Azerbaijan – European Union

The European Union recognized the independence of the Republic of Azerbaijan on December 31, 1991, and established official diplomatic relations with it on February 27 1992.

In the early 90s of the last century EU developed the TACIS program and financed it in order to work with the new independent states, carry out democratic reforms, create the infrastructure of the market economy and develop trade, transport and customs-transit works. Another initiative of the EU was the project of “TransCaucasian Transport Corridor of Europe-Caucasus-Asia” (TRACECA) set forth at the conference in which the representatives of 5 Central Asian, 3 Southern Caucasian countries representatives participated in May, 1993. This goal of the project was the restoration of the historical east-west “Silk Road” corridor under new conditions, restoration and development of the transport and communication infrastructure.  The EU developed the technical assistance program to the project and assisted. The most important point in the implementation of the TRACECA project was the international conference in which the representatives of 32 countries and 13 international organizations took part in Baku on September 8-9, 1998. The important document called “Multilateral Basic Agreement on International Transport for Development of Europe-Caucasus-Asia Transport Corridor” reflected the economic and technical issues of the implementation of Europe-Caucasus-Asia Transport Corridor” and was signed at this conference. Intensive activity of TRACECA had an important role in the social-economic life of Azerbaijan. It found its reflection in the incomes from cargo transportation, development of transport infrastructure and in the creation new jobs. Permanent Secretariat of the TRACECA Intergovernmental Commission has been operating in Baku since February 21, 2001 and has executed the function of coordination.

Another important document which raised the relations between the EU and Azerbaijan qualitatively to new stage was “The Partnership and Cooperation Agreement” signed in April, 1996. It came into force in 1999 and formed the legal and regulatory basis of mutual relations. President Heydar Aliyev characterized it as “a historical event of great importance for Azerbaijan”. This agreement was aimed at the development of political, economic, cultural, social and other mutual relations in different spheres. The objectives of partnership set up in accordance with the agreement were determined as the followings:

- Development of a social dialogue between the parties and establishment of a relevant framework for this.

- Support to the development of democracy and completion of transition to the market economy.

- Development of trade and investments between the parties in order achieve a sustainable economic development.

- Establishment of a basis for the cooperation in the field of legislation, finance, citizenship, science, technology and culture.

A state commission was set up by the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan dated November 23, 1999 for developing and implementing appropriate measures into life in the field of execution of duties of this agreement, expansion and regulation of relations with the EU.

Quality changes took place in the EU - Azerbaijani relations after the enactment of the partnership and cooperation agreement, it led to structuralization of these ties. The activity of the bodies established such as the Cooperation Council,   the Parliamentary Cooperation Committee provided the sustainability, regulation and systematization of mutual relations as much as possible. 

Inter-parliamentary cooperation began to develop rapidly since 1999. One of the main objectives of relations was the cooperation within the framework of the parliamentary co-operation; it held its first meeting in April, 2000. The discussion of the document of “A new challenge from the European Parliament: the Caucasian countries towards the membership of the European Union” was the manifestation of the progress in the relations at the Committee meetings.

The first meeting of the Cooperation Council was held on October 10, 1999. The following issues were discussed at its numerous sessions: settlement of regional conflicts, issues of regional cooperation and the role of international programs such as TACIS, TRACECA and INOGATE in the cooperation, reforms conducted in Azerbaijan, integration into economic and political structures of Europe, security issues, unification of judicial system, freedom of media

Economic and trade relations expanded between Azerbaijan and the EU. Currently, Azerbaijan is the largest trading partner of the EU in the Caucasus. As compared to 2002, the volume of trade turnover with the EU-Azerbaijan increased by 40% in 2003. The share of the EU in general import of the Republic increased from 19.4% in 2000 up to 32% in 2003, but in export from 60.4% up to 65.7% in the same years.

EU is changing its position in connection with the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict recently. The aggressor and the country subjected to aggression was not concretely declared in “The Statement on Nagorno-Karabakh” adopted by the EU in 1992 and 1993. It issued a statement on behalf of the chairman of the EU in the August of 2002 on the presidential elections in the puppet Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, supported the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, and recognized Armenia as a party in the conflict. 

