Germany and Azerbaijan remain reliable partners – Ambassador (Interview)
Trend’s interview with German Ambassador to Azerbaijan H.E. Michael Kindsgrab
– Mr. Ambassador, as it is known this year our countries celebrate 25 – th anniversary of the establishment of bilateral relations. How do you assess the current level of relations between the two countries, what are perspectives of economic and trade relations development between Azerbaijan and Germany?
Over the last 25 years, Germany and Azerbaijan have become reliable partners. We would definitely like to further intensify and deepen this partnership in the 25 years to come.
Germany has closest economic relations in Southern Caucasus with Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan is the only country in the CIS region except for Russia, where we have a German Foreign Chamber of Commerce. This is a clear sign of how we evaluate the economic potential of Azerbaijan. The presence of German capital in Azerbaijan’s economy is a good sign of trust in your country. Germany wants to further develop and deepen our bilateral economic relations. I think that Azerbaijan’s strategy of improving economic diversification will provide many opportunities for more German companies to try business relations with Azerbaijan.
The trade turnover between our two countries has decreased over the last years, as a consequence of the economic situation in Azerbaijan. I hope that we will reach a turning point soon and that both the volume of trade and the volume of direct investments of German companies in Azerbaijan will increase.
What are the most attractive fields for the German investors in Azerbaijan?
– German investors are always interested in business opportunities worldwide. We will have two business delegations coming from Germany this year. We hope to transform this interest into substantive business relationships. German companies are usually not known as world champions in oil and gas, although they play their part in the development of the Azerbaijani oil and gas industry as contractors and subcontractors. What German companies are especially known for is the multitude of small and medium-sized enterprises which are world champions in their own specific market niches. No matter what sphere of economy Azerbaijan develops, there are German companies to be found who will be able for cooperation with Azerbaijan. Moreover, I would like to underline that the Southern Gas Corridor project plays an important role in the diversification of energy resources of the EU, and therefore in the energy strategy of the Union.
Germany, like the EU, fully supports implementing the Southern Gas Corridor project, as it is one of the priority energy projects for the EU.
– Why Azerbaijan can be attractive country for the German tourists, and how do you assess further development of tourism in Azerbaijan?
– Due to the devaluation of Manat, travel to Azerbaijan has now become more affordable to Europeans. Also, introducing the electronic visa issuance system, ASAN Visa, made visiting the country easier. I believe that over time, the number of German tourists visiting Azerbaijan will increase. I have never met a German who, after paying a visit to Azerbaijan, would not have been were impressed by the beauty of Baku and of the country. Besides, tourism can work as a force further strengthening relations between our societies.
– What are the perspectives of development in the cultural and educational spheres?
I was positively surprised to see that in Azerbaijan, there are many young, well-educated people who are interested to learn German and to study in at German universities. I also observe a high level of interest in what Germany has to offer in the cultural sphere as a whole. Azerbaijan and Germany share a huge potential to further develop their relationship in the fields of education and cultural exchanges. Therefore, I very much welcome the decision of the German Parliament to open a Goethe Institute’s center in Baku. Our relations in fact have deep roots. As it is known, the history of German settlements in Azerbaijan began in the early 19th century. Germany appreciates and welcomes that the 200 years anniversary of German settlements in Azerbaijan enjoys such positive attention by of the Azerbaijani government. We think that this common history can be an important point around which to further develop our relations. Besides, this is also a theme which could attract more tourists to Azerbaijan.
– What is the position of Germany in resolving of Nagorno Karabakh conflict which remains to be a main problem not only for Azerbaijan, but for the whole region?
– Germany hopes to see the beginning of substantive negotiations on the peaceful resolution of the conflict. We think that it is not in the interest of any of the sides to see an escalation of violence. Germany has repeatedly said that the status quo in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is not sustainable.
To me, personally, this is not a frozen, but rather a simmering conflict. Regularly people from both sides of the line of contact are losing their lives. It makes me sad to think of how often mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, wives from both sides have to grief for lost loved ones. Germany, as a member of the EU, strongly supports the efforts of the OSCE Minsk Group and its co–chairs.
– It has been almost a year since you came to work to Azerbaijan as an Ambassador. What are you impressions of this country?
I visited Baku for the first time in 2001 when I was serving in Georgia and for the second time in 2016 as German ambassador here. I was very much impressed by how the city has changed, how it has become even more beautiful. I try to pay official visits to Azerbaijan’s regions once a month, where I hold meetings with representatives of local authorities, local businesses, young people, and students.
I always find these visits very rewarding, because through them I become familiarized with the beauties and diversity of Azerbaijan and with the friendliness of its people – wherever I go. In my free time, I often travel around the country together with my family, and also those trips have been a real pleasure.