Azerbaijani FM talks on partnership prospects with EU
Azerbaijan is in the moment of reflection about what the European Union’s Eastern Partnership (EaP) program gave and where it is going, Azerbaijan’s Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov said at the High-Level Ministerial Seminar on “A New Political vision for Eastern Partnership”, Trend reports.
“We hear various ideas, including some thoughts about expanding EaP or creating its institutional framework. Azerbaijan prefers the one-at-a-time approach,”
said the minister.
“What the next decade of EaP can bring; how attractive its instrument or mechanism will be for Azerbaijan; how a structured dialogue can be different from the previous kind of dialogue; will there be more commitments or real, tangible opportunities. It is absolutely obvious that we ask such questions and take a time to reflect on what the value-added was of EaP for Azerbaijan’s relations with EU for the past 10 years”, Mammadyarov said.
Further, the minister touched upon Azerbaijan’s role in the implementation of Europe’s energy policy.
“Azerbaijan is often associated with oil and natural gas. I will try to bring a new element of the importance of our energy resources. First, because our natural gas is a much cleaner molecule of a fossil fuel than a pollutant coal. Second because our natural gas can serve as a perfect transition fuel for EU in its campaign to become more green, more energy-efficient. It is also about climate policy objectives. So, our gas pipeline to EU is a direct contributor to EU’s climate policy goals. See, it is both trade, connectivity (infrastructure), and environment issue.”
Mammadyarov noted that connectivity should be a driver for multilateral cooperation in EaP.
“Today it is a source of stability and instrument for strengthening resilience in partner countries. This topic attracts attention, investments, financial institutions, private sector. And this is about trade. A creative trade. Not protectionism. The launch of an international multi-stakeholder initiative – Europa Connectivity Forum by the EU pinpoints the critical role of Azerbaijan and countries en route in achieving wider objectives of connectivity across continents.”
“Perhaps Azerbaijan is not a big market for EU. So there is not much of competition coming from Azerbaijan to EU companies. But it is the economy and market which has elevated contracts with foreign investors into the status of national law. Investors are comfortable about their capital and business in Azerbaijan. We are proud that we respect the contracts. We have a high degree of sanctity of contracts. We succeeded in so doing back in 1994 with the Contact of the Century, when we opened up to the world with our natural resources. We will do so again in the new era of putting our country on the map of Eurasia as a logistics hub. Where else in EU or in EaP region can a foreign investor come and enjoy the same liberal fiscal / investment regime for 30-40 years? This is pretty a long time. This is a big commitment. It also requires a political will. Stability is essential. Everybody can gain. Azerbaijan is an investor-friendly country. Not a coincidence that many EU businesses and investors choose Azerbaijan for that purpose. In fact, EU is our number-one trading and investment partner,” the minister added.
Mammadyarov noted that partnerships should be strengthened.
“For this purpose, Azerbaijan works on tariff unification with Central Asian countries to ensure increased trade through Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway connection. We appreciate EU’s statement of support to this regional backbone project and its perspective for future links with EU countries. It is not a surprise that several big logistics companies from Austria, Germany, Hungary and other EU countries are keen to participate with us in using this BTK railway to transport goods between Asia and Europe.”
Mammadyarov recalled that in his recent visit to Azerbaijan, President Tusk confirmed that impressive steps have been taken to transform Azerbaijan into a transport and logistics hub and hailed the country’s ambition also to its northern and southern neighbours.
“This is how we put our name on the map – Azerbaijan not only as enabler of a multi-billion Southern Gas Corridor, but also as a promoter of several trade corridors between Europe and different parts of Asia. However, we don’t stop there; we are materializing the prerequisites for more investments by ensuring fiscal, economic, social and environmental stability in the country. Not surprisingly, 2020 World Bank Doing Business Report positioned Azerbaijan on the 9th rank for starting business and 1st for access to credit/finance,” noted Mammadyarov.