European Commissioner for Energy Kadri Simson continues negotiations and discussions on increasing gas deliveries to the EU. A meeting of the EU-Azerbaijan Cooperation Council was held in Brussels yesterday. The Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan met with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
One would think that the visit of the European Parliament delegation headed by David McAllister, Chair of the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs, received by President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev in Baku should fit the same mold. But in practice, McAllister’s office acted, to put it mildly, strangely. This was illustrated by the course of the meeting, where President Ilham Aliyev quite harshly and sarcastically talked about the latest actions of the European Parliament, recalling both the fact that the last visit of the EP delegation took place in 2018, and the dozen of anti-Azerbaijani resolutions adopted by the EP during the 44-day war, making a particular emphasis on the accusations of the alleged “destruction of Armenian cultural heritage in Karabakh”, made a year and a half after the war too.
Highlighting the Armenian vandalism and the fact that the European Parliament’s resolution was based on lies, the head of state stressed: “Under such circumstances, it is completely unacceptable to adopt a lop-sided resolution that accuses Azerbaijan of things we have never committed and to turn a blind eye to the actions of Armenia and Armenians in our territories. Unfortunately, this has happened. I know that many members of your delegation voted in favor of that resolution. This is a completely counterproductive step. First of all, it is false and is based on fabricated facts, slander and libel. Secondly, it doesn’t matter that much because, as you probably know, there is a good history of relations between the European Union and Azerbaijan. These relations are developing very successfully especially now.” President Aliyev mentioned Ursula von der Leyen’s visit and the involvement of President of the Council of the European Union Charles Michel in the process of normalization of relations between Azerbaijan and Armenia, and much more. He then voiced a very strong message: “However, taking this into account, we cannot understand the actions of the European Parliament. In fact, the European Parliament is more aggressive towards Azerbaijan than the Armenian Parliament. Sometimes it seems that these resolutions are adopted by the Armenian Parliament or perhaps some Armenian lobby groups have some influence on them.”
Many may find this reminiscent of President Aliyev’s tough, borderline extreme interviews to European media during the 44-day war, with journalists using the same cheap attacks and the head of state giving very nice, clear answers that were not always music to European ears.
But the key points are different today. First of all, the President of Azerbaijan has drawn some red lines and let the EP delegation know that Baku is not going to put up with outright bias and groundless attacks and will not silently tolerate lies and slander just because they come from the European Parliament. More than that, Ilham Aliyev essentially taught Mr. McAllister a lesson in geopolitics by reminding him of the current trend of relations between Azerbaijan and the EU. The implication is clear: the relations with Baku are extremely important for Brussels today, and with the beginning of the “energy fever” on the European continent the price at stake has increased manifold. Now the President of Azerbaijan openly suggests that the European Parliament should decide whether they intend to take care of Europe’s interests or to act with the old mixture of Euro-infantilism and political irresponsibility.
This has been brought up many times, but here is another reminder. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, a whole generation of politicians came to the European institutions who preach a theory that warmed the ears and souls of the inhabitants of numerous offices in Brussels and Strasbourg: With the end of the Cold War came the “end of history”, the world became unipolar, human rights and other European values will now be Europe’s top priority, and it will be up to us to determine who deserves to be friends with Europe, and who should wait, think and work on themselves. They failed to see that, in reality, such a policy very quickly fell under the control of the very same lobbying groups.
But now that the world is being rapidly dragged into a new cold war, and Europe has to fight for its interests and influence in earnest, the situation in the executive branches is changing. Meanwhile, the “representative branch” of power continues to indulge in illusions as if they can afford to ignore what Azerbaijan thinks about the European Parliament. Cue the harsh and ironic reminder about the current state of affairs from the President of Azerbaijan.
Although it was not said out loud during the meeting with the EP delegation, Azerbaijan is well aware that the activity of various lobbying groups serving the interests of the forces that really dislike the development of Azerbaijan-EU relations and the presence of Azerbaijani hydrocarbons in the European market, spikes dramatically right before important negotiations and decisions on both gas and cooperation with the European Union. Given that some media outlets already show concern about the deportation of fake Azerbaijani “political refugees” from Germany, attempts to put Azerbaijan at odds with Europe, using European institutions for this purpose, are not over.
It is another matter that now the lobbyists will have to reenact the old play in a new setting and with a completely different mood in the audience. What gives a lot of food for thought is the reaction of… the Armenian media. The talks with McAllister were reported there under headlines screaming: “Aliyev uses the visit of the European Parliament delegation to Baku for anti-Armenian propaganda and accusations”. They realize that if Azerbaijan allows itself to talk to a delegation of the European Parliament in this way, this is a sure sign that the Armenian lobby in the European Parliament and the sponsors of this lobby are falling on hard times.
This is another achievement of the offensive diplomacy on the European track that our country can count as another feather in its cap.