Caspian Energy Journal Caspian European Club
Thursday, 17 December 2015 12:00

We believe great future lies in front of your country – Ambassador of Poland Featured

Caspian Energy (CE): Mr. Ambassador, do you expect even closer positive development of the relations between Poland and Azerbaijan after the presidential elections in Poland and the parliamentary elections recently held in Poland?

Marek Calka, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Poland to the Republic of Azerbaijan: As for the Poland-Azerbaijan relations, they are very good. Our agenda is free from disputable issues. Over the last 12 months Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Economy Janusz Piechociński visited Azerbaijan twice as well as Minister of Agriculture and Deputy Ministers of other ministries. And each time Azerbaijan very positively impresses all our visitors.

I believe that after the elections held in Poland and Azerbaijan our relations will get stronger. Contrary to some opinions, the Poland’s interest in Azerbaijan will not diminish, but increase. Poland sees Azerbaijan as a state-leader in the region of South Caucasus as well as a country with a broad potential for development. It means our objective to become more notable in the field of economy and culture.


CE: How woild you evaluate the develoment of the Azerbaijan-Polad relaitons for the recent years and their current level?

Marek Calka: After the period of stagnation, the relations between Poland and Azerbaijan got a new impetus at the end of the last year. Two visits of the Deputy Prime Minister, Janusz Piechociński to your country, including his participation in the International Oil and Gas Exhibition and Conference have showed Poland’s great interest in Azerbaijan. Moreover, the Deputy Prime Minister was accompanied by more than 30 Polish energy companies. Our exhibitors were present at ADEX 2014, World Food Azerbaijan, as well as at the recent Education Fair, where 13 universities were presented. Studying in Poland is very popular. In the 2014/2015 academic year 159 students from Azerbaijan attended classes in Poland. This year’s number added 27 students more than in the previous year. This is a ground for us to witness an upward trend. This year we have issued more than 70 brand-new student visas to the Azerbaijan youth. This is a very good result. In my opinion, this is a very good basis to give a new and higher appreciation to our relations.


CE: President of Azerbaijan Mr. Ilham Aliyev has currently initiated reforms across economy with the objective to make businesses and the production industry stronger. Could you please share the vision of Poland as a partner state regarding these processes in Azerbaijan? What impact will they have on the trade turnover between the two countries and the investment climate of bilateral relations? 

Marek Calka: We are watching the process of economic modernization in Azerbaijan with a kin interest. In this context, we highly appreciate the recent decree by Mr. President Ilham Aliyev on the liberalization of entrepreneurship, simplification of the business permit system and transfer of most of the powers to ASAN Xidmat. The sector of small and medium-sized enterprises is playing a very important role in the modern economy. These items not only generate budget revenues, but also jobs, innovation and competition. So, we are pleased that the Azerbaijan authorities see benefits to be derived from this sector. Poland is ready to help Azerbaijan in all aspects related to the modernization of economy. I believe we could offer you some solutions that can be easily applied in Azerbaijan. In the latest report of the World Bank's Doing Business 2016, Poland ranks the 25th. It stands to mention that 10 years ago Poland was on the 75th place. Today, our country is the seventh largest economy in the EU and ranks the 21st in the Global Dynamism Index. These objective data show that Poland may become a very attractive and economic partner for Azerbaijan.

In 2014, the trade turnover between our countries reached about $170 million. At the end of the first three quarters of 2015 trade reached nearly $107 million. Both sides are committed to strengthening the economic ties despite the fact that Poland does not invest heavily in Azerbaijan and does not import energy resources. Thus, we can significantly improve the outcome. Poland can offer Azerbaijan business attire and leisurewear, pharmaceuticals, yachts, buses and trams, modern technologies in agricultural production, furniture, as well as human capital, technical ideas and innovations. In Poland, the computer industry, production of household appliances and food production are rapidly developing. On the other hand, we hope to enhance the presence of Azerbaijan products and local capital in the Polish market. The two countries should also have their proposals in the field of tourism.

To make this a reality, we should enhance our efforts to create a supportive and safe environment for business development. For us it is very necessary to establish direct flights from Warsaw to Baku, visits of our entrepreneurs and political contacts, to simplify visa procedures and maybe even remove the visa obligation.

I think that for Azerbaijan, should it wish, Poland can be a strong  representative of its interests in Europe. This is so important, because the doctrine of Azerbaijan's foreign policy includes a provision, which should be integrated into the European and Euro-Atlantic space. In our view, it would also be appropriate to consider Azerbaijan's accession to the WTO, which would provide the most efficient economic indicators.


CE: Mr. Ambassador, do not you think that today the WTO is a thing of the past? Indeed, very few countries comply with its terms, they impose sanctions on each other, put up dumping barriers. How feasible is to sign a free trade agreements, for example, with Poland?

