Ilham Aliyev was interviewed by the Hungarian National Television
11 november 2014, 23:00
President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has been interviewed by correspondent of the Hungarian National Television Bolasz Imre in Budapest.
- First of all, I would like to thank you for the interview. Azerbaijan has become a country with the strongest and most dynamic economy in the South Caucasus. Could you please tell us how this happened?
The economic development of Azerbaijan has really been very remarkable in the last ten years. Azerbaijan is the strongest economy in the South Caucasus.
Azerbaijan`s economy is more than 75 percent of the economy of the South Caucasus. We implemented numerous economic reforms and also managed to attract investments in oil and gas sector from the major energy companies of the world. Therefore energy factor plus reforms and investment of assets, which we acquired from the sales of the energy resources, into the human capital allowed us to diversify the economy.
Today we are less dependent on energy than ever before, and more than 55 percent of our GDP is produced in non-energy sector. International institutions also recognize our achievements. Recently Davos World Economic Forum ranked Azerbaijan number 38 with respect to the global competitiveness of economy. So this is the indicator of economic reforms.
Financial situation is stable. Our foreign debt makes eight percent of the GDP. We managed to reduce unemployment and poverty to a very low level of about five percent. We have good prospects for the future because the economy is dynamic and situation is stable plus energy resources, which we today bring to the international European markets, off course, will create additional opportunities for our country in the future.
- Azerbaijan signed strategic agreements with many countries – participants of the European Union. You are about to sign such an agreement with Hungary too. What can Azerbaijan give to these countries?
-Just several minutes ago with Prime Minister Viktor Orban we signed Joint Declaration on Strategic Partnership between Hungary and Azerbaijan. And as you mentioned we have signed similar documents with some other members of the European Union, and today with Hungary. It is a historical document, which actually demonstrates our intentions and also the level of our cooperation. Today Hungary and Azerbaijan are already strategic partners. This document covers many areas - political, economic, energy, cultural, investment ones. I think that this type of relations and documents should be a basis for a future potential agreement between the European Union and Azerbaijan. We promoted this idea for several years. In my contacts with the leaders of European institutions and the European Union, I have many times stressed the importance of the strategic partnership agreement between the EU and Azerbaijan. Areas like energy, security, trade, investment, political contacts - all this actually creates the basis for strategic cooperation.
I think that our bilateral contacts with friendly countries of the European Union, like Hungary and others, are a good, solid basis for future cooperation. We want to be close to the European Union. The European Union is the best experience in the world, the organization which supports its members. I think every country including Azerbaijan should try to reach the high level of solidarity in accordance with the standards of the European Union. Therefore our relations with the European Union must be based on a pragmatic approach. What can we provide to each other? What are the areas of mutual interest? How will we interact in our region? What are the challenges? I think that would be the best way to move forward. Strategic interests, energy security, political security and regional security all are inter-connected.
- You mentioned energy security, which is an important issue for Europe. Why is it important for Azerbaijan to enter the energy security system of the future?
- Energy security, off course, will definitely dominate our relations with European institutions. But not only. Azerbaijan is already entering the European markets with its investments. We are now diversifying our investment portfolio, and we are investing not only in Azerbaijan, but also outside. Azerbaijan has already invested hundreds of millions of euros in some member states of the European Union. This process will continue. We signed a very important visa facilitation agreement between the European Union and Azerbaijan, which will allow our people and also Europeans to get a better, easy access to visit each other. That will, in its turn, strengthen people-to-people contacts because without people to people contacts any kind of political framework is not possible.
But as far as energy is concerned we have huge energy reserves. We have already made a lot of efforts in order to bring these reserves to the European market. Some member states of the European Union get about 40 percent of oil from Azerbaijan. Now we are implementing the Southern Gas Corridor project, which will completely change the energy map of Europe. Our proven gas reserves are at a level of 2.5 trillion cubic meters and will be more because we are still in the process of exploration. But even this amount is enough to be a reliable source of gas for European consumers for at least hundred years.
