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Azerbaijan in Europe / Azerbaijan at the Council of Europe

Azerbaijan and Council of Europe

9-04-2013, 18:00,

Committee of Ministers

Since becoming a member state of the Council of Europe on 25 January 2001, Azerbaijan has been actively and vigorously cooperating with all working institutions of the Council of Europe. The Committee of Ministers is the Council of Europe's decision-making body. It comprises the Foreign Affairs Ministers of all the member states, or their permanent diplomatic representatives in Strasbourg. It is considered to be the guardian of the Council of Europe's fundamental values, as human rights, democracy and rule of law, and it monitors member states' compliance with their undertakings. More detailed information about the Azerbaijan - Committee of Ministers relations is widely described in the attached paper on the chronology of Azerbaijan - Council of Europe relations. 
 
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe - PACE
 
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) is a consultative body of the Council of Europe and meets four times a year for part-sessions in Strasbourg. The PACE comrises 318 representatives and 318 substitutes appointed by national parliaments of the Council of Europe Countries. The parliament of each country sends a delegation of between two and eighteen representatives, depending on the country's population. Azerbaijan is represented in the PACE by a delegation of twelve parliamentarians, six of them being representatives and the other six being substitutes. The delegation of Azerbaijan is actively participating in and contributing to the work of the PACE, by attending and delivering speeches at plenary and committee meetings as well as by preparing reports of the Committees of the PACE. 
For the first time, on 24-27 April, 2001, the delegation of Azerbaijan to the PACE headed by Mr. Ilham Aliyev participated in the plenary part-session of the PACE as a full member. As a result of Mr. Ilham Aliyev's constant efforts, consequences of Armenia's aggressive policy was successfully brought to attention of PACE members. Thus, during the session, the written statement titled “The recognition of genocide committed by Armenians to the Azerbaijani population” signed by 29 representatives of 9 countries represented in 5 political groups of the PACE, and a motion for the recommendation titled “The prisoners and hostages of war kept in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh” signed by 20 representatives of 14 countries was disseminated as the official documents of the PACE. The document condemned the massacre of Khodjaly inhabitants by Armenians, the occupation of 20 percent of Azerbaijan’s territory by Armenia, the fact of holding 783 Azerbaijanis, including children, women and elderly as hostages in Armenia and occupied territories of Azerbaijan. 
 
As a result of continuous efforts of Azerbaijan, in 2005, at its January part-session the PACE adopted Resolution 1416(2005) and Recommendation 1690(2005) on the conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh region dealt with by the OSCE Minsk Conference. The Parliamentary Assembly has mentioned that the occupation of foreign territory by a member state is a serious violation of the obligations taken as a member state of the Council of Europe, and has confirmed that the displaced people from the conflict area have the right to return back to their homes safe and with honour. The Parliamentary Assembly has also mentioned the Resolutions of the Security Council of the UN 822 (1993), 853 (1993), 874 (1993), 884 (1993) and has made their enforcement through avoiding military operations of parties and withdrawing armed forces from the occupied territories. The Assembly has called the Bureau of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to organize an  ad-hoc committee, where the heads of national representatives of the countries of the OSCE Minsk Conference would also be involved in. In 2008, after death of Mr. Lord Russell Johnston - the head of the ad-hoc committee created in accordance with the above mentioned resolution, the committee suspended its work.  In 28 January 2011, the Bureau of the PACE decided to restore activities of the ad-hoc committee on Nagorno Karabakh. In spite of Armenian delegation's contest, the PACE Bureau agreed on restoring activities of the Committee unanimously (except Armenian delegate). Spanish parliamentarian from Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) Party of the PACE Jordi Xucla i Costa was elected the chairman of the committee. PACE Bureau's another decision dated 7 February 2011 defined members of the Committee. New composition of the ad-hoc Committee included besides the Chairman, the Chairpersons of the national delegations, representatives of opposition and of both countries, as well as PACE Monitoring Committee rapporteurs on two countries.  However, in 2012 the ad-hoc committee again was suspended as Armenian side refused to attend its meetings. Since October 2012, the PACE President organizes regular meetings of the heads of delagations from Azerbaijan and Armenia. 
 
