COP29 holds great importance for Belgium and EU - Michel Peetersmans (Exclusive interview)

Azerbaijan Materials 13 June 2024 08:00 (UTC +04:00)
COP29 holds great importance for Belgium and EU - Michel Peetersmans (Exclusive interview)
Alyona Pavlenko
Alyona Pavlenko
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BAKU, Azerbaijan, June 13. COP29 holds great importance for both Belgium and the EU, the Belgian Ambassador to Azerbaijan Michel Peetermans told Trend in an exclusive interview.

"COP29 is of great significance for Belgium and the European Union as a whole. There is currently a global consensus on climate change and the necessity of responding to it. Achieving the three global goals set in the climate negotiation process will require significant efforts at all levels. These goals include: keeping the rise in global average temperature well below 2°C and limiting global warming to 1.5°C; ensuring the resilience of our economies and societies to the impacts of climate change; and aligning financial flows with these goals in low-carbon countries and economies resilient to climate change," the ambassador said.

Peetermans noted that numerous measures are being undertaken at both the European Union level and within the Belgian state and its federated entities (particularly the three regions with extensive environmental competencies: Flanders, Wallonia, and Brussels-the capital) to reduce carbon emissions and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

He brought attention to the fact that the COP has seen an influx of heads of state and government in recent years, with over 150 prominent political figures attending earlier sessions.

"Impressive representation from Belgium will be on display at COP29. Political heavyhitters and a negotiating team will make up the principal delegation. Media, businesses, and civil society organizations are also likely to play a significant role. Interaction among various stakeholders is a crucial feature of the Conferences of the Parties and an essential component of their success," the ambassador emphasized.

Peetermans also pointed out that Belgian companies are still in the game when it comes to the development of solar energy in Azerbaijan's Nakhchivan.

"Along with other chiefs of EU missions, I got the chance to tour the Babek solar power plant in November 2022. Thus, collaboration in the renewable energy sector is well within the realm of possibility," said the ambassador.

Peetermans also brought up the fact that other industries could be good places to work together.

"Belgium is a leader in numerous sectors, including energy transition, green hydrogen, aerospace, biopharmaceuticals and life sciences, nuclear medicine, transport and logistics, and the development of industries such as microelectronics, artificial intelligence, and digitalization," the ambassador emphasized.

Peetermans added that Belgium has a genuine biopharmaceutical ecosystem consisting of companies, universities, research institutes, university hospitals, and bio-incubators. According to him, Belgium has over 37 pharmaceutical manufacturing sites, 23 pharmaceutical company headquarters, and at least 52 research and development (R&D) and/or clinical trial centers.

Additionally, the ambassador mentioned that Belgium has several logistical structures, such as the Brussels and Liège airports, the Port of Antwerp-Bruges, and others.

"On the other hand, Belgium's industrial base consists mainly of dynamic and innovative small and medium-sized enterprises operating in the global market. Given the real business opportunities in Azerbaijan, I hope that trade between our countries will develop in the coming years, including thanks to COP29, which will undoubtedly attract several Belgian companies," he added.

Peetermans also highlighted the high level of activity at the Azerbaijan Embassy in Belgium; recently, it organized an informational session in collaboration with AZPROMO (Azerbaijan Export and Investment Promotion Agency) and, from the Belgian side, with trade promotion agencies, attended by about a hundred Belgian companies.

"The trade representatives for Azerbaijan of the Belgian regions are based in Istanbul but regularly visit the country for bilateral contacts. The representative from Brussels visited in May, and the Flemish colleague will do the same in June," the ambassador added.

Peetermans noted that Belgium is following discussions on increasing the capacity of the Southern Gas Corridor.

"Currently, Belgium does not import large volumes of oil or gas from Azerbaijan, and my government's policy is primarily focused on improving energy efficiency and developing renewable energy sources, including wind farms in the North Sea. But we are, of course, very closely following the discussions on increasing the capacity of the Southern Gas Corridor. Moreover, a Belgian company owns a 20 percent stake in the consortium that owns TAP (Trans Adriatic Pipeline). We understand the commitment of Central European countries to this project, which aims to strengthen their energy independence," the ambassador emphasized.

He stated that the Baku Energy Forum, which took place on June 5-6, 2024, offered a chance to explain the future of many projects that would promote gas transit from the Caspian towards Europe.

"Belgium supported the adoption of the Memorandum of Understanding between the European Union and Azerbaijan on a strategic energy partnership, signed in July 2022. The political weight of this agreement is high because it shows that the two parties are prepared to work together to improve energy security in the European Union and speed up the energy transition in our economy," added Peetermans.

The ambassador noted that the development of the Middle Corridor contributes to the diversification of international routes.

"While trade between EU countries and China is mainly conducted by sea from Pacific ports, routing some cargo through Central Asia and the Caucasus can offer various advantages in terms of speed, lower CO2 emissions, and supply diversification in case of a crisis," emphasized the ambassador.

Countries in Central Asia and the Caucasus can take advantage of their advantageous geographical and geopolitical situations to entice more investments along the Middle Corridor, according to Peetermans, which in turn generates more employment opportunities.

"To achieve this goal, it is necessary to work on improving physical infrastructure and facilitating border crossings through administrative simplification and harmonization of rules," he emphasized.

The ambassador also added that Belgium itself is a communication hub in the center of the EU and has a highly developed transport and logistics network, including the ports of Antwerp and Zeebrugge, which have formed a single entity for several years.

Speaking about the peace negotiations between Azerbaijan and Armenia, Peetermans emphasized that, in line with the United Nations Charter, all states have committed to "saving succeeding generations from the scourge of war" and living in a spirit of good neighborliness.

"The European Union, in particular, thanks to the initiatives of the President of the European Council Charles Michel, which were fully supported by Belgium, has made every effort to bring the viewpoints of various parties closer in accordance with the principles of international law," he said.

He believes that bringing peace to the Caucasus is in everyone's best interest, since it will help put an end to bloodshed in the future and boost the economy of the area as a whole.

In order to entice further investors for transportation, energy transition, and economic diversification projects in Azerbaijan, the ambassador stressed the need for regional stability and certainty.