Marek Calka: First of all, it is far from truth that nobody in the WTO complies with its terms. The structure of the organization brings together 162 member countries and this very fact means a lot. As far as a signing of a free trade agreement, for example, with Poland is concerned, thousand threads tie our country with the EU and according to the rules of the European Union each country individually cannot sign such a treaty. However, the first step to facilitate trade is to join the WTO and build a legal framework for cooperation.

Our strategic interest is to see Azerbaijan keeping its independence and stability, exporting its products to the European market. We want Azerbaijan to develop in a diversified way. Azerbaijan has a great potential to develop its economy, manufacture high added value products, create new jobs and develop its society.

Confidence in your country implies investing in your country. And if there is no technology, a country can buy it, it can hire experts and engineers. The developing countries do so. For a certain time I served as an Ambassador to South Korea, which was strategically very important for the US and its allies. Large investments have been contributed to this country, and today it is a huge technologically advanced country. This happened primarily because of the extensive labor of its own citizens, a good strategy for economic management, but in the absence of the commodity sector.

Azerbaijan has already reached the European markets. He is a hydrocarbon core of the Southern Gas Corridor. In this regard, we believe great future lies in front of your country and we support your country to see Azerbaijan becoming an active participant in the European single market. And Poland has a lot to offer for cooperation, both in the field of technology, agriculture, and in the tourism industry as well.


CE: What is the impact of the economic situation in Greece on integration processes and competitiveness of the euro zone?

Marek Calka: It would be wrong for me as the Ambassador of Poland to Baku to comment on the economic situation in another country, but I admit that the history shows that the EU overcomes each crisis. This is probably because it consists of 28 countries, which together account for the amazing effect of interaction based on creativity and respect for the principles of a democratic state governed by the rule of law. The very establishment and development of the euro area is a great unprecedented success of the EU in the world. The euro is one of the world's major currencies, and its strength is stability and innovation of the European economy, which is the reason for its attractiveness and competitiveness. For many non-EU countries the European Union is a symbol of prosperity and guarantee of a sustainable development. We want that image not only to be maintained, but also want our economic model to be an example for these countries. This is the reason why, in particular, Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova have signed a very important partnership agreement in the framework of the Eastern Partnership. At the same time, our proposal is voluntary. We are open to that other interested countries could develop cooperation with the EU according to their expectations. What is true that instead we require certain processes of modernization and reforms, but let's recognise that work in our daily lives is like that. As the saying runs, there's no such thing as a free lunch. Entering into commitments, for instance putting the rule of law in place and the fight against corruption, should be a factor that encourages achieving a multidimensional progress and more active participation of a beneficiary country in the cooperation with the EU.


CE: Any there any planned official visits of Poland’s high-ranking officials to be paid in Azerbaijan in the near future?

Marek Calka: Over the last year the Polish politicians regularly visit Azerbaijan. At the moment, we are waiting for visits of the Azerbaijan side. The next meeting of the Joint Intergovernmental Commission on Economic Affairs will be held soon. Also, preparations for the rest high-level visits are well on track, and I hope that soon I will have the pleasure of officially informing about this.


CE: It is commonly known that a terminal for liquefied natural gas has been recently built in Swinoujscie, and this is an important element of Poland’s energy security. Is it known from which countries will Poland be able to receive gas by sea routes?


Marek Calka: Actually the LNG terminal in Swinoujscie is an important element of Poland’s energy security and the strategy for diversification of sources and supply routes. The LNG purchasing opportunities are diverse and depend on many factors. The Gulf countries are the natural partner, but soon the United States and Canada may also get into the game as exporters. The LNG technology is increasingly expanding in Southeast Asia and North Africa. All this shows that the basic criteria will be a price for crude, time and safety of supply.


CE: What would you say about the progress on the Poland-Ukraine interconnector project? Which prospects does Poland see in the Southern Gas Corridor?

Marek Calka:  In January this year the agreement was signed to build an interconnector between Poland and Ukraine, so now the project is well on track. The work on a feasibility study for the project was finalised on October 19. The interconnector is vital in the context of integration of the gas markets in the countries of the Energy Community, as well as in Central and Eastern Europe region.

Our country fully supports diversification of routes and suppliers of both oil and gas to the EU, and the Southern Gas Corridor fits such a scheme. Thus, we are taking action to form an energy alliance within the EU.

From Poland’s perspective, the launch of the Southern Gas Corridor should be one of the priorities in the strategy for diversification of gas supplies to the European Union. This project is a part of efforts aimed at independence of the EU energy market from domination of a single vendor. A balanced structure of gas imports to the EU clearly has a positive impact on resilience of the EU gas sector. This strategy brings positive results for our citizens and businesses with lower energy costs.

We believe that the Southern Gas Corridor should not limit the capacities of gas imports to the EU from the Caspian region only. We need to think how this route can be used to enable also gas supply to the European Union from the Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean. Thereby, it is important to ensure safety of crude supply in accordance with the legal principles of the EU.


                                                                                                                                                                      Thank you for the interview


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