Deputy FM: Azerbaijan to continue developing strong civil society [PHOTO/UPDATE]
By Kamila Aliyeva
Brussels hosted the launching ceremony of the new institutional set-up of the Eastern Partnership (EaP) initiative on March 12.
The new institutional set-up of the EaP was launched in the presence of senior officials from Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova, Ukraine, Armenia and the EU member states. Azerbaijan’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mahmud Mammad-Guliyev represents the country at the event in Belgium, Trend reported.
The new structure was officially adopted at the Eastern Partnership Summit in November last year with the joint declaration. The new structure for institutional cooperation between the EaP countries and the EU member states focuses first and foremost on the efficient delivery of reforms that bring real results.
The core elements of the renewed structure, the platforms and panels, are now aligned with the four priorities of the EaP: stronger governance, stronger economy, stronger connectivity and stronger society.
Addressing the event, Mammad-Guliyev expressed hope that by the end of 2018 that is by the next Eastern Partnership meeting, Azerbaijan and the EU will complete talks on the new strategic partnership agreement.
Azerbaijan and the European Union are very close to complete the sectorial talks on the new strategic partnership agreement, he said.
“Last year we began negotiations on the new strategic partnership agreement. Our negotiations are going on three areas: political sector, trade and investments, and sectorial,” said the deputy foreign minister.
Mammad-Guliyev noted that in political sector the sides have made some progress, adding that the next round of talks on this sector will be in April in Baku.
“In sectorial talks, we are very close to completion. There are just a couple of issues to be agreed. I hope that we will complete the sectorial talks during the meeting on March 16,” he said.
The new EU-Azerbaijan agreement on strategic partnership will follow the principles endorsed in the 2015 review of the European Neighborhood Policy and offer a renewed basis for political dialogue and mutually beneficial cooperation between the EU and Azerbaijan.
The 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.
Touching upon trade and investment sphere, Mammad-Guliyev said that there are some problems in this field.
“Azerbaijan is still not a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO). We are going to find a way to solve the problems and make progress,” he explained.
Mammad-Guliyev went on to say that Azerbaijan will continue to develop a strong civil society.
He noted that a strong civil society is very important for every country, otherwise it is very difficult to implement the goals set by the government.
The deputy foreign minister expressed confidence that Azerbaijan will have a strong civil society that will assist the government in implementing its goals.
He noted that Azerbaijan has already created a platform with participation of government representatives, other structures, as well as civil society members.
Mammad-Guliyev pointed out that the negotiations between Azerbaijan and the EU on a new strategic partnership agreement include issues related to civil society as well. The deputy foreign minister expressed confidence that Azerbaijan and the EU will agree on civil society issues.
He further noted that the occupation of the territory of one member state of the Eastern Partnership by another participant of this initiative is unacceptable.
More than 20 percent of the Azerbaijani territory was occupied by Armenia, and as a result of this conflict more than one million Azerbaijanis became refugees and internally displaced persons, their fundamental rights were violated, Mammad-Guliyev said.
The Eastern Partnership is an initiative aimed at improving relations with the CIS countries within the European Union Neighborhood Policy. The Eastern Partnership covers six neighboring countries of the European Union, including Azerbaijan.
The EU is Azerbaijan’s biggest economic partner representing over 40 percent of its total trade and providing the largest share of foreign direct investment to Azerbaijan.
The Union has repeatedly voiced support to Azerbaijan in its reform efforts, and aims at increasing networking and contacts between companies that will increase trade and economic activity even further.