Deputy Minister: Mandate to be received for talks on EU associative agreement with South Caucasus

Azerbaijan, Baku, March 30 / Trend , I. Khalilova /

Azerbaijani Government's talks with the European Commission on conclusion the associative agreement can begin after receiving the mandate to conduct them with the three Caucasus states, Deputy Foreign Minister Mahmud Mammadguliyev said today.

"At present, Council of the European Union holds discussion of the mandate, after which discussions of the agreement can begin," Mammadguliyev said.

Signing such an agreement with Europe will become for Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia means of establishing free trade and movement of people. Peter Semneby, EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus said it will have a significant impact not only on the convergence of countries, but also in realization of reforms in various spheres.

The deepening of EU cooperation with countries interested in signing an agreement on free trade and visa simplification, which is part of the associative agreement will give an opportunity for free access to European markets.

According to the requirements of the European Union, the pretender country must be a member of the WTO for participation in the zone. Azerbaijan still has observer status in the organization.

Meanwhile, it is expected that the European Commission will assist Azerbaijan in developing institutional and human potential to negotiate and implement agreements. The existing institutions involved in this process will be strengthened. Assistance will also cover the implementation of the country's national plan of action for the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) and the Eastern Partnership (EaP).

The head of the EU delegation in the country Roland Kobia said that the European Commission has already begun to develop a comprehensive institutional capacity-building program to conclude and implement the agreement in Azerbaijan. The amount of the assistance to the government of the country is expected to be about 20 million euros.
The EU-Azerbaijan relations began to intensify within the Eastern Partnership in May 2009. They also include the prospect of modernizing the contractual relationship between the parties and the establishment of the association agreement. The Eastern Partnership also provides for closer economic and trade relations with the EU as part of a deep and comprehensive free trade area (DCFTA) after achieving membership in the WTO.

Foreign ministers of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia participated in the annual session of the European Council for Cooperation with South Caucasus countries in Brussels September 30, 2009. A decision was made about a prospect of the association membership of the Caucasus countries into the EU. It is the most effective stimulus for conflict resolution and internal reforms in these countries. However, the problem is that the three Caucasian countries are excluded from the EU two major programs - Wider Europe and the New Neighbors. These programs include Morocco and Syria, as well as Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus and Russia. But the Caucasus countries are not included.

Oil and gas reserves in this region, as well as its unique role in the transportation of energy resources in the nearest years will play a key role in providing Europe with fuel. The EU continues to play a modest role in discussing of projects for the creation of pipelines to transport oil and gas. But the EU member-states and candidates for membership in this organization will import oil and gas from the Caspian region soon. Moreover, European oil companies are among the major players in the Caspian oil and gas projects. In the early 1990, the EU leadership has put forward "Traseca" projects (Transport Corridor Europe-Caucasus-Asia) and Inogate (Oil and Gas Transport to Europe). Both projects were designed to prepare the conditions for the transportation of energy resources to Europe from the South Caucasus region. However, there is a problem with the financing of these programs.

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