By Kamila Aliyeva
The European Union (EU) has implemented 70 civil society projects worth 90 million euros in Azerbaijan since 2007, said Malena Mard, the head of the EU Delegation to Azerbaijan.
Mard announced about this while addressing a conference titled “Conformity of Azerbaijan's legislation and practice on NGOs to European standards” in Baku on April 18.
Noting that these projects covered trainings of women, social workers, journalists, judges, and so on, Mard said that the EU will continue this cooperation for the further development of the civil society.
“We are implementing similar projects in various countries within the framework of the Eastern Partnership program. We will continue this cooperation,” she said.
Mard stressed that 10.5 million Euros was allocated in new funding for education and employment program in Azerbaijan.
She also expressed gratitude to the Azerbaijani government for the support offered to the implementation of the EU-funded civil society projects.
She added that Azerbaijan and the EU are expected to launch the next phase of negotiations on the new strategic partnership agreement next week.
“The ongoing talks have an expanded agenda. We are ready to discuss a number of issues within the framework of these talks. We are looking forward to the next round of talks,” she said while commenting on the question of whether the visa-free regime will be discussed.
The new EU-Azerbaijan agreement on strategic partnership will follow the principles endorsed in the 2015 review of the European Neighborhood Policy and offer a renewed basis for political dialogue and mutually beneficial cooperation between the EU and Azerbaijan.
The agreement envisages the compliance of Azerbaijan’s legislation and procedures with the EU’s most important international trade norms and standards, which should lead to the improvement of Azerbaijani goods’ access to the EU markets.
Meanwhile, preparation works are underway for the EU-Azerbaijan business forum which is to be held in Baku on June 8.
The EU is aiming for participation of around 300 companies in the Azerbaijan-EU business forum, Mard said.
The forum attendees will have the possibility to hear directly from businessmen about the business climate in Azerbaijan, according to the head of EU delegation.
“We are looking forward to seeing how we can support further reforms in Azerbaijan,” she added.
The forum is expected to discuss the opportunities of developing the EU-Azerbaijan business cooperation.
The EU is Azerbaijan ?s biggest economic partner representing 44 percent of its total trade and providing the largest share of foreign direct investment to Azerbaijan.
The Union has repeatedly voiced support to Azerbaijan in its reform efforts, and aims at increasing networking and contacts between companies that will increase trade and economic activity even further.