The document signing ceremony was followed by a press conference of President Ilham Aliyev and President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso.
President Ilham Aliyev and Jose Manuel Barroso made statements.
Statement by Ilham Aliyev, President of Azerbaijan
- Dear Mr. President,
Dear guests, Ladies and gentlemen,
First of all, I would like to welcome once again President of European Commission, Mr. Barroso, and express my gratitude for receiving our invitation and visiting us in the beginning of 2011. We pay very big importance to this visit. We consider this visit as a very important sign of a strong partnership relations between European institutions and Azerbaijan. These relations have good history. From the very beginning of our independence, we always felt support from European Union and we feel this support now.
The visit of President of the European Commission also is a reflection of today’s level of our partnership and it is aimed at the future development of our relations. We highly value these relations. We are working and cooperating for many years in various formats. Now, the Eastern Partnership program where Azerbaijan is a member of creates new opportunities for our cooperation. We have broad agenda of bilateral relations. These relations cover many areas.
Today, during our discussions and sincere, very friendly conversation discussed almost every aspect of our bilateral relations and cooperation. We discussed issues related to economic development, economic cooperation, political reforms of Azerbaijan, the process of democratization, regional situation, security situation, energy diversification issues, issues related to resolution of Armenia-Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. We see the mutual desire and wish to continue these relations and to build a strong partnership for many years and decades ahead.
Today, among the major topics of our conversation, of course, were issues related to energy cooperation. Just signed a Joint Declaration on the Southern Corridor is a very important and substantial document, which covers all the aspects of energy cooperation between European institutions and Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijan is a reliable partner. Azerbaijan is a country with a long history of petroleum operations. The first oil in the world was produced in Azerbaijan. The first oil from offshore fields in the world also was produced in Azerbaijan. And after independence, when we started to conduct our energy policy, from mid 1990s until today, Azerbaijan’s policy in this respect was very straightforward, open, sincere. We managed to attract billions of dollars of foreign investments to create a good investment climate in Azerbaijan. And today we have a diversified supply roots. We have seven pipelines for our oil and gas reserves, which transport our natural resources to different directions. We received a lot of financial resources as a result of our energy policy. Today we are in the new stage of our energy development and relations with European institutions are very important for us. Issues of energy security and diversification of energy supplies are equally important for consumers, producers and transit countries. Combination of interests and combination of efforts and to a certain degree, coordination and synchronization of efforts, I think will be the major prerequisite for successful implementation of our plans. From the very beginning Azerbaijan supported the Southern energy corridor. Actually, the project was initiated by Azerbaijan, particularly Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan and Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum oil and gas pipelines were the first important initiatives which created already the corridor. And after that we started to work on transportation corridor. East-West transportation corridor is also one of our priorities and we are working closely and very seriously in that direction. I think that the Joint Declaration, which was signed today, will have a good future. I am sure that in the coming months we will see many more important developments in that respect and energy partnership between European institutions, European countries and Azerbaijan will successfully continue.
Today we also discussed situation with respect to political and economic reforms in Azerbaijan. We always discuss these issues in a very friendly, open, sincere manner – the way how it should be between friends. We consider ourselves as partners and friends. We also discussed the issue of Armenia-Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The fact that for so many years Azerbaijani territories are under Armenian occupation, of course, creates a lot of concerns in Azerbaijan. It is a potential threat to regional security. We are very grateful to international institutions, particularly to the European Parliament, which last year adopted resolution with respect to Armenia-Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, which is totally in line with previously adopted resolutions by other international organizations, like the United Nations, OSCE, Council of Europe and others. The soonest resolution of Armenia-Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh conflict will not only allow our refugees and IDPs to return to their homes, and to restore our territorial integrity, which is recognized by the whole world, but also will bring stability, predictability and cooperation to the region.
Again, I’d like to mention that our bilateral agenda is very broad. I am very glad to host Mr. President in Azerbaijan. I am very glad that the year 2011 starts here in Baku from this very important visit. I am sure that the spirit of partnership will dominate the positive development in our bilateral affairs. And we will see many more good news in the coming months.
Once again, Mr. President, thank you for coming. Wish you all the best and pleasant stay in Baku.
Statement by President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso
- Thank you! Thank you Mr. President. It is indeed a pleasure to be here today in Baku following the very kind invitation of President Aliyev.
