The dynamics of geopolitical processes is rapidly developing on a global scale. There are serous problems that give rise to concern. Outlook for cooperation between the European Union and the young nations, which gained their independence, becomes topical in this context. It is worth pondering over the fate of relations between Azerbaijan and this organization. The processes show that Baku is persistent in developing equal partnership relations with the EU. Preparation of the new cooperation program arouses interest in this regard. We may think over changes the development of Azerbaijan-EU relations will bring about in the South Caucasus.
Brussels-Baku line: major milestones of cooperation
It all gives grounds to claim that there is a common trend in the foreign policy of the leading western nations. There are new elements in the geopolitical policy of the European Union. It is better to approach to the EU-Azerbaijan relations in the aspect of nuances of global geopolitical trends applied to the foreign policy of European nations.
First and foremost, we want to note that relations between the European Union and Azerbaijan marked several stages (see, for example: 7, 9, 10). They span 1992-1998, 1999-2003, 2004-2008, 2008-2013. Each of these stages has its own content, goal and methods of implementing its programs. 2014 marks a new stage.
Major technical programs were developed for Azerbaijan in the first stage (1992-1998). The country received different sorts of technical and financial assistance. Among them are the Technical Aid to the Commonwealth of Independent States (TACIS), Transport Corridor Europe-Caucasus-Asia (TRACECA) and Agreement on Partnership and Cooperation. These programs helped to implement economic reforms in Azerbaijan, support democracy and human rights etc.
This stage aimed at upgrading Azerbaijan to a higher level in social, economic, energy, transportation and cultural fields. The European Union in a sense “tested” how successful the state system will be in the post-soviet countries. The financial and technical aid was targeted. The first stage simultaneously envisaged the creation of a reliable transportation corridor between Europe and Caucasus and Central Asia. Stability was ensured and economic reforms were carried out in this stage in Azerbaijan.
The second stage covers 1999-2003 and begins with the Agreement on Partnership and Cooperation going into force. The document constitutes the legal basis of relationship between the parties. It determined development of political dialogue, cooperation in human rights, trade, investments, culture etc as one of the major aims (see: 7). This stage saw the cooperation elevated to a new level. The European Union and Azerbaijan developed relations as equal partners.
Political aspects and security issues were at the forefront of the EU`s activity in this period. To this end, the organization split countries into three pools. The first pool included countries meeting the EU membership requirements, the second pool involved promising candidates, while the third one – “close neighbors” (see: 10). The EU virtually treats its partners differentially. Further processes showed that it is a wrong strategy. The experience of EU-Azerbaijan relations stipulated the need for considering some nuances. It became even more evident in the third and fourth stages of cooperation.
As 10 more countries joined the EU in 2004, the organization embarked on the European Neighborhood Policy. This document had to virtually upgrade cooperation with neighboring countries. The third stage for Azerbaijan also begins in 2004 and continues until 2008. Inthis stage, the EU realized ineffectiveness of splitting countries with which the organization cooperated. Classifying the countries as those who may and may not be an EU member ended up an artificial idea in reality. The EU began to take into account the fact that each of them can potentially join the organization.
This stage pursued a goal of deepening integration with the EU by carrying out concerted political, administrative and economic reforms. The priority was placed on ensuring democracy, human rights and sustainable development. At the same time, the third stage paid a special attention to ensuring energy security. Azerbaijan made its contribution to settlement of these goals as an active participant of some international projects. Baku played a special role in organizing intercultural and interreligious dialogue. It was all accompanied by the heavy growth of economic relations and trade turnover with the EU countries.
Adoption of the EU`s Eastern Partnership initiative in 2009 was followed another stage in development of relations with Azerbaijan. It spans 2009-2013. Its main feature is introduction of a single format of cooperation with the countries involved in the Eastern partnership program. The major goal is to deepen cooperation towards signing of association agreements, creation of free trade zones, gradual visa liberalization and strengthening of the EU`s energy security. This stage saw a serious progress in EU-Azerbaijan relationship. The cooperation between the parties was elevated to a new level almost in all directions. Thus, Azerbaijan put forward large-scale initiatives related to the energy security. Among them are TANAP and TAP. Our country plans to invest $50 billion into these energy projects. It undertakes concrete steps in this direction. The EU is currently the major partner of Azerbaijan in trade and economy. In some concrete fields, the EU even overtook USA, Turkey and Russia.
In comparison with previous steps, the fourth step will be remembered with dramatic processes mainly. The point is that events having a serious effect on the global geopolitics have taken place in recent years. The tense geopolitical struggle around Ukraine should be noted first of all. The association membership encountered problems because of that. Azerbaijan has its own position on the issue.
New strategy: strategic modernization in cooperation model
President Ilham Aliyev noted that there is no accurate understanding of the “associative membership”. More specifically, the associative membership is not in line with the equal partnership principle. On the other hand, Ilham Aliyev openly stated that “it is necessary to go for any integration processes in order to gain additional advantage” (see: 10).
As part of the associative membership, this aspect of a matter remains unclear. For this reason, Azerbaijan suggested the other model of cooperation. According to President Ilham Aliyev, the program envisaging strategic cooperation would be more interesting. The Azerbaijani leader’s proposal was accepted by the EU and some sources say the organization is developing the partnership for modernization program (see 10).
It is virtually about a new format of cooperation. The European Union has to make qualitatively new modifications to the European Cooperation Policy. Equal cooperation providing for a strategic integration is seen as a priority for Azerbaijan as a regional leader. It includes such issues as political reforms and adaptation to the EU; cooperation and consultation on security, trade and business climate; energy, environment and transport, contacts among people.
On the one hand, Azerbaijan raises modernization in all fields to a new level and, on the other hand, it pursues foreign policy meeting rapidly changing dynamics of the global geopolitics. Official Baku implements this process completely independently. We believe that this principle constitutes the foundation of the Azerbaijan’s policy towards the EU in this stage. In this vein, we can agree with the following thought, “Geographical, oil and geopolitical factors”, which promise favorable opportunities for Azerbaijan but are a source of serous threat, were skillfully coordinated and realized on the basis of a single strategy in a mutually complementary form, developed for long-time period and for promising future. As time passes by, its fruits are more clearly seen in the successes gained by our country in an international arena and in its intensive development” (see: 8).
Official Baku`s preference for a model of cooperation with the EU in the context of strategic modernization is of serious significance in terms of global geopolitical dynamics. It is obvious in the context of the content of geopolitical trends in the world briefly analyzed by us above. It is extremely risky to come under influence of any organization in a complex geopolitical environment, which is full of contradictions. On the other hand, such a choice cannot bear fruits in the light of the savage battle great powers fight against each other. It is necessary to build a successful foreign policy to fend off external influences on the country, which regained its independence. It is only Azerbaijan that coped with this task.
For this reason, a strategic modernization model may become another stage in relations between Azerbaijan and the EU. Other countries may adopt this model as an example too since present geopolitical trends in the world prove that an optimal model of ensuring security in the energy, economic, transport, cultural fields of cooperation is one of the most important goals. And Azerbaijan undertook first steps in this direction.
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