Variations on the theme of ‘senior and younger brother’ are not acceptable for Baku
The outgoing year was marked by a thaw in relations between Baku and Brussels, which began after the February visit of President Ilham Aliyev to the EU capital. On April 25, 2017, a new stage of the negotiations between Azerbaijan and the European Union started on the conclusion of a comprehensive agreement, which should replace the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement.
Baku's consent to discuss the issue of signing does not at all mean serious transformations of the country's foreign policy. Azerbaijan is still not ready to say goodbye to its dosed position in foreign policy and to act in accordance with imposed dictate from outside. The European Union is also well aware of this due to the experience of the previous years. In this respect, the interaction of Azerbaijan with the EU, which has experienced the intervals of both flourishing and crisis, is qualitatively different from that of Brussels with other member countries of the Eastern Partnership program.
We can say that Azerbaijan is the most obstinate partner of the European Union, in which the latter is in great need at the same time. And even the new agreement will not become an instrument for ‘taming’ Baku in the hands of Brussels, as it adheres to a clear, independent policy. The complexities of the relationship between Azerbaijan and the EU and the confident position of our country have caused the delay in the agreement negotiation process, but analysts say that the document has every chance of being signed next year.
According to the former Foreign Minister of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Tofig Zulfugarov, Azerbaijan sees the relations with the European Union as a road with a bilateral movement, where everyone finds positive elements for themselves, and variations on the topic of ‘senior and younger brother’ are not acceptable. The basis for such a philosophy of relations is that Azerbaijan, unlike the other members of the Eastern Partnership, is a self-sufficient state, it has significant foreign exchange resources for investment, it does not depend on someone like other countries that are considering the Eastern Partnership program as an opportunity to receive assistance from donors. "Based on this philosophy, Azerbaijan is trying to build the partnership relations with the European Union on the basis of the principles of equality and, most importantly for us, to secure that the EU, as well as its members on a bilateral basis, observe and support strictly the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Azerbaijan as a basic principle for the relations. This scheme led to the fact that Azerbaijan has agreed to the development of the agreement. I am confident that the document will be signed, " Novosti-Azerbaijan’s interlocutor said.
Zulfugarov noted that the European politicians often feel as advisers for any reason and for everyone. Azerbaijan is very cautious about this kind of external advice, not only from the European Union, and therefore it is interested in building relations evolutionarily, gradually and in the light of its interests. "Baku would prefer objective, balanced, and not politicized criticism increasing dependence on the urgency of the pressure, and Azerbaijan has always adequately responded to these pressures, and this has led to the formation of a new trend in building the partnership relations. I think the realistic politicians of the European Union will understand that it is better to negotiate with Azerbaijan than to pressure it, " the former Foreign Minister stressed. Speaking about the balanced foreign policy pursued by Baku without geopolitical landmarks, Zulfugarov said that one-sided orientation toward someone reduces significantly the opportunities for Baku's maneuver. Therefore, an equal partnership, diversified relations with various centers of political and economic forces are the guarantee of Azerbaijan's independent policy in the future.
Another former diplomat Fikret Sadikhov, commenting on the issue for Novosti-Azerbaijan, noted that the document (The Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement with the EU ) was rejected repeatedly by Azerbaijan, because the country, the part of which is occupied, should take into account a number of factors when signing such documents, and to direct the opposite side to an understanding of these subtleties. According to him, in 2018, due to the diplomatic activity of the Azerbaijani side, the document can be signed taking into account the interests of Baku and the inclusion of a number of points related to the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. "Brussels tries to hinder sometimes, delays the adoption of these points and tries to realize its own interests, it does not notice the problems that Azerbaijan faces. Our task is to draw the attention of the EU to this - the fact that Azerbaijan will not go in the wake of political values, which are heard regularly in Brussels. We can achieve the set goals due to the intensive work, " the agency’s interlocutor is sure. Sadikhov believes that in the situation in which the European Union finds itself - problems with migrants, Brexit, separatism, a shattered situation as a whole - it should be interested in Azerbaijan, satisfying our needs and taking into account our interests.
"For Europe, which does not have hydrocarbon deposits and remains in a certain confrontation with Russia, Azerbaijan is valuable in terms of the transport and communication projects and ensuring energy security. In the end, the agreement with the European Union is not an indulgence or security letter. We are developing, have reached very many high indicators in the social and economic sphere, so if the EU wants to ensure its energy security, it must make compromises and understand the problems that Azerbaijan faces," the former diplomat stressed. According to him, any agreement takes into account the positions of signatories, so there can be no question of dictate. "In principle, there should not be winners or losers, in this case, we are talking about the mutually beneficial cooperation, we have always spoken about it. We do not need dictates, sermons, moralizations from Brussels, if they take these issues aside, the agreement should be beneficial for Baku, " Sadikhov concluded.