President Ilham Aliyev attended EU Eastern Partnership Summit in Brussels
Brussels, November 24, AZERTAC
President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, who is on a working visit to the Kingdom of Belgium, has attended the European Union`s Eastern Partnership Summit in Brussels at the invitation of President of the European Council Donald Tusk.
The head of state arrived at the EU headquarters to attend a plenary session of the Eastern Partnership Summit.
President of the European Council Donald Tusk, President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker and Prime Minister of Estonia, which holds the presidency of the Council of the EU, Juri Ratas greeted President Ilham Aliyev.
Then the plenary session of the Eastern Partnership Summit was held.
President Ilham Aliyev addressed the plenary session.
Speech by President Ilham Aliyev
Ladies and gentlemen,
First of all, I would like to say that partnership with European Union is one of the main priorities of the foreign policy of Azerbaijan. This February we started active negotiations on the new agreement. Hopefully it will be concluded soon. And that will open opportunities for further cooperation between our countries.
European Union is the main trading partner of Azerbaijan. Almost 50 per cent of our trade is the trade with the member states. During the time of the independence, more than 20 billion dollars were invested from European Union to Azerbaijan's economy. That demonstrates that we have good investment climate and European companies are ready to contribute much financial resources to support our economy.
At the same time, we are actively developing relations with the member states on bilateral track as with nine members of European Union Azerbaijan adopted declarations on strategic partnership. That means that one third of member states of EU consider Azerbaijan as a strategic partner. This is very important for a young and independent country, and of course, we consider the future agreement between EU and Azerbaijan as another milestone in strengthening strategic relationship.
Azerbaijan is continuing the policy of political and economic reforms. We are strongly committed to development of democracy, human rights protection.
At the same time, we are transforming our economy, and successful development of Azerbaijan's economy also is a solid foundation for our independence. When you are independent from economic point of view, of course, you will be able to conduct more independent foreign policy. Azerbaijan's economy is growing rapidly. Since 2004, GDP has grown more than three times. We managed to reduce unemployment down to five percent, and the foreign debt is less than 20 percent of GDP. We have good credit ratings and Davos World Economic Forum ranked Azerbaijan number 35 in respect to competitiveness of our economy.
The main challenge we are facing is continuing occupation of our lands by Armenia. Almost 20 percent of Azerbaijan's internationally-recognized territory is under occupation by neighboring country for more than 20 years. As a result of occupation more than one million Azerbaijanis became refugees and internally displaced persons. And we have been a subject of policy of ethnic cleansing. The United Nations Security Council adopted four resolutions demanding immediate and unconditional withdrawal of Armenian troops from our territories. They are not implemented by Armenia. Separatism, aggressive separatism, cannot be accepted in the 21st century. Azerbaijan's territorial integrity has the same value as territorial integrity of any other country and it must be restored.
Also, among the issues which we closely cooperate on with European Institutions is energy policy. Azerbaijan is implementing the large-scale energy project, Southern Gas Corridor. The project costs more than 40 billion US dollars, and will allow us to produce additional volumes of natural gas and transport it from Azerbaijan to European markets. The 3,500 km gas pipeline will be new a route and will bring gas from new sources to European markets. This is a policy of energy security and policy of energy diversification because gas from Azerbaijani gas fields will be the only new source of natural gas to Europe and will definitely change to a large degree the energy map of the European continent. Proven gas reserves of Azerbaijan are equal to 2.6 trillion cubic meters of gas and that will be enough to transport natural gas to Europe for decades to come. And Azerbaijan took the lead in implementing the southern gas corridor project and we are very grateful to European Commission for continued support of this project. And this support, and also the financing of this project by the European financial institutions is vital for successful implementation of this project.
Another important initiative launched by Azerbaijan together with its neighbors is the railroad, which was inaugurated last month, connecting Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey, thus, providing a new transportation connection between Asia and Europe. This will be the shortest transportation route, which will increase the level of mutual trade, and allow many countries to join this project. Energy security, transportation security, economic development – these are all areas of our main concern and main priority.
At the same time, Azerbaijan largely invested in the human capital, the level of literacy is close to hundred percent. Educated people are the main driving force of for our reforms and the main guarantee against radicalism and religious extremism.
Azerbaijan is considered now to be one of the world's centers of multiculturalism. Situated between Asia and Europe with deep roots in our region and strongly associated with Europe, sharing European values – this is what today Azerbaijan is. We are very grateful for the support, which we received from European institutions. I'm sure that in the coming years cooperation between Azerbaijan and EU will successfully continue and we will soon sign a new agreement that will open new horizons in front of us.
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The Eastern Partnership is an initiative of Poland and Sweden aimed at improving relations with the CIS countries as part of the European Neighbourhood Policy. The Eastern Partnership covers six neighboring countries of the European Union.
At this Summit, the EU member states discussed future cooperation with heads of state and government of six Eastern Partnership countries.
After the plenary session, the participants posed for photographs.
A working dinner was hosted in honor of heads of state and government.
President Ilham Aliyev completed his working visit to Brussels.