By Mirsaid Ibrahimzade
The first meeting on high-level transport dialogue between Azerbaijan and the EU was held in Baku on February 19.
Addressing the meeting, Minister of Transport, Communications and High Technologies Ramin Guluzade said that Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Transport, Communications and High Technologies considers expansion of international cooperation to develop the country’s transit potential as a priority.
He said that in this regard, Azerbaijan-EU cooperation is of particular importance.
Guluzade noted that as part of technical support tools, the EU has implemented numerous joint projects so far.
“The expert mission to study legislation in the field of transport that was completed in 2017 can be mentioned as an example. In the field of automobile transport, third-generation smart tachographs are expected to be introduced," he said.
"I think that the expansion of the Trans-Eurasian transport network, including the extension of cooperation in this area with the Eastern Partnership countries until 2030 and the adoption of a long-term investment plan play an important role. I believe that the implementation of the work regarding this plan, along with the increase in economic opportunities, generally contributes to the development of the region,” the minister added.
Azerbaijan is an initiator and participant of a number of global regional projects, Guluzade said.
The Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) railway line launched Oct. 30, 2017 plays a strategic role for the region and provides the shortest communication way between Europe and Asia, he noted.
“It will ensure safe transportation of goods from China to Europe, including the countries of the Far East,” he said. “The first stage of construction of the Baku International Sea Trade Port, which is the biggest port complex in the Caspian basin playing an important role in connecting the transport corridors of the North with the South and the West with the East, was completed May 14, 2018. At the same time, large-scale work is underway to build automobile road infrastructure.”
Wide introduction of multimodal transportations is underway in the Caspian region, as well as the volumes of maritime transport are accelerating and increasing, new tankers and vessels have also been commissioned, the minister said.
“The main goal is to create more acceptable conditions for the transit of goods through Azerbaijan,” he noted. “The work is underway on purchasing new locomotives and updating the railway infrastructure, and this will ensure faster and safer transportation of goods.”
He went on to say that along with sea and land transport, the development of civil aviation is also a priority.
“To this end, a lot of work has been recently done and large-scale projects have been implemented,” he added. “The fleet of the Azerbaijan Airlines has been updated, and regular flights are carried out to the CIS countries, Europe, America and Asia. The corresponding work is underway to increase flight directions and the development of transit potential. Six airports operate in Azerbaijan, and the Baku Heydar Aliyev International Airport was awarded five-star status by the company Skytrax last year.”
Afterwards, Director General of Mobility and Transport Department of the European Commission Henrik Hololei said at the meeting that Azerbaijan managed to successfully develop the transport infrastructure by implementing a number of strategically important projects in this area.
Hololei noted that one can cite as an example the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars project, which changes the situation in the region as a whole, as well as the Baku International Sea Trade Port, located in Alat, which provides multimodal transportation of goods between Europe and Asia.
Azerbaijan has also achieved diversified development in the aviation sector, Hololei said adding that Heydar Aliyev Airport has been assigned the five stars status. He further added that presently, such companies as AZAL, Buta Airways, SilkWay work internationally, and these companies claim the status of global competitors in the international arena.
The director general also mentioned the importance of the Caspian Sea and the position that Azerbaijan holds in this sector of the region.
Azerbaijan Caspian Shipping Company is the largest carrier company and plays an important role in the transportation of goods between Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, Hololei said, adding that Jan. 9, 2019 an important decision was made to expand the Trans-Eurasian transport network outside the EU, which will stretch to the Eastern Partnership countries, including Azerbaijan and this decision was made at the legislative level.
This also provides cooperation in the field of finance for, the director general said.
On January 9, we also adopted an investment plan, within which six projects were identified for Azerbaijan, he noted adding that International financial institutions (IFIs) are involved in financing these projects.
He further added that it is about the creation of logistics centers and the expansion of the port of Alat as part of the subsequent stages.
The volume of projects is quite large and, as Hololei said, the EU is ready to support their implementation together with the Azerbaijani government, the IFIs and the private sector.
The European Union (EU) will spend about two billion euros on the expansion of the railway network in Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.
The European Commission (EC) and the World Bank have already submitted an Indicative Investment Action Plan in accordance with the priorities set out for the countries.
Together, the projects in the Eastern Partnership countries will require an estimated investment of almost 13 billion euros and foresee a total of 4,800 kilometers of road and rail, 6 ports and 11 logistics centers.
The priority investments include both short-term projects to be completed by 2020 and long-term projects aiming to improve transport links on the TEN-T by 2030.
The projects in Azerbaijan, worth 1.1 billion euros, include creating five logistics centers (369 million euros) and a free trade zone in Alat (410 million euros) and modernization of the East-West Railway (328 million euros).
The first two projects are proposed to be financed via public-private partnership and the third project by the international financial organizations.
The projects will make possible the construction and rehabilitation of new and existing roads, rail, ports, airports, as well as logistics centers and border crossing points.
Presently, several routes from the East to Europe pass through the territory of Azerbaijan.
International North-South Transport Corridor, which is designed to transport goods from India and the Persian Gulf countries to Russia, Western Europe, the Baltic and Scandinavian countries.
In addition, the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway built at the initiative of Azerbaijan, which is part of the East-West Corridor, also allows supplying cargo to Europe. Another example is the Lapis Lazuli route, which runs from Afghanistan to Turkey and further to Europe.
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