Interview of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev on board on his way from Brussels to Azerbaijan – April 18, 1995

Heydar Aliyev: The European Union is an internationally prestigious entity. It has a lot of means. The union consists of 15 member-states. The EU uses the means of its member-states to carry out its activity.

The EU has a great influence in global politics, economy and processes. Therefore, the establishment of direct relations between the EU and Azerbaijan is necessary and beneficial. The main purpose of my visit to Brussels was to gain an opportunity to set tight relations with the EU.

The Presidency of the European Union rotates between the member-states every six months. The officials of the EU`s permanent bodies are elected every five years. Mr. Santer was also elected the President of the European Commission for five years. It is very important to set personal relationships and regulate the relations between Azerbaijan and the EU for our close cooperation with the Commission. I am very satisfied with the results of my visit.

I held productive negotiations and discussions with Mr. Santer, Mr. Bruck and others during my visit. I gave wide information about the economic and social situation in our country, the occupation of our lands and hard living conditions of over million refugees as a result of the war with Armenia, and about the work underway in Azerbaijan. I also talked about democratization, measures on establishment of statehood, on economy and on politics, as well as economic reforms, democratic principles, political pluralism, human freedom, freedom of speech and protection of human rights.

Parliamentary elections are scheduled to October in Azerbaijan. When talking about conducting democratic elections, I also invited the EU to observe the elections. We plan to prepare and adopt a new democratic constitution this year. I informed the EU about it. These are important issues. The EU attaches a great interest to democratic changes in reforms and provides a relevant assistance.

In addition, I thanked the EU for its help to our country. We also negotiated the measures to be done. The EU possesses enormous means in this field. The EU functions in many directions and provides post-Soviet countries with assistance. Unfortunately, we started to use the means of the EU only recently. These opportunities were not known to our country or Azerbaijan couldn’t establish relevant relations in this direction because of its passive position. However, in recent times – sine late 1994 and beginning of 1995 our cooperation with the EU accelerated. The Cabinet of Ministers has done a lot in this direction. I positively evaluate these measures. Thanks to these measures, the economic aid of the EU to our country has enhanced.

For example, the EU will decide to send Azerbaijan about 300 thousand tons of wheat and flour. Moreover, Azerbaijan was supplied with 2 thousand tons of meat and 2 thousand tons of butter free of charge. As you know, the EU also granted Azerbaijan a credit that is worth 66 million ecu. Part of this credit has been used. Ways of spending the rest were also determined.

The EU has some other programmes, too. For instance, the EU provides a humanitarian aid to low-income people, refugees and people living in hard conditions in Azerbaijan within the framework of ECHO programme. This aid was provided last year, too. But these aids can be larger. We conducted negotiations in Brussels to make this aid more effective and organized.  

The EU has also launched the large TACIS programme. Azerbaijan can conduct an effective joint work within the framework of this programme. But unfortunately, not all of these activities have been supervised. As a result of inactivity of some organizations and bureaucracy in some spheres in Azerbaijan, some initiatives have not been made. I got just well informed about TACIS and I think we can cooperate in many fields of this programme. In this regard, we came to an agreement in the European Commission.  

Furthermore, an agreement on free food supply to Azerbaijan for the second half of 1995 and 1996 was made. We informed the European Commission about our demands, and they agreed to supply us with food.

Moreover, the EU has a soft loan which we want to receive. I discussed this matter, too. If possible, an EU delegation will visit Azerbaijan in May to check measures and economic reforms that are being conducted and get acquainted with democratic processes. They merely want to learn these.

The EU is aware of the current situation in Azerbaijan. The EU officials were satisfied with my information. Our negotiations were effective and significant. After an EU delegation visits Azerbaijan, these issues will be discussed in the Council of Europe in late May and then they will be submitted to discussion of heads of states. Afterwards shipment of those aids to our country will start.

I think all these open wide perspectives for our country and we have created a strong basis in our negotiations. I guess they are not only results of our negotiations. The main thing is that direct relationship between the EU authorities and the Azerbaijani president was set, and it will help us a lot in future. I am sure our cooperation with the EU will expand.

I just conducted a meeting here, had a talk with people who had accompanied me during my visit and gave them directions on results of the measures taken. In my opinion, to carry out this activity in an organized way, responsible groups for each field should be set up, and they should be concentrated in one place. The measures should be organized and supervised in the center.

Shortly, I am pleased with my meetings and negotiations with the EU. I believe they will set a good basis for our cooperation with the EU.

Question:  Mr. President, of course, the situation in our country is critical and humanitarian aid is necessary. Will the credit we are going to receive from the EU be enough at least to maintain the current level of budget deficit and prevent the inflation from increasing or will additional measures be necessary?

Answer:  This is our own business. We can somehow refund budget deficit with the help of income and credits granted from the EU and other entities. But it is impossible to repay the entire deficit. We need to develop industry and carry out relevant measures to maintain normal state of budget and secure normal financial activity. As you know, reforms are being conducted in agrarian sector. In order to speed up the current activity I called for a big meeting lately. Concrete tasks will be fulfilled there. I assume, alongside with reforms, they will yield results. Additional measures should be taken to increase industrial productivity. First, I think the potential of our industrial entities is not used as we wish. It seems to me the directors of industrial entities, plants, and factories are careless. I will pay more attention to it and punish all careless people. Some of them may be even dismissed.

For instance, recently I dismissed the director of the State Metallurgy Company. Because the company did not work well and its potential was not used properly. Moreover, that person committed crime using his position and therefore, he must answer for his crime. This must be a lesson for others, as well. How long can such people commit a crime and abuse their position? Because of them there is a critical situation in the domestic economy. There are other objective reasons, such as breakup of roads and economic ties. At the same time, the potential of our country is not used effectively. Thus, ministers and directors of companies should run industrial enterprises effectively.

