Almost 30 Years of Diplomatic Relations

SOCIETY interviewed H.E. Rovshan Sadigbayli, Ambassador of Azerbaijan to Austria, asking him about the Austrian-Azerbaijani relations, economic cooperation and Azerbaijan’s multilateral agenda.

What is the current status of the relations and on which areas would you, as Ambassador, like to work on specifically?

Azerbaijan and Austria enjoy good, friendly relations and we are very much interested in a further development of these ties. Mutual visits at the highest levels over the past years have been instrumental in maintaining positive dynamics in our relations.

Next year we will be marking the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. To date, some 41 documents have been signed between Azerbaijan and Austria. The signing of the „Joint Declaration on Friendship and Partnership” between Azerbaijan and Austria on May 13, 2013 was an important milestone.

There are a number of areas where Azerbaijan and Austria work together successfully. Economic and trade ties have great potential for mutually beneficial cooperation. Tourism, “green” energy, health care and agricultural sectors in Azerbaijan can be particularly attractive for Austrian companies. Over 50 Austrian companies currently have businesses in Azerbaijan. Austrian Rail Cargo Group is using the trans-Caspian transport corridor passing through Azerbaijan for movement of cargo from Asia and Europe and vice versa. This route, which Azerbaijan developed over the past decades, becomes even more attractive in a post-COVID 19 world, as strengthening the resilience of supply chains becomes a priority for many countries.

Azerbaijan’s economy, especially its non-oil sector has been developing rapidly over the past years. During eight months of 2021, the non-oil industry of Azerbaijan grew by 18.4 percent.

Export of Azerbaijani products to European-, including Austrian markets has great potential and we are actively engaging with Azerbaijan Trade House, headquartered in Warsaw, Poland, to promote the export of products from Azerbaijan to Austria.

Promoting cultural ties and people-to-people contacts is an important part of the Embassy’s work, including through the Cultural Center of Azerbaijan in Vienna. The Center has been instrumental in promoting Azerbaijani culture and music through cultural events.

What are advantages for Austrian companies operating in Azerbaijan?

The stability and predictability prevailing in Azerbaijan is one of the main conditions for every investor. Azerbaijan’s economy, especially its non-oil sector has been developing rapidly over the past years. During eight months of 2021, the non-oil industry of Azerbaijan grew by 18.4 percent. Scoring 72.4 out of 100 points possible on the SDG achievement index, Azerbaijan ranks 55th out of 165 countries in the 2021 Sustainable Development Report with the best result in the region.

Due to its geostrategic location, Azerbaijan actively participates in building regional connectivity projects, such as East-West, North-South, South-West transportation corridors, thus becoming one of Eurasia’s primary reliable transport and logistics hubs. Azerbaijan has put into operation the Baku International Trade Seaport in Alat with cargo handling capacity of 15 million tons per year, which can be increased up to 25 million tons.

Azerbaijan is interested in attracting foreign direct investments in different areas of the economy, such as industry, agriculture, tourism and transport. The Government’s reform agenda that includes improving business environment and diversifying the economy contributes to this goal. A single e-government portal functions as a gateway for businesses and individuals to access e-services provided by the public agencies on a “one stop shop” principle.

In July 2021, a groundbreaking ceremony of Alat Free Economic Zone (AFEZ), which will cover a total area of 850 hectares, was held. AFEZ with its law and regulations provides a number of advantages for foreign investors, such as tax exemption, no restriction on foreign ownership, investment protection against expropriation and repatriation of profit etc. AFEZ as well as industrial parks and zones can offer investment opportunities for Austrian companies. Double taxation and bilateral investment protection agreements between our countries, which were signed in 2000, build a solid basis for protection of Austrian investments in Azerbaijan.

What are the priorities of Azerbaijan regarding international organizations in Vienna?

Azerbaijan attaches importance to multilateral cooperation. Unconditional respect for the fundamental principles of international law, such as respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity and inviolability of the internationally recognized borders of States lies at the heart of our cooperation within the UN and the OSCE. The end of the armed conflict and the signing of the trilateral statements of November 10, 2020 and January 11, 2021 by Azerbaijan, Armenia and Russia transformed the political and security landscape in the South Caucasus.

The priorities of Azerbaijan at this post-conflict stage are the soonest and effective rehabilitation, reconstruction and reintegration in the liberated territories of Azerbaijan, as well as reconciliation and normalization of inter-State relations with Armenia. The OSCE can contribute to consolidating peace and stability in our region by supporting the full implementation of above-mentioned statements.

Maintaining and further strengthening nuclear security at the regional and global level is equally important for us and we actively support international cooperation in developing nuclear security regulations and standards with IAEA. Furthermore, Azerbaijan has benefited from the Agency’s Technical Cooperation Programme in various priority areas such as human health, water resources management, human resources development in nuclear physics, the establishment of a national regulatory framework and agriculture.

We value the cooperation with the UNODC in the fight against illicit trafficking of narcotics and psychoactive substances, corruption, cybercrime, terrorism and transnational organized crimes. Azerbaijan actively participates in the joint UNODC-World Customs Organization Container Control Programme (CCP). Several border control units at various land and sea ports of Azerbaijan are integrated into the CCP and successful results have been achieved already.

We are sharing our best practice in preventing and combating corruption both within UNODC and the International Anti-Corruption Academy (IACA), including raising awareness about our programmes on effective public service delivery. Azerbaijan is proud to have created its national brand – ASAN Service – of public service delivery, where numerous services by government agencies are delivered in an efficient and transparent way from one-stop shops throughout the country. ASAN Service has been granted the United Nations Public Service Award (UNPSA) in the category of “Improving the delivery of public services”.

Taking into account our country’s needs and priorities we are interested in strengthening cooperation with UNIDO in areas such as waste and water management, renewable energy and energy efficiency, promotion of investments, development of the non-oil sector, including micro, small and medium sized enterprises and establishment of special economic zones (industrial parks, free economic zones, industrial estates, etc.); strengthening quality infrastructure and connectivity.

Foto: SOCIETY/Pobaschnig