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EU And Azerbaijan: Breaking Up Or Muddling Through?

EU And Azerbaijan: Breaking Up Or Muddling Through? by EurasiaNet

EurasiaNet Commentary

Just three months ago, Azerbaijan was playing host to the inaugural European Games. These days, it seems as though Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s administration is prepared to make a break with the European Union.

Over the past few days, Azerbaijan’s relationship with the EU has taken a nosedive. On September 10, the European Parliament adopted a resolution that condemned Baku for “unprecedented repression” against domestic civil activists. The resolution also urged EU authorities “to conduct a thorough investigation into the corruption allegations against President Aliyev and members of his family” and consider “targeted sanctions and visa bans on all politicians, officials and judges involved in the political persecutions."

The response of the Azerbaijani side was swift and trenchant: Baku cancelled a high-level visit by the European External Action Service (EEAS); announced the withdrawal of Azerbaijan from the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly; and issued a threat to impose counter-sanctions on the members of the European Parliament.

For good measure, President Aliyev during a public appearance September 15 assailed the EU over its treatment of asylum seekers from Syria and elsewhere, implying that Brussels maintains double standards when it comes to basic rights.

“Where is your tolerance and kindness, generosity; where are your values?” the news agency quoted Aliyev as saying in reference to the EU policies concerning the ongoing refugee crisis.

This flare-up is just another symptom of a dysfunctional relationship in which Brussels and Baku have been bogged down for some time now. The current problems are rooted in mismatched assumptions and...