There is no sense of competition at the state level

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- Mrs. Leyla, the European Union has provided financial assistance to the Eastern Partnership countries to purchase the necessary medical supplies for the COVID-19 pandemic. Georgia received 183 million euros, Belarus 60 million euros, Moldova 87 million euros, Ukraine 190 million euros, and Armenia 92 million euros. However, among these countries, Azerbaijan has allocated the least funding (14 million euros). This has caused discussions in Azerbaijan. Why do you think the European Union has allocated the least financial assistance to Azerbaijan? Is this due to the current relationship?

- The first factor is that Azerbaijan is the only country with natural resources among the Eastern Partnership countries. It is an oil-rich country. And in general, the relations between the European Union and Azerbaijan, which have lasted for 20 years, show that Azerbaijan, like other countries, is not so financially dependent on this organization. Because this assistance has always been very small compared to oil revenues and the budget. But a more important factor depends on the effectiveness and use of aid. The effectiveness of this depends on the level of corruption. Azerbaijan's name has been involved in major international corruption scandals for several years. Corruption, embezzlement of money in the hands of a small elite, of course, prevents Europe from helping Azerbaijan. The third factor is that Azerbaijan is still prolonging the agreement issue. In this regard, Azerbaijan lags behind almost all Eastern Partnership countries. No agreement has been signed with the European Union yet.

- At that time, Russia's assistance programs with the countries of the post-Soviet space were not remembered. But the European Union has provided assistance. Should the Azerbaijani government learn from this action of Russia and the European Union?

- Azerbaijan's relations with Russia are not related to financial factors. Even vice versa. Russia has some financial expectations from Azerbaijan. The main issue here is political. The issue of political support. Putin generally supports all authoritarian regimes. Of course, Azerbaijan also needs support. Russia has maintained its influence in the region. It can influence Azerbaijan through Karabakh. Or it has an opportunity to directly influence the political situation in the country. That is, we have very interesting relations with Russia. On the one hand, these relations are based on fear, and on the other hand, Putin is needed as a defender of authoritarian leaders. But in general, the governing of this regime is based on a balancing policy. That is, it is important for them not to be close to Russia or Europe. Azerbaijan is playing a game between both sides. On this basis, the regime maintains its existence.

- Will this crisis bring Azerbaijan closer to the European Union? Or will the closeness to Russia continue in the name of a balanced foreign policy? By the way, after the last parliamentary elections, President Ilham Aliyev made positive statements about the European Union in his speeches.

- It is still unknown which country will emerge from this crisis with what consequences. Experts say international relations may fundamentally change. The epidemic has shown that some authoritarian countries have tried to protect their citizens more effectively and more quickly than democracies. That is, it is still unclear what will happen after that. But it is important. Because our government is, in fact, an opportunist government. It observes the position of the West or the East, Russia, and it will take sides with whichever has a strong position. That is, it is impossible to know. If Russia's position is weakened and it cannot overcome the crisis, Azerbaijan can get closer to the European Union. It is unknown how Russia will overcome this crisis. Because oil prices have fallen to a very low level on world markets. These factors can determine Azerbaijan's convergence to Europe.

- Among the Eastern Partnership countries, Azerbaijan is the only country that has not signed an agreement with the European Union. Even Armenia and Belarus have signed an agreement. What discourages the Azerbaijani government from signing an agreement with the European Union?

- It is clear and the government understands that integration requires change. The country must change and carry out reforms. Of course, it does not want to do that. Even now, it does not sign the agreement because of this reform talk. Previously, it was thought that the only problem was political reform. But this is not the only problem. Because the agreement offered to us is similar to the agreement signed with Kazakhstan. For example, it differs from the agreement signed with Armenia. The agreement signed with Armenia envisages very serious political reforms. Because Armenia really wants to be a European country. Azerbaijan only wants economic cooperation to protect its power. The agreement signed with Kazakhstan provides for serious economic reforms in the country. In other words, Azerbaijan does not even want to pursue economic reforms without signing the agreement. Because these reforms will primarily threaten the monopolies. They do not want to give up monopolies. Therefore, the signing of the agreement is delayed and it is unknown what the outcome will be.

- When can an association agreement be signed? Are such talks or meetings planned in the near future? In recent statements, Azerbaijani officials said they had agreed to 90 percent of the deal. Considering the recent processes and international relations, is the Azerbaijani side ready to sign this agreement?

- Of course, it depends primarily on Azerbaijan. If Azerbaijan feels it has no other choice, it will sign the agreement. In other words, on the one hand, oil money is running out, oil prices have fallen on the world market, if Azerbaijan sees that Russia has weakened and support opportunities have decreased and the European Union has emerged from the crisis strong, then we can expect this agreement to be signed. The situation is uncertain for now. Unfortunately, in 2006, we lost a period when Azerbaijan was in competition with Armenia and Georgia. Now the personal and political interests of the elite outweigh the national interests. And there is no longer that sense of competition at the state level. They don't care about being left behind now. They have fabricated a strategic path for themselves. If only let their status not change and let these reforms not pose a threat to them.

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İran Prezidentinin həlak olduğu hadisə Azərbaycan- İran münasibətlərinə təsir edə bilərmi? – Nəsimi Məmmədli Çətin sualda



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