Sergei Stanishev: There are real possibilities for considerable widening of the economical relations between Bulgaria and Azerbaijan

Sergei Stanishev: There are real possibilities for considerable widening of the economical relations between Bulgaria and Azerbaijan
# 07 November 2007 16:27 (UTC +04:00)
- How does Bulgaria value the political and economical relations between Azerbaijan and Bulgaria?
Our cooperation is being developed on the basis of the traditionally good interrelations and the lack of problems of political or of any other character. Among the favourable prerequisites for the widening of the bilateral relations are the identical foreign political priorities, the political and the economic stability of both countries, and the good perspectives for their development, the mutual interest for the use of their central position – of Bulgaria as a connection between Azerbaijan and Europe, and of Azerbaijan – as a country, located on an important cross-road of transport corridors East-West and North-South.
In recent years, there has been an increased intensity of the political dialogue that plays a decisive role for the dynamics of the whole complex of bilateral relations.
The economic relations between our countries during the recent years are becoming more dynamic, but their present state does not correspond to our potential and interests. I think the efforts of the two countries have to be directed towards active interaction and planning of joint measures for widening of the bilateral trade and the economic cooperation as a whole.

- How is the trade turnover between our countries, and what are the possibilities to enlarge it? What are the main products our countries import and export?

Azerbaijan is a traditional trade partner of Bulgaria. The trade between both countries recently has reached considerable volumes, but this is mainly on the expense of the import of oil from Azerbaijan. The mutual supplies of the remaining groups of goods are small. In fact, the present state of the trade-economic relations between Bulgaria and Azerbaijan does not correspond to our potential and, in my opinion, there is a pressing necessity for us to jointly create conditions to make the economic cooperation the centre of our bilateral relations.

There are real possibilities for considerable widening of the supplies of goods and services between Bulgaria and Azerbaijan. The Bulgarian economy has the capacity for supply of a wide range of products well established on the international markets in the field of mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, equipment for the food industry, hoisting and hauling devices, medicines, perfumery-cosmetic products, clothes, foodstuffs and many others. The Bulgarian market at the same time is highly liberated, with rapidly increasing consumption and is open for the import of competitive products from all countries, including Azerbaijan.

- Does Bulgaria have a plan to develop cooperation with Azerbaijan in agricultural sector, also agricultural machinery sector, vegetable and fruit growing, cattle breeding? Is it possible that Azerbaijan and Bulgaria create joint ventures in the future?

During the Second session of the Joint Bulgarian-Azerbaijan Commission for trade, economic and scientific cooperation which was held in Baku, Azerbaijan, from 6-7 October 2004 the following fields of bilateral cooperation in the agriculture sector have been agreed: production and processing of agricultural products; production of fertilizers and pesticides; seeds production and exchange of specific plants; feed production; building of animal farms, greenhouses and other agricultural buildings; organization and building of agricultural service centres; organization of seminars and training for experts from the state and private institutions.
The Azerbaijan side has shown interest in the field of seeds production, particularly of tobacco, sugar beet, tomatoes for industrial needs, cotton. In this connection, the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Supply supports the agreements made during the Second session of the Joint Commission and welcomes every initiative to be proposed by Azerbaijan in the agriculture sector.

- What is the potential of developing our relations in tourism sphere?

Tourism is an important sector of our economy. Our country offers excellent opportunities for family recreation, cultural tourism, eco-tourism, rural, conference, hunting, SPA-tourism and balneotherapy, seaside and skiing tourism. Bulgaria is indeed a very popular tourist destination. More than 4 million foreign tourists visit Bulgaria annually. Unfortunately, very few of them are Azerbaijani tourists. Even a smaller number of Bulgarians visit Azerbaijan. I think the tourist agencies of the two countries should be more active and offer effective mechanisms of cooperation that will benefit the individual and our countries` economies. The Bulgarian State Agency of Tourism work to promote individual and package tourism, so that the people of our two countries may know better each other, their cultural and historical heritage and nature.

- Is Bulgaria interested in importing oil and gas from Azerbaijan? How does Bulgaria value the prospects of Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan and Baku-Tbilisi-Erzerum pipelines joining the Nabucco and Odessa-Brody-Gdansk projects?

We give an account to the increased role of Azerbaijan as an exporter of energy resources along transnational lines – the already operative oil pipeline Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan and the oil pipeline Baku-Tbilisi-Erzerum. Bulgaria, on its part, is a major initiator and participant in several cross-boarder energy projects for the transfer of oil and gas from the Black sea, the Caspian and the Central Asian region to the Balkans and Europe, being at a different stage of development. In this connection, one of the main questions to be discussed in the framework of the visit is the development of the bilateral cooperation in the energy sphere.
As you know, Bulgaria is an EU-member since 2007 and I can tell you that for EU the access to the energy resources of the Caspian region, as well as the cooperation in this field with the countries of South Caucasus and the Black sea region, providing for the transit of these energy resources to the European market, is of particular importance.
In this connection, I would like to emphasize the role of the cooperation in the energy sphere between the EU and Azerbaijan, an essential step in the development of which was made with the signing in 2006 of a Memorandum for Understanding, devoted to the energy partnership between the countries. I would like to note the key role of Bulgaria in its quality of an important centre for the transit of oil and gas. There are significant cross-border infrastructural projects, crossing the territory of Bulgaria. Their future realization will strengthen the security of the energy supplies in Europe. In this connection, I consider that there are wide possibilities for the development of the bilateral cooperation open to Bulgaria and Azerbaijan, especially in the realization of the strategy for energy security through the transfer of resources from the Caspian Sea through the Black sea to the European markets, being of priority for the EU. Most specifically, the Bulgarian country relies on the willingness declared by Azerbaijan to provide the necessary quantities of gas for the first phase of the commissioning of the gas pipeline NABUCCO being of priority for the EU, and designed to also pass through the territory of Bulgaria.

- How can Bulgaria as an EU and NATO member help Azerbaijan to integrate into these organizations?

We welcome the declared will of Azerbaijan for deepening of the cooperation with the European and the European-Atlantic structures. In its quality as a member of the European Union and NATO, Bulgaria has expressed repeatedly its willingness to share with Azerbaijan experience and specific knowledge. In this connection, in September 2005 both countries have signed a Memorandum for cooperation in the field of the European and the European-Atlantic integration that is being successfully implemented.

- Which documents and in which spheres you are going to sign during your visit to Azerbaijan?

A major focus in the framework of the visit will be placed on the development of the economic relations between both countries. Several bilateral documents will be signed during the visit, and they will enrich further the wide contractual-legal basis between both countries. These are the intergovernmental Economic Cooperation Agreement, an Agreement for the avoidance of double taxation and an Agreement in the field of antitrust policy and protection of competition.

- What is the position of Bulgaria on Nagorno-Karabakh conflict?

Bulgaria has always had an unchanged position for the exclusively peaceful settlement of the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. This should be done along the way of the bilateral negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan, including at the level of heads of state. As a member of the OSCE and the EU, Bulgaria is supporting the efforts of the co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk group and of the Special EU Representative for South Caucasus for the settlement of the conflict. Their activity is an expression of the peaceful efforts of the member states of both organizations, including our state.
Bulgaria has called upon the two countries in the conflict to refrain from military rhetoric and provocations. We think that attempts for military settlement of the conflict will make the situation more complex in South Caucasus, and will have quite negative consequences for the stability in the region, as well as for the life of the peoples of Azerbaijan and Armenia. Each of the countries in the conflict has to make the possible compromises for its peaceful settlement. /APA/