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The distribution system operators of Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia and SOCAR signed Memorandum of Understanding in Sofia
President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev attended the signing ceremony VIDEO

Sofia, April 25, AZERTAC

A signing ceremony of the “Memorandum of Understanding for encouraging cooperation among Bulgartransgaz (Bulgaria), Transgaz (Romania), FGSZ (Hungary), Eustream (Slovakia) and the State Oil Company of the Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR)” has been held in Sofia.

President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and President of the Republic of Bulgaria Rumen Radev attended the signing ceremony.

The Memorandum of Understanding was signed by Minister of Energy of Azerbaijan Parviz Shahbazov, Minister of Energy of Bulgaria Rossen Hristov, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hungary Péter Szijjártó, Minister of Energy of Romania Virgil-Daniel Popescu and Minister of Economy of Slovakia Karel Hirman.

A video address by EU Commissioner for Energy Kadri Simson was screened at the signing ceremony.

The ceremony was addressed by Minister of Energy of Azerbaijan Parviz Shahbazov, Minister of Energy of Bulgaria Rossen Hristov, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hungary Péter Szijjártó, Minister of Energy of Romania Virgil-Daniel Popescu and Minister of Economy of Slovakia Karel Hirman.

x x x

The President of Azerbaijan addressed the ceremony.

Speech by President Ilham Aliyev

- Dear President Radev.

Dear ministers, ladies and gentlemen.

First of all, I'd like to express gratitude to President Radev for this initiative, which is a very important step in the further diversification of energy resources and also energy security, and also a very timely step. Six months ago, I visited Bulgaria on an official visit. So, I'm back in six months. At that time we participated in the ceremony of inauguration of the Greece-Bulgaria interconnector project. The project, which made it possible to expand European geography of Azerbaijan’s natural gas supplies, and the project, which helps already to strengthen the European energy security. One month ago, President Radev was our guest in Azerbaijan. So, this really demonstrates the level of cooperation between our countries. It demonstrates the dynamism of our political dialogue, and also demonstrates that Bulgaria and Azerbaijan are not only strategic partners, but also two friends.

The MoU signed today, when implemented, will definitely strengthen energy security in Europe, and allow Azerbaijan to export more gas to many more European countries. As it was already said today by Madame Kadri Simson, Energy Commissioner, and other officials from the European Commission and other friends, Azerbaijan is a reliable partner of Europe, I would say, not only in the area of energy, but also in many other areas. Also, I'd like to inform you that with nine EU member states, Azerbaijan signed and adopted agreements or declarations on strategic partnership. So that means that one third of member states of the EU are strategic partners of Azerbaijan, and this partnership has a very important future.

I'm sure that today's important ceremony will be another step in strengthening our cooperation. Last July, Azerbaijan and the European Commission signed a “Memorandum of Understanding on a Strategic Partnership in the Field of Energy” based on which we plan to double our gas supply to the European Union market by 2027. In 2021, we delivered 8 billion cubic meters to Europe. And this year, our target is 12. So, that will be almost half of our total export, which we plan for this year at the level of 24.5 billion cubic meters. And of course, our production and export will grow, because we will increase production from existing gas fields and also in the coming years we expect production of natural gas with new fields. Today, Azerbaijani gas is exported to Georgia, Türkiye, Greece, Bulgaria, Italy, and starting from this year Romania. By the end of this year, if all necessary interconnectors are in place, we plan to start gas supplies to Hungary and Slovakia.

We are in the process of negotiations with Albania to build a local gas distribution system, because the Southern Gas Corridor crosses Albania’s territory. As a member of the “Solidarity Ring”, I'm sure, Slovakia will soon become our partner in energy as well. We will increase the geography of our gas supplies from 6 to at least 10 countries. I say at least, because I think this is not the end of the story. We plan to expand furthermore our presence on the European gas market. I'd like to underline the special role of President of Bulgaria Mr. Radev in the initiative to create this solid team of partners. The “Solidarity Ring”, I'm sure, will play an important role in the implementation of our joint ambitious plans.

I also would like to inform you that natural gas is not the only energy product, which Azerbaijan exports to Europe. We have been a reliable partner and as an important crude oil supplier for more than 20 years. Petrochemicals and electricity are also part of our exports. I also would like to express my gratitude to the Minister of Slovakia for remembering the story of our energy development. It's absolutely true that Azerbaijan, in less than three years after restoration of its independence, signed the contract in 1994, which was named later a “contract of the 20th century”, and invited for the first time, foreign oil companies to work, produce and export oil in the Caspian Sea. So, today we are implementing the project of the 21st century, and the project which grows.

