Caspian Energy (CE): Mr. Ambassador, Azerbaijan does not hide its intention of building its relations with the European Union on the level of strategic cooperation but not integration. What is your vision about the cooperation between Germany and Azerbaijan from this perspective? Where is the line between the integration and cooperation in relations of both countries?
Ramin Hasanov, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Azerbaijan to the Federal Republic of Germany: We can talk about integration only if any given country, by becoming a member of an international organization or institution, wants to be its integral part. On the other hand one can talk about integration into any system of values. As you mentioned, our country has not come up with an intention or proposal concerning the membership in the EU. We just want the establishment of mutually beneficial and equal partnership relations with the EU. At present our country is successfully cooperating both with EU and Germany, an EU member. Some time ago, Azerbaijan has presented a draft agreement on the strategic partnership to the EU. As is known, the European Commission and the European External Action Service were granted a relevant mandate to initiate negotiations with Azerbaijan. I would like to note that for us it is also important to conclude such documents on a bilateral level with EU member countries. Such documents have already been signed with a number of EU countries. The draft “Joint Declaration on the establishment of the strategic partnership between the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Federal Republic of Germany” has been presented to the German side and is currently under consideration.
Azerbaijan and Germany have been maintaining a mutually beneficial, equal and fruitful cooperation for a long time. High-level political dialogue exists between our countries. Our economic relations are developing rapidly. It is considered as one of the main priority directions for us. We have good relations in the field of culture, tourism, sports, art, social sphere, etc. Development of relations in all areas is of importance to us. Both Azerbaijan and Germany are interested in deepening and taking to a higher level the relations existing between our countries.
CE: What was the impact of the visit made by the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Mr. Ilham Aliyev to Berlin in June of last year, on the development of bilateral relations? What are the priority lines of further expansion of cooperation with Germany?
Ramin Hasanov: Visit made by the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Mr. Ilham Aliyev to Germany on June 6-7 of the last year at the invitation of the Chancellor of FRG Angela Merkel broadly contributed to the development of relations between the two countries. Present state and future outlooks of bilateral relations, economic cooperation between Azerbaijan and Germany, Azerbaijan’s role in the EU’s energy security, ways of settlement of the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and other important issues were broadly discussed in the course of bilateral meeting held between the President of Azerbaijan and Chancellor of FRG within the framework of the visit.
Holding the Azerbaijani-German economic forum with participation of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Mr. Ilham Aliyev and Sigmar Gabriel, Vice-chancellor of Germany, Minister for Economy and Energy, participation of over 300 high level representatives of business circles from both sides and signing of various documents on cooperation between Azerbaijani and German companies indicate big interest in deepening of economic cooperation and expansion of business relations between our countries. As our German partners noted, the forum was met “with immense interest” in Germany.
Our head of state visited Germany also in January 2016 to attend the Munich Security Conference. Besides it, bilateral visits to respectively Germany and Azerbaijan were made by Minister for Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan Mr. Elmar Mammadyarov and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Germany Mr. Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
The mentioned bilateral visits indicate that there are very active political relations between our countries which are necessary for the development of economic relations.
Our country aspires to expand cooperation with Germany in agriculture, transport, tourism and other priority areas. We are interested in attracting German investors to priority areas of economy of the country.
Economic cooperation between our countries has a greater potential than the existing one. Nowadays the investment climate in Azerbaijan facilitates development of economic relations. Investments worth of $200bl have been made in Azerbaijan since 1995 and approximately half of this amount is foreign investments. Recent economic reforms, including measures on diversification of national economy, improved the business climate of the country. Taking into account the reports and statements of the prominent international financial institutions, it is safe to state that on a global scale Azerbaijan is one of the most attractive countries for foreign investors.
In general, the relations between Azerbaijan and Germany cover a broad range. We actively cooperate with Germany also in the fields of education, health and sport. About 400 Azerbaijani students studied or continue studying in Germany within the framework of the State Program on education of Azerbaijani youth abroad. German experience and technology are highly valued in our country. Deepening of cooperation in order to benefit from this is a priority area of our bilateral relations.
Cooperation in the field of vocational education is one of the issues on the agenda of the bilateral relations. Development of the vocational education in Azerbaijan is in the center of attention of the leadership of the country and there are opportunities for cooperation with Germany in this area as well. Work is underway to establish vocational education in compliance with the German model at a newly constructed vocational school in Sumgayit Chemical Industrial Park.
CE: Does German Chancellor Angela Merkel plan to pay a visit to Baku?
Ramin Hasanov: Of course, the Azerbaijani side is ready to host the Chancellor of FRG in our country on an official or a working visit. We believe such visits will make special contribution to the development of relations between our countries. We also know that 2017 will be the year of elections in Germany. The elections to Bundestag are expected. It is not hard to guess that the Federal Chancellor will have a tight working schedule in the year of elections. But we keep working in order to arrange Chancellor’s visit to Azerbaijan in near future and hope that this visit will take place soon.