The co-rapporteurs of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) for the monitoring of Azerbaijan, Pedro Agramunt (Spain, EPP/CD) and Joseph Debono Grech (Malta, SOC) regularly visit Azerbaijan in order to review progress of implementation of the commitments taken by Azerbaijan. During these visits the co-rapporteurs hold meetings in different state bodies and exchange views on the commitments taken by Azerbaijan before the Council of Europe.
 
Cooperation with the Congress of Local and Regional authorities
 
Since the accession to the Council of Europe, the Republic of Azerbaijan has been closely cooperating with one of important institutions of the Council of Europe - Congress of Local and Regional authorities. This cooperation encompasses wide range of issues related to development and strengthening of local and regional democracy.
 
The Congress adopted Resolution 151(2003) and Recommendation 126 (2003) on the situation of local and regional democracy in Azerbaijan during its plenary held in May 2003.
 
Upon the invitation of the presidency of the Congress the Minister of Justice of Azerbaijan Mr. F. Mammadov attended the autumn session of the Congress on 24-26 November, 2003. During his visit Mr. Mammadov met with Mr. E. Logia, Italian Minister for Regional Affairs, Mr. W. Schwimmer, Secretary General of the Council of Europe and other high ranking officials of the Council. The discussions focused on the situation of local and regional democracy in Azerbaijan and implementation of relevant Resolution and Recommendation on Azerbaijan, which were adopted at the previous plenary session of the Congress few months earlier.
 
In December 2009, a delegation of the Congress election observation mission headed by Ms. Gaye Doganoglu (Turkey, EPP-CD) carried out an observation mission to observe the municipal elections in Azerbaijan. The delegation met with representatives of government and electoral bodies and visited regions of the country to get acquainted with the situation on the ground and preparations to the elections.
 
The Congress adopted Resolution 345(2012) and Recommendation 326 (2012) on the situation of local and regional democracy in Azerbaijan at its plenary session held in October 2012.
 
European Court on Human Rights
 
Since 15 April 2002 the Republic of Azerbaijan is a party of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms which is the most important legal instrument of the Council of Europe in the sphere of protection of human rights.
 
Above-mentioned convention contains the fundamental rights and freedoms which are inherent in every human and establishes the European Court on Human Rights which is legal mechanism for protection of conventional rights and freedoms. Jurisdiction of the Court is in force in respect of Azerbaijan since 15 April 2002. The Court and its activities are of great importance for Azerbaijan. The case-law of the Court has the positive impact for the improvement of domestic legislation and ensures the implementation of European law standarts into national legislation. Currently, 47 judges from each of Council of Europe member states, including from Azerbaijan are presented in the Court.
 
The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights
 
The Government of Azerbaijan is also actively cooperating with the office of the Commissioner for Human Rights which was established by the resolution of the Committee of Ministers dated 7 May 1999 as a non-judicial institution to promote education in, awareness of and respect for human rights, embodied in the human rights instruments of the Council of Europe. In accordance with his mandate, the Commissioner regularly conducts visits to the member countries and afterwards publishes his reports. The Commissioner has several times paid visits to Azerbaijan and his last visit was on 22-24 May 2013 during which, he was received by high-ranking officials of the Country. 
 
Fight against racism
 
Azerbaijan cooperates with the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) which is an independent monitoring body of the Council of Europe specialised in problems of racism and intolerance. Within the framework of its statutory mandate the ECRI has so far conducted monitoring of Azerbaijan and published its reports on Azerbaijan three times (2003, 2007, 2011). Following ECRI's recommendations Azerbaijan has successfully adopted a number of measures to fight racism, intolerance and extremism in society.  
 
Ensuring Social Rights
 
Azerbaijan ratified the European Social Charter (revised) on 2 September 2004 to better promote and guarantee social and economic human rights in the country.  We have constructive dialogue with the European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR) which follows the conformity of the situation in member states with the European Social Charter. So far, Azerbaijan has submitted 6 reports on the application of the Revised Charter to the ECSR and received the Committee's recommendations on bringing legislation completely into the same line with the Charter. The measures put forward in the Employment Strategy of the Republic of Azerbaijan for the period of 2006-2015 aimed at ensuring "efficient employment of population through using the labor resources" have been testified the country's dedication to the commitments undertaken by joining the Social Charter.
 
