The EU’s rhetoric on comprehensive engagement and a multidimensional Neighbourhood Policy has failed to result in pressure to improve human rights in Azerbaijan. Instead, energy security has regularly trumped human rights concerns as the EU has privileged a narrower set of priorities than those agreed in the joint Action Plan. The expansion of energy cooperation, far from improving governance and transmitting European norms, has resulted in even less willingness to raise these concerns in Baku.
EU policymakers, believing that they lack leverage in the face of hydrocarbon-rich Azerbaijan and insecure about the attractiveness of what the EU has to offer, have not attached conditions to the relationship. Against the background of the Arab Spring and the recent Neighbourhood Policy review, this paper discusses the EU's potential leverage, concluding that a robust EU policy that incorporated human rights would deliver better results. It is time for the EU to link its expectations for political reform to policy consequences.