The European Union's (EU) Foreign Affairs Council has announced the launch of negotiations for a new comprehensive agreement with Azerbaijan in a press release published on November 14.
Azerbaijan and the EU signed an association agreement in 2010 but Baku has since lobbied to amend the document, claiming that it neglected to take into account the country's view on the future of bilateral relations. Baku took the initiative to draft a new agreement, and shared it with representatives of the European Commission at the May 2015 summit of the Eastern Partnership countries, of which Azerbaijan is a member.
The new agreement will “better take into account the objectives and challenges the EU and Azerbaijan face today”, the press release reads, and it marks the EU's willingness to adopt a differentiated approach with different countries in its Eastern neighbourhood. Unlike other Eastern Partnership countries, Azerbaijan has not expressed interest in joining the EU - or other economic and security blocs, for that matter. Rather, its interest in cooperation with the EU stems from wanting to promote its oil and gas exports to the bloc, and to finance a large gas transport and exploration scheme currently in the works.
In the past year, Baku has reacted strongly to criticism coming from Brussels over its crackdown on civil society. In September 2015, it withdrew from an EU parliamentary body, Euronest, and halted its cooperation with the European Parliament for a year after the latter passed a resolution criticising the regime for human rights violations.
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