Plenary speech on Azerbaijan, freedom of expression

Marietje
Marietje Schaake – Mr President, Azerbaijan is signatory to a number of partnerships with the EU. It is active in the neighbourhood policy as well as in the Eastern Partnership. This does not only relate to trade. Azerbaijan has also signed up to respect democracy, human rights and the rule of law. However, currently, these are all under serious threat with the present regime. Today we highlight the case of Emin Milli and Adnan Hajizade, which represents a crackdown on free media, free expression and civil society that is much deeper and wider than the case of merely two bloggers, as they have been called. They did indeed use new media like Facebook and Twitter for their youth organisation’s work, but the fact is that we do not even know why they are imprisoned as evidence to defend their case has not been admitted in the trial, and the trial did not meet international standards – and, indeed, looks fabricated. If we cannot rely on the Azerbaijani Government to stay true to its commitment to democracy, human rights and the rule of the law through the various agreements it has itself signed with the EU, then Europe cannot consider Azerbaijan to be a credible partner at all; this is also true of trade relations. This resolution urges the Azerbaijani Government to adhere to its own promises and to start building its legitimacy in the international community by respecting its own citizens, granting them democratic and human rights and allowing for respect of the rule of law. Yesterday, we awarded the Sakharov Prize in this House of the European people, and we saw a very impressive speech by the laureate, Mr Kovalev, who said that fear can only be met by freedom of thought, and freedom of thought can only be expressed when freedom of expression is actually guaranteed and when we listen to those people who are simply addressing issues such as opposition to their government, which we, as Europeans, have to guarantee in partnership with Azerbaijan in all areas.