Crisis in EU `not to affect talks on association agreement`

The crisis situation that has arisen in some countries of the European Union cannot affect the course of negotiations on the association agreement with Azerbaijan, Azerbaijani Deputy Foreign Minister Mahmud Mammadguliyev told Trend news agency on Monday.

The negotiations on the issue were launched in July 2010.

EU-Azerbaijan relations are based on the Agreement on Partnership and Cooperation signed in Luxembourg in 1996. The agreement went into effect in 1999.

In 2009, foreign ministers of the EU countries authorized the EU Commission to start negotiations to conclude EU bilateral association agreements with Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, the three South Caucasus republics. These agreements, whose content will depend on the depth of cooperation with the EU, will be a new practical instrument which will replace the bilateral action plans.

In addition, separate agreements on visa facilitation with EU countries are expected to be signed.

The association agreement includes four areas - political dialogue, including issues of security, justice and human rights, economic, social and humanitarian issues, and trade.

On prospects for Azerbaijan`s admission to the WTO, Mammadguliyev said the economic crisis in Europe cannot impact the process of the country`s accession.

``I do not see any link between Azerbaijan`s accession to the WTO and the crisis in some EU countries,`` said the deputy foreign minister, who is the chief negotiator on Azerbaijan`s WTO accession. ``WTO is not an EU entity. It`s a worldwide organization. Russia, for example, has already joined the organization, and Kazakhstan is to join it by the end of the year.``

In 2011 the national debt of 17 countries of the euro zone rose to 87.2 per cent of the GDP from 85.3 per cent a year earlier. The national debt of the 27 EU countries increased to 82.5 per cent of GDP from 80 per cent, though the Maastricht Treaty allows only 60 per cent.

Greece`s debt amounted to 165.3 per cent of the GDP, while that of Italy - 120.1 per cent of the GDP, Ireland - 108.2 per cent, and Portugal 107.8 per cent.

The budget deficit of 17 countries in the euro zone last year fell to 4.1 per cent of the GDP from 6.2 per cent, that of the 27 EU countries - to 4.5 per cent from 6.5 per cent, but is still above the admissible level of 3 per cent.

Tight fiscal discipline leads to stagnation of the economy and employment reduction, analysts say. In March, unemployment in the euro zone was 10.9 per cent compared to 9.9 per cent a year ago and 10.8 per cent in February 2012. The highest unemployment rate is in Spain and Greece - 24.1 per cent and 21.7 per cent respectively.