Azerbaijan, new strategic partner of the European Union
Environmental scientist, PhD researcher on hydrogen and Specialist on
history and geopolitics of Ex-Soviet Union and Central Asia.
Azerbaijan is a country that is becoming more and more vocal. Certainly, when a few years ago, very
few spoke about this country, today it is beginning to make the headlines of many newspapers. But how
can we explain this agitation about this country? Well, simply because Azerbaijan is a country that is
becoming a power in its region and an indispensable partner for us Europeans.
First of all, it is useful to make a historical and geographical focus. Azerbaijan, a former Soviet
republic with a population of over 10 million, is a Caucasian country located on the dividing line
between Europe and Asia. It is this strategic position that we will deal with today in this article. Its
capital is Baku, its official language is Azerbaijani Turkish. The country gained its independence when
the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) broke up in 1991.
Azerbaijan is strategically located but at the same time is in a region of high political tension.
This former Soviet republic has land borders with Russia to the north, Iran to the south, Turkiye to the
west-southwest, Armenia to the west and Georgia to the northwest. In addition, thanks to its 713-
kilometer coastline on the Caspian Sea to the east, the country has access to Central Asia, which allows
it to connect to East Asia.
According to the French government's DG Treasury and the sept.info website, Azerbaijan has the
world's 20th largest proven oil reserves (0.4% of the total) and the 25th largest proven gas reserves
(0.5% of the total) but with substantial unexplored offshore potential.
Azerbaijan is a member of more than 40 international organizations, including the United
Nations, the Organisation of Turkic States, the Commonwealth of Independent States, the Organization
of Islamic Cooperation and the Council of Europe.
As a first step, it is useful to understand the context of rapprochement between the European
Union and Azerbaijan. The Russian-Ukrainian war is taking its toll on Europe as many of you know.
The energy bills speak for themselves.
Our continent has long lagged behind in its energy independence
and this delay is being paid for by the citizens. It is crucial for the European Union to find partners and
new gas suppliers, Azerbaijan being one of them.
First of all, it is important to mention that Azerbaijan
is a stable and trusted partner, which makes this partnership even more valuable. The President of the
Ursula von der Leyen, visited Azerbaijan last July to obtain an increase in
deliveries of their gas via pipeline through the Caspian Sea. As a result, Baku should increase its sales
to Europe by 30% this year.
Azerbaijan is expected to deliver 12 billion m³ of gas to Europe in 2022. Although this total remains
modest compared to Norwegian or American deliveries, it is still significant. Indeed, according to
Ibadoghlu, G. (2022), it is the Americans and the Norwegians who have the most potential to provide
an alternative to Russian gas in the near future. Nevertheless, Azerbaijan remains a supplier that
diversifies European imports.
In this context, the French historian of Armenian origin, Taline Ter Minassian, testified to the
newspaper radiofrance.fr that Azerbaijan is courted by the European Union.
It is in this context that the EU and Azerbaijan are strengthening their bilateral relations, including
cooperation in the field of energy (ec.europa.eu).
As mentioned above, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Energy Commissioner Kadri
Simson met with President Ilham Aliyev and Azerbaijani Energy Minister Parviz Shahbazov in Baku
in July to strengthen existing cooperation between the EU and Azerbaijan. The two presidents signed a
new Memorandum of Understanding on a strategic partnership in the field of energy.
Currently, the EU and Azerbaijan are also negotiating a new comprehensive agreement, which will
strengthen cooperation in a wide range of areas, including economic diversification, investment and
trade, and make full use of the potential of civil society, while stressing the importance of human rights
and the rule of law.
Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said: "Today, by signing this new Memorandum of
Understanding, we open a new chapter in our energy cooperation with Azerbaijan, a key partner in our
efforts to move away from Russian fossil fuels. Not only are we seeking to strengthen our existing
partnership, which ensures stable and reliable gas supplies to the EU via the Southern European Gas
Corridor, but we are also laying the foundation for a long-term partnership on energy efficiency and
clean energy, as we both pursue the goals of the Paris Agreement. However, energy is just one of the
areas in which we can intensify our cooperation with Azerbaijan and I look forward to fully exploiting
the potential of our relationship."
Ciarreta, A., & Nasirov, S. (2012) wrote about this : “The creation of a stable legal framework in the
energy sector and the provision of a predictable legislative and regulatory framework in oil contracts
have been the biggest achievements of the Azerbaijani government in its strategy for attracting foreign
investment to develop the oil and gas sector”.
von der Leyen et Aliyev,
The EU does not stop at gas. Indeed, another partnership links the EU to Azerbaijan: that of
hydrogen. According to Hydrogen Central, Azerbaijan has the potential to transport hydrogen along the
Southern Gas Corridor. Azerbaijan wants to turn to renewable energy. At least that's what SGC CJSC
(Southern Gas Corridor) Director General Afgan Isayev says. Moreover, at an event organized by the
Embassy of Azerbaijan in Brussels on November 15, 2022, Azerbaijani Ambassador Vaqif Sadıqov
himself said that Azerbaijan wants to achieve its energy transition by accelerating the development of
fossil fuels, mainly solar and wind energy.
