Wednesday, 20 October 2021 07:26 GMT

EU expanding trade and economic relations with Azerbaijan - Head of EU delegation to Azerbaijan (INTERVIEW)


(MENAFN- Trend News Agency ) BAKU, Azerbaijan, June 30

By Sadraddin Aghjayev - Trend:

The EU is expanding the trade and economic relations with Azerbaijan, Head of the EU delegation to Azerbaijan Kestutis Jankauskas said in an interview with Trend .

“European Union experts are helping to prepare a“Long-Term Energy Strategy for Azerbaijan”,” the Head of the EU delegation to Azerbaijan said.“It analyses various policy options and scenarios until 2050, based on an assessment of energy supply, demand and the potential for renewables, energy efficiency, and COVID-19 impact.”

“The EU will be the first carbon-neutral continent by 2050,” Jankauskas said.“To achieve this, we have the so-called European Green Deal: a series of initiatives that will protect the environment and boost the green economy. We have to act now, and we need partners to support us in this global endeavor.”

“Azerbaijan is our partner, we have been cooperating for many years on various subjects, first of all, energy,” the Head of the EU delegation to Azerbaijan said.“We can do much more to our mutual benefit, and for the benefit of the whole world.”

“Concerning the energy market, the first to address is energy efficiency: we can save money and help the planet by using energy much more efficiently,” Jankauskas said.“In 2019 Azerbaijan joined Eastern Europe Energy Efficiency and Environment Partnership (E5P), and EU provided 5.1 mln euros for energy efficiency projects in the country.”

“In March 2020, Azerbaijan started cooperation with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) on the Green City Programme in Ganja,” Head of the EU delegation to Azerbaijan said.“It will improve the city's street lighting, municipal solid waste and public transport infrastructure. '

“However, none of the projects or technologies can sustainably function without proper legal basis,” Jankauskas said.“Since 2016, the EU4ENERGY program helps Azerbaijan to draft and adopt sound energy legislative and regulatory frameworks for the transition to clean energy and the liberalization of the energy market.”

“Similarly, EU4Digital Initiative helps harmonization of digital markets across the Eastern Partnership region,” Head of the EU delegation to Azerbaijan said.“With this Initiative the European Union expects to extend the benefits of the Union's Digital Single Market to the six Eastern partner countries. Some years ago, the EU helped to establish ASAN Xidmet, now we are working digitalization of many other areas, such as Telecom, Trust & Security, eTrade, ICT Innovation, eHealth and eSkills.”

Speaking about the green economy, EU assistance and cooperation projects helped to make Port Baku in Alat become the first green and environmentally friendly Caspian Sea Port.

“Another program called Covenant of Mayors helps municipalities to prepare environmentally friendly and efficient development plans for the cities,” Jankauskas said.“Mingachevir and Icheri Sheher municipalities were among the first signatories to this program, while seven others – Sheki, Ganja, Qazakh, Shamakhi, Khachmaz, Yevlakh, and Binagadi district of Baku - joined recently.”

“All these programs help to save money, energy and create jobs,” the Head of the EU delegation to Azerbaijan said.“They provide examples that all regions and cities can follow. When there is sound legal base and functioning energy market, when renewable energy sources can be integrated into the grid, Azerbaijan will be able to profit from widely available solar and wind power.”

“In preparations for the next Eastern Partnership Summit later this year, the European Union is preparing Economic and Investment Plan for the whole Eastern Partnership region based on EU's March 2020 communication,” Head of the EU delegation to Azerbaijan said.“It will address post-Covid investment in the real economy, create jobs and growth, provide for resilience in key economic and social sectors, enhance connectivity, green economy, broadband, and digital future.”

“The European Union and Azerbaijan jointly establish priorities for cooperation,” Jankauskas added.“We have provided assistance across all sectors, including in the area of information technology.”

“For example, the EU4Digital Initiative is the largest regional action that is specifically focused on harmonization of digital markets across the EaP region,” the Head of the EU delegation to Azerbaijan said.

