José Manuel Durão Barroso
President of the European Commission
Statement of President Barroso following his meeting with Ilham Aliyev, President of Azerbaijan
Brussels, 22 June 2011
Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen,
It was a pleasure to receive President Aliyev today in Brussels. I remember my visit to Baku in January and the great hospitality I enjoyed there. I am grateful that President Aliyev could come to Brussels. We had a very open and fruitful discussion and followed up on various topics that we had discussed during my visit to Baku, and other visits of Commissioners. This reflects the very good spirit in the relations between Azerbaijan and the European Union.
Today, we took stock of the progress made on several fronts of our relationship, including the launch of negotiations on an Association Agreement a year ago. However, I believe we can speed up these talks and move forward towards a substantive deal. We had a very sincere and open discussion about the issues we should concentrate on so we can really achieve progress regarding this Association Agreement.
I am also confident that we can start negotiations on Visa Facilitation and Readmission Agreements this year. Enhancing mobility with our partner countries remains an important goal of the Eastern Partnership.
Preparations for the Eastern Partnership Summit at the end of September in Warsaw are ongoing. Today, we have exchanged views on the implementation of this Partnership over the last two years and the way we want to strengthen it in the future.
Events in our neighbourhood have yet again shown how deeply Europe's own security and prosperity are linked to those of our neighbours. It is therefore a strategic imperative to promote democracy and development to our East and South.
In this regard, I also stressed the critical importance of modernization in the political field and progress on the political reforms and the respect for rule of law as a central theme in our relationship. We believe that the freedom of speech and freedom of assembly are extremely important and must be addressed in the context of our relations. I want to thank President Aliyev for the very open way in which we discussed these sensitive but important matters.
Our shared commitment to common values – democracy, human rights and the rule of law – is a key part of our relationship and critical for progress. When I was in Baku, I saw the impressive modernisation, of the country. President Aliyev told me today once again that he is committed to this modernisation in all fields.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Energy was another key point of our discussions. As you know, in January, President Aliyev and I signed a Joint Declaration on the Establishment of the Southern Gas Corridor, which is key for the security and diversification of our energy supply and demand.
Realizing this corridor is a joint strategic goal. Strategic for Azerbaijan, which would gain direct access to the world's largest, and I can say the most reliable energy-market - the European market; And strategic for the EU, as it would allow us to have an alternative route of supply from the Caspian basin. We agreed today to continue our work and make this dedicated Corridor a reality.
Finally, we touched upon developments in the neighbourhood region and the situation in the South Caucasus. I underlined the strong EU support for a peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. It is high time to make additional efforts to finalise agreement on the so-called "basic principles". Negotiations will resume in two days’ time to discuss the settlement of the conflict. I hope that the two parties will be able to move forward. As I have said before, the status quo is not an option.
So Mr President, thank you very much for your visit to Brussels. We have indeed a very ambitious shared agenda to work on. I look forward to continuing our cooperation and to bringing Azerbaijan and the EU even closer together.
I think we can be inspired by Azerbaijan's impressive victory in the Eurovision Song Contest last month, which was a first step in that regard. The fact that a majority of the Europeans voted for Azerbaijan in this European contest showed the sincere good will there is in Europe regarding Azerbaijan. I know that this will be a year in which the international spotlight will be in your country, and I am sure that you will use this time to show commitment to the modernisation of your country and also how committed you are on our European common values.