We launched a huge project of Southern Gas Corridor, just less than two months ago, in September. The work has already started. This project will allow us to connect Azerbaijan with many European countries and build a new, modern distribution system. This distribution system will be able to transport up to 50 billion cubic meters of gas. At the same time, the projects of connection of gas pipelines between European countries also are under consideration. I think that here we need to have a close coordination, balance of interests between producers like Azerbaijan, transit countries and consumers. This is a project of energy security, energy diversification. Without energy security it’s difficult to provide physical security. These issues are interconnected.
As regards our bilateral relations in the energy area, today with Prime Minister Viktor Orban we broadly discussed this issue. We have good prospects for cooperation. We consider Hungary as a partner in energy cooperation and we are now evaluating the routes how to bring our gas to Hungary. It could be through Bulgaria-Romania-Hungary or the Ionic-Adriatic pipeline project, which will go through the Balkans and then through Croatia to Hungary. We must evaluate which is the best, more appropriate way for all of us. Taking into account the project, which we are implementing, the Southern Gas Corridor, and gas reserves of Azerbaijan I have no doubts that Azerbaijan and Hungary will also be partners in gas business.
-How can Azerbaijan and Hungary use each other`s investments?
- I am sure that very close political relations between us and already strategic partnership, which we today formalized, will open new opportunities for practical cooperation in the area of economic diversification.
For instance, this year we have growth in mutual turnover – more than three times, more than 300 percent. This is because both sides showed the political will. Today during the business forum, which will start very soon, we will sign several practical contracts and memorandums of cooperation. They cover many areas. Hungarian companies will be participating in broad construction projects in Azerbaijan. They will build several bridges in our country. At the same time Hungarian companies will be our partners in the project related to water supply and distribution.
In agriculture, we already have good experience of working with Hungarian companies to supply to Azerbaijan different types of agricultural products. In IT, the document was signed today and we are talking about the creation of a regional data center. And there are many other areas, areas of tourism, areas of production of medications, pharmaceutical industry. We have a lot of projects under implementation in Azerbaijan related to infrastructure and construction. We invite many companies from Europe to be our partners. We want to do business with the companies from friendly countries. Therefore the increase of turnover for more than three times was not just without any reason. It was possible thanks to our close political relations, our mutual trust and mutual respect. Though three times is a very good figure, our potential is much bigger. And we discussed with Prime Minister Orban this great potential. We want to have more cooperation in the area of investment. We are considering different ideas about investing in Hungary in the areas, which are also a priority for your government. So we can build a strong economic partnership for many years to come and both sides will only benefit from that.
- It is very important: what can Azerbaijan give Hungary? What would your country advice Hungary relating to economy, or it can help only through investment?
- I am sure that Hungary does not need any advice. You have a very dynamic, efficient government, which enjoys great support from population. And recent elections once again showed that the policy of Prime Minister Viktor Orban is based on national interests and is supported by majority of population. Therefore, you are on the right track and we as your friends can only congratulate you and your government with this tremendous achievements. This is because your country is now a symbol of conducting an independent policy, a policy based on national interests. This is a top priority for your government and for our government. There are a lot of similarities between us, and maybe, they also unite us.
But from a practical point of view, in any country where Azerbaijan comes with its investments we consult with government structures about the areas of investment. We don’t want to be like a partner, which invests in the areas that maybe are not priority ones. We look at these projects from the point of view of business, off course, and the point of view of the strengthening of our ties. Therefore that could be areas of tourism, hotel business, infrastructure, heavy industry. We can realize joint investment projects in Hungary, in Azerbaijan. So there are a lot of opportunities, and we are ready to do it. My visit and discussions, yesterday and today, with the Prime Minister were mainly aimed at evaluating new opportunities plus inviting more companies from Hungary to Azerbaijan. Today at the business forum there’ll be definitely a presentation of business opportunities in Azerbaijan. What are we planning to do in the coming years? What are the opportunities for foreign companies to join us? Definitely we will have new projects and good results in the future.
-Thank you for the interview.
- Thank you.