Exclusive interview of Trend with President of Albania Ilir Meta on the occasion of the 7th Global Baku Forum
Question: How do you see the significance of the Global Baku Forum as a platform for addressing issues of global importance? How does it affect Azerbaijan’s image and how does this forum benefits Albania
Answer: The Baku Global Forum has created an internationally well-known profile and comes as an important global platform featuring prominent personalities of politics, business, academic bodies and youth forums.
In the spirit of the 12th-century Azerbaijani poet and philosopher Nizami Ganjavi for the seventh edition, this platform is making an extraordinary contribution to building and strengthening dialogue and understanding at the regional and global level.
The theme selected in this 7th edition: “A New World Order”; it expresses this contribution very clearly.
In particular, I would like to appreciate the inclusion of the Balkan region in a separate panel, bringing to the attention of the Forum and today's analytical thinking the importance of this region in the context of the various political and geopolitical developments in the world.
I am convinced that during the three days of the Forum, many ideas and valuable thoughts will be launched and addressed, which can positively influence the various world developments.
Today more than ever, the world needs to build bridges of cooperation and the creation of inclusive societies.
Q.: How do you assess the current level of cooperation between Albania and Azerbaijan in various spheres? In which fields the two counties need to develop their ties?
A.: Relations between Albania and Azerbaijan are very good in all aspects.
Undoubtedly, the potentials of bilateral but also multilateral cooperation are really huge and still not enough explored. I think that the potentials are really very big.
At present, the key dimension in bilateral economic relations is considered to be cooperation in the energy sector.
We have a very good and close cooperation in the framework of the TAP project (Trans Adriatic Pipeline), which has an extraordinary impact on energy field and which supplies alternatively with gas the South of Europe.
Of course, besides the energy field, I am sure that economic cooperation can be extended to other areas such as tourism, where Albania is one of the most attractive countries in the Balkans, but also other areas of mutual interest.
Q.: Albania is one of the countries through which the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) runs. How would you describe the overall development of the project on Albanian territory? What is the significance of this project for Albania?
A.: The TAP project is one of the most strategic projects that Albania has ever had, because the fact that for the first time my country is included in the world map of gas corridors.
Through this project, Albania has reshaped its geostrategic position in the region by becoming one of the main transit countries of Azerbaijani gas from Caspian to Europe.
The role of Azerbaijan is key in diversifying Europe's gas resources and supply routes, as in the case of Albania, it will diversify our energy resources by creating the premise that in the medium term natural gas be consumed as a pure alternative source and of low cost by the business and by Albanian families.
Energy security is a prerequisite for the country's economic development, and in this respect the contribution of the Azerbaijan through SOCAR's investment is irreplaceable, especially for its assistance in drafting the Gas Master Plan that will precede investments in the gas distribution network in the country.
With the implementation of the TAP and IAP (Ionian Adriatic Pipeline) projects, all the conditions and opportunities for extending cooperation in the field of gasification of Albania and other countries of the Balkan region are created.
Q.: How do you assess the process of mutual investment making between Azerbaijan and Albania? In which spheres are Albanian companies more interested in Azerbaijan?
A.: Aside from the energy and tourism, we are looking forward to investing in the road infrastructure, airport, harbors or rail infrastructure.
Another important sector contributing over 20 percent to the GDP of the country is Agriculture, which has an export potential, especially in the agro-industry sector.
Having one of the youngest population in the Europe and well-educated young people, the financial services sector and ICT have a dynamic development and with even greater potential to attract foreign investors.
Industrial sector also is quite attractive, especially in the framework of the Free Economic Zones and Industrial Zones, considering Albania's favorable geographic position as an "entry gateway" to the EU market.
There is a need for intensifying of bilateral contacts, and not just at political or diplomatic level, but above all between the business communities of both sides, in order to better explore the opportunities for mutual investment, which then would quickly affect the increase of the trade volume between us.
I am confident that an Albanian-Azerbaijan Business Forum in Tirana or here in Baku, with the presence of our business representatives in priority areas such as energy, infrastructure, tourism and manufacturing, would serve the recognition of both countries and the strengthening of economic co-operation through projects and concrete investments.
Q.: Which measures need to be taken to even more improve the tourism relations between the two counties?
A.: As above mentioned, we are very much interested that Azerbaijani companies and Azerbaijani citizens, come to invest and enjoy the wonderful tourist assets Albania offers.
It is necessary to encourage investors and tour operators of our two countries to share concrete ideas on how to co-fund projects in this area.
Albania has over 270 sunny days per year creating facilities for an elite coastal tourism as well as exceptional potential for the development of mountain tourism.
I must point out that the responsible institutions of our two countries need to do more to facilitate cooperation between the respective business community and their visa-free travel.
Tourism is one of the most priority sectors of the Albanian economy, and so has recently been finalized a fiscal stimulus package for investments in tourist resorts with 5 stars.
Albania remains an impressive and unexplored "oasis" of the stunning Mediterranean beauties and businesses and Azerbaijani citizens are invited to see and enjoy them.
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