijani Minister for culture and Tourism has recently paid a very successful visit to France on the occasion of the Azerbaijani Week, held within the framework of the 60th anniversary of UNESCO. On the other hand, we are establishing very fruitful and reliable cooperation with the Ministry of Emergencies in the sphere of civil defense.
Question: How could France, as a member of the European Union, assist in Azerbaijan's integration onto the region?
Answer: France as a member of the European Union can take an active part in Azerbaijan's further integration into the organization and is prepared to do so, if Azerbaijan desires it. France can concretely prepare Azerbaijan within specific cooperation frameworks in the political, social and economic sectors, in the form of technical assistance mission, training, exchange of experience and information for upgrade of the state of Azerbaijan and bringing Baku closer to the European experience, as well as future integration of the country in to the European Union.
For instance, I guess France could be useful for Azerbaijan in reforming the health system, upgrade of civil defense system, management over crisis and natural calamities, organization of rules for public tender markets, organization of public expenses training of , high ranking state officers, protection of rights of women and children, social protection system, etc. Thus, France's experience could bring real benefit in every sector of Azerbaijan