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European Commission Director for the EU's Eastern Neighbourhood, Lawrence Meredith, was in Lankaran today to meet with local authorities, visit the VET school Jalilabad, which is supported by the EU, and talk to university students at the University of Lankaran.
During the visit, Mr. Meredith, said: "The EU's support to the Azerbaijan is focused on bringing tangible benefits to the lives of citizens across the country. Our focus is to make the region of Lankaran more competitive, both at national and international level.
The EU plans to work together with the Government of Azerbaijan to develop a system for regional spatial planning in line with EU standards and best practices, establish a modern network of local economic and community cooperation hubs and improve Lankaran's entrepreneurial and investment conditions in the fruit and vegetable sector.
These measures will contribute to a more market-oriented production of fruit and vegetables, which will pave the way for an improved business environment in the sector, to the benefit of the citizens of the region of Lankaran. This new assistance package in the area of rural and regional development confirms the EU's and Azerbaijan's willingness to advance cooperation in a number of areas essential for Azerbaijan's economic diversification agenda.
Azerbaijan's economy has witnessed strong growth over the last decade, making substantial progress in poverty reduction. However, disparities remain, notably between the oil-rich capital agglomeration and the rest of the country, and more generally, between its urban centres and the rural areas. Economic diversification is an overriding government priority. This principle also underpins the ongoing negotiations for a new comprehensive bilateral agreement between the two sides and is central part of the Eastern Partnership. It is also a key area to ensure economic resilience in the neighbourhood as highlighted by the review of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP). The European Union's cooperation in the Azerbaijan aims to deliver benefits to citizens across the country. Support to rural and regional development is one of the main priority areas for EU assistance to Azerbaijan in the period 2014-2017, and this action builds upon long and substantial partnership between the EU and Azerbaijan to cooperate in this area.