He also noted the growing interest in green hydrogen and its
potential for future transportation to the EU. I would like to add a nuance: although black gold has made
Azerbaijan the powerhouse of the Caucasus, its economy remains highly dependent on it. Its economy
is based on oil and more than 90% of its exports are oil-related.
Despite this partnership, the EU seeks to play a political role in the stability of the region and
according to the European Council website, on October 17, 2022, the Council decided to deploy up to
40 EU experts on an observation mission to the Armenian side of the international border with
Azerbaijan to observe and analyze the situation in the region.
Twenty-eight years ago, a war broke out
between the two Caucasian countries, which resulted in the occupation of 20% of Azerbaijani territories
recognized by international law. In 2020, Azerbaijan launched an offensive to recover these territories.
Since then, tensions have remained between the two neighbors.
In a second step, it would be a question of pointing out another important role of Azerbaijan as
a partner of the European Union: its proximity to Ukraine. According to Boussois, S. (2022), Azerbaijan
is the best ally of Ukraine in the South Caucasus, unlike Armenia (euractiv.fr). He writes that "In the
Caucasus, Ukraine can count on its ally Azerbaijan, unlike Armenia, defender of Russian interests and
successive annexations of territories since 2014 by Moscow." Boussois, S. doctor of political science,
adds that as early as February 26, Zelensky had tweeted thanking Azerbaijan for instructing SOCAR
(Azerbaijani) gas stations on Ukrainian soil to provide the country's ambulances with free fuel.
Finally, Azerbaijan is presented as a partner that would allow the European Union to
consolidate its connection to East Asia. Indeed, the country has a strategic position because it is at the
crossroads of the East and the West. Currently, the Azerbaijan-Georgia-Türkiye Corridor connects
Europe to Asia. However, a new Corridor will double this connection. This project was presented again
at the Embassy of Azerbaijan this Tuesday, November 15 in Brussels. The Zangezur Corridor or
Nakhchivan Corridor is the corridor that will connect Azerbaijan to its exclave, the Autonomous
Republic of Nakhchivan, in accordance with Article 9 of the ceasefire agreement signed between
Azerbaijan and Armenia after Azerbaijan won the Nagorno-Karabakh war in 2020. The corridor will
pass through the territory of Armenia (presumably in the Sunik region). Ambassador Vaqif Sadıqov
pointed out the need for Armenia to rebuild this destroyed road to facilitate the establishment of the
Corridor which will no longer require Azerbaijan to pass through Georgia to connect to Türkiye. He
added that this will also be beneficial for Armenia.
Middle Corridor, https://www.railway.supply/en/railways-of-georgia-azerbaijan-turkey-and-kazakhstan-will-create-a-joint-venture-middlecorridor/
In conclusion, the reasons why the EU is seeking to establish ties with Azerbaijan have been
shown above. In a world, where the poles of power change and new powers appear, the EU must find
new partners to keep its power. Azerbaijan is undoubtedly a growing country in the Caucasus. It is in
the interest of the EU to get closer to this country. As Ciarreta, A., & Nasirov, S. (2012) state.
"Azerbaijan is an important country for the energy security of the European Union and plays the role
of a transport corridor between Europe and Central Asia."
Ciarreta, A., & Nasirov, S. (2012). Development trends in the Azerbaijan oil and gas sector: Achievements and
challenges. Energy Policy, 40, 282-292.
Ibadoghlu, G. (2022). Could Azerbaijan help the EU reduce its dependence on Russian gas?. LSE European
Politics and Policy (EUROPP) blog.
Conflit entre l’Arménie et l’Azerbaïdjan : L’Europe laisse-t-elle la place à Poutine ? (2022, novembre 7).
France Culture. https://www.radiofrance.fr/franceculture/podcasts/le-temps-du-debat/conflit-entre-l-armenieet-l-azerbaidjan-l-europe-laisse-t-elle-la-place-a-poutine-1249430
Azerbaijan has Potential for Transporting Hydrogen Along Southern Gas Corridor—Hydrogen Central.
(s. d.). Consulté 16 novembre 2022, à l’adresse https://hydrogen-central.com/azerbaijan-potentialtransporting-hydrogen-along-southern-gas-corridor/
Pétrole, gaz et caviar. (2019, mai 17). Sept. https://www.sept.info/azerbaidjan-petrole
L’UE et l’Azerbaïdjan renforcent leurs relations bilatérales. (s. d.). [Text]. European Commission - European
Commission. Consulté 16 novembre 2022, à l’adresse
L’Azerbaïdjan est le meilleur allié de l’Ukraine dans le Caucase-sud, contrairement à l’Arménie –
EURACTIV.fr. (s. d.). Consulté 16 novembre 2022, à l’adresse https://www.euractiv.fr/section/l-europedans-le-monde/opinion/lazerbaidjan-et-le-meilleur-allie-de-lukraine-dans-le-caucase-sud-contrairementa-larmenie/