David Lidington MP, UK Minister for Europe, has announced the support of the UK Government for closer ties between the EU and Azerbaijan. Longstanding UK–Azerbaijani relations have developed over the past 20 years, and currently the UK is responsible for over 50 per cent of all foreign direct investment (FDI) in the country. The country has always been westward-facing, and the ruling New Azerbaijan Party indicated its wish to join the European People’s Party (EPP), which supports the positions of Christian democracy and liberal conservatism.
Mr Lidington revealed that the UK Government had opted ‘in’ on Council of Europe decisions on Protocol and Co-operation Agreements between the European Communities and their Member States, and between the European Union (EU) and Azerbaijan for Framework Agreements on the country’s future participation in EU programmes. In the first instance, this will see Azerbaijan participate in the Fiscalis 2020 Union and Customs 2020 Union action programmes, which facilitate information and expertise exchange regarding the development of IT-based taxation and customs systems.
The statement went on to acknowledge: “Azerbaijan and the wider South Caucasus region are of strategic importance to the UK and the EU. The UK is the largest foreign direct investor in what is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. Continued stability in this region is key for the UK’s prosperity and energy security goals, and it is therefore in our interests to promote EU–Azerbaijani engagement.
“Azerbaijan’s access to EU programmes provides an opportunity for closer engagement with the EU and to promote continued reforms towards European standards. More broadly, the UK remains a strong supporter of Azerbaijan’s progression towards closer ties with the EU as part of our longstanding support for strengthened ties in the Eastern Neighbourhood region.”