By Leman Mammadova
Azerbaijan and EU successfully cooperate in various fields, and the bilateral relations are constantly developing. To date, important documents such as Partnership and Cooperation, Visa and Readmission Agreements, Action Plan under the European Neighborhood Policy and the Eastern Partnership Initiative have been signed that raised the relations to a higher level.
The EU holds the main place in the foreign trade turnover of Azerbaijan. About 78 percent of EU trade with South Caucasus countries account for Azerbaijan, while 42 percent of Azerbaijan's trade turnover account for EU.
Azerbaijan plays an important role not only in the region, but also in Europe's economy. Today, Azerbaijan is one of Europe's main and most active investors, said Rufat Mammadov, Azerbaijani Deputy Economy Minister, at the 1st Eastern Partnership Investment Forum in Batumi, Georgia.
The forum discussed the economic development of the countries participating in the Eastern Partnership program, the investment environment and opportunities in these countries, the expansion of mutual economic ties, the creation of free economic zones and other issues.
“Azerbaijan invests sufficiently in the European Union countries. The volume of investments is more than $20 billion,” said Mammadov, adding that the country also invests in the Eastern Partnership economies. “Azerbaijan invested more than $3.5 billion in the program partner countries.”
He stressed that Azerbaijan plays a very important and strategic role in the EU's energy security and the country’s role will increase due to the development of the Southern Gas Corridor.
Mammadov further added that transportation is another important area of cooperation. Azerbaijan, together with Turkey and Georgia, implements the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars project that is a very important part of international transport corridors, he said.
He also stressed that Azerbaijan's cooperation with the EU is not limited to energy and transport sectors. “We have very active cooperation with the EU in human capital development, education, social protection and other areas.”
Referring to the trade-economic relations between Azerbaijan and the EU, Mammadov said that the EU is one of the key trade partners of Azerbaijan.
In his words, more than 1,600 companies from EU member states are successfully operating in Azerbaijan. Joint business forums are being held in Baku to increase the level of relations between Azerbaijan and EU business circles, Mammadov said.
“This year's forum involved more than 1,000 participants representing the business sector. Business forums encourage trade and investment between Azerbaijan and European countries,” he noted.
Mammadov also pointed to the reforms implemented in Azerbaijan to improve the business environment. “There are more opportunities for the expansion of cooperation between Azerbaijan and the EU. I’m convinced that this cooperation will be expanded and new cooperation mechanisms will be implemented.”
Azerbaijani Deputy Foreign Minister Mahmud Mammadguliyev, Azerbaijani Ambassador to Georgia Dursun Hasanov and other officials also attended the forum.
The Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia, Natia Turnava, spoke on the economic opportunities of her country.
The forum also included a presentation of the investment catalog of the countries participating in the Eastern Partnership program.
European Investment Bank (EIB) has allocated 96 million euros to Azerbaijan over the past 10 years in the framework of the Eastern Partnership, said a publication presented within the Forum.
As reported, 25 million euros was directed to financing small and medium-sized businesses in Azerbaijan. The financial resources support private sector development, job creation and improving living standards.
It’s noteworthy that Azerbaijan and the EU continue negotiations on the new partnership agreement.
Presently, there are about 1,600 European companies in Azerbaijan. The investments made by the EU in the economy of Azerbaijan exceed $33 billion, while Azerbaijani investments in EU countries amounted to $15 billion.
EU assistance to Azerbaijan is estimated at 106 million euros for the period 2014-2020, focusing on supporting Azerbaijan’s efforts to diversify the economy, especially in key areas of agriculture and rural development, and education.
EU supports the energy projects implemented in South Caucasus and is interested in supplying Caspian hydrocarbon resources to Europe, as it favors diversification of the energy sources necessary to ensure Europe's energy security.
Leman Mammadova is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @leman_888
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