There is a Pressing Necessity for us to Make the Economic Cooperation the Centre of the Bilateral Relations: Head of Bulgarian Government

There is a Pressing Necessity for us to Make the Economic Cooperation the Centre of the Bilateral Relations: Head of Bulgarian Government

Azerbaijan, Baku / corr Trend A.Gasimova /Interview of the head of the Bulgarian Government for TREND Agency on the eve of his visit to Azerbaijan on 11-13 November.

Question: How would you describe the current bilateral relations between Azerbaijan and Bulgaria? What are the prospects for cooperation between the two countries?

Answer: The Bulgarian-Azerbaijan cooperation is being developed on the basis of the traditionally good interrelations and the lack of problems of political or of any other character. Among the favourable prerequisites for the widening of the bilateral relations are the identical foreign political priorities, the political and the economic stability of both countries, and the good perspectives for their development, the mutual interest for the use of their central position - of Bulgaria as a connection between Azerbaijan and Europe, and of Azerbaijan - as a country, located on an important cross-road of transport corridors East-West and North-South.

In recent years, there has been increased intensity of the political dialogue that plays a decisive role for the dynamics of the whole complex of bilateral relations.

Bulgaria also is welcoming the declared will of Azerbaijan for deepening of the cooperation with the European and the European-Atlantic structures.

Question: What major issues will be discussed during your official visit to Azerbaijan?

Answer: A major focus in the framework of the visit will be placed on the development of the economic relations between both countries. Bulgaria considers Azerbaijan to be its traditional trade partner. The economic relations between our countries during the recent years are becoming more dynamic, but their present state does not correspond to our potential and interests. That is why, the efforts of the two countries have to be directed towards active interaction and planning of joint measures for widening of the bilateral trade and the economic cooperation as a whole.

I give an account to the increased role of Azerbaijan as an exporter of energy resources along transnational lines - the already operative oil pipeline Baku-Tbilissi-Ceyhan and the oil pipeline Baku-Tbilissi-Erzerum. Bulgaria, on its part, is a major initiator and participant in several cross-boarder energy projects for the transfer of oil and gas from the Black sea, the Caspian and the Central Asian region to the Balkans and Europe, being at a different stage of development. In this connection, one of the main questions to be discussed in the framework of the visit is the development of the bilateral cooperation in the energy sphere.

Furthermore, several bilateral documents will be signed during the visit, and they will enrich further the wide contractual-legal basis between both countries. These are the intergovernmental Economic Cooperation Agreement, an Agreement for the avoidance of double taxation and an Agreement in the field of antitrust policy and protection of competition.

Question: What is Bulgaria's position on the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict? Does Bulgaria support the settlement of the conflict on the basis of the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan?

Answer: Bulgaria has always had an unchanged position for the exclusively peaceful settlement of the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. This should be done along the way of the bilateral negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan, including at the level of heads of state. As a member of the OSCE and the EU, Bulgaria is supporting the efforts of the co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk group and of the Special EU Representative for South Caucasus for the settlement of the conflict. Their activity is an expression of the peaceful efforts of the member states of both organizations, including our state.

Bulgaria has called upon the two countries in the conflict to refrain from military rhetoric and provocations. We think that attempts for military settlement of the conflict will make the situation more complex in South Caucasus, and will have quite negative consequences for the stability in the region, as well as for the life of the peoples of Azerbaijan and Armenia. Each of the countries in the conflict has to make the possible compromises for its peaceful settlement.

Question: How efficiently is the potential of bilateral cooperation used in the economic sector? How could it be possible to increase the volume of trade?

Answer: I think that there is a pressing necessity for us to jointly create conditions to make the economic cooperation the centre of our bilateral relations. The trade between both countries recently has reached considerable volumes, but this is mainly on the expense of the import of oil from Azerbaijan. The mutual supplies of the remaining groups of goods are small. In fact, the present state of the trade-economic relations between Bulgaria and Azerbaijan does not correspond to our potential.

However, there are real possibilities for considerable widening of the supplies of goods and services between Bulgaria and Azerbaijan. The Bulgarian economy has the capacity for supply of a wide range of products well established on the international markets in the field of mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, equipment for the food industry, hoisting and hauling devices, medicines, perfumery-cosmetic products, clothes, foodstuffs and many others. The Bulgarian market at the same time is highly liberated, with rapidly increasing consumption and is open for the import of competitive products from all countries, including Azerbaijan.

Question: Bulgaria's neighbouring countries, such as Romania and Poland, take interest in intensifying cooperation with GUAM. What is Bulgaria's position on this issue?

Answer: I highly appreciate the role of GUAM for improving the economic stability of the member states, as well as for the establishment of the democratic processes in them. Our country is following with attention the activity carried out within GUAM, and in all the summits of the organization, held up to now, Bulgaria has participated as a special guest. Besides that, Bulgaria has traditionally very good partnership relations with every GUAM member state. In this context I will allow myself to note the contribution of Bulgaria to assist the European and the European-Atlantic aspirations of Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova based on the signed intergovernmental cooperation memoranda in this field.

Our understanding for cooperation within the framework of GUAM and in a regional aspect as a whole, is that initiatives and projects have to be developed which are directed towards the achievement of concrete and pragmatic results, and at the same time this cooperation should be done in close interaction with the European and European-Atlantic integration processes. I would like to assure you that Bulgaria is ready to cooperate both with every GUAM member state and with the organization as a whole for the sake of the prosperity and security of our citizens.

Question: Azerbaijan plays an important role in ensuring European energy security. How can this factor bring Azerbaijan and Bulgaria closer?

Answer: The need for the adoption of a common energy policy of the EU is evident. The clearly formulated and coordinated energy policy is a condition for guaranteeing the interests of the EU in the relations with third parties and the security of the energy supplies. Of particular importance for the EU is the access to the energy resources of the Caspian region, as well as the cooperation in this field with the countries of South Caucasus and the Black sea region, providing for the transit of these energy resources to the European market.

In this connection, I would like to emphasize the role of the cooperation in the energy sphere between the EU and Azerbaijan, an essential step in the development of which was made with the signing in 2006 of a Memorandum for Understanding, devoted to the energy partnership between the countries. I would like to note the key role of Bulgaria in its quality of an important centre for the transit of oil and gas. There are significant cross-border infrastructural projects, crossing the territory of Bulgaria. Their future realization will strengthen the security of the energy supplies in Europe. In this connection, I consider that there are wide possibilities for the development of the bilateral cooperation open to Bulgaria and Azerbaijan, especially in the realization of the strategy for energy security through the transfer of resources from the Caspian sea through the Black sea to the European markets, being of priority for the EU. Most specifically, the Bulgarian country relies on the willingness declared by Azerbaijan to provide the necessary quantities of gas for the first phase of the commissioning of the gas pipeline NABUCCO being of priority for the EU, and designed to also pass through the territory of Bulgaria.

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