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José Manuel Durão Barroso

President of the European Commission

Statement by President Barroso following his meeting with Ilham Aliyev, President of Azerbaijan

Joint press conference with Ilham Aliyev, President of Azerbaijan

Baku, 13 January 2011

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am very pleased to be in Baku today. I had an excellent meeting with President Aliyev. We covered the full range of relations between the EU and Azerbaijan, which are growing in importance and depth by the day.

The European Union supports the reforms efforts undertaken under the leadership of President Aliyev. The President stressed to me today that he sees the EU values enshrined in the Eastern Partnership as an inspiration for the development of his country.

This includes the promotion of democracy, rule of law, respect for human rights as well as the principles of a market economy, sustainable development and good governance.

A key tool for the implementation of our bilateral partnership is the new Association Agreement.

The talks on this Agreement were launched half a year ago and are progressing well. The purpose is to deepen our strategic links and bring Azerbaijan closer to the EU's market of half a billion people.

I am also pleased to announce that we will start negotiations on a Visa Facilitation Agreement in the near future. This will make it easier for the Azerbaijani people to travel to the EU.

The EU is deeply committed to helping Azerbaijan’s political and economic reforms. A more efficient administration and a more performing economy are in the interest of us all. We are also actively contributing to that through financial cooperation.

Europe's overall aid package for the next three years is worth € 122.5 million. Today, we agreed to earmark €19 million under the Comprehensive Institution Building Program.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

A driving force of our bilateral relations is the well-established energy cooperation. Azerbaijan is a strategic partner and ally in this field. We appreciate the key role it plays as a producer and transit country.

Azerbaijan was a pioneer in energy diversification when back in the nineties it decided to initiate the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline. Now it is time to turn to gas.

We made great progress in this area today. We signed a Joint Declaration on the Establishment of the Southern Gas Corridor, through which the EU will directly receive Azerbaijani gas.

Realizing this corridor is in our shared strategic interest. It is vital for the security and diversification of our energy supply and demand. Azerbaijan wants to diversify its exports as much as the EU wants to diversify its imports. The Southern Corridor will give Azerbaijan reliable, physical access to the EU energy market – which is the world's largest. It therefore provides a long-term perspective for its development.

In the same vein, we look forward to a swift allocation process for the Shah Deniz II gas field. I hope this will enable us to announce the Azeri-EU deal of the 21st century.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We also discussed regional and international issues. I expressed my appreciation for Azerbaijan's role on the global stage, including its support for peace in Afghanistan, Iraq and Kosovo.

Looking at the immediate region, I shared my concerns on the lack of progress in Nagorno-Karabakh. I expressed my deep sympathy to the families and communities who suffer from it. It is high time for all parties to make further efforts for a swift peaceful solution. The work of the OSCE Minsk Group must therefore continue. The EU fully backs its efforts.

The EU stands ready to provide further support if agreed by all parties: political support to the peace process and reconstruction assistance once a settlement has been agreed.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As you see from this fruitful cooperation and from the agreements signed today, the partnership between Azerbaijan and the EU is strong and flourishing. But we can and must do more to tap its full potential, especially in the field of energy.

I therefore look forward to continuing working with President Aliyev to reach our shared objectives.

This was a long overdue visit that I committed to do. Some people say that winter may not be the best time of the year to visit Baku.

But I disagree with that: As the old Azeri proverb goes: "Never mind the storms for the sake of a good partner".

Thank you very much!

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