I had an excellent meeting with President Aliyev – very open, very friendly, very sincere in all the important points we have discussed that are of strategic importance for the relationship between Azerbaijan and the European Union. We covered full range of relations between the European Union and Azerbaijan – relations which are growing in importance and depth day by day. I’d like to thank you for the hospitality. In fact, I will stay also tomorrow. I will have the opportunity to speak at the historic, very important Baku State University. We know well that Azerbaijan was the first democratic republic in the Muslim World and we know also the significance of that university. So, thank you very much for the hospitality, for what I believe started to become, in fact, a very very important visit.
The European Union supports the reform efforts that are taken under the leadership of President Aliyev. The President said to me today that the same values that are important for us in European Union – the values of peace, of freedom, rule of law and democracy are the principles and the values that he takes as inspiration for the modernization of his country. This includes, of course, these principles and we have discussed these methods as President himself said, spirit of openness and frankness, everything that has to do with democracy, rule of law, and respect of human rights.
A key to the implementation of our bilateral partnership is a new Association Agreement. The talks on this agreement were launched half a year ago. They are progressing well. The purpose is to deepen our strategic links and bring Azerbaijan closer to the European Union’s market of a billion people. I am also pleased to announce that we will start negotiations on a visa facilitation agreement in the near future. This will make it easier for the Azerbaijani people to travel to the European Union. So, it is not just the markets that have to be close, but also people that should be closer.
The European Union is deeply committed to helping Azerbaijan’s political and economic reforms. We believe it is in the interest of all of us to consolidate the administration, the open economy in Azerbaijan. In fact, we are actively contributing to that through financial cooperation.
Ladies and gentlemen,
A driving force of our bilateral relations is the well-established energy cooperation. In my delegation was the commissioner for Energy, Mr. Gunther Oettinger and we had very important dialogue on this matter with President Aliyev. Azerbaijan is indeed a strategic partner and ally in this field. We appreciate the key role Azerbaijan plays as a producer and transit country. In fact, Azerbaijan was a pioneer in energy diversification, when back in the 1990s of the last century; it decided to initiate the Baku-Tbilis-Ceyhan oil pipeline. Now, it is time to turn to gas. In fact, we made great progress in this area today. We signed a Joint Declaration on the establishment of the Southern Gas corridor, through which the European Union will directly receive Azerbaijani gas. Realizing this corridor is in our shared strategic interest.
It is vital for the security and diversification of our energy supply and demand. Azerbaijan wants to diversify its exports as much as the European Union wants to diversify its imports. The Southern Corridor will give Azerbaijan reliable physical access to the European Union energy markets, which is the world’s largest market in energy. It therefore provides a long-term perspective for development of Azerbaijan. In the same way, we look forward to a swift location process for the Shahdeniz II gas field. I hope this will enable us to announce the Azerbaijan-European Union deal of the 21st century.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We also discussed many other issues beyond energy. We discussed a range of international issues. I expressed my appreciation for Azerbaijan’s role on the global stage, including its support for peace in Afghanistan, Iraq and Kosovo. This is very much appreciated in the European Union.
Looking at the immediate region, I shared my concerns on the lack of progress in Nagorno-Karabakh. I expressed my deep sympathy to the families and communities who suffer from it. We believe it is high time for all parties to make further efforts for a swift peaceful solution. The work of the OSCE Minsk Group must therefore continue. As you know, the European Union fully backs its efforts. I used, in fact, this meeting to express to President Aliyev and through you my deep sympathy to the families and communities who continue to suffer from this conflict, which has been going for way too long. It is high time to make further efforts. Let me also stress that European Union does of course support the principle of the territorial integrity of its partners, including Azerbaijan. We are fully backing the efforts of the OSCE Minsk Group and we are ready funding confidence-building measures on the ground. We stand right to provide further support if agreed by all parties: political support to the peace process and a concerted assistance once a settlement has been agreed.
As you see, ladies and gentlemen, from this fruitful cooperation and from the agreements signed today, the partnership between Azerbaijan and the European Union is strong and flourishing. But, we can and must do more to tap its full potential, especially, in the field of energy, but not only in the field of energy. That is why we have discussed partnership formalization, the importance of education – the matter that I know is very close to the heart of President Aliyev and what we can do together in that modernization. I, therefore, look forward to continuing working together with President Aliyev to reach our shared objectives.
This was a long overdue visit that I committed to do. Some people say that winter might not be the best time of the year to visit Baku. I disagree with that. As the old Azeri proverb goes, “Never mind the storms of snow, for the sake of a good partner”. Indeed, not only I found here an excellent partner that I knew for some years now, but also a very good weather outside.
