3.3.A campaign for isolation of Azerbaijan is under way in the European Parliament

The anti-Azerbaijani hysteria by leading pressure groups and international organizations has extremely intensified after the 2013 presidential election in Azerbaijan. Those forces made use of the elections for their malicious intentions and undertook serious attempts for international isolation of Azerbaijan.

One of such attempts manifested itself vividly in the European Parliament in mid-2015. The 11 June 2015 meeting of the European Parliament’s Democracy Support and Election Coordination Group was considering elections, slated for the second half of the year, and detailed discussions were under way on the election observation missions to be sent to the elections.

The co-chairs of the Democracy Support and Election Coordination Group, German MEP Elmar Brok (EPP) and British MEP Linda McAvan (Socialist) took the floor at the meeting and resolutely opposed sending an observation mission to the 2015 parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan.

They attributed this to the observation of the 2013 Azerbaijani presidential election by the official and unofficial delegations of the European Parliament, and the summoning of the unofficial delegation members to the disciplinary commission. Elmar Brok and Linda McAvan said that sometimes, even despite the presence of the official delegation in Azerbaijan and other countries (e.g. Kazakhstan), in most cases, the position of the unofficial delegation differed from that of the official delegation of the European Parliament.

At the meeting, along with the rejection to form an official election observation mission, an instruction was issued to prepare a letter, informing all the parliamentarians that there would not be an official delegation to observe the elections, and unofficial observation of the elections by the MEPs would also be banned.

In a letter to Martin Schultz, President of the European Parliament, on 30 June 2015, co-chairs Elmar Brok and Linda McAvan informed him that the Democracy Support and Election Coordination Group at its 11 June 2015 meeting reviewed possible priority countries for dispatching election observation missions in the second half of 2015.

The letter highlighted that “the group did not choose Azerbaijan, where it is planned to hold the presidential election on 1 November 2015, to send an election observation mission, as the conditions have not been met for sending such a delegation. The group members agreed that the conditions for holding free and fair elections do not exist in Azerbaijan and limitations on the freedoms of expression, assembly and association in the country make it impossible to create a level playing field for candidates and to organize a genuinely competitive vote.”

Building on their reasons, the co-chairs further  noted that “…if the EP receives an invitation from the Azerbaijani government to send an observation mission to the 1 November 2015 presidential election, the Group recommends to decline the invitation”.

The authors of the letter stated that the reasons behind this decision should be made public and stressed that a decision by MEPs to observe the elections on their own behalf would not only undermine the official position of this institution, but also, as it was the case in the past, if such participation is not announced, it would result in a violation of the Code of Conduct.

Though the co-chairs of the Democracy Support and Election Coordination Group claimed in their letter to EP President Mar­ tin Schultz that they kept abreast of the situation in Azerbaijan, they were repeatedly presenting the 1 November 2015 elections as the presidential election, whereas it was the parliamentary elections. It seemed doubtful if it was an accidental or a technical mistake.

What was surprising and regretting was that despite the EP, PACE and the OSCE PA observation missions positively assessed the 2013 elections and stated that it met fair and democratic standards, the co-chairs of the Democracy Support and Election Coordination Group voiced quite different and fabricated claim.

The Azerbaijani government sent an invitation to the OSCE/ ODIHR for observation of the parliamentary elections in 2015. The OSCE/ODIHR Needs Assessment Mission (NAM) visited the country and prepared a report. The NAM suggested in the report that 30 long-term and 350 short-term observers to be sent for the observation of the elections. However, during the communications, the Azerbaijani government stated that the composition of the ODIHR election observation missions had changed as follows:

– 30 long-term and 500 short-term observers during the 2005 parliamentary elections;

– 28 long-term and 450 short-term observers during the 2008 presidential election;

– 22 long-term and 405 short-term observers during the 2010 parliamentary elections;

-30 long-term and 280 short-term observers during the 2013 presidential election;

Against the background of the current dynamics of the number of observers, the Azerbaijani government asked NAM to substantiate the suggestion with regard to the number of observers in the 2015 elections compared to the previous elections, the response was not satisfactory. Therefore, the Azerbaijani government did not accept the proposal of the NAM.

