Arif Mammadov: “Our ten-year activity in the Council of Europe was intensive and successful” – INTERVIEW

Arif Mammadov: “Our ten-year activity in the Council of Europe was intensive and successful” – <font color=red> INTERVIEW </font>
# 17 January 2011 09:24 (UTC +04:00)
Strasbourg. Fouad Gulubeyli – APA. APA interviews with Azerbaijan’s permanent representative to the Council of Europe, Ambassador Arif Mammadov.

-Ten years have passed since Azerbaijan became member of the Council of Europe. What is the way to membership?

- Naturally this way was not easy. We passed through the difficult phases on this way. Azerbaijan had some problems when it became member of the Council of Europe. Azerbaijan was admitted to the Council of Europe at the same time with Armenia and peaceful solution to Nagorno Karabakh conflict was one of the important commitments. The issues of political prisoners, freedom of mass media, coordination of the laws with the EU standards and other issues were raised when the Azerbaijan became member of the Council of Europe. Nagorno Karabakh problem is still on agenda and this is main issue. Our activity due this issue over the passed then years was intensive and successful. PACE resolution 1416 and recommendation 1690 is enough to be an example. Different forums and organizations discuss this issue basing on these documents.

We can note our other achievements over the passed ten years. For example, Azerbaijan’s activity regarding dialogue between the religions, as well as sports was very successful. As an ambassador, I am leading the group of reporters of the Committee of Ministers on education, sciences, youth and sports. Azerbaijan’s chairmanship in this group is an indication of our successes and shows our leading role. This year a largest event devoted to the dialogue between the cultures - World Forum for Dialogue between the Cultures will be held in Baku on April 7-9. The countries of the Council of Europe, as well as UNESCO, ISESCO and other international organizations will be represented in this forum.

- What did the CoE membership give to Azerbaijan?

- We were admitted to the Council of Europe as if credit, which means that we became member of the organizations within some conditions. Ten years ago the situation in the country has been completely different. Nagorno Karabakh conflict solution has been different. We has not been strong economically so as we are now, democratic institutions have not been strengthened and we were making new steps on this way. We were admitted as a member within some conditions and we should meet the credit of confidence. Today our country has concrete place and position in the organization. Azerbaijan has leading role in some spheres. We could make contributions to the issues regarding the cultural dialogue and sports. Baku hosted first ministerial conference on this issue. Azerbaijan has joined 55 conventions and 8 partial agreements so far, which created opportunity to reach development and progress in many spheres. I know that some people in our society don’t realize our membership to CoE completely frequently causing such questions that what the membership to CoE give us? If we had not become member of this organization, we couldn’t achieve development in a number of spheres. For example if we didn’t join the Convention on Culture, our education system couldn’t be a part of Bologna process. Today Kazakhstan faces with problems to join the European conventions because it is not a member of the Council of Europe. Despite its economic development it can not implement European values and standards in its system. Azerbaijan can be considered as Western and Eastern country at the same time, but we would like to benefit from the European values mostly. Europeans passed through the centuries, through the wars to reach this system of values. We accepted these values voluntarily and therefore they accept us as a part of Europe. Today we see that out acceptance of these values cause development in many fields. Azerbaijan’s Ombudsman Institution and Public Television were founded on the initiative of the Council of Europe and with its support. They play positive role in protection of human rights and pluralism. The European system of values was accepted as a model. Our membership in the Council of Europe enables us to be introduced in the international forums as a representative of Europe. Our membership in two organizations – OSCE and CoE – proves that we are part of Europe. We are the full members of these two organizations. But in my opinion, OSCE is more transatlantic organization because there is non- European country as USA. The EU is an absolute European organization and our membership to this organization means that we are surrounded with European values and standards. Being a Muslim country, it enables us to approach the Islamic values to the Europeans. As you know, the relations between Western countries and Muslim countries are not so warm and then we always have on agenda the theories on clash of civilizations. Some European politicians don’t conceal it. For example, it was stated that the intercultural integration with Islamic world were not functioning in high-level in Germany. But now Azerbaijan could take the other position and now it plays a role of bridge between religions and cultures. We always face great problems on such issues in international conferences in Baku supported by the EU. There are the countries among the member countries that do not want to talk about intercultural dialogue. Though they notice the importance of this dialogue, they show it as Europe’s internal affair. That is why Azerbaijan tries to play a role of bridge in this sphere. Many counties approve it today. “Baku process” was founded at the conference in Baku, and it considers the dialogue between Western and Muslim countries.

