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The European Union and the Republic of Azerbaijan held their sixth Subcommittee meeting on Justice, Freedom, Security (JFS) and Human Rights and Democracy on 16 and 17 October in Brussels. The meeting was held in an open and constructive atmosphere and was used to take stock of the situation in the country since the last Subcommittee meeting in October 2016, to assess progress made in all relevant areas and to explore ways to deepen EU-Azerbaijan cooperation, including in the context of the on-going negotiations on a new legally binding agreement.
During the first day of discussions the two sides exchanged views on JFS issues such as migration and mobility, covering among others migration, border and asylum management as well as the implementation of the Visa Facilitation and Readmission Agreements and of the Mobility Partnership; organised crime, including the prevention of and fight against trafficking in human beings, corruption, money laundering, terrorism and drugs; and the strengthening of the rule of law, justice system reform as well as the protection of personal data.
The second day allowed for a frank and open discussion on democracy and the human rights situation in the Republic of Azerbaijan as well as in the European Union. Issues related to elections and electoral framework, freedom of religion and belief as well as social and cultural rights were discussed.
Some persistent challenges in the areas of freedom of expression and information, freedom of assembly, freedom of association and NGO legislation, the penitentiary system and vulnerable groups of the population were addressed in detail, including some individual cases.
The EU and the Republic of Azerbaijan also tackled human rights cooperation within international organisations, in particular at the Council of Europe and the OSCE. The EU side valued Azerbaijan´s membership to these organisations and emphasised the importance of abiding by the international commitments that the parties have taken as members of these organisations.
In preparation for the Subcommittee meeting, the EU met with representatives of civil society as well as with other international partners.
The EU remains engaged in dialogue with Azerbaijan as regards these and other key human rights and democracy issues.
The Azerbaijani Delegation at the meeting was headed by Mr Mahmud Mammad-Guliyev, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs. The EU Delegation was headed by Mr Dirk Schuebel, Head of the European External Action Service Eastern Partnership Bilateral Division.