Azerbaijan and the Czech Republic have a broad platform for the development of bilateral cooperation, which includes projects in priority areas for both countries, Ambassador of the Czech Republic to Azerbaijan Vitezslav Pivonka said in an exclusive interview with Trend, summing up the results of the work in the embassy of the Czech Republic to Azerbaijan.
Czech companies successfully proved themselves in Azerbaijan
Speaking about mutual interests in expanding cooperation, the ambassador stressed that the Czech Republic is a country with a highly developed industrial base beginning from food production and ending with aircraft construction. The country has experience in various fields that can be useful to Azerbaijan.
"Our companies have already successfully proved themselves in Azerbaijan, participating in various projects in the field of transport infrastructure," the ambassador said.
Pivonka also stressed that the list of projects with the Czech Republic’s share includes the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway, which is of strategic importance not only for Azerbaijan, but also for a big number of eastern and western countries.
"We will continue our cooperation in this field with great pleasure,” he said. “Moreover, our companies are ready to contribute to the development of Azerbaijan in other fields. I see great potential in agriculture, energy, chemical industry, electrical engineering and machine building."
Speaking about engineering, the ambassador also stressed that in this field Azerbaijan and the Czech Republic have already achieved significant breakthrough.
The ambassador added that the licensed production of TATRA trucks at the Ganja Automobile Plant must be arranged soon.
"Cooperation between our countries will also continue to develop in other directions," Pivonka said. “Today, the Czech Republic is among the top ten most important foreign investors in Azerbaijan. This fact may seem surprising for some people, but the Czech state and private banks have recently invested over $2.5 billion in Azerbaijan. I am sure that such successful cooperation must continue in the future."
World crisis accelerated development of Azerbaijan’s non-oil sector
“Azerbaijan has recently achieved significant results in the development of the non-oil sector,” Pivonka said.
"During my mission in Azerbaijan, I witnessed not only an economically favorable period, but also a crisis period of 2016-2017,” he said. “First of all, it should be noted that the shock caused by the fall in oil prices, which was then the main source of revenues to the state budget, was a very serious test for the Azerbaijani economy. The fact that Azerbaijan not only withstood such tests, but could stabilize its economy in a very short period - one or two years is a great achievement."
“Any crisis is a serious test for the country, but at the same time, the crisis may give a chance for development,” Pivonka said, adding Azerbaijan can be cited as an example.
"As part of the implementation of the anti-crisis program, reforms were launched to increase the share of the non-oil sector in the Azerbaijani economy,” he said. “Some of them, for example, reform of customs procedures, the development of the ASAN system, the project of the free economic zone in Alat settlement and many others are showing a positive result. At the same time, a lot of economic reforms have to be implemented."
Speaking about the reforms aimed at increasing the share of the non-oil sector in the Azerbaijani economy, the ambassador stressed that it is necessary to fully ensure the implementation of all reforms without delay.
Agreement on strategic partnership between Azerbaijan and Czech Republic
The most important achievement in the development of bilateral relations is the conclusion of an agreement on strategic partnership between the Czech Republic and Azerbaijan during the visit of Czech President Milos Zeman to Baku in September 2015.
Pivonka stressed that this agreement must become the starting point, the basis for cooperation between countries.
"The intergovernmental commission between Azerbaijan and the Czech Republic is working well, the fifth meeting of which is expected to be held in Prague this year,” he said. “We have already signed a Memorandum of Understanding in the field of agriculture. A similar document in the field of youth and sports has been virtually prepared. We are also actively working on agreements in the energy sector, education and defense.”
Pivonka recalled that the eighth anniversary of the opening ceremony of the embassy of the Czech Republic in Azerbaijan has been recently marked.
"I am the second ambassador of my country, which has been honored to work in your country," he said. “For this historically small period, my predecessor and me managed to create the necessary basis for the further development of bilateral relations."
The diplomat stressed that it is time for Azerbaijan and the Czech Republic to solve other important tasks.
"As First President and Founder of Czechoslovakia Thomas Masaryk, said “We must thoroughly try for the relations between the Czech Republic and Azerbaijan to continue to flourish and our people to always know that despite the great geographic distance, various historical and cultural foundations, the Azerbaijanis have a friendly country in Central Europe while the Czechs have a friendly country on the southern shores of the Caspian Sea, "Pivonka said.
Diversity - most amazing feature of Azerbaijan
The ambassador said that the most surprising feature of Azerbaijan is its diversity.
“I was very surprised by Azerbaijan’s diversity in all its forms, namely, the combination of ancient and modern architecture in Baku, tea plantations and orange gardens of Lankaran, Gobustan steppes, burned by the sun, and my favorite, snow-capped peaks of the Greater Caucasus," he said.
He said that the Azerbaijanis were always able to take the best from the culture of other peoples, regardless of whether they were Arabs, Persians, English or Russian, thus enriching themselves and remaining true to their own traditions.
"This also applies to the districts of Azerbaijan, each of them has its history, customs, peculiarities of cuisine and daily life, but with all the difference it is clear that each district is part of one indivisible whole," Pivonka said. “This is a very surprising feature. Dear Azerbaijanis, I wish your country to remain as diverse and amazing as it is today."
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