- Future deal must be ambitious and deliver concrete benefits
- But has to ensure fundamental freedoms are respected
- Must also fight corruption, money laundering and tax evasion
Ensuring that core EU values and rights are respected is one of the conditions for deepening EU-Azerbaijan relations, said MEPs on Wednesday.
Parliament’s recommendation to negotiators working on the EU-Azerbaijan Comprehensive Agreement, passed by 564 votes to 69, with 47 abstentions, calls on the Council, EU Commission and the EU foreign policy chief to:
- ensure that the future agreement is ambitious and delivers tangible and concrete benefits to both sides, not only for large companies, but also for SMEs and citizens of the EU and of Azerbaijan;
- ensure that the deepening of EU-Azerbaijan relations is conditional upon it upholding and respecting democracy, the rule of law, good governance, human rights and fundamental freedoms,
- remind the Azerbaijani authorities that no comprehensive agreement will be ratified with a country that does not respect fundamental EU values and rights,
- ensure, before the negotiations are concluded, that Azerbaijan releases its political prisoners and prisoners of conscience,
- help Azerbaijan to develop a strong framework to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms and ensure that it respects the right to freedom of peaceful assembly,
- support reform of the judiciary aimed at ensuring its impartiality and independence from the executive,
- put in place specific provisions to help Azerbaijan to fight economic crime, including corruption, money laundering and tax evasion, and back investigations into laundering schemes, notably the “Laundromat” affair, and
- further support free and pluralistic media in Azerbaijan with editorial independence from dominant political and oligarchic groups and in line with EU standards.
MEPs hope that if negotiations advance speedily and all key conditions are met the new agreement could be signed before the next EU-Eastern Partnership summit in 2019. They also urge the EU side to ensure that the new agreement does not take effect provisionally until after the European Parliament has given its consent.
Parliament’s rapporteur Norica NICOLAI (ALDE, RO) said: “The EU is Azerbaijan's top trading partner and Azerbaijan is a strategic energy partner for the EU - it is high time to update the framework for our relations with a comprehensive agreement. Today’s vote shows that the European Parliament will remain very attentive to developments in Azerbaijan and I hope we can work together to ensure that the necessary progress in terms of democratic standards can be achieved before the conclusion of negotiations.”
EU-Azerbaijan relations are governed by the 1999 Partnership and Cooperation Agreement. Negotiations for a new agreement were launched on February 2017. The EU is Azerbaijan's top trading partner and its biggest export and import market, accounting for 48.6% of Azerbaijan’s total trade and providing its largest source of foreign direct investment.