The Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PSA) has laid the legal basis of relations between Azerbaijan and the European Union (EU). This document, signed on 22 April 1996 in Luxembourg, went into effect on 1 July 1999 following the ratification by all signatory states. The PES has given a new impetus to the relations between Azerbaijan and the EU, providing appropriate mechanisms to strengthen co-operation. The agreement covers co-operation on a wide range of issues including political dialogue, human rights, trade, investment, economic, legislative, cultural and others. In the years to come, our country's entry into the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP) has been an important step forward in bilateral cooperation. Today Azerbaijan cooperates with the EU in the field of transport and energy, human rights and democratization. At the same time, our country participates in the EU Eastern Partnership initiative. At present, steps are being taken to bring the EU-Azerbaijan relations to a higher level and to develop the full potential of the bilateral relations through a new bilateral agreement.
As a continuation of all these measures, a delegation of the Council of Europe's Political and Security Committee, including EU accredited ambassadors in Brussels, visited Baku on 4 October. President Ilham Aliyev also received European guests as part of the trip. Reminding that Azerbaijan is a relatively young independent state, the head of state pointed out that serious progress has been achieved in various spheres in the last 26 years. He said that today Azerbaijan is a stable, modern, developing country with a clear vision for the future. He spoke about our development and our problems, especially the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. He noted that despite the conflict, destruction and economic difficulties, Azerbaijan has managed to make progress. The economic indicators of Azerbaijan are reflected in the assessment carried out by international organizations such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. According to him, Azerbaijan ranks 35th in the global competitiveness index of the economy in the latest report on the competitiveness of the economy, published by Davos Economic Forum.
President Ilham Aliyev said Azerbaijan is known as a country with great energy resources. He noted that investments are being made to transport these resources to world markets. According to him, today Azerbaijani oil accounts for 25-30 percent of the energy balance of some countries of the European Union member states. Thus, Azerbaijan plays a key role in ensuring the energy security of many countries. He reminded that recently a new mega-oil contract has been signed with the consortium of leading international energy companies. The head of state said that this contract will allow Azerbaijan to develop our giant oil fields by 2050, and ten billion dollars will be invested to maintain a stable oil production profile. The Azerbaijani leader also touched upon other issues related to our cooperation with the EU. He said he had a very successful visit to Brussels this February. He said that the day after the visit, the official talks between the European Union and Azerbaijan on the new agreement kicked off. The President said that the European heritage has always existed in Azerbaijan, and now the country hopes for a successful development of relations with the European Union, with the new agreement, which will cover all important issues such as security, political development, trade, energy, transport and multiculturalism: "By the way, we did not want to waste time , we actively worked in the bilateral format with the EU member countries and now have, with more than a third of the EU member states in the form of a strategic partnership, either in the form of an agreement or a declaration. Thus, we are considered as strategic partners for more than a third of the EU member states. I think this is a good basis for the future cooperation between the European Union and Azerbaijan and, as I have already mentioned, we have many expectations from my successful visit to Brussels and the results were very positive ".
President Ilham Aliyev stated that Azerbaijan, along with playing the role of geographical bridge between Europe and the Muslim world, plays a cultural and, to some extent, political bridge role. The head of state said that the development of the energy sector in Azerbaijan is not limited to the borders of the borders of our development. Regarding our energy security, the President noted that all work has been done in this area and Azerbaijan is exporting oil, gas and electricity in various directions. Regarding guaranteeing freedoms and the development of democracy in Azerbaijan, President Ilham Aliyev said that Azerbaijan is subject to the harshest attacks by foreign media: "Some circles who do not like our development or who want to rule over Azerbaijan try to ignore our country. They try to portray us as a totalitarian, authoritarian country, a country where rights are violated and freedoms are violated. This is a trend. This trend has accompanied my government since the day I was elected president. There are various reasons for this. One of them is the Armenian lobby and diaspora, which has great political, social and media roots in the West. Most of the slander is done by them but they are not alone. There may also be other factors, but the main thing is that there is a slander and smear campaign directed against us. But if you look closely, you see that Azerbaijan is a democratic country, we have been a member of the Council of Europe since 2001, and our legislation is 100% compliant with European standards ".