Then President Ilham Aliyev and Ilham Aliyev and President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso answered journalists’ questions.
- Correspondent of Der Spiegel: President Aliyev, I would like to hear from you. What is the strategic significance of the Southern Gas Corridor for your country? And President Barroso, would you call this – today’s signing of the Southern Gas corridor, a breakthrough?
- President Aliyev: As you know, Azerbaijan for many years worked very hard in order to be able to deliver to the world market its energy resources. It started from oil exploration and production, construction of the oil pipelines, diversified supply routes, now we have. Now oil is being transported by three pipelines to Black Sea and Mediterranean. When we discovered the huge oil-gas reserves, of course, the main challenge was to find a market for these reserves. The market should be comparable to the size of these reserves, to the potential production profile. Today, we have proven reserves of gas, which are at the level of 2.2 trillion cubic meters. I am sure that the potential reserves are even higher. Therefore, we need a predictable, long-term, regulated by legislation, competitive markets in order to be able to produce as much gas as we can. Therefore, strategic importance of the Southern Corridor for us is that it will help us to realize our gas potential.
I can tell you that we were working on this project for many years. When contract on “Shahdeniz” gas field was signed in 1996, of course we could not 100% be sure how much gas it contains. But it happened to be that “Shahdeniz” gas field is one of the biggest gas fields in the world, with a gas potential of 1.2 trillion cubic meters. Then, we had more discoveries; the last one was discovered in the end of last year, which adds not only to the supply volumes, but also to the probability that there will be much more discoveries in the coming years. We now have at the moment four pipelines for our gas and we export our gas to four neighboring countries. To a certain degree, we already achieved a diversification for the volumes which are available today. But, “Shahdeniz Stage II” will bring additional volumes. The new fields, which we discovered and those fields where discovery is going to happen hopefully soon will demand markets. European market for us is a priority. It is a big market, growing market, close market, and a market where we already have our oil and experience of cooperation.
I think that today we have a unique situation, where interests of producers and consumers and transit countries coincide. We established a strong partnership and only the partnership of these three elements can lead to successful results. I am sure that the declaration which was signed will be successfully implemented and Azerbaijan will be able to use its gas potential to the benefit of its people for the future development of the country, for energy security of our friends in Europe and we will establish partnership not for years, but for decades. .
- Jose Manuel Barroso: I find it difficult to add anything to the extremely clear presentation of President Aliyev. But, in fact, I find this Joint declaration of the major importance for the reasons he just underlined. It is a decision with major consequences that translates common goals and shared interests. It is a win-win, as we usually say, for Azerbaijan and also for the European Union. So, the fact that myself, on behalf of the European Union, and President Aliyev, on behalf of Azerbaijan, have signed this Joint Declaration as a very important content as you can see is in fact of the utmost importance. I am sure it will have some important practical consequences in the next months. We are working very actively on that, on our side, but also on the Azerbaijani side. Some of the decisions have to be taken, I want to make that point clear, by the investors – those are commercial decisions; but from a political point of view it is clear now what the direction is and where we are heading.
- Javid Badalov (AzarTAg): My question is to Mr. Barroso. As you know, within the framework of the European energy security, a number of gas projects like Nabucco, Turkey-Greece-Italy TransAdriatic pipeline, and AGRI are under discussion. Which of these projects is considered as a priority by EU?
- Jose Manuel Barroso: Look, European Union has stated clearly that we are supporting the Southern Corridor. Some of the decisions have to be taken commercially. It is clear, nevertheless, that in terms of the volumes, in terms of what it can bring of added value, Nabucco is the project that responds more comprehensively to the interest of, I would say, not only the European Union, but also Azerbaijan. Because, there are, as President Aliyev just explained clearly, new fields, new resources and Nabucco is by its importance, by its dimension, by the fact that it is a new infrastructure is responding more to those needs. At the same time, of course, we believe it is important to reinforce politically the support to the all Southern Corridor. We don’t necessarily see those projects contradictory. Afterwards, it is up to the commercial entities to take their decisions, but there should be no illusion that from strategic importance point of view, the most important project is indeed Nabucco. That’s why the European Union has decided recently to fund, to give some important signal in terms of funding, (funds for the particular aspect, but nevertheless), was showing our commitment to that project. That’s why I was some time ago in Turkey for the signing of the intergovernmental agreement for the launching of Nabucco. So we are in fact expressing our strong support to that project.
- Thank you very much!