By Nigar Abbasova
The head of the EU delegation in Baku stated that the Union sees no other partner in the South Caucasus region more reliable than Azerbaijan, mentioning that the sides are very important trading partners.
Making remarks at the Infrastructure, Power and Renewable Energy Investment Conference in Baku on November 16, Malena Mard said that the partnership is now entering a period of stability, adding that this cooperation is important for the EU.
Mard said that the EU pursues an elaborated strategy on diversification of Azerbaijan’s economy, adding that the Union will work on the issue of the distribution of the country’s agricultural products to the EU countries.
Moreover, the EU is ready to share experience with Azerbaijan in the sphere of economy and regional development, and would also like to study the experience of Azerbaijan’s ASAN service.
The envoy further noted that Azerbaijan offers the EU new opportunities for ensuring energy security through the implementation of the Southern Gas Corridor project, underlining that this is a strategically important project for the EU and the Union fully supports it.
She noted that other countries will also be able to join the project, mentioning Iran, as the entire infrastructure for the export of Iranian gas to Europe is ready.
The commitment to implementing the SGC project is considered of utmost importance for the EU-Azerbaijan cooperation.
Moreover, Mard told Trend that the EU hopes to start soon negotiations with Azerbaijan within a new strategic partnership agreement, mentioning that the talks are expected to affect many areas, including economy, trade, environmental and other issues.
Highlighting the interest of both sides in the talks, Mard said that the sides must discuss important issues as part of the negotiations on signing a strategic partnership agreement.
The ambassador said that the UK leaving the EU will not affect the negotiations with Azerbaijan, stressing that such an issue was not even on the agenda.
Currently, bilateral relations between the EU and Azerbaijan are regulated on the basis of an agreement on partnership and cooperation that was signed in 1996 and entered into force in 1999.
The new agreement is expected to replace the 1996 agreement and take a better account of the shared objectives and challenges the EU and Azerbaijan face today.
The EU is deemed to be a key foreign investor in Azerbaijan, while the support of the union amounts to around €30 million each year. The EU also supports closer economic integration with Azerbaijan through the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) and the Eastern Partnership initiative.
The share of European countries in Azerbaijan’s foreign trade stood at 37.12 percent in January-September 2016. European countries account for nearly 27.89 and 45.87 percent of Azerbaijani import and export respectively.
Nigar Abbasova is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @nigyar_abbasova
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