In the current geopolitical situation Azerbaijan is regarded as a crucial hub in the transport sector, especially, within to the new Silk Road, the Middle Corridor, Franz Wessig, Head of Group Foreign Economic Relations at the Federal Ministry of Digital and Economic Affairs of Austria said in an exclusive interview with Trend .
“The purpose of my visit is to take part in the 10th session of the Austria-Azerbaijan joint Commission for Economic, Agricultural, Industrial, Technical and Technological Cooperation. A business mission from Austria is also in Baku. The last meeting of the joint commission was held in 2018. We had to postpone the subsequent sessions due to COVID-19. I am very glad to be here in Baku again. I think it was a very successful meeting together with the minister of digital development and transport Rashad Nabiyev. We talked about very important fields of cooperation such as transport. We discussed the ways of increasing transport through the Middle Corridor, to bring goods from China, Central Asia to Europe. I think it is a very promising field of cooperation. In the current geopolitical situation Azerbaijan is regarded as an important hub in the transport sector, especially, within to the new Silk Road, the Middle Corridor,” he said.
Wessig recalled that in this context, a few days ago a memorandum of understanding was signed between Azerbaijan's ADY Container and Rail Cargo Austria.
“Austrian Railways would like to cooperate with Azerbaijan Railways in the delivery of vagons, locomotives. Which goods are transported is the matter of logistics, trade. We want to deliver hardware, software, the goods - it depends what Europe needs from China and what Europe can export to China. It will also help Austrian companies in their export and import activities,” he added.
Wessig pointed out that another aspect of cooperation is agriculture.
“One of the most important export products from Austria to Azerbaijan are cattle breeds. So this is also a very interesting field of cooperation,” he believes.
He went on to add that renewable energy is the main issue on the agenda of the visit.
“Austria is a country with huge potential of renewable energy. About 80 percent of Austrian electricity consumption comes from renewables. The goal is to reach 100 percent in 2030. We have a lot of companies in this sector, especially, when it comes to hydropower, solar and wind power. Some of those companies are here for B2B meetings, and we will also have a meeting in the ministry of energy. During the joint commission's session we spoke about projects in the field of renewable energy, especially, new hydropower plants. We submitted draft document on cooperation in renewable energy, concrete proposals for hydropower plants. There are really concrete projects in this draft document.
May be next time we can sign the first contract on renewable energy.
Austria has long-term experience of using hydropower plants for electricity. It think this is a very good and future-oriented possibility for a long time. Hydropower is a very environmentally friendly way of producing energy. When you build a hydropower station, you can operate it for 100 years. This would be my suggestion to invest in hydropower,” he explained.
Wessig believes that first of all, it is important to increase bilateral trade.
“Then there comes more trust and confidence in bilateral trade relations and the next stage will be investments.
There should be more Austrian companies in Azerbaijan and vice-versa. We're looking forward also for Azerbaijani investments in Austria. For instance, Azerbaijan's state oil company SOCAR has invested in Austria. It is operating a petrol stations chain in Austria. There are still 15 Austrian companies here in different sectors and I think they are also interested in further investing in industrial sectors. I believe that there is a good potential and good opportunity for further investments,” he concluded.
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