Baku, Azerbaijan, Feb.25
ADA University and Embassy of Latvia in Azerbaijan organised a roundtable discussion on Latvian - Azerbaijan dialogue on the future of Eastern Partnership and EU enlargement policy in the regional perspective of the South Caucasus.
Bakhtiyar Aslanbayli, Lecturer of Baku State University, shared his views on the future of Eastern Partnership (EaP) program.
The signing of the association agreements with the three EaP countries was a historic moment, unfortunately, overshadowed by the situation in Ukraine, he said.
The EaP has been re-launched a few times over the years, but with the new commission, it is the right time to develop a coherent foreign policy towards the east, according to Aslanbayli.
"Giving a perspective to EaP countries, and going ahead with the creation of the EU energy union, are just a few steps towards upgrading the relationships," he said.
Aslanbayli added that in order to have a more fruitful outcome at the upcoming Riga Summit, it is time for both sides-the EU and the EaP states-to do some serious thinking about the sense and the future of the EaP.
"At the Riga Summit there should be a clear signal that the EU will have a more individualistic approach to EaP countries taking their interests into account," said Aslanbayli. "Obviously, not all countries want to join the EU - some countries wish to have special cooperation mechanisms and this should be respected."
He said there is a need to review the EaP as it was set in 2009. "There should be a more tailored approach."
Past years have been valuable for both EU and EaP countries, but now it is time to review the realities, according to Aslanbayli.
He highlighted the following potential areas to be reviewed:
1. EU needs to outline a new, understandable, and attractive mission statement for the cooperating EaP states. The EaP states are to be equal partners and not lower-level states.
2. EU need to support the people-to-people program. Notwithstanding the different political agendas in the EaP countries, overall, the majority of the EaP citizens tend to support the Western development vision. Hence, engaging more with citizens is very important.
3. Double standards will only undermine the EU's position as an honest actor. Elective approach towards the conflicts of similar nature should be avoided and territorial integrity principal should be a priority in EU's approach to all ethnic conflicts in the region.
4. Using "now-or-never" language should be stopped. For the EaP states' citizens it may be perceived as a light version of Russia's coercion.
Aslanbayli added that overall, the EU needs a stronger and more integrated voice on the future of EaP and priorities. "Thus, the Riga Summit must be the time to change and upgrade cooperation within the EaP."