“It is entirely EU-funded with a total budget of almost 15 million euros covering all six Eastern partner countries,” Head of the EU delegation to Azerbaijan added.“The EU4Digital Initiative aims to foster economic development and market opportunities by eliminating existing obstacles for online services for citizens, businesses and public administrations, through the harmonization of the digital environments throughout the Eastern partner countries and with the European Union.”

“With the implementation of this Initiative, the European Union expects to extend the benefits of the Union's Digital Single Market to the six Eastern partner countries,” the Head of the EU delegation to Azerbaijan said.

“The Initiative addresses key policy areas such as Telecom, Trust & Security, eTrade, ICT Innovation, eHealth, and eSkills,” Jankauskas said.

“Some of the benefits will include lower roaming costs; safer, faster and cheaper electronic transactions; simpler export procedures through paperless trade and electronic logistics, which will reduce border delays, cut costs; support to ICT innovation, the opening of the EU markets to start-ups from the region; support for eHealth systems, which will deliver benefits for patients; development of digital skills and others,” Jankauskas said.“The EU is helping to match skills with the demands of emerging sectors, contributing to jobs, private sector development, and dynamic economic growth.”

“All of these implemented, ongoing and future initiatives are for all of the people of Azerbaijan, and they are the basics, the foundation for any future work anywhere on the Azerbaijani territory,” Jankauskas said.

“At the moment we have a project in the area of intellectual property,” Jankauskas said.“The European Union funds a Twinning project to support the Intellectual Property Agency of Azerbaijan to manage and protect intellectual property rights in Digital Networks. The project started in 2019 and will finalize by the end of 2021.”

“The main objective is to enhance the legal and institutional framework for the protection and management of works protected by copyright and related rights in digital networks and to assist the Intellectual Property Agency in the development of the Centre for Intellectual Property including by supporting the establishment of the“national digital aggregator”, a digital repository for objects of national heritage,” Head of the EU delegation to Azerbaijan said.

“Furthermore, the Project is working on improvement of the law on copyright and related rights to bring it into closer conformity with the EU standards,” Head of the EU delegation to Azerbaijan said.“It will enhance the means of management of copyright and related rights and will strengthen the regime for enforcement of such rights.”

“The EU companies working in Azerbaijan said that they are willing to invest in Azerbaijan again,” Jankauskas said.“Our energy and transport cooperation is well developed over the years, and has future potential.”

“There are around 400 European companies working in Azerbaijan,” the Head of the EU delegation to Azerbaijan said.“The last EU-Azerbaijan Business Forum gathered close to 1000 participants. The EU companies working in Azerbaijan said that they are willing to invest to Azerbaijan again. They appreciate the establishment of ASAN Xidmet, provision of other electronic services, improvements in the work of Customs and Migration services.”

“However, over the years EU-Azerbaijan Business Climate Reports underline the need for substantive improvements in rule of law, access to finance and availability of skilled labor,” Jankauskas said.“The EU is eager and ready to help Azerbaijan to make necessary reforms in these areas.

“We also believe that signing of a new comprehensive bilateral agreement between EU and Azerbaijan would help to further boost trade and attract more European investments into the country,” Head of the EU delegation to Azerbaijan said.“The remaining open issues are exactly in the Trade chapter of that agreement. Accession of Azerbaijan to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) would also help, as would the economic diversification, which the EU has been supporting and encouraging for many years.”

“The EU continues to support the Port of Baku (part of TEN-T) to reinforce its capacities in the implementation of a Green Port Concept and to expand the digital platform to connect the whole supply chain along the Middle Corridor, which begins in Turkey and passes through the Caucasus and Central Asia regions and reaches China,” Jankauskas said.

“Azerbaijan made progress in implementing priority projects identified under the Indicative TEN-T investment action plan and is close to completing the indicative core TEN-T network, which was extended, in March 2019, to Azerbaijan together with other five countries in the EaP,” Head of the EU delegation to Azerbaijan said.

“To boost connectivity and economic growth in the Eastern Partnership countries, the European Union and the World Bank co-authored an Indicative trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) Investment Action Plan that identifies priority projects in 6 countries,” Jankauskas said.

“The projects included in the investment plan will make possible the construction and rehabilitation of new and existing roads, rail, ports, airports, as well as logistical centers and border crossing points,” Head of the EU delegation to Azerbaijan, said.

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