interview to Prof. Dr. Alessandro Figus, Link Campus University, Rome, Italy, Chair of European Union Law- As the recent Eastern partnership summit in Vilnius showed, the South Caucasus is a region of interest of many powers. How would you estimate foreign policy of Azerbaijan in this regard?
EU Parliament recently deplores the fact that as the Vilnius Eastern Partnership Summit approaches, different types of pressure are escalating on Eastern Partnership countries; regards this pressure as unacceptable and calls on Russia to abstain from proceedings which are in clear violation of the Helsinki principles. This is important, but we take into account that not all members of the European Union are perfectly on this line, because even to have good relations with Russia is the key to Europe, especially Italy, my country We must look at the dialogue. The Vilnius Eastern Partnership Summit may be crucial for the future of the Eastern Partnership. It is fundamental for the European union to keep a long-term perspective in mind especially for Caucasian region. In particular the EU Parliament last October sent to Azerbaijan some recommendations , that are very important for the future EU-Azerbaijan Association Agreement. All is clear in European Parliament resolution of 23 October 2013 on the European Neighbourhood Policy: towards a strengthening of the partnership. The Baku Humanitarian Forum is an example of a search for dialogue, the presence of so many Europeans demonstrates a willingness to open discussion between scientists in order to identify common roads.- What do you think about the future relations between Baku and Brussels?
Azerbaijan and the European Union have maintained a positive relationship that are set within the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement of 1999, and the Plan of Action, 2006. It appears evident from the fact that Azerbaijan is currently part of the European Neighbourhood Policy and the Council of Europe, and is a large recipient of aid and infrastructure investment from the European Union. I seem banal to point out that the EU and Azerbaijan as central for securing future European energy supplies, as well as fundamental for helping the Azerbaijani economy and infrastructure to develop, The European Union and Azerbaijan are strong partners on energy policy, but it is clear that not everything can be reduced to the question of energy or oil. Azerbaijan commits itself to accelerate EU-Azerbaijan political association and economic integration. I think it is relevant to improve also the simplest things such as free trade, contacts or visa facilitation, but to do this we must work together sharing human rights and democratisation principles and to open discussion about it. Discussions can be an excellent strategy for enhancing public common policy motivation, in this case we need to work to improve European educational opportunities in Azerbaijan, including experience sharing in European education standards. Will be very important to improve cooperation between Azeri and EU universities, but also between enterprises and the Higher education world, in particular the Azeri institutions themselves may arrange internships and training in Europe for their students. cooperation includes policy dialogue, as joint conferences, seminars and workshops on issues related to the implementation of Bologna process requirements, exchange of researchers and students, etc. etc. - If talk on the another direction of progress in Azerbaijani policy, exactly on its neighbors, may we hope that ties between Baku and Tehran will be closer and tensions reduce after the new authorities in Iran ?
Azerbaijan has an ancient and historic cultural heritage, where there are Persian influences, Ottoman and Russian also, that depend on the struggles and achievements, agreements and concessions, and even succession of different religions, as well the “Soviet atheism”. In short, an area important for its role in the geopolitical and geo strategic but if we start to speak about the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic we know that it was established in 1918 but after only 2 years has been integrated into the Soviet Union. After the second World War the relations between the main world powers and in particular between the West and the East broke down with a repressive political policies, Azerbaijan became common part in the Eastern Bloc as one of the Republic of Soviet Union. The people closed inside this area. One example is today evident yet in Khanlar (in 1909 called Helenendorf) where there was the most important German colony in the Caucasus, and where lived German people. During the Soviet time it was impossible to return to Germany and the people of Germany had rebuilt German village in Azerbaijan. After the fall of Berlin wall the situation suddenly changed and the Azeri had the opportunity to have the autonomy Only in 1991 Azerbaijan regained independence, that time Azeri fought to conquer it. At this point it is difficult to understand where are the historical borders of Azerbaijan, also ideological and cultural and what is important, may be, in future relations with Iran. I recently published a book on Iran (The foreign policy of Iran and the nuclear issue, edited by Eurilink, Rome, 2013) in which I hope how important it is for Iran to change course and what the future of Iran is linked in complex regional strategies. Azerbaijan and Iran need to consolidate internationally and regime change in Iran will certainly encourage the dialogue. It is evident that the relations between Iran and Azerbaijan must be strategic and friendly, there is no other way than dialogue. - Italy has an example of positive conflict settlement related to the self-determination of national minorities. I mean the situation with South Tyrol. May that model be beneficial in case regarding Nagorno Karabakh?
Today South Tyrol, is part of Italy and it is a complex historical situation, an Austro-Italian dispute that was settled only in 1992 by an agreement between them, which was endorsed by South Tyrol's representative party, Sudtiroler Volkspartei (South Tyrolean People's Party - SVP). I find it difficult to export models and I considered South Tyrol a really Italian exception difficult to replicate in Nagorno-Karabakh, for a variety of historical and cultural reasons, first that the population of South Tyrol is highly multinational comprising the Austrians, the Italians and also the Ladins, practically South Tyrolean model is a partition model, but is not a really model for social integration. South Tyrolean is a model where is possible to have dialogue between the groups and where we have bilateral guarantee offered by the two states of Austria and Italy. Perhaps this could be only a starting point for a dialogue between groups, but the historical and cultural context is too different.- While talking namely about the Karabakh conflict, may the self-determination be justified if it was achieved by the military occupation, mass killing and ethnic cleansing?
The fact is that Nagorno-Karabakh has been in Soviet Union all inside Azerbaijan and that after the Nagorno-Karabakh War it is not diplomatically recognised by any other state, then is considered de jure a part of Azerbaijan, also a problem of territorial integrity. In the last October European Neighbourhood Policy was adopted in the plenary session of the European Parliament. The European Parliament mentioned that the occupation of one state's territories that is a participant of the "Eastern Partnership" program, by another state which also participates in this program, is a violation of the fundamental principles and objectives of the "Eastern Partnership". European union reaffirms clear the need to strive for the regional stability and security that are necessary to achieve the goals of the Eastern Partnership, also in the context of further integration with the EU; urges further efforts to progress towards the resolution of the territorial conflicts in Azerbaijan and Armenia; I agree completely with EU Parliament and in any case we need that Nagorno-Karabakh conflict should be resolved on the basis of the UN Security Council Resolutions. Practically we need today to speak not about Nagorno-Karabakh conflict but it is necessary to speak about Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict, in fact Eu Parliament recalls its position that the occupation by one country of the Eastern Partnership of the territory of another violates the fundamental principles and objectives of the Eastern Partnership and that the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict should comply with UN Security Council resolutions 822, 853, 874 and 884 of 1993 and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group Basic Principles, enshrined in the L’Aquila joint statement of 10 July 2009; there is no other way than the respect of this and to improve the dialogue, I repeat we have no other key.