Therefore, as a reliable partner in energy, Azerbaijan definitely is ready to continue its journey and to achieve all the targets. Also, I'd like to inform you that after the successful completion of three major energy infrastructure projects - two oil pipelines, one to from Caspian Sea to Mediterranean and other from Caspian Sea to Black Sea, as well as the Southern Gas Corridor with the length of 3,500 kilometers - so after all that, we are now working to transform Azerbaijan into a source of production and export of renewable energy. Leading international companies in the field of renewable energy signed contracts and MoUs with Azerbaijan to produce more than 25 gigawatts of renewable energy in Azerbaijan. Construction of the first wind and solar power plants has started. Estimated potential of renewables in Azerbaijan is about 200 gigawatts, including 157 gigawatts in the Azerbaijani sector of the Caspian Sea. Our main export destination for green energy, of course, is Europe.

So, we are continuing our active energy diplomacy, and the implementation of mega projects starting from oil, now gas, then green hydrogen - and all that will connect us with the solid transmission links and will create absolutely new situation. So, we are actually redrawing the energy map of Eurasia.

In conclusion, I'd like to congratulate all of us with the signing of the MoU, and hope to see the soonest implementation of our joint plans. Thank you.

x x x

Then, the President of Bulgaria made a speech.

Speech by President Rumen Radev

- Dear President Aliyev,

Dear ministers.

Your Excellences, ladies and gentlemen.

It is an honor for me to be a guest at the signing ceremony of the Memorandum that launched the “Solidarity Ring” initiative. First of all, I would like to express my gratitude to President Aliyev for accepting my suggestion to participate in today's event as a special guest. I can say that today's success is largely due to reliable and long-term strategic cooperation between Bulgaria and Azerbaijan. This cooperation has developed very successfully in the last year and is now at a new level.

President Aliyev has proved that Azerbaijan is a reliable trade partner. There is nothing to add to the fact that Bulgaria has been reliably supplied by Azerbaijan for more than a year, according to the agreement we signed more than 10 years ago. Despite all the global political facts, Azerbaijan has rigorously complied with the terms of the agreement. Azerbaijan is a strategic partner not only of Bulgaria, but also of the entire European Union. This was confirmed in July of last year, when Azerbaijan signed a Memorandum with the European Commission on strategic cooperation in the energy sector and, in particular, on the supply of additional gas to the European Union. However, the big question remains. How exactly will this volume of gas be delivered to the European Union? We thought that the gas would be delivered to Europe in the coming years. Now I must express my gratitude to the ministers for their organization and quick response to this matter. This is a solution not only for our countries, but also for all of Central and South-Eastern Europe in the way of diversification in the fastest, most efficient and most cost-effective manner.

I would like to express my gratitude to the President of the European Commission, Ms. von der Leyen, to the EU Commissioner for Energy, Ms. Kadri Simson, to Greece and Türkiye. They all supported this initiative, because without these people, this initiative would not have been possible. It is for this reason that we have named this initiative the “Solidarity Ring”. Especially at a time when our partners need a reliable gas supply, solidarity and cooperation are fundamental. The war in Ukraine has made us look for new dimensions of the concepts of good neighborliness, solidarity and cooperation. This basically requires us to look for new solutions, new routes and supplies to be able to make changes to the international logistics map. This initiative is an example of success in this direction. It is clear that the signing of the Memorandum today is a very strong signal for new cooperation between us. This will expand the volume of gas supply networks of our countries, as well as the connectivity between us.

Another important point is that this initiative raises the level of our ambitions. We have already started talking about other more important projects. We need to start talking about the energy of the future - the transport of green hydrogen. A little later, we will inaugurate SOCAR's new office in Sofia together with President Aliyev. I would like to inform Mr. President Aliyev that the regulatory body of Bulgaria has already approved the license for “SOCAR Trading” to engage in natural gas trading in Europe. Mr. President Aliyev, I would like to congratulate you on this occasion, and I believe that we will be successful in the future. The geopolitical situation requires, first of all, to be together and look for the best solutions. I wish you all the best.

x x x

The Memorandum of Understanding sets out directions of cooperation between SOCAR and four distribution system operators for the supply of additional gas from Azerbaijan to Europe. The additional gas will be supplied through the upgraded transmission network systems of Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Slovakia called the “Solidarity Ring”.

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