The First International Caspian energy Forum - 2014 was held late in April at Baku Four Seasons Hotel on the threshold of the 20th anniversary of the Contract of the Century. The Forum demonstrated high performance results of both oil and non-oil sectors, which were the achievement of the Contract of the Century. A large number of participants and delegates, their broad geographic representation, starting from RSA right up to Iceland, proved a high interest toward the region. The forum was attended by heads of government agencies, ministries and departments of the Caspian-Black Sea and Baltic region countries, representatives of diplomatic missions accredited in Azerbaijan. General Director of the Caspian Energy International Media Group, Rasim Mahmudov told us about the way the forum was held and about new projects scheduled for this year.
Caspian Energy (CE): Mr. Mahmudov, first of all I would like to congratulate you on the successful conduction of the First International Caspian Energy Forum -2014 and wish you further success in implementing your ideas. We would like to ask how long you have had the idea to conduct this forum.
Rasim Mahmudov, General Director, Caspian Energy International Media Group: The idea has started up since the very creation of the Caspian European Club, and it was the management of the Club that initially offered its conduction. However, taking into account that organization of such events requires big financial, technical, human resources and mainly broad experience that we did not have at that period, the implementation of the project took a little more time. Now after a 12-year activity of the Caspian European Club and 15-year activity of the Caspian Energy journal, it may be said that we gained certain results, established contacts, collected necessary information resources that helped us to have the forum conducted now but not before. Besides, 2014 is significant for the Caspian states since the 20th anniversary of the Contract of the Century, signed under leadership of All-national Leader of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev, will be celebrated this year. The Caspian Energy journal which represents the oil strategy of Caspian states is also marking its 15th jubilee this year. In this regard, a decision to conduct a forum which would fully reflect the economic sectors' performance results achieved via the Contract of the Century was made. We took the first step and held the First International Caspian Energy forum - 2014 and plan to conduct forums in several countries of the world every quarter.
CE: Who lent you support to have this project realized and how long did it take to prepare for conduction of the forum?
Rasim Mahmudov: The forum hosted in Baku was held under support of the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Milli Majlis (parliament) of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Ministry of Energy of the Republic of Azerbaijan, SOCAR (State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic), Ministry of Communications and Information Technologies of the Republic of Azerbaijan, State Committee for Standardization, Metrology and Patent of the Republic of Azerbaijan, State Customs Committee of the Republic of Azerbaijan, State Migration Service of the Republic of Azerbaijan, US Embassy in Azerbaijan and Caspian European Club (CEIBC). Unfortunately, the time we had for preparation of the forum was too few. The management assigned us to arrange the forum at the end of the past year, and we managed to invite many partners within a short period of time. We are very grateful to the management of the Four Seasons Hotel Baku and all companies which supported us. First of all, these are official sponsors - Ministry of Energy, State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic, State Committee for Standardization, Metrology and Patent. We also would like to extend our gratitude to Akkord Industry Construction Investment Corporation which was a platinum sponsor, a silver sponsor Cross Caspian, our bronze sponsors SOCAR AQS, Caspian Wireline Services LTD, Atena, Bestcomp, Schnieder Electric, Risk, Pasha Insurance, Azersun Holding, Improtex Travel, Azertexnolayn MMC, SNF Vostok LLC. I would like to thank these companies for their trust.
Apart from this, over 300 delegates who represented both the oil and non-oil sectors of the economy attended the forum. Our foreign delegates, from RSA and Iceland, showed a big interest toward Azerbaijan. Noteworthy is active participation of the European companies.
CE: You emphasized the oil sector. Which economic sectors, in addition to the oil one, were also represented at the First International Caspian Energy Forum - 2014?
Rasim Mahmudov: 5 lines of economic activities were presented at the forum. Among them was the traditional oil-gas sector to which the first half of the day was dedicated. The first session was dedicated to the following topic: "Energy security of EU through cooperation with the Caspian-Black Sea region states". Presiding the session was Minister of Energy of Azerbaijan Natig Aliyev. The second session was held on the subject of "Conventional and unconventional natural gas - the major energy carrier of the 21st century - prospects of exploration and production in the Caspian". Presiding the session was Academician Khoshbakht Yusifzadeh, First President of SOCAR for Geology, Geophysics and Exploration of Fields.
The thematic forums, Caspian European Financial Forum, Caspian European IT Forum, Caspian European Industry Forum and Caspian European Infrastructure Forum, were held within the framework of the Caspian Energy Forum in the second half of the day. The thematic forums were held by the Chairman of the Committee for Economic Policy of Milli Majlis, Ziyad Samadzade.
A decision to present these sectors, which investors, businessmen and forum participants are actively involved in, was made during the organizational arrangements. As you know, the present year was announced a Year of Industry in Azerbaijan by President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, therefore, big importance was attached to this sector. High speed development of the construction sector and infrastructure is observed. It is clearly seen at BakuBuild and BakuTel exhibitions, one of the largest thematic exhibitions not only in Azerbaijan but also in the region. Apart from this, it is noteworthy that Azerbaijan is an important transport link in implementation of North-South, West-East projects, which also contributes to the development of the transport sector. Financial, banking and insurance sectors which are developing rapidly in Azerbaijan were also of importance within the framework of the first forum. As far as the IT sector is concerned, it is noteworthy that Azerbaijan launched its first satellite last year. Apart from this, the sector of information technologies is developing rapidly as well. I would like to note that competitive national companies are already operating in the market of Azerbaijan and have software programs acquired in different parts of the world.
