“Eastern Partnership after 2 years: achievements and challenges” Conference held in Baku

On May 18th 2011, the National Platform of the EU EaP Civil Society Forum in Azerbaijan held an international conference entitled, “Eastern Partnership after 2 years –achievements and challenges”, with the financial support of the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Foundation. Experts from Azerbaijan as well as abroad, representatives of state instutions, civil societies and mass media actively participated in the one-day international conference. Vugar Bayramov, National Coordinator of the EU EaP CSF in Azerabaijan, gave the opening speech of the conference.

Ronald Kobia, head of the European Delegation to Baku, spoke about EU and Azerbaijan relations and the development of relations over the past years. The head of the department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs spoke about the attitude of the Azerbaijani government towards the EaP program and EU institutions. Rashad Huseynli, National Coordinator of FES in Azerbaijan spoke about the importance of the conference after expressing his warm greetings to the participants. Mr.Huseynli also mentioned that the forum gives its opinion about ongoing events, especially issues about the human rights in EaP member countries. This year in April, the CSF made a special declaration on the events going on in Azerbaijan and Belarus. The declaration has been presented to presidents of those countries, EU and also to most institutions.
In the second part of the conference, Antonella Valmorbida, Co-chairman of the EaP Civil Society Forum took the floor and spoke about the EaP Civil Society Forum, its working principles and suggestion packages. She also informed the participants about the next forum and suggestions package being prepared on the platform held within the framework of the forum.

Panel I, “Democracy, Good Governance, Stability, Border Management”, was moderated by Bulent Kanol, Director of the Management Centre of the Mediterranean in Cyprus. Sahib Mammadov who participated in the panel on behalf of the national platform evaluated the situation in this sphere. He expressed his dissatisfaction with the state of democray: “Although the democratic situation is not at the desired level, development is observed in the relations between civil society and the government.”
Farah Ajalova, employee of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Human Rights and Democratization Division, spoke about the works carried out to protect human rights by the government. In her speech, she also mentioned that the protection of human rights and stregthening European integration in this direction form one of the priorities of the Azerbaijan government.

Intigam Aliyev, chairman of the Legal Education Society spoke about dissatisfactions with human rights and democracy in the country: “ In Azerbaijan, the situation in democracy and human rights have worsened in comparison with previous years. Today the situation in this field is even worse than the situation in 1997, when Azerbaijan joined the European Commission.” Mr. Aliyev also talked about the imprisoned journalists and other activists, and how the right of freedom of assembly is violated.
Later, discussions were held on the panel and the participants exchanged their opinions on the topics.

Panel II, “Economic Integration, Convergence with EU Policies”, was moderated by Antonella Valmorbida. In the panel Vugar Bayramov spoke on behalf of the National Platform and talked about the relations and the projects implemented between Azerbaijan and EU. Today, one of the serious problems of European Integration, is connected with Azerabaijan’s membership to the World Trade Organization. Although Azerbaijan applied for membership in 1997, it is still a candidate country for membership. Membership doesn’t seem real in the near future.” According to Vugar Bayramov, it is not possible to sign a detailed free trade agreement with EU without membership of the WTO. “Suggestion of an association agreement by EU to Azerbaijan is not practically possible either.”

The employee of the Ministry of Economic Development, evaluated European Integration of Azerbaijan highly, and mentioned that Azerbaijan government fulfills its duties in this sphere.

Gubad Ibadoghlu, chairman of the Economic Research Center, stated that, although trade turnover between EU and Azerbaijan has increased, there are still problems. He cited corruption and monopoly as main obstacles impeding integration.
Panel III, “Energy, Climate Change and Environment” was moderated by Alimammad Nuriyev, chairman of the Constitution Research Foundation. Sahib Mammadov spoke on behalf of the National Platform, and talked about recent climate changes and their effect on Azerbaijan.

The employee of the Ministry of Ecology and National Reseources, Sahib Khalilov mentioned that climate changes still creates problems for Azerbaijan: “The government has a special program to eliminate climate change effects to Azerabaijan, and to protect the environment. This program is implemented successfully.”
Sabit Baghirov, chariman of the Center for Political and Economical Studies, touched issues on energy security.

Panel IV, “People-to-people contacts”, was moderated by Alimammad Nuriyev. Vusala Huseynli spoke on behalf of the National Platform and touched on youth problems.
Ilgar Hasanli, Coordinator of the National Committe on European Integration, mentioned that the integration level of Azerbaijan is low in comparison with other countries, especially neighboring countries. According to international reports, Azerabaijan is behind other countries. It is also connected with the existing problems in the region.

Further discussions were held at the conference.

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