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Procedure : 2021/2231(INI)
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Document selected : A9-0037/2023

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PV 14/03/2023 - 21
CRE 14/03/2023 - 21

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PV 15/03/2023 - 7.10
CRE 15/03/2023 - 7.10
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Verbatim report of proceedings
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Tuesday, 14 March 2023 - Strasbourg Revised edition

21. EU-Azerbaijan relations (debate)
Video of the speeches

  Die Präsidentin. – Als nächster Punkt der Tagesordnung folgt die Aussprache über den Bericht von Željana Zovko im Namen des Ausschusses für auswärtige Angelegenheiten über die Beziehungen zwischen der EU und Aserbaidschan (2021/2231(INI)) (A9—0037/2023).


  Željana Zovko, rapporteur. – Madam President, dear Commissioner, this is the first comprehensive European Parliament report on EU-Azerbaijan relations since 2018, and it comes at a crucial time for our mutual relations.

Given the current geopolitical uncertainty, the report sheds light on the state of relations between the EU and Azerbaijan. As Azerbaijan is a strategic supplier of fossil fuel energy, it is essential that EU and Azerbaijan work on enhanced cooperation outside the energy sector.

It is in the EU interest to build on the strategic cooperation and economic integration with Azerbaijan, but we should also continue to promote human rights and democratic standards in the country. Respecting freedom of speech and the rights of minorities also contributes to the peaceful coexistence and security of everyone in the South Caucasus.

The current negotiations on the new bilateral comprehensive EU-Azerbaijan Agreement should follow this approach. I welcome the increased diplomatic activity of the EU in the region and encourage the EU to prioritise preventive diplomacy as an honest broker in the region, including through promoting inter-religious and intercultural dialogue.

The EU should not repeat the mistakes of the past, when other malign actors took advantage of our passivity to gain influence in this region, which is crucial for European security and stability. It is vital that Azerbaijan and Armenia come to a timely agreement on a sustainable peace treaty while respecting the principles of the Helsinki Final Act.

The report also highlights the importance of the rights and security of the Armenian population residing in Nagorno-Karabakh and the prompt and safe return of all refugees and internally displaced persons to their homes.

We call on Armenia and Azerbaijan to address all concerns relating to the functioning of the Lachin corridor through dialogue and consultations. Therefore, plenary amendments welcome the recent talks between Karabakh Armenians’ and Azerbaijani representatives. Border demarcation and delineation are also critical components covered in the report.

The report denounces the destruction of cultural, religious and historical heritage since the beginning of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Urgent action is required and we call for a UNESCO mission to the region. Building strong relations with our neighbours is crucial, and this report can serve as a framework for future cooperation.

Finally, let me thank you, the shadow rapporteurs, for an excellent cooperation.


  Olivér Várhelyi, Member of the Commission. – Madam President, honourable Members, today’s debate is a timely opportunity to discuss our relations with Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan is an important partner for the EU. Therefore, we have an interest in continuing our good cooperation – particularly when it comes to energy – cooperation on reforms, trade and investments. Negotiations on a new comprehensive EU-Azerbaijan agreement are ongoing. We remain committed to continuing the negotiations with a view to finalising them soon. As you note in your report, the human rights situation and the respect for the rule of law in Azerbaijan remain a concern. These are at the core of our relationship as jointly agreed in the EU-Azerbaijan Partnership priorities. We firmly believe that the rule of law, human rights and democratic institutions are the fundamentals of an independent, stable and prosperous country, and the condition for a constructive business environment. We welcome Azerbaijan’s signature of the European Convention on Human Rights Protocol banning the death penalty in all circumstances. We are closely following the implementation of the media law and the adoption of the new law on political parties. Through our EU delegation in Baku, we are closely following individual cases of human rights defenders. Our cooperation with Azerbaijan in the energy sector has intensified. A Memorandum of Understanding on a Strategic Partnership in the Field of Energy was signed in July last year in Baku. As you also acknowledged in the report, this cooperation is more important than ever for ensuring diversification of Europe’s energy supplies, bringing new, reliable sources of energy to Europe. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has forced us to develop and diversify trade routes and transport connections between Europe and Asia.

