Elkhan Suleymanov, Chairman of Azerbaijani delegation to the Euronest PA, submitted a short analysis of processes in the context of the resolution adopted by EP. We bring the analysis to the attention of readers.
- There is a struggle in the European Parliament, the democratic heart of the European Union, to get support for a cause or another. In the case of Azerbaijan, the past few years have been very heated and the country has been on topic very often.
The sides in the EP
- One side, comprised of MEPs representing all the political groups and many countries value friendship, cooperation and understanding with Azerbaijan. They understand the problem of the occupation of Azerbaijani territories and often try to push for policies helping the country. They also value the important economic, business and tourism potential Azerbaijan has for Europe.
- This first camp is the one that often organizes conferences and events in Brussels and Strasbourg on cultural cooperation, on the illegal annexation by Armenia of Azeri territories and which has constantly voted in favor for all legislative acts of the EP which further cooperation with Azerbaijan, or the progress report on the country in the Foreign Affairs Committee.
- However, there are also MEPs who either have an anti-Azeri agenda, or who prefer to believe wild allegation, lies and disinformation spread against Azerbaijan against in systematic campaigns. These are the MEPs who, every time they receive a message that one individual or another has been imprisoned, even though with good proof and in full respect of constitutional laws, they campaign and attack Azerbaijan. Not being able to pass any legislative acts, the do so mostly through speeches and, occasionally, urgency, non-legislative resolutions on alleged human rights violations. These resolutions are a non-mandatory collection of statements which the other European Institutions and the European countries are not in any way forced to take note of or enforce.
- The anti-Azeri side is also always claiming they want to organize “fact-finding missions” in Azerbaijan, for example they plan one for the beginning of 2016 for the DROI committee. However, they always manage to have problems with their passports or visas so they can afterwards falsely claim they are being persecuted by Azeri authorities.
- There are also neutral MEPs, who simply vote on this issue without much great interest, simply following the line of their political family. Such MEPs, however, came to Azerbaijan in 2013 at the Presidential Elections, and published a highly favorable report. Those MEPs noted good improvements in the democratic nature of the country and confirmed that the elections were democratic, transparent and free. They chose to do so in spite of pressures they had been submitted before and after the elections by the anti-Azeri side. Some of them were even attacked in the press for daring to support Azerbaijan!
- Therefore, people who seemed interested only in attacking Azerbaijan, through their useless urgency resolutions and within frameworks like the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly understood that if the European Parliament sends another delegation in 2015, they will only see the lack of any human rights or democratic abuses and that the situation in the country is very normal. They tried to attack the country once again with a debate on the Baku European Games in June 2015, but failed to have any text or resolution adopted. They therefore blocked the sending of another EP electoral observation mission to Azerbaijan at the November 2015 elections.
- However, there are clear signals, that despite this unheard of interdiction to go and observe democratic and free elections in Azerbaijan, many MEPs are still highly supportive of the country. This can be seen by the result of today’s vote in the Strasbourg plenary on yet another urgency resolution against Azerbaijan pushed by the anti-Azeri lobby.
- A long-term campaign against Azerbaijan was started in 2014 in the European Institutions centered on several allegations of human rights abuses in the country and illegal arrests and sentences. As September 2014 was the last time the European Parliament published an urgency resolution condemning Azerbaijan, September 2015 marks the one year anniversary and it was the moment for the anti-Azeri lobby to push, once again, the usual urgency, non-legislative resolution they adopt every year.
- The campaign, it has to be noted, involved significant logistic and financial efforts from the anti-Azeri lobby. There were about two conferences per month, countless emails, reports and letters, all using cases of common law to claim human rights abuses are happening, without any substantial proof. Still, the campaign did a lot of harm to Azerbaijan’s image in the European Parliament.
- The EP urgency resolution consists of unreal, inaccurate, unexamined, and falsified facts. For example, paragraph E of the resolution groundlessly and generally claims that many more journalists and civil society activists are faced with restrictions on their freedom of movement or paragraph F claims that allegedly, demonstrations in central Baku have been effectively banned since 2006. Although it is Emin Huseynov, who chairs IRFS, paragraph G of the resolution wrongly calls late journalist Rasim Aliyev as chairman of this organization. There are a lot of falsifications in the resolution regarding the facts. The nature of the resolution, methods of facts’ description, and distortion of events demonstrate that the resolution authors do not avoid from misrepresenting facts in order to achieve the extension of pre-electoral anti-Azerbaijani campaign.