CE: Mr. Ambassador, what are the objectives and tasks of your mission in Germany?
Ramin Hasanov: Azerbaijan-German relations have about 200 years of history.ThePresident of the Republic of Azerbaijan has signed a decree on the preparation of the plan of activities concerning the 200th anniversary of the German settlements in the South Caucasus in 2017. The leadership of Azerbaijan pays a special attention to the preservation of German heritage in Azerbaijan. We deem the promotion of this topic in Germany important for the deepening of cooperation between the two countries and rapprochement of our peoples.
2017 will mark the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between our countries. As mentioned, dynamic political dialogue has been established between the two countries. Germany is also an interesting country as one of the leading nations of the European Union. Azerbaijan is nowadays a leading economic power and factor of stability in the region, an initiator and performer of regional projects bearing big political and economic importance. Therefore, Germany also finds important to develop relations with Azerbaijan. At present, our goal is to take the relations between the two countries to a strategic level.
Germany also presided in OSCE last year. The Minsk Group of this organization is a major body mediating the peaceful settlement of the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Germany has repeatedly stated the unacceptability of the maintenance of current status-quo and called on to settle the conflict. We would like Germany to be more active in order to contribute to the settlement of this conflict and keep working in this direction.
Cultural relations between our countries are also on a high level. As you know, it was Germany where for the first time in Europe the year of Azerbaijani culture was held in 2008. In 2011-2014 in large cities of Germany cultural events were held at the initiative and under the patronage of the First Lady of the Republic of Azerbaijan, President of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, Ms. Mehriban Aliyeva. Cultural exchange between our countries holds a peculiar place in bilateral relations. We see a great potential for the development of relations in the field of culture and work in this direction.
As I mentioned above, investment climate of our country creates a big potential for the further development of economic relations between Azerbaijan and Germany. The promotion of investment climate of Azerbaijan in Germany, attraction of German companies to Azerbaijan as investors, as well as rendering support to Azerbaijani companies showing interest in the German market in building business relations are among the priority tasks.
One of the issues that Azerbaijan attaches importance is to have herself known as a tourism country. As you know, there are direct flights functioning between Baku and the cities of Berlin and Frankfurt . Rich history and cultural monuments, cultural diversity, beautiful nature of our country and rapidly developing architecture of Baku can be of interest to German tourists. The promotion of great tourism potential of our country is one of the main directions of our work.
CE: The European Union is the biggest trade partner and investor in Azerbaijan for now. What is the share of Germany in this turnover?
Ramin Hasanov: One of the major lines of the foreign policy of Azerbaijan is to establish and develop sustainable and effective relations with the EU. You rightly noted that the EU is a major trade partner and investor in Azerbaijan. Germany in its turn is one of the leading countries of the world and Europe.
Our trade relations are expanding year by year. Azerbaijan is the most important economic and trade partner of Germany in the South Caucasus. According to the data of the Ministry of Economy and Energy of FRG, Azerbaijan’s specific weight accounts for 80% of Germany’s trade turnover with the South Caucasus countries in 2015. Based on this statistics, the trade turnover between the two countries totaled 2.9 bl EUR last year. Azerbaijan is the 6th among the countries supplying FRG with oil. A total of 5.3 ml tons of crude oil was exported from Azerbaijan to Germany in 2015.
There are already about 170 German companies operating in Azerbaijan. They invested over $400ml in the non-oil sector of Azerbaijan.
German-Azerbaijan Chamber of Commerce was opened in Baku on November 12, 2012. Opening of the second official chamber of commerce in Baku among CIS countries indicates dynamic development of economic relations between the two countries and big interest of business circles of Germany in our country. At present the chamber of commerce has over 130 members from both sides. This body plays a significant role in expansion of economic cooperation and trade relations between our countries.
Azerbaijani-German high level working group on trade and investments was established in 2011. The working group has so far held six meetings. The last meeting was held in Baku on November 23-24 of the last year. Azerbaijani-German high level working group also contributes to the development of relations between the two countries.
Germany also plays an important role in Azerbaijan-EU energy cooperation. The energy cooperation between the two countries covers the following areas: legislation in the field of energy cooperation, study of practice in the energy security and reliability, deepening of reforms at the energy market, modernization of the energy infrastructures, energy efficiency, energy saving and development of renewable energy sources.
German company E.ON’s share in the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) project which will transport Caspian gas to Europe was 9% till 2014. E.ON has also signed a 25-year contract with Shah Deniz consortium for the supply of 40bcm of Azerbaijani gas to Europe.
SOCAR is cooperating with German RWE in exploration and development of the promising structure Nakhchivan and with UNIPER company in energy and steam generation.
Training of human resources is also one of the areas of cooperation between our country and Germany. Within the framework of the joint Azerbaijani-German program on qualification growth of managers of business community of Azerbaijan implemented by the Ministry of Economy of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Ministry of Economy and Energy of FRG, 299 Azerbaijani entrepreneurs and young managers, working in different areas of economy, got training and internship in different training centers of Germany.
Thank you for the interview