The foreign ministry of Azerbaijan reacted angrily on Thursday to the European Union's criticism of recent amendments to the NGO legislation. The Ministry called the EU statement "bias" and described it as a "political pressure." The statement
issued by the Ministry's Spokesperson, Elman Abdullayev says that the EU's reaction is "surprising and confusing".
"It is interesting to find out what kind of credible sources Catherine Ashton and Stefan Fule were using to prepare this statement". According to Abdullayev "Azerbaijan's legislation on NGO is "better then laws in some of European countries.. and amendments to the legislation were introduced in order to strengthen transparency in the activity of the civil society". " The Ministry characterized the EU statement as "bias" with the intent of "political pressure".
On February 11, The spokespersons of Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the Commission, and Štefan Füle, European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy criticized recent restrictive amendments to Azerbaijan's NGO law.
"The High Representative and the Commissioner are concerned by recent amendments to NGO legislation in Azerbaijan restricting the environment for an independent and critical civil society, especially in the field of human rights and democracy. In view of Azerbaijan's upcoming chairmanship of the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers, the High Representative and the Commissioner call upon the Azerbaijani authorities to abide by their international commitments and to review the law on NGOs with a view to addressing the concerns formulated by the Venice Commission.
In particular, they call upon the authorities in Azerbaijan to improve and facilitate the registration procedures for international NGOs, creating an environment conducive for all NGOs to carry out their legitimate activities. The High Representative and the Commissioner acknowledge the recent efforts by the Azerbaijani Government to engage civil society on its proposals to amend NGO legislation. While they recognise that this process led to some changes in the final legislation as adopted, they remain concerned by the overall impact of this legislation on civil society."
RFE/RL Azerbaijani Service