Caspian Energy Journal Caspian European Club
Friday, 06 March 2015 09:30

“Our goal is to remain a reliable and predictable partner”, - Ivar Svendsen, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Kingdom of Norway to the Republic of Azerbaijan Featured

Caspian Energy (CE): Mr. Ambassador, could you please tell about the key goals and objectives of your mission in Azerbaijan? How would you assess possibilities to expand the cooperation between Azerbaijan and Norway?

Ivar Svendsen, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Kingdom of Norway to the Republic of Azerbaijan: First of all, I would like to emphasize my pleasure of being appointed Royal Ambassador of Norway to Azerbaijan. As far back as the Soviet times, I studied in Moscow to get a major in the Russian Philology and Translation and in those times had the honour of getting acquainted with Azerbaijan. For many years I came here, very often as a tourist and for business trips. I am very pleased to see the enormous changes that have taken place here between now and then. Especially Baku is developing at fast pace. Your capital is now a very attractive, beautiful city with rather rich cultural life. Ordinary Azerbaijanis are very good-natured and hospitable people. I feel very comfortable here. Recently I began to study the Azerbaijan language. I hope that during my stay here I will be able to learn to speak it fluently.

My major task as the Ambassador of Norway to Azerbaijan is to contribute to the further development of the bilateral relations between the two countries in the areas of common interests. Norway and Azerbaijan are the world's major oil and gas exporters. Our major oil company Statoil as well as other Norwegian companies have been working in Azerbaijan for a long time. Their presence and activities in this country have brought large benefits to both Norway and Azerbaijan. Exchange of experience in the development of modern technology is also plaingy an important role. It is necessary to ensure that energy resources exploitation does minimum harm to the environment. In the future, the role of renewables and energy efficiency will be increasing. In this sphere there is ground to expand cooperation between our countries.

The most important task for every ambassador is to promote a political dialogue between his country and the country he works in. I am to work both with Norwegian and Azerbaijani counterparts in order to strengthen political relations between our countries. Norway and Azerbaijan are members of large international organizations as UN, OSCE and Council of Europe. The world is a small place. So, the fight against global threats such as growth of terrorism and extremism requires establishment of close contacts between the governments as never before.

I would like to note that over a short period of staying in Azerbaijan I got convinced that the Azerbaijanis are well familiar with well-known figures of the Norwegian culture and community such as Henrik Ibsen, Knut Hamsun and of course Thor Heyerdahl. Our famous singer and violinist Alexander Rybak, who comes from Belarus, is very popular amongst the youth. I will work to promote interest for the Norwegian culture. I am going to invite Norwegian performers and show Norwegian films. I also intend to continue and strengthen close cooperation with Azerbaijani higher education institutions, including the Azerbaijan University of Languages, where the Norwegian language is taught at the Centre for Scandinavian Language Studies. Before the New Year I had the honor to visit the Rector of the university, Mr. Samad Seyidov and was impressed how well some students knew my native Norwegian language.


CE: What do you think about the current level of relations? Which areas would still require your closest attention?

Ivar Svendsen: I think the relations between Norway and Azerbaijan have been on the rise in recent years. Much has been done in the energy sector. Yet, other branches of economy still have perspectives for growth and closer attention. This is what we are going to work on.    


CE: Will the Norwegian Government promote a growth of Norwegian investments in Azerbaijan?

Ivar Svendsen: As far as the energy sector, including renewable resources, is concerned, Norwegian companies always keep an eye on development and prospects of work in Azerbaijan. The Norwegian association INTSOK (Norwegian Oil and Gas Partners) has recently appointed a person to offer necessary information to the Norwegian companies. With regard to investment into other sectors, our embassy is always ready to render help Norwegian companies who are interested in the Azerbaijani market.


CE: Prices in the oil market keep on falling. Who will suffer most of all, and how can the situation affect the Norwegian economy?

Ivar Svendsen: The Norwegian economy has been growing at fast pace in recent decades. The discovery of the first oil and gas reserves in the North Sea in the late 1960s caused a great economic and technological boom. Long ago the Norwegian government made a choice in favour of a rigorous fiscal policy: Norway spends only a small part of revenues from oil and gas exports. The largest Government Pension Fund was established to help us cope with potential challenges in the future. For Norway, the most visible effect of falling prices is a slight depreciation of the krone, our national currency.


CE: What is the potential of Norway in terms of gas supply to European countries? What are the areas of common interest in the field of gas supply from Azerbaijan and Norway to European countries?

Ivar Svendsen:Norway has been the important and stable gas supplier for the European Union countries. Last year our exports met roughly 23% of the European demand. After Russia, we are the second largest gas supplier in the European market. Our goal is to remain a reliable and predictable partner that builds its trade relations with the EU for market reasons rather than for political ones. We are pleased with the fact that the role of Azerbaijan in the European gas market is also growing. Europe needs to diversify its gas imports, and our countries are contributing to this process.


CE: Does Norway see economic risks associated with the reciprocal sanctions of Europe and Russia, which also affected Norway?

Ivar Svendsen:Norway traditionally has enjoyed excellent, good neighborly and pragmatic relations with the Russian Federation. We have a common land border in the north and enjoy close person-to-person contacts. After the illegal annexation of the CrimeanPeninsula by Russia and Russia’s unconstructive role in the unrest in eastern Ukraine, Norway decided to join the measures adopted by the European Union towards the country. Russia in response imposed a ban on import of Norwegian fish and seafood to the Russian market. Before it Russia had been the major market for our exporters, but this ban certainly produced a rather negative effect. Our exporters were compelled to look for new markets. I am pleased to say that our total global export of fish and seafood show the tendency to grow.


CE: What is the position of Norway concerning the Eurasian Economic Union? Does the Union have a chance, after the establishment of the EU, to develop into a powerful economic space?  

Ivar Svendsen:Norway believes that any country has the right to pick and choose which unions and alliances to join or not.


CE: To what extent is Europe interested in fixing the problem with the legal status of the Caspian Sea?

Ivar Svendsen: Europe and Norway are interested to see the legal status of the Caspian Sea settled, but it is certainly up to the littoral states to address the issue. For many years (40 years) Norway had been holding talks with Russia on the demarcation line in the Barents Sea. In 2010 we managed to finally sign the agreement, which came in force a year later. Both sides seem to be satisfied with it. The Treaty secures stability and predictability. It ended uncertainty.


Thank you for the interview 

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