By Leman Mammadova
Azerbaijan and the European Union (EU) successfully cooperate in various fields, and relations are constantly developing. To date, important documents such as Partnership and Cooperation, Visa and Readmission Agreements, Action Plan under the European Neighborhood Policy and the Eastern Partnership Initiative have been signed that raised relations to a higher level.
Regular consultations on a comprehensive agreement on strategic partnership between Azerbaijan and the EU will be held in the near future, Azerbaijan’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mahmud Mammad-Guliyev told Trend Jan.12.
The Deputy Minister noted that the talks will cover all major areas - political and security issues, trade and investment issues and various issues in other sectors.
“The most important task for us is to develop a high-quality agreement acceptable to all parties. When a consensus is reached on each of the directions and a document that meets the interests of both Azerbaijan and the EU is prepared, then it will be ready for signing. So far, there is progress in all areas of the agreement, but it is difficult to say when it will be signed,” he added.
The local EU representative office in turn told Trend that the next round of negotiations on a new agreement between Azerbaijan and the EU is planned to be held in late January-early February.
Established in 1991, Azerbaijan-European Union relations are based on the EU-Azerbaijan Partnership and Cooperation Agreement signed in 1996 (entered into force in 1999), which is the legal basis of relations, covering many areas from trade to education.
The current negotiated agreement would make it possible to take greater account of the common goals and challenges facing the EU and Azerbaijan today, aiming to substitute the agreement of 1996.
Azerbaijan wants an agreement based on political equality with the EU. The EU recognizes the need to choose a differentiated approach to its neighbors. This means that Azerbaijan can benefit from the EU's political association and economic integration offerings at its own discretion.
The agreement will cover political, sectoral, trade and economic relations including science and education. Political cooperation will be more crucial. In addition, the economic and energy sectors are also essential.
The first meeting to discuss the document took place on April 25, 2017.
The new agreement envisages for the approximation of Azerbaijan's legislation and procedures to the most important international and trade norms and standards of the EU, which should lead to improved access of Azerbaijani products to the EU markets.
The agreement will comply with the principles approved in 2015 in the document of the European Neighborhood Policy and will offer an updated basis for political dialogue and mutually beneficial cooperation between the EU and Azerbaijan.
The EU and Azerbaijan intend to agree on a draft partnership agreement on cooperation untill May 2019. The political and trade components of the agreement were discussed in early December 2018. The next round on the new agreement as a whole will be held in Brussels in late January 2019.
Earlier, head of the EU delegation in Azerbaijan Kestutis Jankauskas told that Azerbaijan and the EU will hold a high-level transport dialogue in February in Baku to discuss the cooperation issues in the field of transport. the aviation agreement between Azerbaijan and the EU will also be discussed at this meeting.
Presently, several routes from the East to Europe pass through the territory of Azerbaijan. Among such projects are the International North-South Transport Corridor, which is designed to transport goods from India and the Persian Gulf countries to Russia, Western Europe, the Baltic and Scandinavian countries. In addition, the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway built at the initiative of Azerbaijan, which is part of the East-West Corridor, also allows supplying cargo to Europe. Another example is the Lapis Lazuli route, which runs from Afghanistan to Turkey and further to Europe.
Creation of a common aviation area is an initiative of the European Commission and aims to open and integrate aviation markets. This will lead to new opportunities for consumers and operators, and, most importantly, to high standards in terms of flight safety as well as air traffic management.
Azerbaijan, as the initiator and active participant of such large projects as Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan and the Southern Gas Corridor, is a reliable energy partner of the EU.
EU supports the energy projects implemented in South Caucasus and interested in supplying Caspian hydrocarbon resources to Europe, as it comprehends diversification of the energy sources necessary to ensure Europe's energy security.
The European Union holds the main place in the foreign trade turnover of Azerbaijan. Share of EU countries in Azerbaijan's foreign trade made 42 percent in 2017 and 43.5 percent in the first eight months of 2018. There are more than 1,500 European companies in Azerbaijan. Over the past six years, European countries have invested about $ 16 billion in Azerbaijan's economy.
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