In early 2004, the EU Parliament adopted a document on the new strategy of cooperation with the countries of the Southern Caucasus. One of the important points in the document was the indication of the fact that Armenia had conducted ethnic cleansing in the occupied Azerbaijani territories. 

Another important step in the development of mutual relations was the establishment of the permanent mission of Azerbaijan in the EU in conformity with the presidential decree “On the institutional maintenance of the activity of the mission of the Republic of Azerbaijan in the EU” on April 3, 2000, and the appointment of the special representative of the EU in the Southern Caucasus.

A new stage began in the relations of the EU-Azerbaijan since 2004. The EU gave a new status to the Southern Caucasus in 2004. (Azerbaijan was included in the New Neighborhood Policy with the decision of the Council of the EU dated June 14, 2004). It opens new opportunities for the close cooperation with the EU in accordance with status of the new "neighborhood" which conditions the transition to a new level of relations.

President Ilham Aliyev issued an instruction for establishment of a state commission for the integration of the Republic of Azerbaijan to the EU on June 01, 2005, taking into account that Azerbaijan has entered a qualitatively new stage of integration into Europe as a result of the inclusion of the country to the new neighborhood policy.  The instruction stipulated the establishment of working groups in the spheres of policy, economy, transport and energy, human rights, security, democratization and human rights, humanitarian issues, science and education and others. In the November of 2006 “The Azerbaijani-EU Action Plan” was adopted within the framework of the European Neighborhood Policy. The EU allocated 92 million Euros for the implementation of the action plan. The first leader of a Southern Caucasian country invited to Brussels (May 2004) within the New Neighborhood Policy was President Ilham Aliyev. All these facts show that the EU attaches great importance to Azerbaijan. During the visit President Ilham Aliyev declared that “integration to the EU is our strategic purpose”.

During the visit of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev to Brussels in the November of 2006 a memorandum on close cooperation in the field of energy between Azerbaijan and the European Union was signed. The new neighborhood program of the European Union with the countries of the Southern Caucasus confirms the significant interest of the EU in the region once more.

Azerbaijan played an important role in ensuring the energy security of Europe. Signature of the memorandum of understanding on strategic cooperation in the sphere of energy in 2006 and the Joint Declaration on the establishment of the Southern Gas Corridor in 2011, as well as, decisions on the implementation of important transnational projects, such as Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil export pipeline, Southern Caucasian pipeline, construction of Trans-Anatolian and Trans-Adriatic gas pipelines raised our cooperation to the level of a strategic partnership.

The European Union and the European Parliament pays a special attention to the issue of the Armenian aggression, the most painful problem of Azerbaijan. The European Parliament clearly evaluates the situation in the region. It demanded the withdrawal of the Armenians troops from all the occupied Azerbaijani territories in its resolution “The need to the strategy of the European Union in the Southern Caucasus” adopted on May 20, 2010.

The European Parliament shared the hard living of refugees and internally displaced persons, stressed the importance of protection of their rights, as well as, the right of their return to their homes. All this was stressed in the resolution “On the European Neighborhood Policy – Summary of the Eastern Dimension” adopted on April 07, 2011.

Azerbaijan has also participated in the Eastern Partnership since the May of 2009. This is a new initiative to strengthen the relations with the European Union and partner countries (Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine).  The purpose of the Eastern Partnership is to ensure the rapprochement of the partners to the European Union and promote stability, good governance and economic development. The second regular session of the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly was held in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, on April 2-4, 2012. It is to the point to mention that that it was the first session of the organization held abroad.

During the visits of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev to Brussels in June, 2013, and the chairman of the Economic Commission for Europe, Jose Manuel Barroso to Baku deepened the relations between the parties. The President of Azerbaijan at the joint press conference with Jose Manuel Barroso in Baku on June 14, 2013 press conference stated: “Azerbaijan intends to be as close as possible to the European Union and today I want to repeat it once more. Because it is a matter of strategic importance for us and there is great potential of this relationship in future”.

The essay was last updated on 25 November 2014.