BAKOU – At a meeting in Brussels, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov discussed a new strategic partnership agreement with EU Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan. Hogan stressed the importance of intensifying negotiations on the trade side of the agreement. On 29 November 2013, the agreement to facilitate the issuance of visas between Azerbaijan and the European Union was signed in Vilnius, Lithuania. The document came into force on September 1, 2014. Under the agreement, travel to EU countries has become simpler and cheaper for Azerbaijani nationals and they can buy short-stay visas to allow free travel within the EU. The agreement is not in force in the United Kingdom, Ireland and Denmark. Under the agreement, visa processing is free for certain groups of citizens, such as official delegates, retirees, children under 12, students and researchers.  Azerbaijan`s economy is heavily based on oil and gas. “Everything that is not a hydrocarbon is very underdeveloped,” the source said, explaining that part of the difficulty was that “some ministers in the country were more interested than others” in reaching an agreement with the EU. He proposed that the agreement be “finalized before the East Partnership summit in June of this year and that it be initiated at this summit,” he said.
However, Mr. Aliev said that the parties had differences of opinion on two key points. In a speech to the press after the 16th EU-Azerbaijan Cooperation Council in April, the EU`s head of diplomacy said that Federica Mogherini, Brussels and Baku were in the “final decisive phase” of talks on the “ambitious new bilateral agreement”. The new agreement is expected to replace the 1996 Partnership and Cooperation Agreement. It should take better account of the common objectives and challenges facing the EU and Azerbaijan today. The strategic energy partnership concluded in 2006 remains an excellent example of mutually beneficial cooperation. However, relations go beyond energy and considerable progress remains to be made in the area of democracy and fundamental freedoms. The EU is discussing a closer relationship with Azerbaijan and began negotiations for a specific association agreement in 2010.