Baku, 8 September 2014
EU-Azerbaijan: reaffirmed commitment to promote democracy and human rights
Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy Štefan Füle met with the representatives of the Civil Society in Azerbaijan on Monday in Baku to stress the importance the EU attaches to the Civil Society as a partner for the authorities in the country, as a partner for the EU as well as in the framework of the Eastern Partnership. The meeting offered opportunity to exchange views about the activities of the civil society in Azerbaijan, its engagement with the authorities and the recent crackdown on prominent human rights activists.
Commissioner Füle highlighted the important role of Azerbaidjani Civil Society in advocating democratic reforms, supporting the reform process and holding the government to account.
" You have a vital role in promoting democracy, the rule of law and defending fundamental freedoms, " he said to representatives of dozen Civil Society organisations. " The EU admires your dedication despite the restrictions you are facing. We are watching closely the situation and have repeatedly expressed our concern at the changes to NGO legislation, as well as the arrests and sentencing of so many prominent members of civil society. Public debate and divergent opinions are indispensable in a stable democracy they should not be seen as threats ." (*see the full remarks of the Commissioner from the meeting here - http://bit.ly/Yq4m7j )
Commissioner Füle also announced a new programme to support the Civil Society that was just adopted by the European Commission. This programme will promote activities of civil society organisations working ondemocracy, human rights and promoting fundamental freedoms.
Targeted support (such as training programmes, seminars, conferences, advocacy, legal aid, awareness raising, analysis, research, monitoring and reporting) will be provided to build the capacity of civil society and strengthen its role in promoting reforms and accountability.The priority areas of the action include: freedom of expression, freedom and pluralism of media, electoral support, freedom of association, promotion of non-discrimination and gender, ethnic and religious equality, the protection of vulnerable groups and anti-corruption.
The European Commission offers significant funding opportunities to support civil society in the EaP countries and enable them to participate in the implementation of national reforms and democratic development. The EU is the main foreign donor to civil society organisations (CSOs) in Azerbaijan.
The new EU ‘Support to Civil Society Programme’ announced today provides €3 million over 2014-2015 to promote democracy and human rights in Azerbaijan. The funding comes from the European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI), the main financial and cooperation instrument for funding to the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) countries, including Azerbaijan.
The 2014 programme is part of the wider EU-funded support to civil society in the country, which is also supporting rural and regional development, education and social protection, funded both by the ENI as well as thematic programmes (Non-State Actors and Civil Society Organisations - NSA-CSOs- and the European Initiative or Democracy and Human Rights - EIDHR).
Alongside human rights projects, the EU has supported a variety of projects including inclusive education, disabilities, women and child rights, rural and regional development, environment, health, HIV/AIDS etc
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