Covering a three-year period, from January 2015 to the present, the report is the first of its kind regarding Azerbaijan under the revised European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), focusing on key developments and reform efforts, particularly in jointly agreed priority areas in the context of Azerbaijan's participation in the Eastern Partnership.
The report notes that Azerbaijan has remained committed to the promotion of multiculturalism and religious tolerance. Longer-term stability, security and prosperity in Azerbaijan will also depend on ensuring respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, where significant challenges remain including on freedom of expression and association and space for civil society to operate. The EU has also continued to fully support the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group Co-Chairs and confidence/peace building and conflict prevention activities in relation to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, where casualties in 2016 reached their highest level since the 1994 ceasefire agreement.
The report also features the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy & Vice-President of the European Commission Federica Mogherini's remarks on dynamics of development of the Azerbaijan-EU bilateral relations. "Since the European Union and Azerbaijan signed our last bilateral agreement - the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement – in 1996, a lot has changed. It is long overdue that the relationship we have on paper reflects the depth and strength of our partnership in reality, as well as giving us a good basis to develop our relationship further in the future.
We are making good progress in negotiations for a new agreement. Together we will look for more opportunities for young people to meet and to travel, possibilities for businesses to grow, to protect human rights and to facilitate energy relations, bringing real benefits to our respective citizens," she said.
Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, Johannes Hahn expressed the EU's readiness to support Azerbaijan's efforts towards the diversification of economy.
"We see Azerbaijan's efforts to enhance its resilience, in particular to diversify its economy, and we stand ready to support the emergence of new economic and social actors to help create a diverse, strong and inclusive society in Azerbaijan," Johannes Hahn said.