Azerbaijan is interested in ensuring high level meetings and cooperation among the relevant bodies of the Council of Europe member states as it enables high level officials to come together and discuss social threats and difficulties as well as exchange views on progressive policies for tackling them.  Thus, Azerbaijan offered to host the next Council of Europe Conference of Ministers responsible for Social Cohesion in Baku in 2015 and the offer was welcomed by the Ministers responsible for Social Cohesion in their second meeting held in Turkey on 11-12 October 2012.
 
Fight against corruption
 
Azerbaijan gives utmost importance to collaboration with the Council of Europe's Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) in fighting and prevention of corruption. Since joining the GRECO in 2004, Azerbaijan has taken a series of legislative and institutional measures to enhance implementation of the GRECO recommendations and relevant international and European anti-corruption instruments adhered by the country. Along with improving legislative and institutional framework, Azerbaijan has also carried out several joint projects with the Council of Europe aimed at increasing practical capacity building of relevant stakeholders. Consequently, in its 2012 report, the GRECO indicated that Azerbaijan has satisfactorily implemented seven GRECO recommendations out of nine, whereas two have been partially implemented in the field of criminalization.
 
With the view to strengthen legal framework in fighting against corruption since 1 June 2004 the Republic of Azerbaijan is the party of the Criminal Law Convention on Corruption and the Civil law Convention on Corruption. At the same time, with a view to improve its activities in the above-mentioned spherensince 1 August 2013 the Republic of Azerbaijan became a party of the Additional Protocol to the Criminal law Convention on corruption.   
 
MONEYVAL
 
MONEYVAL - the Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures of the Council of Europe evaluates the effectiveness of domestic measures to counter money laundering and the financing of terrorism in Council of Europe member states. Therefore, constructive work with the MONEYVAL continues being important for the Government of Azerbaijan in order to effectively combat money laundering and the financing of terrorism. Pursuant to the recommendations of the MONEYVAL, the Financial Monitoring Service under the Central Bank of the Republic of Azerbaijan was established in 2009. The Service is authorized to implement the state policy in prevention of legalization of criminally obtained funds and other property and financing of terrorism in the Republic of Azerbaijan, improve the supervision system and coordinate the activity of relevant government authorities. Azerbaijan is a party to the Convention on Laundering, Search, Seizure and Confiscation of the Proceeds from Crime (CETS141).
 
Fight against trafficking in human beings
 
Azerbaijan joined the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings in 2010. According to the Convention, the Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) is responsible for monitoring implementation of the Convention.  Following comprehensive information GRETA was provided with in response to GRETA's specific questionnaire on the situation of combating human trafficking, a delegation of the GRETA paid complementary visit to Azerbaijan from 13 to 17 May 2013 in the context of the first round of evaluation of the implementation of the Convention by Azerbaijan. During the visit, the GRETA delegation held discussions with several state bodies and visited special places for  assistance and rehabilitation of human trafficking victims. On the basis of the information gathered during the visit and the reply to GRETA’s questionnaire, GRETA will prepare a report containing an analysis of the implementation of the Convention by Azerbaijan and suggestions for further action. 
 
Cooperation with the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission) of the Council of Europe
 
The history of Azerbaijan's cooperation with the Venice Commission dates back to 1996. Azerbaijan became member of the partial agreement establishing this important body of the Council of Europe in the plenary session of the Commission held on March 17-18, 1996.  Since then Azerbaijan has been closely cooperating with the Venice Commission in improvement of legislation and expertise of important draft laws. The Venice Commission issued opinions on the Election Code, as well as the laws on "Freedom of assembly", "Normative-legal acts", "Freedom of religious belief" etc. 
 
