25/7 Tass 354
BAKU, July 25 (Itar-Tass) —— The European Union’s Eastern Partnership programme should become more specific, Azerbaijani President Ilkham Aliyev said.
“Enough good intentions have been voiced, relevant political statements have been made, and the framework has been determined. I think the time has come for the Eastern Partnership programme to become more specific,” Aliyev said at a press conference after talks with Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski on Monday, July 25.
Both Europe and Azerbaijan should understand clearly the benefits of this programme for themselves and for their people. “We are waiting for concrete results from this programme so that ties between Europe and Azerbaijan became stronger, Azerbaijan came closer to Europe, and citizens of Azerbaijan felt the results of this programme in their lives,” the president said.
“Azerbaijan envisions itself as an equal partner of the European Union,” he said.
The Eastern Partnership (EaP) is the first comprehensive initiative introduced into the system of the European Union’s external relations, addressed to Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. The Eastern Partnership is designed to help the countries of Eastern Europe and South Caucasus with their approximation to and integration with the European Union. The EaP has injected a new quality into relations between the EU and the countries covered by the initiative through their gradual integration with the European Union.
The initiative was officially launched at the first Eastern Partnership summit in Prague on May 7, 2009, which adopted a Joint Declaration. It marked the successful establishment of the Partnership as an integral component of European Union foreign policy.
According to the Polish Foreign Ministry, the primary goals of the Eastern Partnership include the attainment of political association, establishment of bilateral deep and comprehensive free trade areas between the EU and partner countries, gradual steps towards visa liberalization, leading to the introduction of a visa-free regime, and the establishment of a structure of multilateral cooperation in the form of four thematic platforms (devoted, respectively, to democracy, good governance and stability; economic integration and convergence with EU policies; energy security; and contacts between people).
In line with the commitments of the EaP founding summit, the European Investment Bank set up the Eastern Partners Facility, with funds totalling 1.5 billion euros, earmarked for the financing of investments in EaP partner countries. This has supplemented the EIB’s previous external mandate for investments in Eastern Europe (3.7 billion euros).
The Joint Declaration has opened the Eastern Partnership to participation by a wide range of actors. A number of international organisations have accepted the invitation to engage in EaP cooperation. The Council of Europe wants to be involved in EaP anticorruption programs and in undertakings to improve the functioning of judiciary systems. The OSCE is planning cooperation to raise human rights protection standards. The EBRD and the OECD are involved in a program of support for small and medium-sized enterprises in Eastern partner countries. There are plans for the engagement of other international organisations and third countries in these EaP initiatives, the Foreign Ministry said.
On the bilateral level of the EaP, involving relations between the EU and the respective partner countries, efforts are being made to put in place association agreements and establish deep and comprehensive free trade areas. Work on an association agreement between the EU and Ukraine is close to conclusion. Negotiations on a similar agreement with Moldova as well as Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia began in 2010.
Moves are also being made to bring about gradual visa liberalization, leading to visa-free travel. Talks are underway with Armenia and Azerbaijan on possible forms of collaboration in this sphere.