Jan Zahradil: We do not think European Parliament’s resolutions would improve Azerbaijan-EU relations - INTERVIEW
Interview with President of Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformist, Czech deputy Jan Zahradil.

- You visited Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan this week. What was the purpose of your visit to the Caucasian countries?  

 

- You know this is transnational political alliance which is called Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformist. We have one member party in each of three countries. So we, of course, used the invitation of those three member parties to go and to visit their countries and to somehow deepen our developments and our cooperation. In Azerbaijan, I would say it is more even wider kind of cooperation. Because not only we have a member party which is party of Mr. Hasanguliyev, the Popular Front Party of the Whole Azerbaijan. But also in the PACE, we have a political group which is the European Conservative Group. We have also members from other political parties from Azerbaijan including the New Azerbaijan Party of President Mr. Aliyev. We have three MPs. Azerbaijan is, of course, very important from that point of view.

 

- At what level did you have meetings in Azerbaijan?

 

- We had a meeting with Mr. Hasanguliyev and his party board. We talked about some possible projects that we can realize in the future. We met Speaker of Parliament Mr. Ogtay Asadov. Then we also met President’s Aide Mr. Ali Hasanov, and Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. Mahmud Mammadguliyev. Of course, we wanted to learn as much as possible about the situation in the region, about intentions of Azerbaijan on the cooperation with the European Union. We ensured our partners that we remain supporters and a friend of Azerbaijan. And that we will do everything possible to make relations of Azerbaijan with the EU and also with individual EU countries as smooth as possible.

 

- As you know, the European Parliament adopted a resolution against Azerbaijan a few months ago. During the discussion and adoption of this resolution, you defended Azerbaijan’s position…

 

- As a family of European Conservatives and Reformist, we didn’t support this resolution. Because we thought that it was unbalanced. It  was also prepared too much in a hurry. We thought that there should be much more time for the discussions necessary. So we didn’t support that. It was adopted By European Parliament by a narrow majority. Because, almost half of the European Parliament was not in favour of that. And we do not think this resolution would somehow improve the relations between the EU and Azerbaijan. Just a contrary we hope that this will not be repeated in the future. The EP adopted few resolutions on Azerbaijan in the past. So we think that it was enough and not necessary to have a resolution on Azerbaijan every year. So that was what we assured our friends and partners in Azerbaijan. We are not going to support resolutions that are, in our view, unbalanced.

 

- What can the Alliance that you preside over do to improve the relations between Azerbaijan and the European Parliament?

 

- We can do a lot of things. We have a group of friends of Azerbaijan in the European Parliament. I am a member of that group which is presided also by a Greek member of our political family European conservatives. So, this is a platform where we can develop our relations. Azerbaijan has a very good ambassador in Brussels. He is very active and friendly. So we can use all those possibilities just to promote good relations. Also there is a non-governmental organization called the European Azerbaijan Society that is located in London, but has branch also in Brussels. We also somehow cooperate with it. This NGO promotes Azerbaijan mostly as a country not as a politic entity, but promotes the culture of Azerbaijan, history of Azerbaijan and other things. I think we have enough platforms to develop mutually positive relations.

 

- In both Azerbaijan and Armenia, you had discussions on the Nagorno Karabakh conflict which is a sensitive issue for Azerbaijan. Parties from both countries are member of the Alliance. Can you serve as a platform for discussions on the settlement of the conflict in any way, bringing those members together?

 

- I have to tell you I have made no any strong statement even if I understand that is a sensitive issue. Of course, we would be happy if we can serve as a discussion platform and that we can bring Armenians and Azerbaijanis together even on the political level. But we are not magicians and we can not bring some miracle breakthrough. So we have to be patient. I was trying to avoid during my visit both to Armenia and Azerbaijan to make some strong statement of that. Because, any strong statement for this side or to that side wouldn’t serve to improve the situation.

 

- It is your second visit to Azerbaijan. What are your impressions of our country?

 

- I like Azerbaijan. For instance, I had a very good friend who was a former Azerbaijan ambassador in Prague and moved to London, Mr Tagizade. Last year I organized an exhibition of photographic pictures of photographs from Azerbaijan showing the natural beauties and history of Azerbaijan together with the Azerbaijan embassy in Prague and the European Azerbaijan Society. Also, the speaker of Czech parliament Jan Hamáček who is from a different party of mine (but still we are in a good relations) is a chairman group of friends of Azerbaijan in Czech parliament. The Czech president also visited Azerbaijan last year and signed a strategic partnership agreement with Azerbaijan. For me, also as a Czech politician it plays an important role in promoting relations and I would be happy to use my European affiliation to help it as much as possible.