Slovak, Azerbaijan relations to benefit from exploring opportunities on modernizing transport infrastructure (INTERVIEW)
BAKU, Azerbaijan, Feb. 22
By Nargiz Sadikhova - Trend:
The bilateral relations of Azerbaijan and Slovakia are friendly with a constructive attitude, Head of mission of the Slovak Embassy in Azerbaijan Milan Lajciak told Trend.
"We do not have any burdens or open issues in our bilateral context. Recently we have enjoyed intensive political dialogue that was the last year temporarily interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic," he said.
He said the priority of bilateral relations of two countries belongs to the field of economic cooperation.
"We had a record of growing trade volume during the last period. The trade volume in 2019 represented 24.44 million euros. Azerbaijan export stands for 9.68 million euros (mainly mineral fuels, mineral oils, fruits and nuts) and Slovak export for 13.25 million euros (mainly automotive parts, logistic containers, cables and uninsulated wires)," Lajciak explained.
However, during 2020 trade volume between the countries went down due to COVID-19 pandemic similar to majority of other countries, Lajciak said.
"Trade volume statistics for the last year (January through November 2020) show a certain decline to 18.84 million euros. We are currently working on identification business areas that will contribute to increase our bilateral trade," he said.
Lajciak added that Slovak economic activities to Azerbaijan in the recent past included participation of Slovak companies in highway construction, locomotives repair, railway containers delivery, etc.
"It would be mutually advantageous to go further and to explore opportunities in production cooperation, restructuring of Azerbaijani enterprises and modernizing transport infrastructure," he said.
Talking the investment cooperation between the two countries, Lajciak said that Slovakia does not have any tangible investment projects in Azerbaijan from last year and the major focus is currently going along two vectors.
"The first is creating the proper legal bases for economic cooperation. We intensively work on finalizing three basic economic agreements with Azerbaijan that represent the necessary legal support for economic activities between our countries. We believe the whole process is going to be finalized this year. This will motivate Slovak entrepreneurs to be more active to pick up economic opportunities in Azerbaijan," he said.
He said the creation of common economic commission will contribute to identification economic areas of common interests.
"The second vector is focusing on the creation of the bases for cooperation among SMEs that need governmental help and assistance," Lajciak said, adding that this was one of topics of the recent meeting of with the Minister of Economy of Azerbaijan Mikayil Jabbarov.
"This kind of cooperation represents a more sustainable basis," Lajciak said.
Switching to the topic of cooperation at Azerbaijani liberated territories Lajciak said that Slovakia just like many other countries is interested in participation in projects on Azerbaijan´s liberated territories.
Following over a month of military action to liberate its territories from Armenian occupation from late Sept. to early Nov. 2020, Azerbaijan has pushed Armenia to sign the surrender document. A joint statement on the matter was made by the Azerbaijani president, Armenia's PM, and the president of Russia.
A complete ceasefire and a cessation of all hostilities in the zone of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict was introduced on Nov. 10, 2020.
Lajciak especially noted the Slovakia’s interest in the process of demining and building smart cities and as well as in infrastructure projects.
"We consider the area of demining as the starting point. Security is the precursor for any further development of liberated territories. That involves above all cleansing these areas from mines and other explosive devices," he said.
He noted that Slovakia has vast experience in defense industry and long tradition in production of demining equipment adding that Azerbaijan's ANAMA has positive experience with Slovakia’s demining systems.
In turn, turning to the topic of cooperation in energy sector, Lajciak said that Azerbaijan represents for EU with the crude oil and gas deliveries an important part of EU energy security.
"With this, it is nothing more than fully to agree with President Ilham Aliyev´s speech during the recent 7th Ministerial Meeting of the Southern Gas Corridor Advisory Council. He mentioned that the Southern Gas Corridor project is a project of energy security, of energy diversification and that energy security today is a matter of national security of all countries as well as energy diversification is important for consumers and producers," Lajciak said.
He noted that Slovakia is a country with very huge density of transportation crude oil and gas pipelines from the East to EU member states.
"We have East – West and North – South pipeline connections going through Slovak territory. Though currently we are not receiving Azerbaijani crude oil either gas, the Southern Gas Corridor represents a reliable contributor to the Slovak energy security with regard to the future energy needs," Lajciak added.
Follow the author on Twitter: @nargiz_sadikh