By Amina Nazarli
The European Council has adopted a mandate for the European Commission and the high representative for foreign affairs and security policy to negotiate, on behalf of the EU and its member states, a comprehensive agreement with Azerbaijan.
“The new agreement should replace the 1996 partnership and cooperation agreement and should better take account of the shared objectives and challenges the EU and Azerbaijan face today,” said the message.
The mandate was discussed in Brussels at a meeting of foreign ministers at the EU Council in the framework of the discussion on the "Eastern Partnership” on November 14.
Baku has already welcomed the issuance of a mandate by the European Council.
Hikmat Hajiyev, Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry spokesman, commenting on the issue, said Azerbaijan welcomes and approves the agreement prepared by the EU on comprehensive cooperation with Azerbaijan, and the issuance of a mandate for negotiations in this area.
He emphasized the agreement will raise the cooperation to a qualitatively new level, and will create a legal framework for the comprehensive development of the Baku-Brussels relations.
In May 2015, Azerbaijan presented a draft agreement on strategic partnership between Azerbaijan and the EU, thus expressing Azerbaijan's intention to develop cooperation with EU.
The new agreement envisages the compliance of Azerbaijan’s legislation and procedures with the EU’s most important international trade norms and standards, which should lead to the improvement of Azerbaijani goods’ access to the EU markets.
The EU is Azerbaijan’s major trade partner. Azerbaijan initiated to sign an agreement on strategic modernized partnership with the EU instead of the agreement about association. The document is a program, a plan of action aimed at the expansion of cooperation with the EU beyond energy.
The new agreement will define new directions of partnership, such as education and other spheres.
The share of European countries in Azerbaijan’s foreign trade was 37.12 percent in January-September 2016, according to Azerbaijan’s State Customs Committee.
Currently, European countries account for 27.89 and 45.87 percent of Azerbaijani import and export, respectively. European countries mainly deliver vehicles and transportation equipment to Azerbaijan and import oil products.
Azerbaijan has become a country of direct priority to the EU’s strategy in its wider neighborhood since the last enlargement of the European Union in 2007. Azerbaijan affects Europe’s interests, mainly in a regional energy strategy.