The 8th EU-Azerbaijan Subcommittee on Justice, Freedom, Security and Human Rights and Democracy took place on 4 and 5 March in Brussels.
The meeting was the occasion for an open and constructive dialogue. The EU and Azerbaijan informed each other about the developments that had taken place since the last meeting was held in February 2019.
EU Special Representative for Human Rights, Eamon Gilmore, took part in the discussion on Human Rights and Democracy. His presence underscored the importance that the EU attaches to human rights in EU-Azerbaijan relations. He provided an overview of the developments related to human rights within the EU, paying particular attention to the challenges that the EU faces in the protection of minorities, as well as the fight against hate speech. While welcoming the recent adoption of the Presidential Decree on the Open Government Action Plan, which envisages the creation of a more open environment for Civil Society Organisations, he also addressed the key challenges faced by Azerbaijan. During the discussions, the EU and Azerbaijan addressed in detail persisting challenges to the freedoms of assembly, association and expression, as well as developments related to gender equality and children's rights. The EU and Azerbaijan also exchanged views on cooperation on the protection of human rights in regional and international multilateral fora, notably within the Council of Europe, OSCE and UN frameworks.
The second day was dedicated to issues related to rule of law, judiciary and judicial cooperation, as well as migration, asylum, border management issues, the prevention of organised crime, terrorism and violent extremism. Particular attention was paid to the reform of justice system and the importance of an independent, accountable, quality and efficient judiciary.
The EU and Azerbaijan will continue to engage on the areas covered by this Subcommittee.
The EU delegation was headed by Richard Tibbels, Head of Division for the Eastern Partnership - Bilateral Relations Division in the European External Action Service. The Azerbaijani delegation was headed by Zaur Ahmadov, Head of the Human Rights and Democracy Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan. In preparing the Subcommittee meeting, the EU met with representatives of civil society organisations.