My last two visits to Brussels shaped up a rather clear vision of where EU stands in its relation to our region and Azerbaijan in particular. Conclusion drawn: my country, nor this region is a number one priority for international institutions, at least not when their interests are not at stake.
In a way, I am thankful to the honesty I saw in Brussels and yet I am frustrated at the same time. EU's biggest concert at the moment is the monetary crisis (surprise! surprise!). That is all parliament members talk about (more or less) and all they really care. Any discussion outside of this issue- including currently popular topics like visa- free travel/ visa facilitation are not of interest, let alone talk and lobbying on democracy building, human rights, freedom of expression and more.
In case of Azerbaijan, the situation is even clearer- "as long as Azerbaijan has oil and gas, no 'sticks' would be used" as having heating in their homes, is just as fair and a human right for every European citizen relying on Azerbaijan's natural resources (so who cares if people get arrested when Europeans are warm in their homes).
To my surprise, things got even better, when during one of the meetings, a speaker suggested looking at all mighty mother Russia and asking for "democratic sticks" on its behalf towards Azerbaijan, especially as Europe will continue its cooperation with Azerbaijan no matter what.
For so many times now, I have been hearing the very same tune, that Azerbaijan presents a challenge and not an easy one. This challenge however, is not about improving the overall situation in the country and pushing the local government towards more democracy but rather to play it so well, that Azerbaijan is not pissed off and doesn't suddenly cut back its oil and gas delivery. As one of the officials mentioned "Azerbaijan makes it difficult for us to apply stricter rules because of oil and gas and that is a fact".
Yes, facts are facts, and reality is what it is. What is not clear is the whole basis and philosophy of such institutions. If European Neighborhood Policy is all about stability, prosperity and democracy, why then officials in Europe prefer looking the other way, only to resemble the "three wise monkeys"?
Facts are facts, reality is what it is. If Azerbaijan is going to change, this change must and ought only come from within. The question is, will it be possible. Lets hope it is, sooner than later...