I agree that also our cooperation with Azerbaijan in the area of connectivity is strategically important. In this context, we welcome the important assistance Azerbaijan has been providing to Ukraine. Connectivity and energy are key elements of the Economic and Investment Plan, which aims to mobilise up to EUR 2 billion of public and private investments in Azerbaijan. The EU is above all driven by the common goal to contribute to a stable, peaceful and prosperous South Caucasus. We stand ready to continue supporting Azerbaijan, whether through facilitation of the peace process or through the continued provision of humanitarian and demining assistance. The EU deployed its mission in Armenia, the EUMA, in order to reduce tensions and support the peace process. This is an important step to reinforce stability and strengthen the EU’s role in the region. We continue to fully support the facilitation of the dialogue between the leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia on all issues pertaining to the peace process, including on a future peace treaty and border delimitation through the efforts of the President of the European Council. We encourage the leaders of both countries to use the historic opportunity to solve this conflict for good and to return to the substantial dialogue. Many important questions need addressing urgently. As we saw again on 6 March, the situation on the Karabakh line of contact continues to be very tense. We deplore the incidents that led to at least five deaths. The circumstances surrounding this deadly incident need to be fully investigated. All parties should show restraint in order to prevent any actions which could further undermine the regional stability and threaten the peace process. We will continue to be fully mobilized.


  Peter van Dalen, namens de PPE-Fractie. – Voorzitter, het verslag van collega Zovko bevat enkele stevige uitspraken over Azerbeidzjan. En terecht. Maar het is niet genoeg. Het voortdurende geweld van dictator Aliyev tegen zowel Nagorno-Karabach als tegen Armenië vereist totale veroordeling in de meest krachtige bewoordingen.

Ook ben ik verbolgen over de voortdurende blokkade door Azerbeidzjan van de Lachin-corridor. En vergeet u niet, Aliyev heeft al sinds enkele maanden troepen staan binnen de grenzen van Armenië. Ik heb zelf bij de zuidelijke stad Goris onlangs de verwoestingen van hun beschietingen gezien.

Maar waar het verslag echt tekortschiet, is in de verwerpelijke gasdeal die Commissievoorzitter Von der Leyen heeft getekend met president Aliyev. Die paar miljard kubieke meter gas waren echt wel ergens anders te krijgen geweest. En bovenal, het effect is dat Aliyev nu een politieke aanmoediging voelt door dit gasgebeuren, door deze deal, en zijn agressie wordt alleen maar erger.

Die gasdeal is een geopolitieke fout die van tafel moet. En daarom steun ik morgen alleen maar dit verslag als een paar amendementen die ik mede heb ondertekend worden aangenomen.


  Isabel Santos, em nome do Grupo S&D. – Senhora Presidente, como já aqui foi referido pela relatora Zovko, que aproveito para saudar, desde 2018 que não era apresentado um relatório sobre as relações União Europeia—Azerbaijão, mas, debaixo do regime autoritário da família Aliyev, pouco ou nada muda no Azerbaijão.

Falar de Estado de direito continua uma miragem diante de um sistema judicial controlado e obediente. As violações de direitos humanos somam—se. A repressão e a detenção arbitrária de ativistas, opositores políticos e jornalistas continuam uma constante, situação que se agrava quando falamos de mulheres, ativistas e jornalistas, ou dos ataques aos direitos da população LGBTQI.

Uma atitude musculada está em claro contraste com a incapacidade de desobstrução do corredor de Lachin, bloqueado por denominados ambientalistas. Mais uma provocação, com o objetivo de deteriorar as condições de vida da população arménia de Nagorno—Karabakh.

As constantes provocações, atacando a soberania da Arménia e causando o recrudescimento do conflito nesta região, a sujeição dos prisioneiros de guerra a tortura e a atos de humilhação e as execuções extrajudiciais de civis e militares arménios constituem violações do direito internacional que não podem ser toleradas.

É imperioso que se encontre uma solução de paz sustentável para este conflito armado, colocando termo à devastação e ao sofrimento prolongado das populações. Por isso, apelamos ao abandono da retórica belicista, ao desbloqueamento do corredor de Lachin e à recondução ao mais estreito respeito pelos princípios da Ata Final de Helsínquia e pelos princípios básicos do Grupo de Minsk da OSCE. E saudamos a missão da União Europeia, recentemente enviada com vista a ajudar à estabilização da situação de segurança e a reforçar os esforços de paz.

