Exclusive interview of Trend with the chairman of the CE Ministerial Committee, also the Romanian Foreign Minister, Mihai-Razvan Ungureanu
Question: How do you estimate the bilateral relationship between Azerbaijan and Romania? What directions would your country prefer to deepen the partnership with Azerbaijan?
Answer: First of all, I strongly believe that an assessment of the Romanian-Azerbaijani relationship should start by pointing out that my country was among the first nations who recognised the independence of Azerbaijan. This reality has created, right from the beginning, the preconditions for a fruitful relation between our countries. I would qualify our political cooperation as excellent and the regular bilateral exchange of visits can only confirm my belief. After President Aliyevs visit to Bucharest in October 2004, we are planning to organize the Romanian Presidents official visit to Baku by the end of this year. Romanian Defence Ministers visit to Baku in mid March and Azeri energy ministers visit to Bucharest in the beginning of April are just two more examples of the pattern we follow in consolidating our bilateral relations in various fields.
Romania and the Republic of Azerbaijan enjoy a very good cooperation within regional and international organizations, such as UN, BSEC and CoE. Our bilateral legal framework is rather broad and satisfies the needs of further developing the relations between our countries. All these elements represent a solid base on which we can further consolidate our bilateral relations.
Second of all, I have to underline that, there are also fields where the results do not meet our expectations and I would especially point to the economic relations. I firmly believe they should be built on a solid foundation and overcome the 100% dependency on the fluctuations of the import of Azeri oil. Besides the energy sector, I am confident we could broaden our cooperation to the fields of agriculture and food industry, construction and transportation. It is my conviction that the second session of the Economic Joint Governmental Commission, due to take place this summer in Baku, will help identifying new opportunities for cooperation. Pursuing the same objectives, an Azeri economic mission to Romania will be organized in May 2006.
Question: What issues will be on focus of discussions during your visit to the South Caucasian region and, especially, Baku?
Answer: South Caucasus is a region of primary interest for Europe, given its geo-strategic location and its role as a link in the East - West energy corridor, as well as in the Eurasian transport corridor. Unfortunately, Azerbaijans economic development and the whole regional cooperation process are hindered by frozen conflicts. Yet, I would like to get a better representation of the situation on the ground and, hoping that I will be able to make the intended trip, Baku will undoubtedly be part of the program. The agenda will cover various issues such as the energy security, democratization process, frozen conflicts, cooperation with international organizations, as well as the latest developments in the EU and NATO relations with the Republic of Azerbaijan. Romanian-Azerbaijani bilateral relations will also be on the agenda of my talks in Baku, in an attempt to identify new ways of strengthening our ties and prepare for future actions. As you can see, the list of topics to be approached is quite extensive, deriving from the importance of the region and, especially, of the Republic of Azerbaijan, for the European affairs.
Question: Will Romania support Azerbaijans territorial integrity? What are your visions on the perspectives of the resolution of Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh?
Answer: Romania has constantly supported a political, negotiated solution for the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Such a resolution can only be achieved by refering to the principles of international law. We follow with great interest the developments in the OSCE-led negotiating process, conducted with the support of the Minsk Group co-chairmen. We are particularly concerned over the recent incidents on the demarcation line, especially after the failure of the Rambouillet talks between the two presidents, in February this year. Fortunately, according to the latest reports, new proposals are currently being discussed and they seem to offer a mutually acceptable solution to the long-protracted conflict. Personally, I hope this conflict will be settled in the nearest future, to the benefit of the stability and durable economic development of the region of South Caucasus. Romania will certainly take part, alongside the EU, in the international effort targeted at post-conflict reconstruction of the conflict zone, with specific focus on a contribution to the economic rehabilitation of the region after a political solution to the conflict has been identified and accepted.
I believe that keeping the public opinion well-informed and engaging it in favour of a rightful solution, is essential in finding a lasting resolution to the conflict.
Question: Is Bucharest interested in the transportation of Azerbaijani oil by Odessa-Brody route? Does your country intend to buy Caspian oil in the Ceyhan Port?
Answer: This years events in Eastern Europe drew attention to the growing importance of diversifying the import sources of hydrocarbons in order to ensure the national security in the energy field. Romania, as a gas and oil importer, as well as a country which promotes the need for energetic security in the region and in Europe, is interested in identifying alternative import sources, in order to supplement the national production of oil and natural gas and also to become a transit country for the energy resources.
In this context, Romania considers that Azerbaijan is an important source for hydrocarbons imports and a possible partner in the future alternative transit routes. The very good bilateral relations between Romania and Azerbaijan are facilitating this option.
We consider that Odessa-Brody is a pipeline that could become an important supplying route for Central Europe. As for Ceyhan Port, its importance is already recognized especially after the inauguration of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline. Therefore, Romania pays special attention to this important energetic center in establishing its energetic security strategy.
We have our own projects in this field, Nabucco gas pipeline and the Pan European Oil Pipeline (Constanta Trieste), which represent efficient alternative solutions with reasonable costs that could contribute to increasing the energetic security.
Romania pays a special attention to the PEOP project, currently under negotiations, which will provide a direct route for oil export from the Caspian region towards Western Europe. This pipeline will connect the Romanian Black Sea Port Constanta with Trieste in Italy, through Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia.
As for Nabucco gas pipeline project, it will contribute to the diversification of European gas import sources on long term, by facilitating the delivery of gas from alternative sources to Central and Western Europe via Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Austria. An important option for the supply of this pipeline is the Caspian gas.
We therefore consider Azerbaijan an important partner in the effort of putting into practice these important projects for the energetic security of the region and Europe.
Question: How can Romania as a future member of European Union contribute in the development of Azerbaijan-EU partnership?
Answer: The final stages of Romanias integration process within the EU coincide with the acceleration of the ENP implementation, which includes as of 2004 the South Caucasus countries. The institutional cooperation framework provided by the ENP and the future adoption of the EU - Azerbaijan ENP Action Plan has the advantage of identifying the priorities of the internal reform process and economic development, facilitating, as far as the Romanian-Azerbaijani relations are concerned, the use of the expertise acquired by the EU new member-states (including Romania). Developing separate relations with the EU has the potential of intensifying the overall Romanian - Azerbaijani bilateral relations and, implicitly, the EU - Azerbaijan relations. Romanias integration was a long and difficult path, whose main objective was not only joining a club of European states, but also achieving the standards of performance mostly in the economic field. We have made some mistakes along the road and sometimes maybe we have wasted more energy than needed. European integration requires political will, national consensus, public opinion support and engaging all national moral and material resources. Nevertheless, we have accumulated useful experience. This is exactly what we can and are willing to share with our Azerbaijani friends expertise, which can be used to enhance and consolidate the EU - Azerbaijan dialogue.