Baku hosts Azerbaijan-Croatia business forum
Presidents Ilham Aliyev and Ivo Josipovic attend the event
Baku, March 12 (AZERTAC). An Azerbaijan-Croatia business forum has today been held in Baku with participation of Presidents Ilham Aliyev and Ivo Josipovic.
The forum participants warmly welcomed the Presidents.
Addressing the business forum, President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev said:
Dear Mr. President!
Distinguished guests and friends!
I am very happy to be here today. I am pleased to welcome the President of Croatia to Azerbaijan. The visit of the President has started off very well. This morning we had a very fruitful discussion. We had very productive talks. Our delegations have also worked hard. In general, I am sure that this visit will strengthen the relations between our countries and help us get to know each other and cooperate more effectively.
We have extensively discussed many issues. We have reviewed regional and international issues. Naturally, some of our discussions focused on economic cooperation. I have told Mr. President – I am very pleased that he is accompanied by many businessmen from Croatia. This business forum will in fact open up many opportunities for doing business together.
I am sure that the session held earlier today included presentations about our economic development. I wouldn`t like to take your time describing the current state of the economy. I just want to note that over the 20 years of independence we have increased the share of the private sector in the GDP from practically none to almost 83 per cent. In fact, we have carried out fundamental economic reforms. Thanks to these reforms we have diversified our economy.
I am sure we have many opportunities for collaboration. This applies to the business circles of both countries. Mr. President and I have discussed the issue of investment in Croatia.
We have considered all these issues and determined which areas might be attractive for our investors. Of course, this should be done in cooperation with the Government of Croatia, and we need to define objectives in a timely manner. At the same time, we have said that Croatian companies are also interested in working and investing in Azerbaijan. We have a very good investment climate. Azerbaijan had developed its economy even in the Soviet era, while since it regained its independence it has been ranked as first country in terms of direct foreign investment per capita. Over the past year, Azerbaijan attracted investment of $20 billion. Of this, $7 billion was made up of foreign investment. This suggests that Azerbaijan is still an attractive place from an investment standpoint. In recent years, major investment has been made in the oil and gas sector. This has enabled us to accumulate financial resources. Now we plan to invest in the non-oil sector. In short, this diversification work is meant to ensure Azerbaijan`s sustainable development.
Of course, our business opportunities are also contributing to the solution of social problems. First, this results in the accumulation of funds and, secondly, in the creation of jobs. Of course, reducing unemployment and poverty is the key goal of our economic policy. We have succeeded in reducing poverty five times to 7.6 per cent. The unemployment rate is currently 5.6 per cent. As for the private sector and businesses, we, of course, allocate loans. All this is aimed at diversifying our economy.
As I mentioned earlier, our main hopes in the first years of independence were pinned on the energy sector, the oil and gas. Azerbaijan, as a producer of oil and gas, has done a lot in this area, which has enabled us to diversify the economy.
Several years ago we chose a new direction in our economic policy – the strategy to transform the “black gold” into human capital. And we are already seeing progress in this area. We are now investing in the development of the IT sector. We are creating a space industry. We hope to launch our first telecommunications satellite by the end of this year.
At the same time, we are interested in investing in agriculture. We have favorable climatic conditions and a good investment environment for that. Foreign and domestic investment is protected, which also attracts investors.
At the beginning of such transformation all this was done because we had to build confidence. We had to work hard to do that. A single wrong step could have brought all our efforts to zero because the level of trust was of great importance. I am completely satisfied to tell you that our foreign partners and investors feel that their investment is protected. The major international contracts signed by our government are ratified by parliament and acquire the force of law. It is also very important for a predictable investment environment. We are such a country. Also, Azerbaijan has started to invest outside its borders. In fact, this is one of the important issues because earlier we were only receiving investment. And now we are investing ourselves.
We have also discussed ways of doing business and working together with Mr. President and his delegation. Our economies are not in competition with each other. I think they can replace and complement each other. Thus, this partnership can be beneficial for our peoples.
We have also discussed the regional situation. Cooperation between the Balkans and our region can take place only through our joint efforts.
Oil and gas still form an important part of our economy, and this will be the case in the coming years. But in comparison with 10 years ago, we are less dependent on this sector now. We are not so tied to the oil price. For the past eight years our economy has developed rapidly, it has more than tripled. Over the next decade, until 2023, we intend to further double the already tripled GDP due to the non-oil sector. Of course, the energy sector has helped us accumulate financial resources and introduce ourselves to the world. Twenty years ago very few knew about our country, people were unaware of our business opportunities and investment climate. Cooperation with major foreign companies has enabled us to demonstrate that we are a reliable partner.