President stated that all freedoms were ensured in Azerbaijan, more than 70 percent of our population was an internet user, and the state invests in the construction of broadband internet in every city and town. The head of state reiterated that there can be no talk of restricting the freedom of expression in Azerbaijan and there is no such intention: "Another freedom is freedom of assembly. This freedom is guaranteed, no restrictions apply, and the opposition regularly holds rallies. The presence of about one thousand people in those rallies is a different issue. These people are mostly party members and their relatives. That is, these rallies do not involve ordinary citizens, and we have no fault here. These rallies are held in the center of the city, near the subway station, there is no restriction, and the last such rally took place a week ago. Thus, there is no intention or action to restrict any freedom. As for arrests, they occur in every country. As to the police brutality, you can't observe it in Azerbaijan because it does not. Sometimes we see police violence in the countries that you represent. However, nobody accuses you of lacking democracy or violence. We well remember the scenes of dogs attacking peaceful protesters. We watch on TV the use of horses and batons against protesters. This is to say, the approach should be objective and uniform. Azerbaijan should not be berated for things we haven't done. At the same time, we should not be criticized for the steps we that that are also taken by the countries which are considered symbols of democracy. But, of course, human rights and democratic development issues will be part of our agreement with the European Commission".
Referring to issue of Azerbaijan's removal from the Council of Europe, the head of state said that no Azerbaijani official has expressed such an opinion. Reminding that the media is free in our country, President Ilham Aliyev said that the public opinion on the Council of Europe is not so positive: "There are several reasons for this. First, when we became a member of this organization, our expectation was that it would help us resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. But the Council of Europe failed in this respect, it did not happen and would not happen. Second, at the beginning of our membership, I was the first head of our delegation. At that time I was a member of the Azerbaijani parliament and in 2001-2003 I was the head of the Azerbaijani delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. That is to say, I know what kind of organization it is and I know their attitude towards Azerbaijan. The relationship was quite negative. We have joined the organization on the same day as Armenia and we compared the positive attitude towards Armenia with the sharp negative attitude towards Azerbaijan. Armenia is always protected by the lobbyist groups in PACE, a country where the elections are constantly falsified, politicians are killed in parliament, terrorism is accepted at the official level of politics, a country which occupied the territory of another state, and perpetuated war crimes against millions of people and Azerbaijan was always attacked".
President Ilham Aliyev regretfully noted that some European Council officials have recently attacked Azerbaijan: "They threaten us with depriving us of membership and imposing sanctions on us. Of course, our politicians, parliamentarians, journalists and people had an adequate reaction to these threats. First, they must ensure that more than 10,000 European Human Rights Court decisions are made in relation to member states. Then, they can talk about Azerbaijan's removal or sanctions. If it were to happen, this would be the triumph of double standards. At a time when 10,000 decisions of the European Court have not been executed for various reasons, Azerbaijan implements those decisions, pays compensation when necessary and, as a whole, acts quite constructive. Thus, the purposeful attack against Azerbaijan disappoints us and some people begin to question what we are even doing in that organization. We must work constructively so that such ideas do not prevail. I think that one of these ways is to strengthen our relations with the European Commission and the European Union. That's our priority".
President Ilham Aliyev has noted that Azerbaijan has been a member of the Council of Europe for 16 years. He noted sincerely and in a friendly manner that if Azerbaijan leaves the Council of Europe, nobody will pay care: "Nothing in our lives will change, and it will not affect us in any way, it won't make us rich or poor. Human rights and democracy will also be our focus. We do not say this to please the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, which is at the center of the baseless attack on Azerbaijan. We are doing this to develop our country".