Friday, 21 December 2018 16:24

Lithuania serves as a gateway to the EU for Azerbaijan producers

Caspian Energy (CE): Which areas do you consider a priority for developing an economic cooperation between Azerbaijan and Lithuania? What potential do you see for the Azerbaijani investors and vice-versa? 

Valdas Lastauskas, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Lithuania to Azerbaijan: Azerbaijan is one of our main trading partners in South Caucasus and we see a potential to deepen our economic and investment cooperation. The information technology, transport and logistics, furniture, electronic equipment, medicine and food industries could hold the most potential to expand bilateral cooperation. Lithuania serves as a gateway to the EU for Azerbaijan producers. We offer attractive conditions for investing in free trade zones, engineering, industrial equipment, automotive, electronics, biotech, clean-tech, ICT, R&D, transportation sectors. Ranked 4th in the world for fulfilling business needs for ICT, Lithuanian companies can offer innovative IT solutions for Azerbaijan institutions and private companies. Lithuania takes a leading place in the EU according to the implementation of e-government services. We can efficiently contribute implementing cyber security solutions in Azerbaijan. Renewable energy could be another field of interest (solar panels, biomass energy). Lithuania is becoming the European hub for block chain technologies and fintech industries so we offer Azerbaijani business to utilize our favorable legislative and business environment in the EU. There are some initiatives and projects in ICT and R&D sectors already and we hope it will evolve into even large scale cooperation for the better sustainable future for the peoples of Lithuania and Azerbaijan.

Furthermore, the Governments of both Lithuania and Azerbaijan maintain close cooperation and exchange opinions on how to efficiently develop common projects and serve best the needs of our businesses under rapidly changing regional and global circumstances. We enjoy regular exchange of the high-level visits – the Heads of our states and the ministers meet regularly bilaterally and at multilateral format, meetings of the inter-governmental committee are held.

CE:  Does Lithuania consider issues of connection to expanding transport corridors, one of the main initiators of which Azerbaijan is? Lithuania is implementing the “Viking” railway project together with a number of countries as an alternative corridor between the European and Asian countries. What are the prospects for Azerbaijan in this project?

Valdas Lastauskas: The strategic location of both Azerbaijan and Lithuania, being on the crossroad between the East and West, North and South, allowing good outreach towards neighboring markets, naturally suggests a strong focus of respective governments on infrastructure and logistics system. Azerbaijan recently had launched impressive infrastructure projects, like Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway or New International Baku Sea and Trade Port, and many other projects are on the way. Lithuania have impressive achievements as well - 25,800 truck fleet, the largest in the Baltic States - Klaipeda ice-free seaport, handling up to 60 million tons of cargo annually, intercrossing standard EU and Russian-type railway gauge systems, cost efficient and high quality freight services. Moreover, Azerbaijan’s participation in the Viking train project - a joint project of Lithuanian, Ukrainian and Belarusian Railways, stevedore companies and ports of Klaipeda, Illichiovsk and Odessa - allows creation of effective alternative corridor between European and Asian countries. All that makes Azerbaijan and Lithuania natural partners in the transport sector.

 CE: What are the prospects of development of the tourism between Azerbaijan and Lithuania? Is there a momentum observed in this area?

Valdas Lastauskas: Lithuania is well known in Azerbaijan for its unique nature, mineral water, excellent medical and wellness services. Azerbaijani tourists each year enjoy natural riches of Lithuanian resorts Birštonas and Druskininkai: fusion of mineral water springs, therapeutic mud, clean air, innovative medical and wellness services, advanced technologies and deeprooted traditions are appreciated by Azerbaijani tourists. We have quite a number of visitors from Azerbaijan, who visit Lithuanian resorts every year, and we regard it as the highest appreciation.

In this regard, we see a great potential through cooperation at municipality level. And municipalities of both Lithuania and Azerbaijan are working devotedly to that end. In recent few years municipalities of both countries organized four fact-finding visits.

The biggest challenge, however, for expanding tourism is the connection between Azerbaijan and Lithuania. Nevertheless, we anticipate that with the conclusion of the negotiations on the Common Aviation Area Agreement between the EU and Azerbaijan more itineraries emerge and we will witness an increase in the number of Lithuanian tourists visiting Azerbaijan and vice versa.

CE: Lithuanian traditional agricultural products, food products have been famous in Azerbaijan since the Soviet times. Azerbaijan is also producing high quality agricultural products. How is it going with the mutual supplies? Which measures shall be taken?

Valdas Lastauskas: You are very much right, when it comes to agriculture, Lithuanian and Azerbaijani consumers do not need advertising or introduction to traditionally produced products – the country of origins stands as a brand by itself. Most Lithuanians know the taste of Azerbaijani fresh and dried fruits, tea, and most Azerbaijanis are well acquainted to Lithuanian dairy products, confectioneries or liqueurs. When it comes to perishable goods, the length and cost of delivery is essential, hence further measures should focus on the further facilitation and unification of customs procedures and improvement of infrastructure. Both government of Azerbaijan and Lithuania are consistently working to that end.

CE: In addition to Azerbaijan, you are an Ambassador of Lithuania to Turkmenistan as well. How successful is the economic cooperation with this country going?

Valdas Lastauskas: Relevant Lithuanian and Turkmen institutions hold regular meetings in order to provide our businesses all necessary support in their endeavors. Taking into account the recent strategic initiatives of regional development, namely the transport and energy corridors, in which Azerbaijan plays substantial part, we see more possibilities to enhance cooperation with Turkmenistan as well.

CE: What role and importance does the European Union attach to Azerbaijan, the most economically developed and oil&gas-rich country in the south Caucasus?

Valdas Lastauskas: Mutual importance is evident – the Southern Corridor plays an important role in diversification of sources and routes of the EU energy resources, on the other hand, the EU makes half of Azerbaijan's total trade turnover. Firm EU-Azerbaijan ties serve as an efficient facilitator for bilateral Lithuanian-Azerbaijani cooperation.

Thank you for the interview


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