Ambassador: Poland wishes to boost business with Azerbaijan, to go beyond oil sector
Azerbaijan, Baku, Nov.30 / Trend E. Ostapenko /
Poland wants to develop economic cooperation with Azerbaijan outside traditional energy cooperation in the spheres of ecology, agriculture and health, Polish Ambassador to Azerbaijan Michal Labenda said in an interview with Trend, commenting on a recent Azerbaijan-Poland intergovernmental cooperation commission meeting.
"Azerbaijan is a priority partner for Poland in both economic and in political terms," the ambassador said, adding that the meeting is an important step toward establishing contacts and identifying areas for further cooperation.
Baku held an Azerbaijan-Poland intergovernmental economic cooperation commission meeting and business forum on Nov. 24. The meeting's co-chairs were Polish Deputy Prime Minister, Economy Minister Waldemar Pawlak and Azerbaijani Industry and Energy Minister Natig Aliyev.
"This is a very important event, as the sides had an opportunity to discuss all aspects of economic cooperation between public authorities during the meeting," Labenda said. "And during the business forum, Polish and Azerbaijani entrepreneurs were able to establish contacts."
The official Polish delegation participating in the meeting included the deputy ministers of health, agriculture and environment.
In addition to the official delegation, representatives of at least 25 large- and medium-sized Polish companies attended. The ambassador said they included both firms that already have representative offices in Baku and companies that came to Baku for the first time.
The largest firms to participate were: Grupa LOTOS SA , ULMA Construccion Polska SA, and the Polish Securities Manufacturing Plant.
A memorandum of understanding was signed between the Azerbaijani Export and Investment Promotion Foundation (AZPROMO) and the Polish Information and Foreign Investment Agency (PA LILZ) within the business forum. Another memorandum of understanding was signed between the Azerbaijani National Confederation of Entrepreneurs and the Polish Association of Employers.
Although economic relations between Poland and Azerbaijan are progressively growing, the trade turnover remains low. According to the Polish Central Statistical Bureau, Poland's trade turnover with Azerbaijan from January to June totaled $51.6 million, while $45.2 million fell to Polish exports.
The South Caucasus region, in particular Azerbaijan, is important for the EU, primarily from the standpoint of diversifying energy resources. However, the region is unstable due to the unresolved Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
"The settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is not directly related to cooperation in power engineering," he said. "Even if Azerbaijan did not possess such large oil and gas reserves, the EU would still be involved in the conflict settlement process."
He added that EU countries were initially represented in the OSCE Minsk Group. The EU has been involved in the peace process in Nagorno-Karabakh since the 1990s, despite the fact that Azerbaijan's energy potential was not so clearly marked.
"Now the EU is not directly involved in the Minsk Group's activity," he said. "However, we think that the Minsk Group is the most effective mechanism for resolving this conflict. Poland supports all of the work done within this group."
The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is the only separatist conflict in the CIS. There are no peacekeeping troops on the contact line.
The situation is quite calm thanks to the efforts of the Minsk Group, the ambassador said. It should be considered as a great achievement.
Culture and education
Cultural dialogue and strengthening cooperation in education also hold an important niche in bilateral relations.
"I plan to further develop the cultural dialogue between the Polish and Azerbaijani peoples, as well as to expand cooperation in education during my activity in Azerbaijan," the ambassador said.
2010 was declared the year of famous Polish composer and pianist Frederic Chopin worldwide in connection with the 200th anniversary of his birth. Many cultural events were held in Azerbaijan this year celebrating the artist's life.
Baku hosted a concert with the participation of the Polish Prusinowski Trio and Azerbaijani mugam singer Alim Gasimov on Nov. 23, the ambassador said.
"Next year will be dedicated to the 100th anniversary of famous Polish poet and Nobel laureate Czeslaw Milosz, and this period is also marked by numerous activities," he said.
A collection of poems by Polish poets will be also published shortly in Azerbaijani. An interesting and voluminous collection of poems by the most eminent contemporary Polish poets was collected and published thanks to local translators, the ambassador said.
Bilateral cooperation in science and education is also developing. The Center of the Polish language has been operating at Baku Slavic University for several years.
"I plan to continue and develop joint work with the Polish Center in different directions," the ambassador said.
Azerbaijani students have the opportunity to study in Polish universities, in particular within student exchange programs.
"There is no department of the Azerbaijani language and culture in Polish universities," he said. "But I hope that we can achieve the opening of such a department in Polish universities by working together with the Azerbaijani Embassy in Warsaw."