The European Parliament’s second largest political group, the Socialists and Democrats, on Friday called for Azerbaijan to be “immediately expelled” from the body’s Eastern Partnership Program.
The call to expel Azerbaijan was made in a statement by the group denouncing the developments in Belarus, also an EPP member, following elections in the country, where long-time leader Alexander Lukashenko is tightening the grip on the country’s opposition forces following a disputed election there this week.
Drawing parallels between the elections in Belarus this month and ones held in Azerbaijan six months ago, the Vice President of the Socialists and Democrats, European Parliament member Kati Piri said: “We cannot be in partnership with countries where we witness the violent repression of political opposition and civil society. Dictators are the enemies of free societies. Both Belarus and Azerbaijan should be immediately expelled from the Eastern Partnership Programme.”
Friday’s statement comes 10 days after the same group called for “targeted sanctions” against Azerbaijan and high ranking members of its government, saying that official Baku was using the coronavirus pandemic to oppress opposition forces in the country.
William Lavender, a member of the Brussels-based European Friends of Armenia, said on Friday that the events in Belarus and Azerbaijan are in direct contradiction to the principles of the EPP, of which Armenia is a member.
“Democracy, the rule of law, and human rights are the foundations upon which the Eastern Partnership is built. Too often we see some in the European Parliament willing to overlook these principles for the sake of other interests. Sadly to say, those interests are often at the expense of Armenia. I’m pleased to see that at least one group in the European Parliament is taking these principles seriously and I hope that we will soon see other groups support this Honorable position,” said Lavender.
The EPP is an initiative that governs the EU’s relations with six post-Soviet states—Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine.