Barroso and Aliev tack stock of EU-Azerbaijan agenda

Azerbaijan is a very important partner for the European Union, and one with which a reliable strategic partnership in the energy field has been achieved, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso said after his meeting with President Ilham Aliev in Baku on 14 June. The EU wants to build on this, “moving to a long-term association grounded on democracy and shared values, in particular fundamental freedoms,” he added.
The EU now wants to broaden and deepen its relationship with Azerbaijan, Barroso said, stressing the need for “a fixed approach” within the Eastern Partnership. The EU and Azerbaijan are building a Strategic Modernization Partnership and aim to conclude it in the next months, he underlined.
The EU and Azerbaijan are also close trade partners, Barroso pointed out, noting that the EU remains Azerbaijan's main trading partner with bilateral trade flows worth €17.9 billion in 2013 (i.e. more than 42% of Azerbaijan’s trade).
The EU and Azerbaijan are also keen to bring their people and societies closer together, in particular through Visa facilitation and readmission agreements and the Open Skies Agreement.  
With regard to the Nagorno-Karabakh issue, Barroso reiterated the EU's willingness to play a constructive role in resolving this conflict – for example, by expanding the EU’s activities aimed at bridging the divide between the conflict parties.
Separately, the European Commission President told an audience at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy University in Baku that the Eastern Partnership had “never meant to be a power game with Russia”. The EU’s new Association/DCFTA agreements with Eastern Partners are perfectly compatible with the existing FTAs that Partner countries have with Russia, he said, stressing that the EU is keen to have good relations with Moscow, free from confrontation.  
But for that to happen Russia, as well as all our partners, needs to abide by international norms and values and it needs to respect the sovereign decisions of our common neighbours,” Barroso stressed.
In the framework of the Eastern Partnership the EU has offered Azerbaijan to conclude an Association Agreement with an enhanced trade part - but not yet a free trade agreement – “which would deliver a new strategic depth to our bilateral relations,” Barroso said.
This agreement is based on values such as democracy, fundamental freedoms and rule of law, Barroso said, adding “the long term stability and prosperity of a country can only be achieved in a context of multi-party democracy and a free civil society.”
Touching upon the Southern Gas Corridor project, Barroso said it can “encourage greater economic cooperation, improve energy security and create over 30,000 jobs in all countries along the Corridor.”
The EU’s objective remains that the entire infrastructure project along the corridor will be operational in time, by 2019, said President Barroso. (EU Neighbourhood Info)
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Barroso - Remarks
Barroso - Speech
EU neighbourhood Info Centre Most Azerbaijanis see relations with EU as good, generally optimistic about their lives (28-05-2014)
EU External Action - Azerbaijan
EU Neighbourhood Info Centre - Azerbaijan
EU Neighbourhood Info Centre webpage - Eastern Partnership   
Development and Cooperation - Eastern Partnership    

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