The association agreements that the EU is negotiating with Armenia and Azerbaijan should make the region safer, both by promoting a peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and by making EU support conditional upon their human rights performance and democratic reforms. On these, both countries still have a long way to go, MEPs say in resolutions adopted Wednesday.
Parliament's resolutions make recommendations to the Council and the Commission on lines to take when negotiating association agreements with Armenia and Azerbaijan. MEPs approved the EU-Azerbaijan resolution with - 520 votes in favour, 32 against and 24 abstentions and the EU-Armenia one with 508 in favour, 29 against and 27 abstentions.
The resolutions praise Armenia's reform ambitions and energy cooperation to date with Azerbaijan, but also warn against human rights breaches, in connection the 2012 Eurovision song contest in Baku, Azerbaijan and the 6 May parliamentary elections in Armenia.
MEPs call on both countries to do more to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The resolutions condemn the region's militarisation and high military expenditure and call on EU Member States to stop supplying weapons and munitions to both countries.
Parliament also calls on the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan to tone down the language of their statements to pave the way for a genuine dialogue.
Both rapporteurs stressed that although the association agreements could not resolve the conflict, the EU should strive to contribute to stability in the region, for example by focusing on the importance of youth exchange and academic mobility to promote confidence building during the negotiations on visa facilitation and readmission agreements.
Azerbaijan: praise for energy cooperation but fears about Eurovision evictions
The Azerbaijani authorities should ensure that any eviction and resettlement of Baku people to make way for construction work for the song contest is done in line with the law, says the resolution, which also expresses concerns about Azerbaijani government criticism of human rights activists who are using the contest to draw the international community's attention to problems in Azerbaijan.
The Azerbaijan resolution's rapporteur Anneli Jäätteenmäki (ALDE, FI) stressed that energy cooperation, although important, "cannot develop if peoples' rights are not taken into account. "We have to admit great shortcomings in this regard in Azerbaijan. People are being arrested and homes searched. However, this does not mean that the Eurovision Song Contest should be boycotted. If we want a deeper cooperation with Azerbaijan, why then boycott Eurovision song contest?", she said.
Armenia: praise for EU aspirations but warnings against election violence
MEPs praise Armenia's efforts to pursue ambitious reforms to incorporate EU practices in justice, freedom, security and especially migration sectors, but stress the need to ensure that its May parliamentary elections are free and fair.
"The parliamentary elections of 6 May will be a test of Armenia's determination to have good relations with the EU. If they will be free and fair, and I believe they will, this will demonstrate that Armenia sticks to its commitments in serious way", said rapporteur Tomasz Piotr Poręba (ECR, PL).
The resolution notes that in Armenia's previous elections, people were killed in police attempts to prevent an opposition demonstration and notes that Armenia has yet to complete a "transparent and impartial investigation of the events of 1 March 2008".
Negotiations for association agreements with Armenia and Azerbaijan were launched in July 2010. So far 24 out of 28 negotiating chapters have been closed in negotiations with Armenia and 13 out of 28 with Azerbaijan. Visa facilitation dialogues with both countries were launched in March this year. Both agreements will need Parliament's consent to enter into force.
Procedure: Non-legislative resolutions