No entanto, Senhor Comissário, num quadro como este, torna—se óbvio que qualquer aprofundamento das relações da União Europeia com o Azerbaijão tem que ser sujeito à condicionalidade em matéria de respeito pelos princípios da democracia e dos direitos humanos e a uma atitude positiva em matéria de construção de condições para a paz na região.

Se não somos capazes de aprender com a história longínqua, Senhor Comissário, é bom que aprendamos com o presente e evitemos o proliferar de erros que só a nós nos cabe evitar.


  Ilhan Kyuchyuk, on behalf of the Renew Group. – Madam President, dear Commissioner, dear colleagues, first of all, I would like to thank Ms Zovko for her constructive work on this very important report, and let’s have a realistic approach on EU-Azerbaijan relations.

Having said that, I think we should start by respecting each other. Respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty is a vital precondition for future peaceful relations between Azerbaijan and Armenia and for resolving the long-standing conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Both countries need to recognise each other’s territorial integrity and respect their sovereign borders. Azerbaijan and Armenia should also acknowledge each other’s history, culture and identity towards future recognition. It doesn’t mean that they should be stuck in the past, but rather focus on the future and upcoming generations.

Azerbaijan and Armenia should also promote economic cooperation and trade, which could help build mutual trust and promote stability in the region. People-to-people contacts should be encouraged to promote mutual understanding, tolerance and reconciliation.


  Markéta Gregorová, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – Madam President, dear colleagues, Commissioner, I believe that EU—Azerbaijan relations need to be updated. However, I must underline that any deepening of ties with the EU must be conditional. That is not happening. There is no progress in respecting citizens’ rights and freedoms, no improvement in ceasing repression of the political opposition and civil society, and no advancement in the rule of law, corruption and independence of the judiciary. On top of that, there has not been a solution to the Lachin corridors ongoing blockade, for which Azerbaijan is responsible and should take all measures at its disposal to ensure unimpeded movement of persons, vehicles and cargo in both directions. For those reasons, I cannot agree that the EU renewed its relations based on its energy needs. By now, we should have learned the lesson that support of authoritarian regimes does not pay up, not for us, and definitely not for Azerbaijani citizens.


  Anna Fotyga, on behalf of the ECR Group. – Madam President, Commissioner, allow me at the beginning two reflections.

First, the term territorial integrity usually applies to internationally recognised borders, and secondly, many conflicts in the region are to be improved with Russia’s defeat in the war waged against Ukraine.

I think that to the list enumerated by Commissioner of important parts in our relationship with Azerbaijan, we have to add security issues as well. Therefore, I commend the role of the EU representative to the Caucasus and his actions to enhance dialogue and, secondly, the NATO Secretary General’s personal initiative with representatives, as well as US actions. We have to serve as real honest broker. That means trying not to take sides.


  Idoia Villanueva Ruiz, en nombre del Grupo The Left. – Señora presidenta, la defensa de la democracia y los derechos humanos no puede estar supeditada a otros intereses. No podemos aceptar que la Unión Europea mire a otro lado cada vez que estos se violan siempre y cuando fluyan el petróleo o el gas. Lo que es consenso para Rusia también debería serlo para Azerbaiyán, para Arabia Saudí y para Qatar.

El régimen de Azerbaiyán no es un socio creíble ni fiable, como quiere hacer creer la Comisión. El presidente Aliyev lleva más de veinte años en el poder y es bien conocido por ser acusado de encabezar una trama de lavado de dinero sobornando a políticos europeos para blanquear la imagen de su régimen, la llamada «diplomacia del caviar». Seguro que en el Partido Popular la recuerdan. También es bien conocida su barbarie contra el pueblo armenio.

Mientras esta Cámara silencia el llamamiento al diálogo del secretario general de las Naciones Unidas, Azerbaiyán, aliado de Putin, es un socio creíble para hacer negocios. Curiosamente, se omite conocer que solo cuarenta y ocho horas antes de la invasión de Ucrania, Putin y él firmaron un acuerdo de cooperación y diplomacia militar.

No es creíble y no es fiable un régimen donde el Estado de Derecho se confunde con los deseos de su presidente. No es creíble, no es fiable un régimen donde no existe la libertad de prensa ni los derechos LGTBIQ, donde se encarcela a opositores políticos, donde se apalea a manifestantes y se reprime a defensores de los derechos humanos.

