In order to cope with the gas shortages expected this winter due to the embargo on Russian hydrocarbon deliveries, the European Union has been looking for new energy supply sources for several months. Azerbaijan is one of the target countries. On July 18th, an agreement was reached with the former Soviet republic and signed by Ursula von der Leyen, in order to increase the supply of Azeri gas to the European Union. This is a huge opportunity for Baku, as the agreement foresees a doubling of gas deliveries in the coming years.
This agreement is not to everyone’s taste. More than sixty French political figures from all sides signed a collective statement published on July 29th, 2022, in the columns of Le Monde to criticise von der Leyen’s choice. The politicians argued that the search for gas supplies to compensate for disengagement from Russian providers must not be done at any price, and certainly not by giving ill-considered support to the dictatorship of Ilham Aliyev.
The collective declaration brings together leading figures who are not used to supporting a common cause: the collective effort is rare enough to be worth noting. Among the signatories, there is indeed the president of the Provence region, Renaud Muselier (among Emmanuel Macron’s supporters), alongside the leader of the Socialist Party Olivier Faure, alongside the national secretary of the Ecologist Party Julien Bayou, alongside the far-Left deputy Clémentine Autain, a member of La France Insoumise. This heterogeneous group also finds like-minded support from the LR MEP François-Xavier Bellamy (known for his conservative positions), and the leader of Les Républicains in the Senate, Bruno Retailleau. All call on Brussels to “renounce” the agreement signed with Azerbaijan.
The signatories denounce “the unbridled race to exploit our planet’s resources,” which “makes the European Union dependent on a state with belligerent policies”—words that recall Azerbaijan’s conflict with Armenians in the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh. A war there broke out in 2020 and continues in a latent manner, placing the Christian Armenian populations of these regions in a dreadful situation, persecuted by the Azeri regime amidst international indifference.
The text published by Le Monde also criticises the economic rapprochement between Brussels and Baku, accused of “desperately seeking to finance arms being used to exterminate Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh and in the Republic of Armenia.”
The French MPs point to the contradiction of the European Commission, which deprives itself of Russian gas as part of the sanctions imposed on Vladimir Putin, but sees no moral problem in financing a dictatorial regime that has little respect for international conventions and human rights, such as that of Ilham Aliyev: “we urge the European Commission to abandon this project with Azerbaijan and the EU heads of state and government, as well as the European Parliament, not to ratify under any circumstances an agreement that would substitute dependence on Russian gas for dependence on Azerbaijani gas.”
“By choosing Azerbaijan as a gas supplier, Mrs. von der Leyen is in fact weakening the European Union,” they conclude.
Hélène de Lauzun studied at the École Normale Supérieure de Paris. She taught French literature and civilization at Harvard and received a Ph.D. in History from the Sorbonne. She is the author of Histoire de l’Autriche (Perrin, 2021).