It is intriguing that immediately after the contradiction between the OSCE/ODIHR and the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry, the European Parliament resorted to a new provocation – it adopted a non-objective, biased and urgent  resolution against Azerbaijan on 10 September 2015.

The adoption of such a political document without binding force was the next stage of the recent campaign in the European Parliament to isolate Azerbaijan from the international arena. Thus, the EP kicked off this campaign in June with a decision to rejecting observation of the elections in Azerbaijan.

What was worthy of attention was that the 10 September urgent resolution of the EP was adopted after the contradiction between the OSCE/ODIHR and the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry following the 31August 2015 report of the Needs Assessment Mission of the OSCE/ODIHR.

It was expected that the ideologists and authors of the EP’s urgent resolution would take advantage of the situation for extending the isolation campaign against Azerbaijan. Thus, in order to achieve its aim, the EP was not interested in the observation of the parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan by other international organizations, first of all, by the OSCE/ODIHR, and was trying to prevent this by all means.

It should be noted that a vote on urgent resolutions usually takes place at the very end of the EP sessions, when a small number of MEPs are present. However, this time, an urgent draft resolution was put to the vote when there were many MEPs at the meeting hall. With 202 votes against and 72 abstentions, all together 274 MEPs did not support this resolution which indicated that the number of MEPs backing Azerbaijan was not low. But Azerbaijan was facing an extensive campaign and 365 MEPs supported this urgent resolution.

The authors of the biased urgent resolution in the EP were certain that the adoption of a harsh anti-Azerbaijani document, based on numerous fake reports, would trigger serious reactions by the Azerbaijani government and the public. By succeeding in the passage of this biased resolution, they were trying to force the Azerbaijani government to take concrete practical steps and suspend its participation in the Eastern Partnership program of the European Union.

Under their estimations, in case the Azerbaijani government makes a decision to suspend its participation in the Eastern Partnership program, the anti-Azerbaijani campaign would have been chainlike: the OSCE/ODIHR would take into account the contradiction with the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry over the number of observers and reject observing the elections. Under this scenario, following the OSCE/ODIHR’s rejection to observe the elections, the OSCE PA and PACE would change their decisions on the observation of the elections and respectively, reject to observe elections. Thus, under this scenario, none of the European structures (EP, OSCE, OSCE PA, and OSCE/ODIHR) would send official observation missions to Azerbaijan and the country would find itself in isolation.

Indeed, by referring to the press service of the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry on 11 September 2015, the media in the country said that for the EP’s biased resolution, “the next week’s visit by a delegation of the European Union Commission for the preliminary talks on the Strategic Partnership Agreement between the EU and Azerbaijan was postponed by Azerbaijan”. This in­ formation also said that”… generally, we should reconsider the relations with the European Union where the anti-Azerbaijan and anti-Islamic tendencies are strong”.

Moreover, it became clear on 11 September that the OSCE/ ODIHR would not send an official election observation mission to Azerbaijan if the latter did not accept the recommendations with regard to the number of observers advised by the Needs Assessment Mission Report (30 long-term observers and 350 short-term observers).

Nevertheless, as the OSCE/ODIHR NAM failed to substantiate its suggestion about the number of the observers for the 2015 elections as compared to the number of observers in the previous elections, the government of Azerbaijan did not accept this suggestion. At this pretext, on 11September the OSCE/ ODIHR rejected to observe the 2015 parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan.

Given the current situation, the OSCE PA leadership referred to the “Cooperation agreement between the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and the OSCE Bureau for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights” from 2 September 1997 in Copenhagen and stated that it would not observe the elections, too.

Thus, in line with the plans of the anti-Azerbaijan forces, this decision of the EP should initiate the next stage of the campaign to isolate Azerbaijan ahead of the 2015 parliamentary elections. After the European Parliament, in September 2015, under various pretexts the OSCE/ODIHR and the OSCE PA refused to ob­ serve the elections slated for November in Azerbaijan. When the OSCE/ODIHR reached a decision on rejecting the observation of the elections, anti-Azerbaijan forces hoped that all international organizations would follow the suit.