On the 23rd of May, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan, Almar Mammadyarov, departed for Bruxelles in order to partake in a summit of the countries of the “Eastern Partnership” initiative. This after a scandalous statement made by Ilham Aliyev last year, in which the President said that Azerbaijan has no reason to integrate itself into Europe, and no need for European values.
The Report of Stefan Schennach at PACE
The visit of the Minister took place in the framework of a meeting of the Monitoring Committee of PACE, where Stefan Schennach, a recently appointed co – rapporteur on Azerbaijan, presented his preliminary results from his visit to Azerbaijan in April. He urged the authorities of the country to abide to their obligations before the Council of Europe, to liberate political prisoners and to lift restrictions and barriers to the activities of NGOs in the country.
Summit “Eastern Partnership”
The previous summit of the countries of the “Eastern Partnership” took place last year in Riga from 21 – 22nd of May. On the 13th of July of the same year, Ilham Aliyev announced at a Cabinet meeting that Azerbaijan has no reason to consider European integration as part of its international agenda, and that European values were of no use to the country. This may have been a result of the refusal of many European leaders to come to the opening ceremony of the European Games in Baku in 2015.
Aliyev: We don’t need Europe.
President Ilham Aliyev stated the following at a Cabinet meeting on July 13th, 2015. The text has been taken from president.az:
Sometimes, I hear from civil servants, deputies and other public figures that we must integrate into Europe. Think, for a moment, when you say this. First of all, you must know the position of the President. Second, in what way will you integrate? Do you really need integration? How would Azerbaijan be received there [in Europe]? As a second class member? As an associative member? We don’t need such an arrangement. We already integrated ourselves to the point that we need to. We did this when the situation and attitude in Europe was rather different. I think that if today we had to make a decision and took into account the current situation between Azerbaijan and Europe, we may not have become a member of the Council of Europe to begin with. How long can they continue to offend Azerbaijan? How many attempts can they make to humiliate us?
Our patience is ending. We could get along just fine without the Council of Europe. And we’ve done so in the past, right up until 2001. During that time in Azerbaijan, we had civil war, Armenian occupation, a political crisis and an economic crisis. We lived, we didn’t die out.”
Silence from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
However, despite this announcement of the president of Azerbaijan, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Elmar Mammadyarov still went to the summit of the countries of the “Eastern Partnership” in Bruxelles. Meydan.tv asked the press – service of the MIA of Azerbaijan why the minister went to the summit despite the president’s clear declaration and stance on the matter of European integration?
We received the answer: the MIA will not comment on the subject, and advised us to look on the MIA’s website, where there is no information concerning this subject whatsoever.
Azerbaijan as a member of the Council Europe
On the 25th of January, 2001, Azerbaijan became a member of the Council of Europe and signed the Convention on the defense of human rights and basic freedoms, by which it is obliged to abide. Earlier, in 1999, Azerbaijan signed an Agreement on partnership and cooperation with the EU which went into effect on July 1st of the same year.
As noted by Amnesty International’s report on the situation of human rights in Azerbaijan in 2015 / 2016:
“Attacks continue on civil society and alternative – thinkers. The authorities of Azerbaijan persecute independent journalists and activists not only within the country, but also abroad. The authorities have consistently denied entry into the country to representatives of international, rights – defending organizations.”
The Eastern Partnership is an integration project of the European Union, which strives to develop connections and bonds of 6 countries with the European Union: Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia. One of the main priorities of the EU in their cooperation with these countries has been the promotion of true democracy and better governance.