EU Commissioner: All detainees who are jailed for expressing their opinions should be released
2017 June 16 ( Friday ) 10:28:42
(Interview of Johannes Hahn with Turan news agency)
Question: What can you tell about results of bilateral conversations on a future Partnership agreement between Baku and Brussels? Do you think that conditions and terms of Baku about prevailing of economic cooperation over the political issues like democracy and human rights is acceptable for the EU?
Answer: International negotiations like those conducted here in Baku this week are always confidential and I cannot comment on specific results, but we would not be negotiating here if we did not believe that a mutually acceptable and beneficial agreement can be reached. For us, economic cooperation and democracy and human rights are not in competition but strongly complementary: work on these areas have to go hand in hand. There is no stability and no economic development without a functioning Rule of Law system. Azerbaijan seeks to diversify its economy, and to be able to do that, it needs a qualified work force and a business environment where new enterprises can flourish, to mention but a few conditions. Good governance and the rule of law are necessary conditions for investments and a positive business climate . I am confident that we will achieve finally an ambitious agreement that serves the interest of both Azerbaijan and the EU and - equally important, meets EU standards regarding fundamental values.
Question: Recent situation in Azerbaijan indicates beginning of a new wave of harassment of journalists and, human rights defenders, and political activists.
Special case is kidnapping of journalist Afgan Mukhtarly in Georgia and his delivery to Baku. What is your estimation of such cases including, arrest of deputy chairman of PFA Gezal Bayramly and other activists?
Answer : A society that cannot debate issues openly is not a society that can produce the new ideas that are needed for progress, be it economic or social and exercising fundamental freedoms is essential. Abduction and arbitrary detention are crimes and we expect full light to be shed on the responsibilities in that case. In the meanwhile, I think that any and all detainees who are behind bars for having expressed their opinions should be released. I will, of course, address these issues in all openness in all my meetings with the political authorities.
Question: What can you tell about the agenda of your recent visit? Do you plan to meet with representatives of the civil society? If not, what is your message to them?
Answer: I will have a very inclusive programme: first of all, I will meet President Aliyev, followed by the minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Mammedyarov, and Economy, Mr Mustafayev. I am convinced that Azerbaijan's efforts to diversify its economy are a good thing and I will visit the Port of Baku, which also plays an important role in that strategy. I will also meet representatives of business and international financial institutions to follow up on the EUAzerbaijan Business Forum that was organised here in Baku last week and to discuss ways and means to boost the growth of the economy. Last, but not least, I will - as on all my missions - meet representatives of civil society. I want to reassure them that progress in the area of democratic reforms and the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, including in the context of the ongoing negotiations and the revised European Neighbourhood policy, remain high on the EU agenda. I will also want to hear their views on the ways we could use the new agreement to promote human rights in Azerbaijan and on the impact of the recent legislative changes in the working environment of non-governmental organisations.-02B-