Other available languages: none
Brussels, 14 June 2014
Speaking points for President Barroso's press point with President Aliyev
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure to be here today at the invitation of President Aliyev. This is my second time in Azerbaijan (first was in January 2011) and this visit is a clear sign of the commitment of the European Union to Azerbaijan and to our bilateral ties.
We met last year in Brussels and afterwards in Vilnius during the Eastern Partnership Summit. The increased frequency and intensity of our exchanges is the sign of a maturing relationship that can serve for the benefits of citizens of Azerbaijan and the European Union.
Today, we had an open and friendly discussion covering our extensive bilateral relationship. We talked about the future direction of our relationship, and exchanged views on a range of issues.
Let me say that Azerbaijan is a very important partner for the European Union. We have achieved a reliable strategic partnership in the energy field. And we want to build on this, moving to a long-term association grounded on democracy and shared values, in particular fundamental freedoms.
I have explained very openly to President Alyiev that we believe that multi-party democracy, open societies and open economies are the best way to achieve stability and prosperity. A thriving civil society is essential for a thriving democracy.
Another important reason for being here in Baku today is to mark the strong energy partnership which we have established. Azerbaijan is today one of the EU's major and most reliable energy partners, and this contributes to our mutual economy and energy security.
I was pleased to discuss the progress on the Southern Gas Corridor, for which both President Aliyev and myself have worked hard over the last years.
Today we can see concrete developments based on this ground.
Later today we will pay a joint visit to the Sangachal terminal, from which Southern Corridor gas will begin its journey to European consumers. This will initially bring 10 billion cubic meters of new gas to Europe by 2019, and even more after that.
We have discussed the ways to accelerate and expand the Southern Gas Corridor and we agreed that this will be our mutual priority for the coming year. We are also discussing this with other countries in the region and look at possible ways of development.
So in short: The EU will continue to do its part in ensuring the success of the Southern Gas Corridor. This is a key for our common objective of diversification of sources and clients. It is also a central part of the European Energy Security Strategy that the Commission recently presented.
Our relations had more results in a recent past. But we want to go further and enlarge the scope of our ties in all domains.
A concrete sign of this approach is the agreement that we are signing today on the participation of Azerbaijan in the EU programmes. This will allow our cooperation to range from science and education to environment protection, consumer policies or Health. We are hoping to receive more scholars of Azerbaijan in the EU Universities.
The EU wants to broaden and deepen its relationship with Azerbaijan. A fixed approach is important within the frameworks of the Eastern Partnership. We have given new inputs to the Strategic Modernization Partnership and aim to conclude it in next months. I would like to invite President Aliyev to come to Brussels now for the 6th time to sign these agreements.
We are also close trade partners. I note with satisfaction that the EU remains Azerbaijan's main trading partner with bilateral trade flows worth € 17.9 billion in 2013 (i.e. more than 42% of AZ trade).
But our cooperation is not between governments and public institutions. We try to bring our people and societies closer together. We have recently concluded Visa facilitation and readmission agreements that I hope will make travel easier between European countries and Azerbaijan. The Open Skies Agreement could also play a role in this regard.
We also discussed Nagorno-Karabakh. The EU considers that stability in the Southern Caucasus cannot be achieved without a fair resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The status quo is unsustainable. We continue to support the mediation efforts of OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs and their recent appeals for progress.
I also reiterated the EU's willingness to play a constructive role in resolving this conflict – for example, by expanding our activities aimed at bridging the divide between the conflict parties.
We have also discussed other issues including the situation in Ukraine.
Azerbaijan is a very close partner for us – we have already achieved a strategic partnership in the energy field. And with your guidance we can conclude partnership for modernization and achieve a higher level of trust between the EU and Azerbaijan.
We appreciate Azerbaijan's positions on many international issues, in matters of global security. We hope to move forward our relations based on shared values, democracy, rule of law.
The European Union is looking forward to maintain and deepen this open, fruitful and substantial dialogue with Azerbaijan and assist in its strategic objective of political, economic and societal modernisation.