Baku is keen on deepening relations with the European Union, Azerbaijan’s Economy Minister Shahin Mustafayev said while addressing a meeting with Kestutis Jankauskas, the newly appointed head of the European Union delegation to Azerbaijan, on October 3.
“Azerbaijan is interested in expanding cooperation with the EU countries in the priority area – the non-oil sector,” Mustafayev said, noting that the EU is Azerbaijan’s main trading partner.
The EU, which accounts for nearly 51 percent of Azerbaijan’s trade turnover, sees Azerbaijan as a potential market for its exports of heavy machinery and transportation equipment. For its part, Azerbaijan has supplied the EU with non-renewable energy resources, which dominate the country’s total exports to the EU countries. Despite the fact that energy is a key sector in bilateral relations, Baku is set at diversifying its economy.
“Over the past ten years, the share of the EU countries in the total volume of investments in the country’s fixed capital amounted to 46 percent, including 35 percent in direct investments in the non-oil sector,” Mustafayev said.
Over 1,300 companies from EU countries operate in Azerbaijan, with 400 coming from the UK, currently the EU’s second-largest economy. Along with the energy sector, London and Baku enjoys joint cooperation in realms of education, trade, tourism, ICT, as well as other infrastructure and transit projects.
EU’s third-largest economy, France, participates in joint projects related to urban transportation, infrastructure and the environment. France also helps to support Azerbaijan’s space industry. In 2013, Azerbaijan’s first telecommunication satellite, known as Azerspace-1, was launched from the French Guiana by the French Arianespace company.
Azerbaijan and EU countries also cooperate within the framework of the Technical Assistance and Information Exchange program, which supports Azerbaijan’s public administration by way of approximation, application and enforcement of EU legislation as well as sharing EU best practices. Other programs that contribute to Azerbaijan’s legislative and capacity building development include Twinning and SIGMA, meant to strengthen public governance and socio-economic development. Within the framework of these instruments, Azerbaijan has received financial aid worth $680 million since 1992.
Azerbaijan’s official relationship is governed by a Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, first signed in 1996 and which provides a framework for political dialogue, economic and trade relations, and a basis for legislative, economic, social, financial, civil, scientific, technological and cultural cooperation. Both sides are keen to renew the agreement, whose new version will be based on principles endorsed in the 2015 review of the European Neighborhood Policy. Negotiations are currently being worked out.
“Expanding cooperation with the European Union is a good message, both for Azerbaijan and the region,” Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev said in Brussels on February 6, one day before negotiations for a new agreement began. “The European Union is a reliable friend and partner for Azerbaijan.”