The European Union (EU) hopes for a progress in Visa Facilitation and Readmission Agreements between Azerbaijan and the EU which are expected to be signed at the Vilnius summit, EU Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy Stefan Fule said in his speech at the fifth meeting of Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum in Chisinau, the website of the EU said on Friday.
The EU will also monitor the upcoming presidential elections in Azerbaijan and Georgia," Fule said.
"Political reforms are central to the successful transformation towards deep democracy. Genuine cooperation between governments and civil society is necessary to establish independent judicial systems or introduce systemic anti-corruption measures, both of which are necessary elements for long-term political development and sustainable economic growth. Similarly, free and fair elections are a central element of participatory democracy," The European commissioner stressed.
In addition, the European Commission will continue to make significant funding opportunities available to support civil society's efforts in the Eastern Partnership countries to participate in the implementation of national reforms and democratic development, Fule stressed in his speech.
Relations between Azerbaijan and the EU are based on the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement which was signed in 1996 in Luxembourg and came into force in 1999.
In 2009, the EU countries' foreign ministers granted the European Commission a mandate to start negotiations on the making of bilateral agreements with Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia on association with the EU. These agreements will be a new practical instrument to replace the bilateral action plans.
Azerbaijan is also included in the EU Eastern Partnership program adopted by a joint Polish-Swedish initative approved at the EU summit in Brussels in 2008.
The purpose of the program is the convergence of the EU with Ukraine, Armenia, Moldova, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Belarus. The program provides for a significant increase in the level of political interaction, broad integration of the former Soviet republics into the EU economy, increasing the amount of financial assistance to these countries and strengthening energy security.