- Usually the votes on these resolutions are left for the very end of the EP session, for a moment when very few MEPs actually stay to vote, as there is very little interest in them. That is why usually they pass easily, because only the few MEPs interested in adopting them go to the vote. However, due to a difference in planning, this one was voted when most of the MEPs were in the room and this time the vote result was much closer than usual.
- It has to be underlined that not all the MEPs from all the political groups supported this attack on Azerbaijan. There were attempts to block this item from the agenda, amendments and speeches in all groups, much more than before. Many MEPs pointed out that it risks creating the wrong impression that the EP is not interested in cooperation or negotiating with Azerbaijan. Many others demanded more proof. So, in order to put this resolution on the plenary agenda, the anti-Azeri lobby had to use all of its resources.
- Even so, in the end it was a text that was not signed by all the political groups. The EPP did not sign in the end the text that was voted, so in reality the urgency resolution published does not represent the European Parliament, but only a part of the political groups who signed the document (and even this after a lot of opposition at internal meetings).
- The largest group in the Parliament, the EPP considered it very wrong to mix the political accusations thrown in the resolution by the anti-Azeri camp with reality. They also considered that the best way to solve and improve any problems in Azerbaijan would be by cooperation and negotiation with the government, thought more programs, meetings and a deeper partnership. Their MEPs, along with some from the liberal, socialist or conservative groups, pointed out that if because of the actions of the anti-Azeri side, the European Union is becoming weaker and damaging its own interests.
- In the end, the vote was very close. It was 365 for the resolution, 202 againstand 72 abstentions, which can be de facto counted as against, so 365 MEPs did vote for the critical urgency resolution, but 274 did not support the resolution, which represents a figure almost ten times the one of the MEPs who opposed the last such resolution.
As the anti-Azeri lobby does not want to lose a very powerful influence tool against Azerbaijan, they have managed to block the sending of an electoral observation mission for the November elections. They have already begun to give their negative opinions and spread lies on something which has not yet even happened. It is clear they have already judged Azerbaijan and their opinion, biased and wrong, should not really be taken into consideration anymore.
The manner the recent resolution was passed, the much smaller difference in votes than the previous one, the fact that it only signed by a part of the political groups, but not by the biggest one shows clearly the desperation of the anti-Azeri side. They are trying to use whatever told they have to attack us, and this urgency resolution is their most irrelevant, inconsequential one. They pass one every year but absolutely nothing happens because of it.
This time, they had even more bad luck. The vote happening at a different hour almost ruined their plan, as the EPP chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the EP, Elmar Brock, even pushed for the item to be removed from vote when he saw that it was there. The only reason it stayed was the aggressive manner it was protected by the anti-Azeri MEPs like Marietje Schaake (Netherlands, ALDE), or Ulrike Lunacek (a long term campaigner against Azerbaijan, Austria, Green). Because that is the only way they manage to keep attacking Azerbaijan: through an aggressive and extensive disinformation campaign.
The most significant point is that for the first time in the history of the European Parliament, 43% of MEPs voted against the resolution on human rights. The human rights is usually a sensitive issue and is always the focus of attention of the community, thus, this figure usually doesn’t exceed 5-10%. Taking into consideration that such resolutions are usually adopted with absolute majority, the result of this voting is the proof of serious difference and political split in the EP regarding the issue of human rights in Azerbaijan. Compared to previous votes, this time the rightist European People’s Party, the largest political group in the European Parliament, refused to vote against Azerbaijan. Therefore, despite the power of anti-Azerbaijani lobby, clear improvement is noted in pro-Azerbaijani side.
It has to be noted that several MEPs, in the debate before the vote, did mention the real problems of Azerbaijan, and the need for the European Union to help with them: the illegal occupation of territories by Armenia, the constant Armenian threat, the internally displaced people and refugees. Others also pointed out the fact that Azerbaijan is actually the most inclusive, democratic and tolerant Muslim nation, without any of the many problems happening in other parts of the world.
The truth is that the anti-Azeri side, with its urgencies, attacks and refusal to observe elections is putting its own fist in the mouth. It’s weakening the position and respect of the European Parliament and making it a less important partner. Hopefully however, the work and the friendship of the many other MEPs who do not share their vision will maybe improve things.