Italy bets on Azerbaijan - President Ilham Aliyev creates new regional opportunities

Economy Materials 23 February 2023 08:00 (UTC +04:00)
Italy bets on Azerbaijan - President Ilham Aliyev creates new regional opportunities
Maryana Ahmadova
Maryana Ahmadova
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BAKU, Azerbaijan, February 23. As energy crisis hits Europe and forces the region to establish new partnerships and strengthen the existing ones, Azerbaijan is there to lend a hand to its partners and provide them with more resources. Thanks to the clear foreign policy of President Ilham Aliyev, Europe today pays special attention to cooperation with Azerbaijan, as to a reliable and certified partner.

Italy is one of Azerbaijan's closest European partners in this regard. Cooperation between the two countries has acquired strategic importance for both sides, and active work is underway to further expand this partnership.

As President Ilham Aliyev noted during the meeting with Alessandro Profumo, Chief Executive Director of Italian Leonardo company Alessandro Profumo in Munich, Italy is Azerbaijan’s closest partner in the EU, and the visits of three Italian ministers to Azerbaijan in recent months are a real indicator of development of bilateral relations.

Of course, during these difficult times, when the continent's energy security is under threat, Azerbaijan's energy resources are needed more than ever. And the cooperation in this field between Azerbaijan and Italy is flourishing.

Italy became the main importer of gas from Azerbaijan in 2022. Last year, the volume of Azerbaijani gas imported by the country amounted to 8.21 bpm, which is 34.3 percent more than in 2021.

In this respect, it is important to note the role of the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), which provides a significant part of Europe, including Italy, with Azerbaijani natural gas.

As Luca Schieppati, TAP Managing Director, said in an exclusive interview with Trend, December 31, 2022 marked two years since the launch of this project, and since then the pipeline supplies have already amounted to 19 bcm. In 2022, TAP transported about 11 bcm of natural gas to Europe, while the volume of supplies via TAP to Italy alone increased by 41 percent over the year.

At the same time, according to Schiepatti, the second stage of accepting binding proposals as part of a market test to double the TAP capacity is scheduled for September 2023, following which it will be possible to double the pipeline capacity to 20 bcm.

"We are signing contracts for the transportation of new long-term capacities, which will be available by the end of 2025. Of this volume, 1 bcm will be supplied to Italy, and 200 mcum will be delivered to Albania," he added.

Moreover, Azerbaijan’s Azerenerji and Italian Ansaldo Energia have signed an agreement for the supply of four gas turbines to Azerbaijan. This agreement will pave the way for confirming Italy’s role as Europe’s energy hub, and strengthen Azerbaijan’s role in the European energy market.

The bilateral agenda between the two countries is becoming much broader. For example, the Joint Declaration on Strengthening the Strategic Partnership, signed during the visit of President Ilham Aliyev to Italy in 2020, has defined future directions of strategic partnership between Azerbaijan and Italy. This very deep and detailed document covers all kinds of spheres - from political and economic to cultural and humanitarian areas. At the same time, it implies the mutual provision of support within the framework of international organizations.

Just a few days ago, the two countries discussed the possibility of expanding the issuance of visas to Azerbaijani citizens wishing to visit Italy for the purpose of education and tourism, as well as the issue of mutual recognition of documents.

Also, most recently, the parties discussed the further development of cooperation between the private sector of the two countries, as well as the possibilities of holding an Azerbaijani-Italian business forum and the creation of a joint chamber of industry and commerce.

Meanwhile, the trade turnover between the two countries almost doubled year-on-year in 2022, amounting to $18.1 billion ($9.6 billion in 2021). In particular, Azerbaijani exports to Italy grew year-on-year by 92.3 percent – from $9.2 billion to $17.7 billion. Both in 2022 and 2021, Italy ranked first among the main countries of origin for exports from Azerbaijan, and the total trade turnover as well.

Azerbaijan’s oil supplies to Italy are a huge part of the bilateral trade. Mainly, Azerbaijani oil exports to Italy over the last year totaled 8.9 million tons worth $6.6 billion. Just in December 2022, Azerbaijan ranked first among the main crude exporters to Italy.

Moreover, Italy had not been left out of the reconstruction processes carried out by Azerbaijan on the liberated lands and had been one of the first countries to join it. Italian companies are actively involved in the restoration of religious sites, as well as in the construction and design of museums.

President Ilham Aliyev has rightly pointed out that the relations between Azerbaijan and Italy not only provide for the interests of the two countries but also the interests of large geography.

Considering all of the above, it is safe to say that the flourishing cooperation between Azerbaijan and Italy will contribute not only to the economic and political development of each country individually, but also to the entire region. Both countries understand that the energy partnership will bring stability and security to Europe.

The opportunities created today as a result of the successful, multifaceted policy of President Ilham Aliyev are a ray of hope for Europe. The way Azerbaijan implements its projects in the oil and gas industry has always earned the country great respect from its partners. However, more and more countries are showing a desire to develop relations with Azerbaijan, and not only in the energy sector. A number of strategic documents signed in recent years with European partners confirm the importance of this policy direction. Azerbaijan, being a leader among the countries of the South Caucasus, is becoming more and more important not only for its closest neighbors, but also for the entire continent.