Our membership helped our relation with the Council of Europe. You know that when the Soviet Union fell and the admitting of new members began, many people called this organization “waiting room”. Before membership to the CoE, the country must be relevant to the EU values. The EU leadership does not accept this expression and don’t like these parallels, but if you relay want to be member of the European Union, you must accept the values of the Council of Europe. EU says that this is not only the economic union, but the union of values. That is if you are close to these values and share our view, we can be your friend. For example, the relation and friendship between people can be so. Somebody can make friends with someone because of his richness, but if their view does not suit and their opinion is different, this friendship is meaningless and artificial. In order to be EU member you should share their values and it gives more chance to develop the relations with the organizations. Many people in Azerbaijan say that we don’t need it, we have our way, but I think that these European values are universal and you should approach and accept it. From the other side, we must accept the differences and we also have different sides. There are great differences in western European countries and also in Denmark and Italy and all these must not prevent us to share our values. Saying the general values of the CoE, we mean its 3 principles – human rights, democracy and its legal supremacy. In first turn we all must accept these values and then we can talk about economic issues. There is no significance of the other stages without these 3 stages.

- What is the state of Azerbaijan’s fulfillment of commitments before the organization? Which important conventions you can note?

- We have fulfilled all commitments. That is, there is no unresolved problem or issue with the CoE. The only issue is that Nagorno Karabakh conflict must be solved in a peaceful way. Today, we remain committed to it and CoE’s position on it is very principal. It shows itself clearly in all documents, statements passed by the organization. Moreover, within the last year, we closely cooperated with Venice Commission, Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption (GRECO), MONEYVAL (Group on Combating Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing). For example, though at first we had difficulties with MONEYVAL, we were able to prove that there are no problems in this sphere in Azerbaijan and now Azerbaijan passed all monitoring. In fact, we have achieved a big progress in this sphere by responding all questions. Moreover, I can note our successful cooperation with the CoE’s Committees against Racism and Tortures. Some people in Azerbaijan try to prove that democracy is weak and human rights are not secured in the country. But I assure you that successful progress of Azerbaijan in several spheres has been reflected in COE’s reports. As an example we can note the last report of the Committee against Tortures. There are some humanistic rules in our jails that don’t exist even in France. For example, life-termers in our country may meet with their families and relatives for a long time, there are not such rules in some countries having ancient democratic rules. It shows that along with taking Europe as an example, we have to know that we could advance in some spheres, achieved higher results.

- How do you assess activity of Azerbaijan in PACE?

- We have very good relations with the Council of Europe. As you know, there were held parliamentary elections in November in Azerbaijan. Composition of new delegation to be represented in PACE has already been adopted. I have to note that our delegation – both general staff and succedaneums will come to forthcoming winter session. And it has some reasons. It is connected also with 10th anniversary of the COE and holding of series of events in this regard. You know that no big change has been realized in the composition of delegation to be represented in the PACE because it was a very professional composition. Samad Seyidov remains chairman of the delegation. Several MPs distinguished by their activeness will continue activity in the composition of delegation. It will help our work too, it will be easy for us because these people know how to work. Of course, there are new members, and they are professionals knowing foreign languages, and I think that coordination will be easy for the as well. As you know, PACE’s opinions on last elections were positive and to my mind, it was more objective and rather than other organizations. Now COE Committee of Ministers is chaired by Turkey, and Turkish President and Foreign Minister are expected to address this session. At the same time, there will be held opening of judicial year at the European Court of Human Rights and Chairman of Supreme Court Ramiz Rzayev have been invited to this event from Azerbaijani side. Minister of Culture and Tourism Abulfaz Garayev is expected to visit Strasbourg during the session as well and hold several high-level meetings, give information about “World Forum for Intercultural Dialogue” to be held in Baku. All these high-ranking guests will participate in the jubilee events to be held on occasion of 10th anniversary of our membership to the Council of Europe.

