Next round of Azerbaijan-EU visa talks due Nov. 6

By Nigar Orujova

Azerbaijan and the European Union will hold the next round of talks on easing visa regulations in Baku on November 6-7, Azerbaijani Deputy Foreign Minister Mahmud Mammadguliyev said Tuesday.

Mammadguliyev told media that Baku is offering certain amendments and initiatives.

"We are trying to address these issues and reach compromise. Some of the amendments have been coordinated with the European Union, but the others are still to be made. Therefore, the negotiations continue," the deputy minister said.

"This is the third round of talks [on visa facilitation and readmission]. The progress in negotiations allows to expect results in 2013," Mammadguliyev said.

The official negotiations between Azerbaijan and the EU on visa facilitation started this March in Baku.

EU Delegation head Roland Kobia earlier told the local press, "We are preparing for the next round of negotiations on visa facilitation between Azerbaijan and the EU and signing of a readmission agreement."

Kobia said the main obstacle to expediting the process of easing the visa regulations concerns signing of an agreement on readmission.

An agreement on the simplification of visa entry for citizens of Azerbaijan provides for a reduction of the list of documents submitted along with the application for a visa and the possibility of issuing multiple entry visas with a longer validity period, thus reducing the cost of visas or even making them free for particular categories, and envisions time limits for processing an application.

The agreement on readmission will develop a mechanism for repatriation of those residing in the EU and Azerbaijan without permission.

The EU and Azerbaijan are maintaining relations under the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, which was signed in 1996 and came into force in 1999. In 2009, the EU passed a decision to sanction negotiations on the conclusion of bilateral association agreements of Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia with the organization. These agreements will be a new practical instrument to replace the bilateral action plans.

Azerbaijan is also included in the EU's Eastern Partnership program, adopted at the initiative of Poland and Sweden and approved at the EU summit in Brussels in 2008. The Eastern Partnership is aimed at political and economic rapprochement of six post-Soviet states with the EU.