Speech of the Azerbaijan President Heydar Aliyev at the signing ceremony of agreement on partnership and cooperation between the Republic of Azerbaijan and the European Union. Luxembourg, April 22, 1996

Ladies and gentlemen!

The agreement signed today on partnership and cooperation between the Republic of Azerbaijan and the European Union is an historic event of a great impor­tance for the young, independent Azerbaijan state.

It opens vast prospects to expand and deepen comprehensive cooperation, strengthen international peace, defend security and democratic principles, pro­tect human rights, and ensure progress and effective cooperation across the continent of Europe.

Azerbaijan pins great hope on the future of process­es aimed at the integration of all the European countries and will participate actively in this process as an equal partner.

Since our proclamation of independence, the Republic of Azerbaijan has been advancing with resolve in building a democratic, law governed, secular state.

Within a short period of time considerable achieve­ments have been made in this area. More than thirty political parties are active in our country. Political plu­ralism and freedom of the press and conscience have been ensured in Azerbaijan within a short period of time. The first democratic Constitution of an indepen­dent Azerbaijan was adopted in a nation-wide referendum, and the first democratic parliamentary elections were held based on multi-party system.

We have been carrying out large-scale economic reforms based on entrepreneurship and a market econ­omy. We have adopted and are implementing a state program for privatization of state-owned property. We are creating the necessary conditions to support the pri­vate sector and to attract more foreign investment.

Agreements signed with major international oil companies play an important role in Azerbaijan's inte­gration into the world economic system. Recent con­tracts signed with foreign oil companies on joint devel­opment of energy reserves in the Azerbaijan sector of the Caspian Sea are promising examples.

In order to carry out reforms, we have been cooper­ating closely with international financial institutions and world organizations. In this regard, we attach special importance on our cooperation with the European Union.

The experience of the European Union, as well as the achievements of its member countries in developing democracy and ensuring the welfare of its peoples, is bright example for countries which have recently gained their independence.

The European Union has also made great strides in safeguarding and strengthening international peace and security. On many occasions, the principled position of the European Union regarding several critical interna­tional problems has helped to put an end to conflicts on a just basis both within Europe and outside. We hope that the European Union will take a more active part in the settlement of problems existing in the South Caucasus and will have an impact on ensuring peace and stability in our region in the near future.

As a result of aggression against Azerbaijan, twenty percent of the territory of Azerbaijan has been occupied; thousands of social and industrial enterprises, cultural monuments, and entire cities and villages have been devastated. More than one million citizens of our coun­try have been forced from their homes and live as refugees under the most difficult circumstances.

Irrespective of great losses and the moral and mate­rial damage sustained by our people, we are in favor of peaceful settlement of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan within the frame of the OSCE Minsk group.

In order to achieve peace, the sovereignty, territori­al integrity and inviolability of national frontiers of states must be recognized and international legal norms implemented.

On this solemn occasion, I declare that we will con­tinue to be committed to these principles, and try to achieve peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan. We are ready to give the highest degree of autonomy existing in world practice to the Nagorno Karabakh within the Republic of Azerbaijan. Achievement of peace between two states will bring stability and economic prosperity to the region.

I would like to avail myself of this opportunity to thank the European Union for the humanitarian aid ren­dered to hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijani refugees to ease their suffering resulting from the military aggression. We hope that the European Union will con­tinue to spare no efforts and devote attention to help the needs and requirements of our people and to solve the problems of our young, independent state.

By opening new pages in the development of rela­tions between Azerbaijan and the European Union, we once more declare that we will do our best for the sake of peace and stability, and the welfare of all the peoples on the continent of Europe.

Thank you for your attention. 

The document was taken from the edition of "Heydar Aliyev New Political Course"