¿Este es el modelo de socio estratégico de la Unión Europea, el mundo que queremos impulsar? Basta ya de dobles raseros. Firmeza y coherencia.


  Michaela Šojdrová (PPE). – Paní předsedající, vztahy mezi Evropskou unií a Ázerbájdžánem jsou poznamenány tím, jak se ázerbájdžánská vláda chová k Arménii i ke svým vlastním občanům. Zásadně odsuzujeme poslední vojenskou agresi Ázerbájdžánu na svrchovaném území Arménie v září 2022. Ázerbájdžán představuje strategického partnera pro nezávislost Evropské unie na energetických zdrojích. Ale jde o zájem obou partnerů, tedy jak Ázerbájdžánu, tak Evropské unie. Ázerbájdžánské státní orgány systematicky porušují základní lidská práva a svobody, pronásledují novináře a šíří dezinformace namířené proti Západu. Aby partnerství fungovalo, pak musí také Ázerbájdžán začít dodržovat lidská práva. Trvalého míru nedosáhneme násilím nebo vojenskými prostředky. Vyzýváme proto Ázerbájdžán, aby usiloval o smíření v zájmu svých občanů. EU má v tomto klíčovou roli prostředníka.


Spontane Wortmeldungen


  Ангел Джамбазки (ECR). – Г-жо Председател, поздравления за колегата Зовко, както винаги отлично подготвен, отличен доклад. Това обаче, което трябва да се каже и няма как да бъде спестено, е, че за да бъдат подобрени и възстановени отношенията между Европейския съюз и Азербайджан, Азербайджан трябва да вземе своето отношение и да прекрати войната, която води срещу Армения. Трябва да деблокира Лачинския коридор, трябва да прекрати унищожаването на църкви, на православни манастири, на спомени, на гробища. Да прекрати насилието и агресията, която води срещу Арцах. Напомням, Арцах е изконна исторически арменска територия. Територията на една от най-старите нации, каквато е арменската в Европа, една от най-старите европейски цивилизации и една от най-старите християнски цивилизации. Тази линия на геноцид, на насилие и на терор, осъществявана още от Османската империя, от османските турци и продължена, за съжаление, от Азербайджан, трябва да бъде прекратена и тогава вече може да се говори за подобряване на отношенията, за търговски отношения и т. н. Що се отнася до нарушаването на правата на човека, това не може да бъде търгувано за нефт и за газ. Поне така твърдите Вие. Аз съм склонен да се съглася с Вас в този случай.


(Ende der spontanen Wortmeldungen)


  Olivér Várhelyi, Member of the Commission. – Madam President, honourable Members, the debate today manifests your continued interest in EU—Azerbaijan relations, and I want to stress an important message out of this debate again, which is that the EU will continue to follow closely the human rights situation in Azerbaijan and the respect for the rule of law.

I can assure you that our intensified energy cooperation with Azerbaijan does not sideline our continuous efforts to advocate for human rights and the rule of law in our dialogue with Azerbaijan. And we will continue to do so. We will continue to engage with our Azerbaijani counterparts to advance discussions on all issues pertaining to the peace process.


  Željana Zovko, rapporteur. – Madam President, thank you very much, and thank you very much once again Commissioner. I took on board all the speeches by my colleagues. Once again, thanks very much to the shadows and for their, once again, constructive speech. I think this is a very critical report. This is a report that deals with Azerbaijan as a whole, as a country, and what needs to be improved. The European Union should work on human rights and respect for media freedoms, and respect for women – that’s the most important thing. Women are the ones who will change that society. That society will change either way, but women are the force that will change it, regardless of whether they prevent the marches on International Women’s Day. Tomorrow, we have a very important speech on that, really, most important celebration. So, thank you.

It’s not easy: the European Union can play a really honest broker in this, in the South Caucasus; if we don’t play it here – where we need both countries on board and we need to take both countries from malign influence, from Russia, from Türkiye, from Iran and from all these countries that will never contribute to the democratisation of the societies – then we will not succeed anywhere else. So this report is a first step on this. Thank you once again, and I hope that you will support the report tomorrow at the plenary vote.


  Die Präsidentin. – Die Aussprache ist geschlossen.

Die Abstimmung findet morgen, Mittwoch, 15. März 2023, statt.

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