To our regret, we were not able to include Caspian European Tourism Forum, Caspian European Alternative Energy Forum and Caspian European Agro-industry forum into the program as we did not get support from relevant government agencies. But we do really hope to get the support of government agencies in future and present these areas as well.
CE:a To what degree did you manage to get everything, you planned, done? Did the forum become an attractive business-platform for its participants?
Rasim Mahmudov: In general, summing up the results, I would like to note that all participants and delegates of the forum were pleased with the organization of the event. Unfortunately, we did not manage to implement the whole potential and get all the ideas realized. But I hope that we will make it when arranging the following forums. Due to the successful conduction of the first forum, I wish the following forums to be held on high level too. I mean the increase of the number of sessions, participants and speakers. I particularly would like to note the interest of investors from different countries. We hope that the Caspian Energy forum became the ground where businessmen could discuss issues they are interested in, raise urgent matters and finally establish business contacts. These meetings were held both in the official part of the event and in non official part (during coffee-breaks, business lunch and gala-reception).
As you know, the Caspian is the sea of cooperation and we would like this cooperation to be established within the framework of the Caspian European Club.
CE: Could you please tell a little about the forth-coming second event. Where do you plan to conduct it?
Rasim Mahmudov: It was announced during the forum that the next Second Caspian Energy Forum - 2014 would be held in Tbilisi on November 14, 2014. We hope it will get a high level support and be attended by President of Georgia Mr. Georgi Margvelashvili as well as Prime Minister of Georgia Irakli Garibashvili. We, from our part, would like to express hope that Azerbaijani, Kazakh and Russian Companies operating in Georgia will take an active part in the forum. Broad construction work is underway in Georgia. Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway is under construction. Many infrastructure projects are being realized. Tourism is developing rapidly enough. The interest in high technologies is growing. The financial sector is developing as well. As you know, quite a big amount of international and Azerbaijani banks are represented in the Georgian market. We would like to reflect these changes, attract structural and private investments to the Georgian market. Investors in their turn will get a chance to familiarize themselves with different projects to be presented within the framework of the forum. Numerous representatives of both the private sector and government agencies representing the energy and economic blocks are invited to the forum. They will speak about present development and new projects of Georgia, prospects of investing into the Georgian economy. We held several meetings with the officials of Georgia during our trip to Tbilisi last week. As a result, we reached a principal agreement for participation of the Ministry of Energy of Georgia, Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia and other ministries and departments on the highest level.
CE: What is expected from the second Caspian Energy Forum - 2014? To what degree will it differ from the previous forum?
Rasim Mahmudov: The second forum will last for one day as well. All aspects of energy integration of the Caspian-Black Sea and Mediterranean region countries with the global energy markets are planned to be discussed during the forum. Increase of the quantity of sessions will be a distinguishing feature of the forum. There were only four sessions at the First International Caspian Energy Forum - 2014 held in Baku while we plan to increase them up to 8 at the Georgian forum.
As I have already noted, the purpose is to draw investments and show new prospects and rates of development of the Georgian economy since there are many projects, aimed at construction of new terminals operating in the oil sector, underway now. We also invited representatives of Georgian Railways JSC and Azerbaijan Railways CJSC to attend the forum.
Moreover, we are planning to conduct Caspian Energy Award Georgia presentation ceremony in Georgia. The award will be given on basis of the results of the internet poll held in 50 countries of the world to political figures, state officials, heads of diplomatic representations, state-owned and private companies for their achievements in the Caspian-Black Sea and Baltic regions. Awards will also be given to companies and organizations which are actively engaged in production and social spheres of the Caspian-Black Sea regions states as well as in the following branches of the economy: oil and gas, transportation, construction, tourism, automobile industry, telecommunications and IT technologies, financial-credit system, ecology, Mass Media, etc.
CE: Has the date and program of the Third International Caspian Energy Forum been already fixed?
Rasim Mahmudov: The third International Caspian Energy Forum will be held in Baku in March of the following year. Just like in previous forum, it will be attended by representatives of diplomatic missions and missions of international organizations, accredited in the Republic of Azerbaijan, heads of government institutions across the countries of the Caspian-Black Sea and Baltic regions and international companies. We intend to increase the number of sessions and the range of discussed issues. We also plan to make a number of changes. In particular, unlike previous forums, the sessions of the third forum will be held parallel to one another. We plan to increase the number of forums by including Caspian European Education Forum, Caspian European Alternative Energy Forum, etc.
An official ceremony of presentation of the international prize Caspian Energy Integration Award which is yearly held in Baku will be conducted at the conclusion of the forum.
Participating in the forum will be state figures, businessmen and officials of world companies.