President Ilham Aliyev’s visit to Germany as case study of East-West cooperation

Politics Materials 15 March 2023 12:12 (UTC +04:00)
President Ilham Aliyev’s visit to Germany as case study of East-West cooperation
Emin Sevdimaliyev
Emin Sevdimaliyev
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BAKU, Azerbaijan, March 15. President Ilham Aliyev’s recent visit to Germany further solidified the position that Azerbaijan currently enjoys in the context of its relations with European countries. The visit was a unique opportunity for German decision-makers and businesses to explore the benefits of broadening cooperation with Azerbaijan.

The program of the visit included several meetings with local business leaders, as well as government officials, including German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and President of Germany Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Official reports indicate that a wide array of matters was addressed in the framework of the above-mentioned discussions.

The interests of Azerbaijan are dictated by the obvious importance of Germany in the system of international relations, its role in the EU and the economic capabilities of the country.

While every topic of discussion held during the meetings bear importance, there are two major elements that should be highlighted in the context of the future of bilateral relations and understanding why the importance of Azerbaijan, as a focal point of the regional German foreign policy, will grow.

Modus operandi of German foreign policy

Germany is one of the most important actors in the European Union due to its political and economic significance, industrial and innovation potential, among other things. As an industrial and economic center of the Union, as well as the past role of Germany in both world wars, the country is focused on fostering cooperation with other states as the main foreign policy tool. A highly pragmatic approach rooted in liberal values, such as cooperation, turned Germany into the key global economy during a very limited timeframe.

This trend continues to this day. The production output of the country is significant, however, it creates two hurdles that Berlin needs to overcome - providing the necessary input, and selling the manufactured product.

For a significant time, Berlin was enjoying the established links with Moscow, which was Germany’s key gateway to Eastern markets, and the major energy provider. Things took a turn for the worse, as geopolitical factors came into play, preventing Germany from utilizing well-established methods of operation. This forces Berlin to reorient and explore other avenues available.

Azerbaijan - credible solution to existing crisis

Looking at the situation from this perspective uncovers the reasons explaining the rise of the significance of Azerbaijan in the context of German foreign policy strategy. The first interest of Germany is the energy security of the country and its European partners, which is necessary for its continued economic growth.

Azerbaijan has already initiated its transition to a new energy paradigm by taking steps to become an energy producer, instead of being merely an oil and gas exporting state. An added benefit of Azerbaijan, compared to other countries, is that Azerbaijan has already launched projects aimed at developing green energy, and there is a crucial energy-transportation infrastructure in place.

Energy and green energy-related matters were one of the topics of discussion between President Aliyev and various business and government representatives of Germany. During the meeting with business representatives, President Aliyev said that Azerbaijan plans to transform Nakhchivan into a green energy zone, along with Karabakh and Eastern Zangazur. He also added that the expansion of a pipeline system capacity will be carried out as a response to growing energy demand in Europe during the meeting between President Aliyev and representatives of top German corporations.

“In particular, TANAP, which has a capacity of 16 bcm. We will expand up to 32 and TAP, which has a capacity of 10 bcm, will be expanded, we plan up to 20. And that is mainly, because of the growing demand from Europe. Because, you can imagine the pipeline of the length of 3,500 kilometers integrated, free pipeline system commissioned 1st January 2021, now needs expansion,” the head of state stated.

President Aliyev’s approach to ensuring the energy security of Europe is particularly valuable for Germany because providing sufficient energy to European countries will ensure the safety of their economies. Due to the integrated nature of European economies, the economic prosperity of Germany depends on the prosperity of other countries, and Azerbaijan, once again, expressed its willingness to contribute to this cause.

“Currently, Azerbaijani gas is delivered to Türkiye, Georgia, Bulgaria, Greece and Italy. It has also been delivered to Romania since this year. At the end of this year, we intend to supply first gas to Hungary. We have started negotiations with the Albanian government to establish a gas supply network in Albania and enable gas exports to Albania in the future. At the same time, the Czech Republic, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and other countries are among the countries that have placed orders with us,” President Ilham Aliyev said during the joint press conference with the German Chancellor Olaf Scholtz.

Therefore, by providing stable gas supplies to European states Baku directly and indirectly assists the growth of German economy.

Azerbaijan to bridge a gap between the West and the East

So, as we now know, geopolitical issues also prevent Germany from using existing transport links to offer goods and services to its partners located in the East. Due to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, using this route becomes impossible to use. Alternatively, Iran could have been used as a hub, however, Tehran slammed this door shut long ago by its unwillingness to execute a foreign policy based on principles of liberalism.

The only feasible transport opportunity remaining is the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route, also known as Middle Corridor, which runs through Azerbaijan. This remains the only feasible opportunity, considering that there is no indication on the possible removal of structural constraints regarding alternative routes.

Azerbaijan’s unique location enables the country to offer this possibility to Germany. This is a significantly important development for Germany, both politically and economically. The availability of the Middle Corridor route means that Berlin can continue pursuing independent policies, while German businesses will be capable of continuing their uninterrupted operations.

As for Azerbaijan, Baku will be able to generate tangible and intangible benefits from the participation of Germany in the route.

While not much was said about this particular topic, there are no doubts that transport cooperation will become another important element in the relations between Azerbaijan and Germany.

Azerbaijan - Germany’s gateway to South Caucasus and Caspian region

It goes without saying that cooperation is becoming a dominant paradigm in international relations. The visit of President Aliyev to Germany became a memorable event for several reasons.

First, the visit fosters opportunities for cooperation with German businesses, which possess highly specialized know-how, which may be implemented for the further development of Azerbaijan. This will positively correlate with the future growth of Azerbaijan, in addition to creating opportunities for the improvement of bilateral business relations and stimulating investments by tapping into the previously unexplored potential. President Aliyev also made some remarks on this topic in the framework of the joint press conference with the German Chancellor Olaf Scholtz.

“I had a meeting with about 30 German business people yesterday. During the two-hour meeting, I witnessed the great attention German business people are paying to Azerbaijan, Azerbaijan's economy and opportunities. In addition, there are ample opportunities in the direction of joint development and exploitation of renewable energy, and we have exchanged views on this today,” he noted.

Second, President Aliyev’s visit to Germany sets for creation of a stronger economic link between the nations, which will consequently lead to a spillover effect by improving the level of political relations between Germany and Azerbaijan. This set of changes would be very welcome developments for both nations.

Third, Azerbaijan will serve as a gateway for Germany to Asia. Berlin would be able to utilize the existing infrastructure of Azerbaijan and continue the operations with its Asian partners with minimal risks, which is very valuable, considering the geopolitical factors that made European countries relinquish existing routes.

In terms of benefits to be enjoyed by Azerbaijan, some of the advantages generated by broader cooperation with Germany include the further growth of stature, and the transition to green energy sources, which can be significantly impacted by Germany and local businesses.

President Ilham Aliyev’s visit to Germany promises to lead to very positive developments for both nations. At the end of the day, this should not come as a surprise because both Azerbaijan and Germany are operating on the principles of liberal values in their foreign policies.