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Baku, 3 May 2013
EU - Azerbaijan: Building partnership based on interests and values
Remarks of Commissioner Štefan Füle to the media at the end of his visit to Baku
I am pleased to be in Baku and again - as last year - in spring - a period associated with rebirth: quite symbolic for our bilateral relations.
We are committed to further develop bilateral relations with Azerbaijan on the basis of mutual respect, common interests, but also on the basis of our common values and principles.
I had friendly and frank discussion with President Aliyev, members of the government, representatives of the opposition and civil society, yesterday and today.
We have talked about deepening and broadening of our relationship - both in the framework of the Eastern Partnership, and in terms of supporting Azerbaijan in its modernisation and reform efforts - for the benefit of the citizens.
Our negotiations on Visa Facilitation and Readmission Agreements are very close to conclusion. This will allow Azerbaijani citizens to take advantage of simplified procedures to travel to Europe. New possibilities will open up through the comprehensive aviation agreement that is currently being negotiated and hopefully finalised in the near future.
EU-Azerbaijan energy cooperation continues to develop fast; we are now very close to the decision on the European route of the Southern Gas Corridor.
But besides energy, what is very important to us is respect for human rights and democratic principles. The values agenda forms a crucial part of our partnership. In our Progress Report in March we highlighted our concerns and the areas where we can work together to support Azerbaijan's efforts to tackle shortcomings.
Efforts to meet commitments on democracy, including electoral processes, the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and the independence of judiciary need to continue. And on this day of World Press Freedom let me underline how important is freedom of media and freedom of expression for the democracy.
The forthcoming presidential elections will be a test for the democracy here. We wish to see them being conducted in conformity with international commitments the country has voluntarily taken – to be free and fair.
That means not only free monitoring or fair counting, but also free and fair campaigning – so that these elections provide a platform for open exchange of views on the country´s future.
This is an important year for many countries of the Eastern Partnership. The Vilnius Summit in November will highlight the achievements of the Eastern Partnership. In this framework, we have agreed with President Aliyev to make every effort to lift the EU-Azerbaijan relationship to an even higher level and to further enhance its quality – based on our mutual interests and shared values.