The EU has allocated €14.5 million to Azerbaijan as part of the country’s regional development programme. It envisages a wide range of measures, from twinning and technical assistance to the creation of a business information system in rural areas, improved support for the development of SMEs in rural areas and family farming, the introduction of agriculture consulting services system, and consumer awareness-raising.
An agreement covering the funding was signed by the EU Ambassador to Azerbaijan, Malena Mard, and the Azerbaijan Economy Minister, Shahin Mustafayev, on 9 December.
Mr Mustafayev noted that Azerbaijan plays an important role in ensuring Europe’s energy security, with 26 projects implemented in Azerbaijan as part of the cooperation with the EU. An additional 11 projects are underway. Ms Mard pointed out the need for expansion of relations in other areas besides the energy sector.
Azerbaijan has become a priority country for the EU’s wider neighbourhood strategy since the last enlargement of the European Union in 2007. Since then, the European Union has gradually expanded the scope of its assistance and cooperation with Azerbaijan and successfully implemented a total of 48 twinning projects in the country.
The funding agreement lays the groundwork for negotiations on a new bilateral cooperation and partnership agreement. These were due to begin on 7 February following the visit of President Ilham Aliyev to Brussels, where he met with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, EU Foreign Affairs High Representative Federica Mogherini and European Council President Donald Tusk.