The Business Year

Å tefan Füle

AZERBAIJAN - Diplomacy

Step Forward

Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbor, European Union


Å tefan Füle began his professional life as a Desk Officer at the UN Department of Foreign Affairs in the Czechoslovak Federative Republic in 1987, and worked with the UN in various positions until 1996, when he became a Director in the Security Policy Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic. After later working in Ambassadorial roles he then went on to be Permanent Representative of the Czech Republic to NATO between 2005 and 2009. He served briefly as the Minister of European Affairs in the Czech Republic before becoming European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighborhood Policy in 2010.

During your visit to Baku in May 2013 you mentioned that the cooperation between the EU and Azerbaijan is of strategic importance. In addition to energy, what are the priorities […]

During your visit to Baku in May 2013 you mentioned that the cooperation between the EU and Azerbaijan is of strategic importance. In addition to energy, what are the priorities of bilateral relations?

The engagement of Azerbaijan with the EU is based on the European Neighborhood Policy and on the Eastern Partnership. The current legal framework for bilateral relations is still the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement of 1999 where our focus is on democratization, economic development, and cooperation in a number of important fields including democracy, the principles of international law, and human rights. We have an interest in developing this legal framework with the conclusion of an Association Agreement. These negotiations need time, and at this stage cannot include an agreement on a comprehensive free trade area, since Azerbaijan is not yet a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), which is clearly a shared strategic interest. A reinforced and updated legal framework in our relations would also contribute to strengthening democracy and the protection of human rights, which in light of the developments of the recent past also merit the distinction of a strategic interest. Given Azerbaijan’s geographical location and the clear interest expressed by Azerbaijan in its efforts to promote tourism and develop business beyond energy, we also see a strategic interest in continuing the negotiations on an aviation agreement or promoting the construction of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway, the development of the new Baku International Sea Port at Alat, and the realization of the Silk Wind project, and the latter foresees the creation of a container block train route with the advanced electronic exchange of information, the simplification of customs and border-crossing procedures, and the reduction of transit time and travel time in the TRACECA transport corridor.

What are your views on the EU’s contribution to finding a peaceful and speedy solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict?

The EU is fully committed to supporting the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement process. Only a peaceful, negotiated settlement can allow the entire region to move toward a secure and prosperous future and can help unleash the full potential of the South Caucasus region as a gateway between Europe and Asia. The EU is concerned about the lack of tangible progress on the settlement of this conflict, which remains one of the top priorities for the EU’s foreign policy. In this context, we welcomed the meeting of the President of Armenia and the President of Azerbaijan in Vienna on November 19, 2013, and commended the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs for their efforts in facilitating the resumption of top-level meetings. It was encouraging that the Presidents agreed to advance negotiations and meet again in the months ahead. The EU has called upon Armenia and Azerbaijan to step up their efforts toward agreement on the Madrid Principles as a basis for peace, in accordance with the commitments undertaken by the Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan within the Minsk Group. In relation to this, we have reiterated our full support for the work of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs and their proposals for the peaceful resolution of the conflict on the basis of the principles of the non-use or threat of force, territorial integrity, equal rights, and the self-determination of peoples, as is reflected in joint statements made by the Presidents of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chair countries. The Minsk process would require maintaining an environment conducive to progress. Concerned about the escalation of tension due to confrontational rhetoric and serious incidents along the Line of Contact and along the international border between the two countries, the EU has urged both sides to respect the ceasefire, fulfill their commitments made in the framework of the Minsk Group, and refrain from actions and statements that could heighten tension and undermine the peace process.



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