IN THE SPOTLIGHT
EU Commissioner Štefan Füle reaffirms commitment to civil society in Azerbaijan
Civil Society representatives in Azerbaijan met with EU commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, Stefan Füle, in a Baku meeting on Monday 8 September, which re-affirmed the EU’s commitment to promoting democracy and human rights in the country.
The meeting in Baku was also addressed by Co-Chair of the Steering Committee of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum (EaP CSF), Vugar Bayramov, who brought attention to regional security, human rights and democracy in the Eastern neighbourhood.
Commissioner Füle announced that the European Commission has adopted a new programme to support civil society in Azerbaijan. The package, disbursed by the European Neighourhood Instrument (ENI), includes €3 million in funds that will help to build the capacity of civil society through targeted programmes including, but not limited to, seminars, conferences, advocacy, legal aid and research.
The priority areas of the program include freedom of expression, pluralism of media, electoral support in a bid to promote reforms and accountability in the country.
EU support comes amid an intensified government campaign on the part of Azerbaijan’s government to restrict civil society. This campaign has been characterized by widespread imprisonment of civil society activists, including active EaP CSF Members Rasul Jafarov and Annar Mammadli.
“The EU admires your dedication despite the restrictions you are facing. We are watching closely the situation and have repeatedly expressed our concern at the changes to NGO legislation, as well as the arrests and sentencing of so many prominent members of civil society.” said Štefan Füle in a statement to the European Commission.