By Rashid Shirinov
The strategic partnership between Azerbaijan and the European Union (EU) in the energy sphere should become the basis of strategic partnership in all spheres of the economy, Azerbaijan's Energy Minister Parviz Shahbazov said on May 31.
He made the remarks at a round table with a delegation of German entrepreneurs led by European Commissioner for Budget and Human Resources Gunther Oettinger.
Shahbazov noted that the relations between Azerbaijan and the EU have recently intensified, particularly, work is underway on a new partnership agreement.
“The Azerbaijan-EU cooperation is developing, and Baku wants to further accelerate this development. The Southern Gas Corridor project launched two days ago will play a special role in this,” the minister emphasized.
He noted that this project will deliver Azerbaijani gas to Europe, contribute to energy security and diversification of routes and in general, will change the energy map of Europe. “The EU supported this project, which involves seven countries and 11 companies,” Shahbazov said.
The minister further noted that economic relations between Azerbaijan and Germany are at a high level.
“There are about 200 German companies operating in Azerbaijan, and the Chamber of Commerce is working here. Germany is one of the leading economic partners of Azerbaijan,” Shahbazov emphasized.
He noted that a high level of cooperation has been established in the energy sector, and such companies as Eon and Uniper operate in Azerbaijan.
“Uniper is one of the buyers of Azerbaijani gas on the Southern Gas Corridor. German Siemens took part in the construction of a power plant in Sumgayit, as well as in the construction of two and reconstruction of five substations in the country," the minister said.
He added that Azerbaijan intends to expand cooperation in the fields of alternative energy, transport and food industry.
In his interview with journalists, Gunther Oettinger, in turn, noted that the EU and Azerbaijan should prepare a plan of cooperation until 2030.
“The potential of Azerbaijan in the oil and gas sector and in the field of alternative energy is impressive. Speaking about the development of alternative energy sources in Azerbaijan, we can emphasize the great opportunities for the development of solar energy, hydropower and biomass development,” the European commissioner said.
He also stressed the importance of the Southern Gas Corridor in the development of cooperation between the EU and Azerbaijan, adding that Azerbaijan is integrating into the energy union of Europe by entering the European gas market.
“In 2011, there was only a small idea of the potential of the Southern Gas Corridor, but today this project is a reality. Already in 2020, gas from Azerbaijan will enter the European market, Italy and Greece, but we still have to develop a further action plan in this direction,” Oettinger said.
He also noted the importance of attracting foreign investments in Azerbaijan, which will serve to further develop energy efficiency.
Speaking about the development of bilateral cooperation between the EU and Azerbaijan, the European commissioner mentioned agriculture as one of the priority areas in this direction.
“Baku has a favorable investment climate comparable to Paris, Monte Carlo and Moscow. The potential of Azerbaijan in agriculture is great, and we would like to see an increase in the trade turnover of agricultural products between the EU and Azerbaijan,” Oettinger noted.
He added that the EU is ready to provide Azerbaijan with all the necessary equipment for the development of agriculture.
Currently, the EU is Azerbaijan's first trading partner representing about 51 percent of Azerbaijan's total trade. The EU's exports to Azerbaijan consist primarily of machinery and transport equipment whereas EU imports from Azerbaijan cover mainly oil and gas (98 percent of total imports).
Azerbaijan's trade turnover with the EU amounted to $9.4 billion in 2017, which is 52.35 percent more than in 2016. Azerbaijan exported goods worth $7.45 billion to the EU countries in 2017.
Rashid Shirinov is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow him on Twitter: @RashidShirinov
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