Effective utilization of current potential can lead to productivity increase and budget normalization. I repeat that budget normalization can not be run only with the help of credits. We need to use potential of our country. I believe we will do it.

Question:  Mr. President, as said in the meeting with our compatriots, the Azerbaijani president works 19-20 hours a day, but people around him do not. In a recent meeting you touched this matter and warned that it can not continue like this. Sometimes we confuse democracy and anarchy. They say there is a need for Heydar Aliyev`s iron hand in order not to let things continue like this. Is it so? 

Answer: The truth is that people who do not perceive democracy have created anarchy in our country under democratic slogans. Democracy must be established and economy must develop. I mean real and strong democracy. There is no land in our society for people doing dirty things under democratic slogans. We need to work in this direction. There is no land in our society for people committing crime and working against our state under democratic slogans. But it will not continue and they will be punished. Recent events showed that nobody remains and will remain unpunished.

At the same time, some officials have recently become irresponsible. Some people who keep their positions despite irresponsibility, abuse, and commit crime think they can live like this. They harm our society badly. Existence of poor masses on the one hand and of officials, who have become rich illegally on the other hand, is unjustice. I can not stand this unjustice. Neither can the people. I will not put up with any more, so I have warned some people.

I assume our talk will be broadacast on TV, so I reiterate that I will not tolerate this injustice. The people, who serve the country with loyalty, honesty, pure heart, and moral, will keep working with us. If the people, who have become rich committing crime and abusing their position, think that they can live wealthy lives, they are wrong. They will not! Our society will ostracize them and become healthy. Moral will increase in our society, where there will be no room for illegal people. It is still not late for them to return to a right path.

Question: Mr. President, even the most extreme oppositioners can not deny your international successes. But they critisize your internal policy. What do you think about it?

Answer: They don`t know what they are talking about. Actually they don`t have anything to claim. I wonder whether they understand what internal policy is. They do not. Is it easy to adopt laws on economic reforms? Why could they not conduct economic reforms once they were in power? Why did they not carry out these reforms back then? They did not. Now they talk whatever they want to. Now people, who were opposite to one another back then, critisize everything together.

Economic reforms and democratization are being and will be conducted in Azerbaijan. Some people shout asking when elections will be held. The validity of the present parliament expires in February. What is the point to shout now? They declared to other countries as if we don`t want to organize elections here. How come? The elections will be held. The law on election is being elaborated now. The election date will be announced three months ahead. To answer those people, I can state that the elections will take place in October. The decision is not made by me. But my opinion will probably be taken into consideration, too.

It is known that our internal situation is uneasy. There have been three coup attempts in Azerbaijan in a year and half. In which country can such attempts happen? We rescued Azerbaijan from a big disaster in June 1993. Azerbaijan was ravaged and divided then. The people who had created this tragic situation in Azerbaijan started critisizing after the situation was normalized.

Or the people who got positions at that time. Weren`t their positions enough for them? No, they needed higher positions. They prepared another coup attempt last October. We foiled the coup attempt and later we forgave some conspirators in order to keep peace and stability in the country. But there was no peace. All opposition forces gathered around the Special Purpose Police Unit. It`s true that the members of SPPU were not smart. Those controversial forces tried to use SPPU for their own purposes. The detachment leaders thought they would be able to overthrow the government. They shed blood. But their attempt failed. As I noted earlier, Azerbaijan survived three tragedies within a year and half. Is it possible to skip them? After the attempt there was a legal case which discontinued. After the second attempt people were arrested and an investigation is underway now. After the third coup some conspirators were detained, but others escaped. Some people also fled after the October events. We need to search, find, and punish them. Do people teaching us internal policy see all these? They created this tension. On the one hand, they created tension and don’t let us work, on the other hand, they proclaim “there are problems in internal policy”. There are not. Everything is and will be normal. Everybody should know that the democracy established in Azerbaijan will be an example for other post-Soviet nations. No one should doubt it. The opposition forces should know it and stop criticizing.

Three times we have proved that there is strong power in front of people trying to destroy Azerbaijan. It is power and will of the people. Since I came here I have been relying on and will rely on the people`s will. This gives me more power.

I had a constructive meeting and important conversation with the Belgian Prime Minister in Brussels. Belgium is an important nation in the center of Europe. Headquarters of many international organizations are located there. Belgium is a very developed nation in terms of economy and statehood. I had met the Belgian Prime Minister as well. Later we met in Budapest, Copenhagen, and Davos, too. Today we had a thorough talk on establishment of bilateral relations. I invited him to pay a state visit to Azerbaijan. He also invited me to Belgium. He said I always come to Belgium to meet authorities of international organizations, but I should pay a state visit, too.

I suppose our negotiations will be significant for our country. We can develop direct relations with Belgium. That`s why I appointed an ambassador of Azerbaijan to Belgium. He stayed in Brussels and will work there. I introduced him to the Prime Minister. He will develop Azerbaijan`s relations both with international organizations and Belgium.

Question: The presidents of most post-Soviet nations, especially of Central Asia and Kazakhstan, whose tenure end, intend to extend their terms via referendum. President Heydar Aliyev has always relied on the people. During the coup attempt one million people gathered in a square after your call. The editorial office of the TV news programme received thousands of telegrams on support for the President. Some of them raise an issue on extension of your term though there are still 4 years left.

Answer: They shouldn`t worry. My term is long enough. There will be elections when my term comes to an end. I will be re-elected if the people support me. I believe they will.

Question: Will you take part in next elections?

Answer: Yes, I will.