Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum

Silent or public diplomacy concerning the EU's approach to Azerbaijan?

Anar Mammadli, author of the comment

Anar Mammadli, chairman of the Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Centre in Azerbaijan and member of the EaP CSF Steering Committee, discusses the upcoming visit of the Azerbaijani president to Brussels on 21 June 2013 in a comment on European Voice.

While the conversations between the Azerbaijani President and the EU leadership are likely to touch upon possible pipeline connections and other energy issues as well as the EaP in general, the need to raise human rights issue at the meeting is evident. In addition, the pressure on the EU to publicly voice its concerns is raising, as Azerbaijan is currently among the Council of Europe member states with the highest number of political prisoners and activists that have fled the country.

However, public criticism of Azerbaijan's human rights record could trigger an anti-European campaign by the Azerbaijani government at a large scale, as it has already happened on a smaller scale following critical resolutions of the European Parliament. This seems to be one of the main reasons, why European diplomats so far have voiced their concerns mostly privately. However, the avoidance of public statements supporting human rights and democracy in Azerbaijan might have a much graver consequence: the loss of confidence in Europe by the Azerbaijani society.

The recent events in Turkey, a country with which Baku has close economic, ethnic and cultural ties, could further strengthen Aliyev's conviction to use brutal force against peaceful demonstrations. This makes it all the more important for EU leaders to raise the issue of human rights during their meeting with President Aliyev.

The full comment is also available here.

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