Ambassador: Azerbaijan is Latvia's most reliable partner in region
Azerbaijan, Baku, Dec. 8 / Trend S.Agayeva /
Latvian Ambassador to Azerbaijan Hardijs Baumanis said Azerbaijan is the country's most reliable partner in the region.
"A high stability, enhancing political dialogue and very good contacts, as well as cooperation at the level of the legislative and executive powers, are characteristic of Latvia's relations with Azerbaijan," Baumanis told Trend. "We are working to establish contacts and cooperation at the level of local governments and local authorities."
He added that Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and his spouse Mehriban Aliyeva are expected to visit Latvia in early 2011 upon Latvian President Valdis Zatlers's invitation.
"I am confident that this visit, which will be the fourth meeting of our presidents since 2005, will provide a new, strong impetus to the further development of our relations in many new directions," he said.
Regarding human relations, Baumanis said Latvia-Azerbaijan cooperation is mainly developing in the field of education.
"There are a few good business schools issuing both European and U.S. diplomas of higher economic education in Latvia," Baumanis said. "While we cannot talk about a very large flow of students from Azerbaijan to Latvia, a few dozen a year is, in my opinion, already a good result."
Eastern Partnership Program
Latvia can take an active part in promoting Azerbaijan's cooperation with the EU under the Eastern Partnership Program, Baumanis said.
"In fact, because of our shared past we were not quite ready to immediately become members of a common Europe," he said. "It took us about 15 years to introduce regulations, standards and laws that govern lives and today's Europe. We became members of the EU in 2004. It was not only a technical transfer of standards to our lives, it was something more. As we say in Europe, they are shared values, and, in a sense, one should learn to think and act like Europeans."
Latvia has gained invaluable experience since its transmission to the EU and is ready to share its knowledge with Azerbaijan in any field of its relations with the EU, Baumanis said.
The Eastern Partnership Program is a Polish-Swedish initiative under the EU Neighborhood Policy aimed at improving EU relations with six former Soviet countries Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, Belarus, Ukraine and Armenia. The program envisages the allocation of 600 million euro to these countries until 2013 to strengthen state institutions, control borders and help small companies. The program's constituent summit was held in Prague on May 7, 2008.
Azerbaijan and Latvia must work hard for the trade, trade turnover between the two countries to increase in both directions, Baumanis said.
According to the Azerbaijani State Statistics Committee, the trade turnover between the two countries amounted to $6.6 million in January-September.
He added that Latvia provides Azerbaijan with high quality foodstuffs, such as milk, curds, sour cream, sweets, and fish. Soon Latvia will also supply jam.
Latvian pharmaceutical goods have also been supplied to the Azerbaijani market for many years, Baumanis said.
Latvian financial institutions, including banks, auditing companies, and real estate agencies offer their services successfully.
"I see a niche for Azerbaijan on the Latvian and European markets," he said. "This means the export of exotic fruits and processed products. For example, feijoa jam or tarragon or other plant extracts are unusual and unfamiliar to European consumers. However, they have interesting and sometimes unexpected flavors."
However, Baumanis also said that it is necessary to develop a high-tech fruits, herb and plant processing in Azerbaijan, and Latvian businessmen are ready to assist their colleagues.
"Latvia cannot directly benefit from the Southern Energy Corridor, but being fully dependent on Russian gas, Latvia, as an EU member, is one of the most active supporters of the development of this corridor to diversify gas supplies to our southern partners in the EU," Baumanis said.
He added that Latvia hopes that its gas network will be connected with Central Europe, and have access to Norwegian and Danish gas.
"The strategy of Azerbaijan's development in the field of energy transit points to the fact that Azerbaijan is our most reliable partner in this region," he said.