Minister: Europe invests over $20bn in Azerbaijani economy [PHOTO]
Europe has invested over $20 billion in the Azerbaijani economy over the past 10 years, Economy Minister Mikayil Jabbarov has said.
He made the remarks at the EU-Azerbaijani business forum on May 17, Azernews reports, citing Trend.
The minister emphasized that the EU is a reliable trade and economic partner of Azerbaijan.
"More than 700 companies from the EU work in Azerbaijan. Trade between Azerbaijan and the EU is expected to grow this year," he said.
Underscoring that Azerbaijan's GDP increased by 5.6 percent in 2021, Jabbarov added that other indicators have also grown, including in oil and gas and non-oil industries.
"Growth in the production of non-oil products since the beginning of 2022 has amounted to about 40 percent, which contributes to an increase in tax revenues. We are talking about an amount of $250 million," he specified.
Cooperation within SMBs
EU Ambassador to Azerbaijan Peter Michalko noted that Azerbaijan is an attractive business partner for the European Union.
He stated that the EU highly appreciates the efforts of the Azerbaijani government to develop the business sector. In this regard, he noted that within the framework of assistance to business, the EU will also support 25,000 small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) in Azerbaijan.
"I would like to encourage companies from the EU to invest in Azerbaijan, where the business climate will develop even more successfully in the future," he said.
Noting that Azerbaijan is also one of the main energy partners of the EU, Michalko emphasized that the Southern Gas Corridor project plays an important role in this sector. He also added that the development of projects in the field of alternative energy has also great potential.
"Ties between the EU and Azerbaijan have strengthened even more since last year, which was clearly evidenced by the visits to Baku by Charles Michel, Oliver Varhelyi, and, of course, the participation of President Ilham Aliyev in the Eastern Partnership summit in Brussels last December," he said.
Moreover, Mikayil Jabbarov stated that Azerbaijan continues to uninterruptedly supply energy resources to the European market and expects the volumes will only grow.
He noted that the main direction of cooperation between Azerbaijan and the EU is the oil and gas industry, as well as the transport sector.
"We also expect the development of alternative energy and expansion of cooperation in this area," he said.
Jabbarov mentioned that Azerbaijan is a hub for cargo transportation to EU countries and other markets.
"Our port and economic zones that are under construction allow us to expand current cooperation and increase the rate of trade turnover between Azerbaijan and the EU," he said.
Attraction of additional investments
The minister stated that a number of state agencies of Azerbaijan carried out reforms that contribute to attracting additional investments and creating a favorable business environment.
"All incentives applied by tax, customs, and other bodies increase Azerbaijan's investment potential," he said.
Jabbarov stressed that SMBs account for about 60 percent of budget profits and 40 percent of non-oil exports.
Restoration of liberated lands
The minister also underlined that the priority activity of the Azerbaijani government is the restoration of the liberated territories.
He noted that major works are now being carried out there to build roads and infrastructure, and industrial zones are in the pipeline.
"All towns and villages in Karabakh have been destroyed, and our former displaced persons will return to their native lands in the near future," he said.
Moreover, the EU-Azerbaijan business forum group head Bogdana Efe stated that the number of companies from the EU wishing to invest in Karabakh is growing.
She stressed that according to the EU study of Azerbaijan's business climate for 2021, more than half of European companies reported their interest in possible investments in Karabakh and Eastern Zangazur.
"At the same time, 40 percent of EU companies are ready to expand their businesses to Karabakh and Eastern Zangazur," she said.
Efe mentioned that alternative energy, green projects, and transportation infrastructure are among the most attractive areas for investment in the Karabakh and Eastern Zangazur economic regions, and were mentioned by more than 30 percent of respondents.
"Agriculture and manufacturing were named as priority areas by a quarter of European companies. Therefore, they can be seen as a priority for investment in these regions," she said.
At the same time, Deputy Energy Minister Elnur Soltanov stated that four small hydroelectric power plants have already been restored in Karabakh.
Noting that the liberated territories are planned to be turned into a green energy zone, he mentioned that the draft of this strategy is being developed jointly with the Japanese TEPSCO.
"In Karabakh, all energy sources will be built on the basis of renewable energy sources. Work is underway to restore five small hydroelectric power plants, and more than 18 are planned to be restored through private investments," he said.
Soltanov added that the ministry estimates the potential of Azerbaijan's wind energy at 3,000 MW, hydropower at more than 23,000 MW, small hydropower plants at up to 520 MW, and bioenergy at 380 MW.
"The potential of wind energy throughout Azerbaijan is estimated at 157 gigawatts. Electricity tariffs in Azerbaijan are regulated by relevant legislative acts. Electricity in Azerbaijan is much cheaper than in a number of other countries. To ensure this balance, the government has developed appropriate subsidies," he said.
Azerbaijan's Agency for the Development of Economic Zones Chairman Elshad Nuriyev stated that the enterprises that will operate in industrial zones in liberated lands will be provided with more incentives, adding that the relevant proposal packages are currently being considered.
He noted that the construction of the Aghdam Industrial Park and the Araz Valley Economic Zone Industrial Park is underway in Karabakh.
"These parks are supposed to turn our region into a logistics hub. Furthermore, this hub will help reduce the transit cargo route through Azerbaijan to Turkey and China by hundreds of kilometers. The main export markets for local industrial products are Turkey, Russia, and EU countries," he said.
Nuriyev added that 51 agricultural parks, six industrial zones, and five industrial parks are administered by the Agency.
"The country's industrial zones contribute to the creation of value added products," he said.
Speaking about the Zangazur corridor, the minister stated that it will create new opportunities in the sphere of transport for all countries in the region. He stressed that the work is being done not only in the sphere of road and infrastructure construction but also in the sphere of creating social infrastructure facilities.
"The government of Azerbaijan provides relevant projects to attract companies for this work, in order to expand public-private partnerships,” he said.
Jabbarov added that Azerbaijan’s Aghdam industrial park and Araz Valley economic zone industrial park create opportunities for accelerating the development of the country’s liberated territories.
Alat Free Economic Zone
Alat FEZ Authority Board Chairman Valeh Alasgarov stated that the free economic zone in Azerbaijan is planned to be expanded.
He stressed that FEZ is an important element of the economic policy aimed at creating a competitive environment and attracting new companies to the zone.
"Our goal is to create the best conditions for business investments in Azerbaijan. We invite companies from the EU to cooperate with the Alat FEZ," he said.
Speaking about investment opportunities of the free economic zone Alasgarov stated that construction work within its expansion is expected to be completed in July 2022.
"We’ll create the best business environment for residents of the free economic zone so that they have everything to successfully create and develop their business. At the same time, we’ll support the expansion and growth of our residents' business in the future," he said.
The EU and Azerbaijan enjoy cooperation in different sectors of the economy. The Delegation of the European Commission to Azerbaijan was opened in Baku in February 2008.
Azerbaijan started commercial gas supplies to Europe through the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) on December 31, 2020.
A joint statement on energy cooperation with the EU had been signed more than 10 years ago. The EU-Azerbaijan energy cooperation had reached a new level and is still ongoing within the framework of the Southern Gas Corridor. The EU places a high value on energy supply diversification, and the Southern Gas Corridor is particularly important in this regard. In 2021, European countries purchased 8.2 billion cubic meters of gas, with an increase in volume expected in years to come.
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