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Presidents’ trip to Bulgaria paves way for next stage in economic relations with Eastern Europe

26 April 2023 08:30 (UTC+04:00)
Presidents’ trip to Bulgaria paves way for next stage in economic relations with Eastern Europe
Elnur Enveroglu
Elnur Enveroglu
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Yesterday, the working visit of the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev to Bulgaria could be marked as one of the most important events. Welcomed by Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Policies, Minister of Transport and Communications of Bulgaria Hristo Aleksiev, Foreign Policy Secretary of the President of Bulgaria Roussi Ivanov and other officials, the head of state then took part in the most important stage of the day - the document signing ceremony between the SOCAR company and its partners from Bulgaria (Bulgartransgaz), Hungary (FGSZ), Romania (Transgaz) and Slovakia (Eustream).

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and his Bulgarian counterpart Rumen Radev attended the signing ceremony as well.

The Memorandum of Understanding signed by Minister of Energy of Azerbaijan Parviz Shahbazov, Minister of Energy of Bulgaria Rossen Hristov, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hungary Péter Szijjártó, Minister of Energy of Romania Virgil-Daniel Popescu and Minister of Economy of Slovakia Karel Hirman was of another great event in terms of Azerbaijan’s paving the way for a new stage of economic relations with the Eastern Europe.

“Six months ago, I visited Bulgaria on an official visit. So, I'm back in six months. At that time we participated in the ceremony of inauguration of the Greece-Bulgaria interconnector project. The project, which made it possible to expand European geography of Azerbaijan’s natural gas supplies, and the project, which helps already to strengthen the European energy security,” the Azerbaijani President said as he addressed the ceremony.

President Ilham Aliyev also mentioned President Radev’s visit to Azerbaijan just a month ago.

“One month ago, President Radev was our guest in Azerbaijan. So, this really demonstrates the level of cooperation between our countries. It demonstrates the dynamism of our political dialogue, and also demonstrates that Bulgaria and Azerbaijan are not only strategic partners, but also two friends,” the President said.

In his speech at the signing ceremony President Ilham Aliyev also underlined EU Commissioner for Energy Kadri Simson’s words expressing the importance of signing the memorandum of understanding between the abovementioned countries. As the Azerbaijani President said our country as a reliable energy exporter is capable of increasing gas export to a number of European states, he also touched on the previously signed agreements with nine EU member states so far.

“The MoU signed today, when implemented, will definitely strengthen energy security in Europe, and allow Azerbaijan to export more gas to many more European countries. As it was already said today by Madame Kadri Simson, Energy Commissioner, and other officials from the European Commission and other friends, Azerbaijan is a reliable partner of Europe, I would say, not only in the area of energy, but also in many other areas. Also, I'd like to inform you that with nine EU member states, Azerbaijan signed and adopted agreements or declarations on strategic partnership. So that means that one third of member states of the EU are strategic partners of Azerbaijan, and this partnership has a very important future,” the head of state added.

Obviously, all the efforts and steps taken are not in vain. Azerbaijan's provision of gas and energy to Eastern European countries amidst the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine, is also in the center of attention of the other side. The kind words addressed to the head of the country by the President of Bulgaria in this regard confirm once again that Azerbaijan is a true and most reliable partner country in the literal sense of the word.

“President Aliyev has proved that Azerbaijan is a reliable trade partner. There is nothing to add to the fact that Bulgaria has been reliably supplied by Azerbaijan for more than a year, according to the agreement we signed more than 10 years ago. Despite all the global political facts, Azerbaijan has rigorously complied with the terms of the agreement. Azerbaijan is a strategic partner not only of Bulgaria, but also of the entire European Union. This was confirmed in July of last year, when Azerbaijan signed a Memorandum with the European Commission on strategic cooperation in the energy sector and, in particular, on the supply of additional gas to the European Union,” the Bulgarian President stressed.

The opinions expressed at the signing ceremony once again showed that over the past years, Azerbaijan has established itself as an important and reliable energy partner of Europe. Even today, the demand for Azerbaijani gas in the European energy market is constantly increasing. It is no coincidence that our country plays a special decisive role in the realization of the Solidarity Ring. The steps taken regarding the Solidarity Ring, after the TAP project, mean a new page in the energy policy of President Ilham Aliyev. If Azerbaijani gas covered Italy through TAP, passing through Greece, Azerbaijan will contribute to the energy supply of more than 10 European countries with the implementation of these new projects.

It should also be noted that the Solidarity Ring includes all partner countries in Eastern Europe. In this regard, President Ilham Aliyev's visit to Albania last year and his one-on-one meeting with Albanian President Bajram Begaj and a series of negotiations related to energy supply during the meeting are very important. An example of this is the fact that the head of state mentioned Albania at the signing ceremony in Bulgaria.

President Ilham Aliyev holds one-on-one meeting with Albanian PM (PHOTO/VIDEO)

“We are in the process of negotiations with Albania to build a local gas distribution system, because the Southern Gas Corridor crosses Albania’s territory. As a member of the “Solidarity Ring”, I'm sure, Slovakia will soon become our partner in energy as well. We will increase the geography of our gas supplies from 6 to at least 10 countries. I say at least, because I think this is not the end of the story. We plan to expand furthermore our presence on the European gas market. I'd like to underline the special role of President of Bulgaria Mr. Radev in the initiative to create this solid team of partners. The “Solidarity Ring”, I'm sure, will play an important role in the implementation of our joint ambitious plans,” the President underlined.

It is woth noting that the implementation of the Solidarity Ring, in addition to moving the relations between the European Union and our country to a new stage, also opens a new page in the relations between Azerbaijan and the Balkan countries. It is through Albania that the Trans-Adriatic Gas Pipeline, TAP, the backbone of the energy architecture of Southern Europe and the Western Balkans, transports Caspian hydrocarbons to Italy.

President Ilham Aliyev and President Aleksandar Vučić of Serbia signed a declaration on their strategic partnership and alliance at the end of November, strengthening relations between the two countries at higher level.

Besides, Azerbaijan and Bosnia and Herzegovina are also connected by more than just shared cultural heritage; both countries also suffered greatly as a result of ethno-territorial conflicts. Minefields, war, and forced displacement are all familiar recollections for Azerbaijanis and Bosnians. These two countries have consistently stood by one another during hard times, for each other’s causes.

In a nutshell, Azerbaijan and the Balkan countries have more opportunities and potential to improve relations. The meeting that took place in Bulgaria yesterday and the important documents that were signed can be considered a decisive tool for realizing these possibilities.


Elnur Enveroglu is AzerNews’ deputy editor-in-chief, follow him on @ElnurMammadli1

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