Cooperation in the field of education, culture, youth and gender equality
 
Cooperation with the Council of Europe in these important areas had started before the accession to the organization with Azerbaijan becoming party to the European Cultural Convention in 1997. 
Azerbaijan's cooperation in those fields has been on the rise since the accession in 2001. High level delegations of Azerbaijan have attended number of important ministerial conferences of  culture and education. Council of Europe Conference of Ministers responsible for Culture was held in Baku on 2-4 December 2008. The conference entitled “Intercultural dialogue as a basis for peace and sustainable development in Europe and its neighbouring regions” adopted Baku declaration, which launched "Baku Process" envisaging cooperation on intercultural dialogue inside European societies and between Europe and its neighbouring regions. President of the Republic of Azerbaijan H.E. Ilham Aliyev and Council of Europe Secretary General Terry Davis also attended the Conference. 
Council of Europe Conference of Ministers responsible for Equality between women and men was held in Baku on 24-25 May 2010. The conference endorsed the resolution and Action Plan.
Baku also hosted 18th Council of Europe informal Conference of Ministers responsible for Sport in September 2010. Conference brought together ministers and other high ranking officials from 35 parties to the European Cultural Convention. Conference adopted number of important resolutions, including the resolution on "Promotion of the integrity of sport against the manipulation of results (match-fixing)", "Granting of visas to athletes attending competitions", "Monitoring of the Sport Conventions", "Representation of European public authorities within the World Anti-Doping Agency", "Co-operation between the Council of Europe and the European Union".
 
Azerbaijan took over from Austria the Chairmanship of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers at the 124th Ministerial Session of the Committee of Ministers on 6 May 2014. Azerbaijan has assumed its Chairmanship for the first time since its accession to the Council of Europe in 2001. The delegation of Azerbaijan headed by Foreign Minister H.E. Mr. Elmar Mammadyarov attended the Vienna Ministerial session where he presented the priorities of Azerbaijan during 6 month of the Chairmanship. 

The Chairmanship of Azerbaijan has set following priority areas as its priorities:

1. Strengthening the rule of law through enhanced co-operation in combating corruption, including manipulation of sports results
2. The consolidation of culturally diverse societies based on mutual respect and understanding
3. Ensuring social cohesion and social sustainability: promoting access to human rights of vulnerable groups
4. Youth education in human rights and democratic citizenship: nurturing a generation of educated and responsible youth and ensuring their access to rights

Mr. Thorbjørn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, and Ms.Anne Brasseur, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe paid a visit to Azerbaijan and met with H.E.Mr. Ilham Aliyev, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Ogtay Asadov, Chairman of Milli Majlis (Parliament), and other government officials on May 20-23, 2014.

At the meetings with Azerbaijani officials, priorities of the chairmanship of Azerbaijan in the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, international and regional issues, as well as the Secretary General's report on the “Situation of the human rights, democracy and rule of law in Europe” reflecting the situation in all Council of Europe member states, including Azerbaijan were discussed in detail.

2014-2016 Council of Europe-Azerbaijan Action Plan, which sets the framework of the cooperation between Azerbaijan and Council of Europe was launched with the participation of Mr. Thorbjørn Jagland on May 22.

The meeting of the Bureau and the Standing committee of the PACE, under the chairmanship of Anne Brasseur, was held in the Parliament (Milli Majlis) of the Republic of Azerbaijan on May 22.

At the meeting Ms.Anne Brasseur stated that the respect for the territorial integrity of the Council of Europe member states is a fundamental principle of the organization. Touching upon the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan Ms.Anne Brasseur, recalling the PACE resolution 1416, adopted in 2005, reaffirmed resolute and principled position of PACE regarding the support of the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan.

The Chairman of Milli Majlis, Mr. Ogtay Asadov and the Foreign Minister of the Republic of Azerbaijan Elmar Mammadyarov informed the PACE members about the foreign policy of Azerbaijan, existing model of tolerance and political reforms carried out in Azerbaijan and conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Minister Elmar Mammadyarov stressed that non-resolution of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan until today, continuation of the occupation of 20% of the territories of Azerbaijan and existence of more than 1 million Azerbaijani refugees and IDP’s who cannot exercise their right of return to their homelands are in contradiction with the democratic values and fundamental principles, which form the very basis of the Council of Europe and undermine the comprehensive development and democratic processes in the region.

Minister Elmar Mammadyarov, in his capacity as the Chairman of the Committee of Minister, discussed with PACE members various international issues. During the discussions it was stressed that the fact of occupation of the territories of one Council of Europe member state by another member state of the organization was unacceptable.

