Date of signing agreement on association between EU & South Caucasus countries largely depends on these countries: EU representative

Date of signing agreement on association between EU & South Caucasus countries largely depends on these countries: EU representative

Azerbaijan, Baku, Sept.16. / Trend E.Ostapenko /

It will largely depend on the South Caucasus countries that how soon an agreement on association between EU & South Caucasus will be signed. But it is unworthy to expect the process to develop this year, said Christiane Hohmann, Spokesperson of European Commissioer on External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner.

"There are individual agreements with each country and they don't depend on each other. The negotiations with each country will proceed at different speed and it will be different according to the state of play of each country", Hohmann told Trend over the telephone from Brussels.  

On Sept.15, foreign ministers of the EU countries provided a mandate to the European Commission to start negotiations on the signing of bilateral agreement with Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia on the association with the EU. The agreement on association is a new practical tool that will replace the bilateral action plans between the EU and South Caucasus.

According to Hohmann, the negotiation could proceed at different speed and therefore can be finalized at different times. It depends on whether that country has already undergone reforms or it is still planning to do them.

The beginning of the negotiation is not likely to start this year.  After the draft is worked out by the Commission, these proposals will come to the EU member states. And only once the EU member states agree on that mandate and adopt it (they have possibilities of changing this mandate), the Commission could prepare the negotiation with the three countries of the Southern Caucasus, Hohmann added.

For already ten years the South Caucasus countries have been associated with the EU through the cooperation agreement.

"Eastern Partnership as an initiative includes the offer for all the countries participating in Eastern Partnership to deepen and extend relationship. So we work on all areas starting with a political dialog, but covering also science, culture, trade, economic affairs, financial affairs, justice etc", Hohmann said.

The Eastern Partnership is the Polish-Swedish initiative in the neighborhood policy, aimed at improving the EU's relations with the post-Soviet countries. The program was approved at a meeting of the EU on March 20. Eastern Partnership will cover the six countries neighboring the European Union: Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine and Belarus. The program targets assisting talks on establishment of free economic zones and agriculture products, as well as partner and visa agreements.

According to Hohmann, these agreements will have to be adopted according to states of developments of all three countries. The development in Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia is not the same. Some are more advanced, some have to cover more ground.

As an example Hohmann cited the necessity to be a member WTO to sign a free trade agreement. And therefore it might take longer if the country is not a member of WTO yet.

Azerbaijan has been an observer in the WTO since 1997 and actively negotiates on entrance to this organization.

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