At present our energy policy is entering a new phase. In previous years we fulfilled all our tasks. We have designed and built a modern pipeline infrastructure. In essence, we supply our energy in all directions. Today, the Croatian side has informed us that Azerbaijani oil forms a significant portion of the oil this country receives. Of course, this issue will be the subject of our discussions.
We have managed to establish cooperation in the gas sector. We are currently in talks over new investment programs. Investment worth billions of dollars, more than $20 billion, is in the offing. This includes the development of gas fields and the construction of pipelines. Thus, after five to six years, we will be able to supply our partners with larger volumes of gas. The present level of gas production and exports is not sufficient for us. We have an immense potential. I want to emphasize that Azerbaijan will be an important gas supplier of the European market for the next one hundred years, at least one hundred years.
Please also note that our gas production is growing. We know that Europe`s gas needs are also on the increase. Considering the fact that Croatia will become an EU member in the future, we think it can also be part of this initiative. We know that the European Union is now working on a common energy strategy. This would make our lives even easier. All this inspires us to work more closely with our partners. It would be nice if there was a general strategy.
With this in mind, Azerbaijan will make an important contribution to energy security in the coming years. Energy security is an important factor in the national security of countries. We know that the demand for energy will grow in the future. Taking into consideration the decision of EU countries to shut down nuclear plants, the demand for conventional energy will grow. Of course, our country located in the Caspian region could become a reliable supplier of gas to European consumers.
Last year we signed the Memorandum on the Southern Gas Corridor with the European Union. From this perspective, Azerbaijan could become an important supplier and the start of the Southern Gas Corridor.
We could cooperate with countries of the Black and Mediterranean Sea regions, thus gaining access to European gas markets. This is consistent with our interests. We can begin to talk about it in the near future. Our cooperation in this area can move forward.
We think that all these matters relate to our bilateral agenda. I want to thank Mr. President for attending this business forum. We are very pleased that many of our guests from Croatia are here.
I am sure that the results of our meetings will be successful. I believe that we will witness the implementation of all our plans in the future. Thank you very much.
Х Х Х
Expressing his satisfaction with the visit to Azerbaijan, President of Croatia Ivo Josipović said there were good political relations between Azerbaijan and Croatia. Stressing the importance of extending these relations to economic cooperation, the Croatian President expressed his confidence that the strengthening of economic ties would have a positive impact on all areas. Focusing on the signing of three agreements on economic cooperation during the visit, President Josipović said Croatia was always open to Azerbaijani investment. He said:
- Croatia imports large volumes of your energy, more precisely, your oil. I think you can invest from this standpoint. Croatia is actively involved in the service sector in Azerbaijan and elsewhere. Let me note that there are representatives of large companies here. They have achieved great successes not only locally but also internationally.
This morning we discussed the issue of shipbuilding. I want to indicate that a representative from Pula intends to expand cooperation with Azerbaijan in this field. Here is another example. There is a Croatian company known throughout the world – it has achieved good results in the pharmaceutical industry. There are activities in the field of construction and food production. The mine-clearance sphere is also extremely important. Unfortunately, there are still questions arising from our past in this sphere, and they will be addressed. I don`t remember all the names, but we have specialists in this area too. They have achieved a lot in their work. I think we can help you. I am not talking only about specialists, but also about how to do it. We have industrial facilities manufacturing the necessary equipment.
We are a country that has access to the Mediterranean Sea. We are a very interesting travel destination. Croatia is popular with tourists not only from Europe but also from Asia and beyond. Why shouldn`t more people from Azerbaijan visit our country?
Expressing satisfaction with the visit to Azerbaijan, President of Croatia Ivo Josipović thanked the Azerbaijani side for the hospitality and expressed his confidence that cooperation between the two countries would be developed in all fields.
Х Х Х
Summing up the business forum, President Ilham Aliyev said:
- Thank you very much for your kind words about our country. I mentioned during our meeting this morning that we will consider investment opportunities in your country. As you noted, we will make joint initiatives. Our goal is very clear and transparent. It consists not only in establishing business relations, but also in strengthening our friendship. This is done only when the business communities are aware of their social responsibility. This happens when the agreements reached are accepted by all authorities of a country.
Thank you very much for this event. The business community can be assured that we will always support them.
Text contains orthographic mistake
Enter your note