Dirk Schuebel: The European Commission, by contributing financially to facilitate the expression of such opinions, does not in any way align itself with the opinions expressed
Head of the Eastern Partnership Bilateral Division in the European External Action Service (EEAS) Dirk Schuebel’s interview to APA
– We observe attacks by some NGOs against Azerbaijan with the support of European Institutions on the directions for which Azerbaijan has always been praised: energy, tolerance and multiculturalism and sport appreciate as a purposeful campaign against Azerbaijan. What is the official position of EEAS on this matter?
– There is no campaign whatsoever against Azerbaijan with the support of European Institutions. The EU is interested in developing relations with Azerbaijan in a mutually beneficial way. This concerns in particular our very successful cooperation in the energy sector, which will hopefully in a few years be crowned by the opening of the Southern Gas Corridor.
Very significant investments are being made by Azerbaijani and international European companies to make this happen. The area of mobility is another example of our positive cooperation. Both the Visa Facilitation and Readmission Agreements and the Mobility Partnership are successfully being implemented contributing to easier short-term travel and encouraging legal migration in both directions.
The EU also places emphasis on respect for the commitments we have both taken, including human rights and fundamental freedoms on which tolerance and respect for diversity are based. The EU Institutions are also in favor of dialogue, and are looking forward to the continuation of the dialogue in all areas of common concern, including human rights, with Azerbaijan under our Partnership and Cooperation Agreement and the Eastern Partnership Action Plan. We believe that only through dialogue can we can maintain trust and understanding in our bilateral relations.
– On 5 May 2015, some MEPs and NGOs, including a so called No TAP and Platform One movements organized a discussion against Southern Gas Corridor. The organizers say, the event was organized by the financial assistance from the European Commission. Anti TAP meeting organized in Rome last September was also sponsored by EU. What is the Commission real position on this project and how do they appreciate Azerbaijan’s role in energy supplies to Europe?
– As mentioned before, the EU is supporting the implementation of the Southern Gas Corridor as a priority project. The EU is expressing this support by means of high level dialogue and inter-governmental accords with the participating states and close contact with the companies of the SGC. The role of Azerbaijan in the future energy supply of Europe is highly appreciated and of great importance for the security and the diversification of the EU’s energy supplies. Of course, as every major infrastructure project, the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline as part of the SGC is also debated in public and by the public.
The EU as an organization of open and pluralistic societies respects the freedom of expression and considers the opinion of others equally relevant for an informed discussion on the SGC. It must be stressed that the European Commission, by contributing financially to facilitate the expression of such opinions, does not in any way align itself with the opinions expressed.
– On 5 May 2015, some political groups in EP organized yet another event on Azerbaijan. This time on the issue of minority rights in the country without representatives of minorities living in Azerbaijan. What is EEAS think about Azerbaijan as a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural tolerant and vibrant society in the region? How do EEAS and the Commission explain a rather unfriendly approach by some through political insinuations against Azerbaijan?
– Maintaining and developing a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic society is an important contribution to peace, security and prosperity in any country. Assuring the freedom of expression and association would be an important further contribution to safeguarding Azerbaijan’s multi-ethnic and multi-cultural character.
– On the eve of the Baku – 2015, first ever European Games to be held in Azerbaijan on 12-28 June 2015, some events organized by European Institutions under different titles but afterwards turned to an event against European Games. On the other hand, there was no statement issued by the EU regarding the first-ever European Games to be held in Azerbaijan. What is the official position of EEAS on this matter? Would EU support Azerbaijan in positioning itself in not only oil and gas, but also in the field where people, tourists, sportswomen and sportsmen peacefully compete and cooperate for common sports spirit in Europe?
– The European Games are a landmark event, the first of its kind. The organization of high profile events such as these increases possibilities for people from different communities to meet; it also increases the visibility of the country which has the honor to host them. Naturally, this visibility fosters a public debate in participating states on Azerbaijan and its policies. This is a natural aspect of a pluralistic society.