Minister for Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan H.E. Elmar Mammadyarov presented to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) the communication on the activities of the Committee of Ministers in his capacity as the Chairman of the Committee of Ministers on 23 June 2014, during the first day of the summer part-session of the PACE. Foreign Minister gave an extensive overview of the Chairmanship priorities and the programme of Chairmanship events in Azerbaijan. Minister also touched upon the work of the Committee of Ministers, 124th session of the Vienna Ministerial, as well as the steps undertaken by the Council of Europe in respect of the latest events in Ukraine. Furthermore, Minister E.Mammadyarov responded to the questions of the PACE members in his capacity as the Chairman of the Committee of Ministers and Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan. In this context, Minister spoke about Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, energy policy of Azerbaijan, the position of the Committee of Ministers and Azerbaijan in the latest events in Ukraine, promotion of religious tolerance in Azerbaijan, etc.
In her opening address of the summer part-session of the PACE on June 23 2014, Ms. Anne Brasseur reiterated the position of the PACE on importance of respecting sovereignty and territorial integrity of the countries.

PACE resolution 1416, adopted in 2005, demands the fulfillment of UN Security Council’s resolutions 822, 853, 874 and 884, and withdrawal of the military forces from the occupied territories.

On June 24, 2014 President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Mr. Ilham Aliyev visited the Council of Europe met with President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe Mrs. Anne Brasseur, Secretary General of the Council of Europe Mr. Thorbjørn Jagland and President of the European Court of Human Rights Mr. Dean Spielmann.

The parties discussed the current state and prospects of cooperation between Azerbaijan and the Council of Europe and exchanged views over the activities carried out in the fields of human rights and democratization in Azerbaijan, as well as the events to be arranged under Azerbaijan’s Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe.
President of Azerbaijan Mr. Ilham Aliyev also addressed the Summer Session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (http://en.president.az/articles/12149).

The meeting of the Bureau of the Council of Europe Congress for Local and Regional authorities of Europe (CLRAE) and the Conference on "Local government in Azerbaijan and youth policy" were held in Baku on 17-18 June 2014. The President of the CLRAE, Mr. Herwig van Staa met with the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, H.E. Mr. Ilham Aliyev and discussed the current state and perspectives of the cooperation between the Congress and Azerbaijan in the field of local and regional democracy.

The chairmanship of the Republic of Azerbaijan to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe and the Council of Europe with the participation of the representatives of Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) and International Anti-Corruption Academy (IACA) organized the "International Conference on Fight against Corruption: International Standards and national experiences" which took place on 30 June - 1 July 2014 in Baku, Azerbaijan.

More than 130 representatives from 35 member states of Council of Europe and 13 international organizations, including prosecutor generals of Turkey, Albania, Moldova, Croatia, Georgia, Monaco and Lichtenstein, ministries of justice of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, Croatia, heads of specialized anti-corruption agencies of France, Poland, Lithuania, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Serbia, as well as the director of the Council of Europe Directorate General on Human Rights and Rule of Law, president of GRECO, executive secretary and president of IACA, president of International Association of Prosecutors (IAP) and others participated in the Conference. Participants discussed the problems that corruption posed to democratic values, sustainable development and rule of law, social stability and security and shared their views on the implementation of anti-corruption legislation, positive achievements and experiences in fighting against corruption.

Legal-treaty basis of cooperation

The Republic of Azerbaijan is the party of the sixty of international treaties adopted within the Council of Europe.

During recent period the Republic of Azerbaijan has signed or ratified the following international treaties adopted within the Council of Europe.

1. Third Additional Protocol to the European Convention on Extradition

The Protocol is ratified by the Republic of Azerbaijan, with the declaration, on 8 January 2014 and has entered into force in respect of the Republic of Azerbaijan on 1 May 2014.

2. Council of Europe Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism
The Convention is ratified by the Republic of Azerbaijan, with the declaration, on 4 April 2014 and will enter into force in respect of the Republic of Azerbaijan on 1 August 2014.

3. Protocol No. 15 amending the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms

This Protocol is signed by the Republic of Azerbaijan on 18 December 2013 and ratified on 3 July 2014. The document has not yet entered into force.

 

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