- When Azerbaijan is expected to be post-monitoring country?

- Ago Group’s monitoring in the level of Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe has been suspended and only GR-DEM (reporting group on democracy) will conduct monitoring on Azerbaijan as other member countries. It means like other member countries, we also passed into the normal general monitoring regime and left the special monitoring. I should notice one issue. Ago Group’s monitoring had positive sides as well. This group kept the Nagorno Karabakh problem on agenda. Therefore while passing into GR-DEM group we insisted in keeping discussion on Nagorno Karabakh conflict within the framework of this group.

Therefore this issue will remain in agenda in the GR-DEM. We also discussed it at the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry and consider that the theme of conflict must always remain in the agenda of the Council of Europe. We say that OSCE Minsk Group is dealing with this issue. But the Council of Europe being an experienced organization can also make its contribution to this issue. As regards the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, of course, there is still monitoring, but we have done much in this field. As you know, there was a special subcommittee on Nagorno Karabakh conflict in the PACE. Now Armenia is by all means trying to prevent the restoration of this subcommittee. But President of PACE Mevlut Cavusoglu wants to bring together the delegations of the two countries. The Azerbaijani side has positive attitude towards it, while the Armenian side wants to leave this framework. Armenia is demonstrating unconstructiveness, wants to leave all existing mechanisms, including the subcommittee of the PACE.

As regards this session, I consider that PACE President will make an effort in the winter session once more. But as I have said, the Armenian side is trying to keep away from these processes, this is not a right position. Of course, the Council of Europe understands it. We have expressed our opinion to the Council of Europe, they also consider that Armenia should not evade these processes.

-Could you give information about the statistics of the complaints filed to the European Court of Human Rights from Azerbaijan?

-Like other members of the Council of Europe we also joined the European Convention on Human Rights and the court considers the complaints filed from Azerbaijan and passes decisions. We are expecting correspondences on several cases. But compared to other countries, we do not have a serious problem. As you know, there have been few serious decisions up to now, actually we have given all necessary answers. Our policy in this field is open and transparent. If we are asked a question, we try to give a well-grounded answer within the framework of the law. Azerbaijan’s authorized representative in the court Chingiz Asgarov also pays visits to Strasbourg and attends relevant meetings. We are working properly. Compared to other countries, the complaints filed from Azerbaijan are hundred times fewer. Moreover, filing of complaints is normal, people are free to file complaints about their national courts. This is a normal process. As far as I know, the great majority of the complaints from Azerbaijan are rejected by the court.

-Will events on the 10th anniversary of Azerbaijan’s CE membership be held?

-The 10th anniversary of Azerbaijan’s membership of the Council of Europe will be marked on January 25, We plan to hold several events on this occasion. A jazz group from Azerbaijan will give a concert in the central concert hall in Strasbourg on January 25. The representatives of the Council of Europe, diplomatic corps accredited at the organization, the Azerbaijanis living and studying in Strasbourg will attend the event. It will be a kind of Azerbaijani Night. Jazz has been chosen as we have great achievements in this genre, we have created a new genre – our ethno-jazz. This genre came from America, but Azerbaijan could bring its national shades to this music. I consider that our jazz performers will show the beauty of the Azerbaijani jazz in this concert. Moreover, a number of events will be held all the year long. Conferences and events will be held.
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