Analysis of the EU’s assistance to Azerbaijan

07-10-2008

The EU’s assistance to Azerbaijan is being faced with a particular situation. Due to rising revenues from gas and oil production and transit, Azerbaijan is not as dependent on EU assistance as other countries covered by the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP). While this reduces the leverage of EU assistance, it also makes Azerbaijan a relevant partner for the EU in terms of diversity of energy supplies. However, implementation of the reform agenda provided by ENP has been slow and selective in Azerbaijan. Priorities are jointly agreed between the EU and the Azerbaijani government, and assistance is mostly channelled through government bodies, thus facilitating cherry picking and allowing the Azerbaijani government to cooperate only on reforms that suit it best and are convenient for maintaining its power. Within the last ten years, the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms has deteriorated in Azerbaijan, despite the EU’s efforts to cooperate. This current dilemma of facing a reluctant partner clearly illustrates the constraints of the ENP’s methodology of soft conditionality and joint ownership. On the basis of an overview and evaluation of EU assistance, this report develops two scenarios for the EU’s involvement with Azerbaijan: a pure conditionality approach that will propose to cap assistance to Azerbaijan; and a more pragmatic collaborative approach that binds Azerbaijan to European policies and international arrangements. The report argues for following the latter approach alongside with readjusting assistance to focus more on strengthening civil society and fighting corruption.

The EU’s assistance to Azerbaijan is being faced with a particular situation. Due to rising revenues from gas and oil production and transit, Azerbaijan is not as dependent on EU assistance as other countries covered by the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP). While this reduces the leverage of EU assistance, it also makes Azerbaijan a relevant partner for the EU in terms of diversity of energy supplies. However, implementation of the reform agenda provided by ENP has been slow and selective in Azerbaijan. Priorities are jointly agreed between the EU and the Azerbaijani government, and assistance is mostly channelled through government bodies, thus facilitating cherry picking and allowing the Azerbaijani government to cooperate only on reforms that suit it best and are convenient for maintaining its power. Within the last ten years, the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms has deteriorated in Azerbaijan, despite the EU’s efforts to cooperate. This current dilemma of facing a reluctant partner clearly illustrates the constraints of the ENP’s methodology of soft conditionality and joint ownership. On the basis of an overview and evaluation of EU assistance, this report develops two scenarios for the EU’s involvement with Azerbaijan: a pure conditionality approach that will propose to cap assistance to Azerbaijan; and a more pragmatic collaborative approach that binds Azerbaijan to European policies and international arrangements. The report argues for following the latter approach alongside with readjusting assistance to focus more on strengthening civil society and fighting corruption.

Autorzy zewnętrzni

Jérôme Boniface (author), Heidi Maurer, Jost-Henrik Morgenstern and Mara Wesseling (co-authors)