By Nigar Abbasova
Azerbaijan and Hungary, the countries with a huge capacity for the development of economic cooperation, are keen on strengthening a mutually beneficial partnership.
The cooperation between the two countries currently covers almost all areas, including ICT, energy, tourism, agriculture, trade, environmental protection, water management, ICT, culture, sports, science , infrastructure.
Hungarian Ambassador to Baku Imre Laszloczki told Trend that Hungary may help Azerbaijani business to enter the European Union (EU) market, namely, to provide an opportunity for creating enterprises and investment opportunities.
Several agreements were signed between the sides during the visit of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban to Baku in March 2016, including the agreement on the protection technology of various facilities, an agreement on the creation of an electronic parking system and other payment systems, as well as agreements in the field of agriculture and food industry, he mentioned.
The ambassador said that the primary goal is the promotion of mutual investments and project cooperation.
A steady growth of trade between the countries has been observed since 2013. Moreover, the highest level of Hungary’s trade turnover in the South Caucasus region accounts for Azerbaijan. The import volume of Azerbaijani non-oil products to Hungary amounted to $79,000 in 2015.
The Hungarian government is also interested in expanding the Hungarian business in Azerbaijan and considers Azerbaijan as a potential market for different Hungarian products
The ambassador also hailed political relations between the countries, mentioning that Hungary intends to strengthen a political dialogue and contribute to the improvement of NATO-Azerbaijan cooperation.
The Hungarian embassy in Baku will operate as a NATO Liaison Office for two years - from January 1, 2017 to December 31, 2018. Hungarian embassy will take over these responsibilities from the Romanian embassy in Baku, which carried out this task in the last few years.
The transfer of responsibilities will be realized in late 2016 with the participation of representatives of Azerbaijan, Hungary, Romania and many other organizations involved in this work.
Highlighting the objectives and activity of the Hungarian embassy in Baku as a NATO Liaison Office, the ambassador said that the tasks include strengthening of political dialogue and improvement of NATO-Azerbaijan cooperation.
The diplomat added that the main responsibility and tasks are to ensure comprehensive support in organizing mutual visits of officials arriving in Azerbaijan from the NATO International Staff and visits of officials from Azerbaijan to NATO headquarters.
NATO and Azerbaijan actively cooperate on democratic, institutional and defense reforms, and have developed practical cooperation in many other areas. Azerbaijan’s Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP) lays out the programme of cooperation between Azerbaijan and NATO.
Azerbaijan and NATO cooperate within the Partnership for Peace program. Earlier, the NATO adopted a document of the fourth stage of the Individual Action Plan within the partnership for 2015-2016.
Hungary regards Azerbaijan as a key partner in reference to ensuring Europe’s energy security.
Laszloczki said that Southern Gas Corridor (SGC) project is important for the diversification of energy sources in Hungary, adding that Hungary’s national oil and gas company MOL sees Azerbaijan’s state oil company SOCAR as one of the most important partners.
Energy security is a number one challenge for Hungary as the country imports about 53 percent of energy it needs.
Being one of the biggest construction projects of our times the SGC will bring some 10 billion cubic meters of natural gas from the Caspian region to Europe. Stretching over the area of 3,500 kilometres, crossing seven countries and involving more than a dozen major energy companies, SGC comprises several separate energy projects, including TANAP, South Caucasus Pipeline, Trans Adriatic Pipeline, and Shah Deniz development.
ICT sphere is yet another example of successful cooperation between the countries. The envoy said that cooperation between the Hungarian DBH Group company and Azerbaijan’s High Tech Park LLC is being considered at the governmental level, adding that Hungary offered to create a joint investment fund in the field of ICT in March 2016.
The MoU signed between Hungarian Foreign Ministry and Azerbaijan’s Communications and High Technologies Ministry envisages cooperation in the sphere of venture capital financing, creation of joint investment opportunities, and financing of promising startup projects. Moreover, Hungarian Eximbank earlier expressed its readiness to invest in establishing a regional DATA-center in Azerbaijan.
Agricultural production in Hungary is one of the most developed fields of the national economy, while Azerbaijan sees the development of the sphere as one of the main alternatives to petrodollars.
Laslocki earlier said that cooperation in the sphere of agriculture is one of the top priorities for the governments of Azerbaijan and Hungary.
Enjoying advantageous geographic location, Azerbaijan has every opportunity to increase export of high-quality agro products, which are in great demand in other countries.
Moreover, a number of students from Azerbaijan applied for the Hungarian Government Scholarship program 2016-2017.
Scholarship is awarded in the field of animal nutrition, plant protection, rural development and agribusiness, while the specialties offered by Hungarian universities will give a stimulus for the further strengthening agriculture in Azerbaijan.
Tourism relations between the countries are also on rise. The ambassador said that three large Hungarian travel companies, including 1000 ut, Robinson Tours and Vedi Tour intend to enter Azerbaijani market. Moscow branch of Hungarian Tourism Agency is currently responsible for tourism development with Azerbaijan. Hungarian company Wizz Air has been implementing Baku-Budapest direct flights since March 2016.
In January 2016, BLS International LLC opened a visa center of Hungary in Baku at the initiative of Hungary’s Embassy in Azerbaijan.
The decision to open the center was made by Hungary in order to strengthen relations between the two countries, establish direct relations between the citizens of Azerbaijan and Hungary, as well as develop tourist relations and meet the needs of the increased tourist and businessmen flow thanks to the direct flights of Wizz Air company.
Nigar Abbasova is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @nigyar_abbasova
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