“Visit the Political Opposition When Visiting Baku!”

April 11th, 2012   Azerbaijan | News | Theme: Democracy for Azerbaijan (sticky)

It is disturbing that President Aliyev seems to have changed his mind in regards to Azerbaijan’s cooperation with the EU. Earlier he talked about a wish to become members of the EU in the future. Today he wants his country to be an ally of the EU. It looks like he wants to have the advantages of geopolitically belonging to the West but not wanting to abandon the “privileges” of a dictatorship”, said MEP Gunnar Hökmark who recently visited Baku as chairman of the Policy Committee of Euronests Parliamentary Assembly.

He explains that the Azerbaijani government doesn’t want to comply with the requirements the EU imposes on a democracy.

Euronest is a partnership between the EU and the countries of the Eastern Partnership (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine; Belarus is suspended from participating).

Gunnar Hökmark explains that Azerbaijan certainly is a dictatorship, but not such a tough one as the Belarus dictatorship. Azerbaijan, is “moving in the right direction” he says, adding that still the regime can be ruthless. Which it has demonstrated when properties in Baku have been expropriated to make way for the Eurovision Song Contest.

During his visit to Baku Gunnar Hökmark met with the political opposition, i.e. National Independence Party of Azerbaijan, NIPA, which is Hjalmarson Foundation’s partner in the country. He had meetings with a group from the NIPA’s Youth League as well as the party leadership.

“It is important that European politicians visiting Azerbaijan also meet the democratic opposition. Partly because we need to learn from them about the conditions in the country and partly because they need our support. It is also important that the government realizes that we listen to the opposition. This helps protecting individuals that are critical to the regime.

Gunnar Hökmark believes that it is of great importance that visiting politicians also develop relations with a wide range of organizations in civil society. His own schedule in Baku included a visit to the Baku Nobel Oil Club.

“All contacts are of importance to strengthen civil society and link the [Azeri] industry into the broader European perspective. This enhances the forces that can act as a counter balance to President Alyiev’s regime.”

Eurovision Song Contest will be held in Baku in late May. How will the contest influence the developments in Azerbaijan?

“We will not know until afterwards. Though, I believe that it will be mostly positive. It is quite clear that the regime is using the contest to their advantage in the propaganda for the country and its leadership. Stil,l being in the lime light also means that Azerbaijan will have to live up to greater demands [of performance]”, says Gunnar Hökmark who is convinced that if the Azerbaijani government succeed in its propaganda, to convince Europe that it is just an imperfect democracy, and not a dictatorship, this will open up for a major backward movement in the Azeri society.

Text: Elisabeth Precht

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