APA News Agency interviewed Ramin Hasanov, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Azerbaijan to Germany
- At what level are relations between Azerbaijan and Germany today?
There are close relations between Azerbaijan and Germany in all areas, and these relations are constantly developing in ascending mode. An intensive political dialogue is ongoing between the two countries at the highest level. Meetings are often held between political leaders and mutual visits are made. In recent years, President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, at the invitation of Madame Chancellor, has repeatedly visited Berlin as well as Munich for participation at the Munich Security Conference. It is also known that last year there was the first visit of the German Federal Chancellor to Azerbaijan. These visits gave new dynamics to the development of relations between our countries.
The intensive political dialogue that I have noted extends also to inter-parliamentary cooperation. There are working relations between the Milli Majlis of Azerbaijan and the German Bundestag, MPs successfully cooperate both bilaterally and within the framework of international parliamentary assemblies. A vivid example of such cooperation is the joint foundation of the Baku Parliamentary Platform by the deputies of Turkey and Germany with the participation of the President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly on June 12, as well as the fact that at the Baku Conference held in this connection the Bundestag was represented at the level of Vice President. This year, in addition to the visit of Vice President of the Bundestag Thomas Opperman, visits were made to our country by the chairman and deputy chairmen of the Germany-South Caucasus parliamentary group, as well as other deputies of the Bundestag. At the same time, it is gratifying that the Chairman of the Milli Majlis of Azerbaijan Ogtay Asadov with a large delegation paid a first visit to Germany on September 8-10 this year, and held fruitful meetings with the Bundestag president Wolfgang Schauble and other leading German parliamentarians.
Cooperation in the economic sphere is also developing dynamically. The visit of German Chancellor Mrs. Angela Merkel to our country laid a good foundation for diversification and expansion of cooperation in the economic sphere. As you know, during the visit a meeting of the businessmen of both countries with the participation of the Chancellor and President Ilham Aliyev was held.
The 1st Azerbaijani-German business dialogue took place in Berlin last November. Secretary of State of the Ministry of Economy and Energy of Germany Thomas Baraiss visited our country in January this year and within the framework of that visit the next meeting of the high-level Azerbaijani-German working group on investments was held. As a result of these mutual visits and meetings, new ideas appeared and the foundation of a number of joint projects was laid.
There are also good relations between our countries in the humanitarian sphere - in science, education, culture, sport and other areas. About 800 young Azerbaijanis have been educated or are studying in Germany under Azerbaijan’s State Program for Education Abroad. German is very popular in Azerbaijan. The recent opening of the Goethe Center in Baku was a significant event in the teaching of the German language. The prestigious Humboldt University of Berlin has a department of Azerbaijani history. Joint projects, exhibitions of artists of the two countries are held. Musicians from both countries enthusiastically take part in festivals in Azerbaijan and Germany respectively.
In general, humanitarian relations characterized by intensive contacts and close cooperation testify the close inter-communal ties between the two countries. This, in turn, is based, along with the state policy of Azerbaijan and Germany derived from mutual interests, on the 200-year-old common history of our peoples. As you know, Azerbaijan was a beloved homeland for the Germans who emigrated to our country in the 19th century, and they were met here with high hospitality and tolerance. The German heritage in our country is today protected and promoted at the state level. By a decree of President Ilham Aliyev, the 200th anniversary of the establishment of German settlements in Azerbaijan was celebrated in both countries at a high level.
A joint history creates a solid basis for close ties between our states, and it is not a coincidence that cooperation with Germany after the restoration of our independence has become one of the areas to which Azerbaijani diplomacy pays special attention. The fact that Azerbaijan pursues an independent policy in the region, opens the region to the world market, successfully cooperates with the largest energy companies in the world, gains the trust of the countries of the world and plays a key role in creating a regional infrastructure for international cooperation - all these are factors that determine Germany’s interest in relations with our country.
Naturally, one of the topics at the center of the agenda of relations between the two states is the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. We highly appreciate Germany’s support for the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. This country, as a member of the Minsk Group, advocates a peaceful resolution to the conflict. German officials have repeatedly stated their readiness to contribute to the creation of a favorable negotiation environment between the parties to the conflict. We expect Germany to be more active in resolving the conflict, to continue efforts to protect the norms and principles of international law and, to this end, using the opportunities, to influence the occupier-Armenia so that it takes a constructive position in resolving the conflict.
- How do you assess economic relations? In what area most do both countries show their interest in mutual investments? The largest trade partner of Azerbaijan - the EU is the largest export-import market in Azerbaijan. What is Germany's share here as one of the leading EU member states?
As I already said, Azerbaijani-German trade and economic relations are one of the dynamically developing areas of cooperation and in recent years there has been a special upsurge. Mutual visits between the two countries at the highest level, as well as business forums and export missions organized in Germany with the aim of using the business potential of Azerbaijan, promoting the “Made in Azerbaijan” brand and the “Make in Azerbaijan” concept, serve to further expand bilateral trade and economic ties.
In 2011, the Azerbaijan-Germany High-Level Working Group on Trade and Investment was established. To date, 8 meetings of the Working Group have been held. Since 2012, the Azerbaijan-Germany Chamber of Commerce has been operating in Azerbaijan. This is Germany’s second foreign trade chamber in the CIS after Moscow, it has about 200 members on both sides. In Germany, there are about 160 individuals who are entrepreneurs and are citizens of Azerbaijan, as well as legal entities founded by Azerbaijani residents.
In 1995-2019, German investments worth over 610 million US dollars were invested in Azerbaijan, about 96% of which are in the non-oil sector. During the same time, Azerbaijan invested $ 2.8 billion in Germany.
Azerbaijan's share in Germany's trade turnover with the countries of the South Caucasus in 2018 amounted to 71% (approximately 1.9 billion euros). In turn, Germany became the 4th most important trading partner of Azerbaijan. In 2018, Azerbaijan took 8th place among countries providing Germany with crude oil. At the same time, Germany supports the Southern Gas Corridor, which contributes to the energy security of the European Union and considers Azerbaijan a reliable partner for long-term cooperation. The German company Uniper will purchase approximately 1.5 billion cubic meters of natural gas from the Shah Deniz-2 field annually for sale on European markets.
According to statistics for 2018, compared with the previous year, bilateral trade increased by approximately 40%, and this was mainly due to the non-oil sector. In general, Azerbaijan attaches particular importance to cooperation with Germany, as one of the important world economic forces in the field of diversification of its economy. Azerbaijan considers Germany a strategic market for the export of its non-oil products and, in this regard, various agricultural and food products of high quality are exported from Azerbaijan to Germany.
Azerbaijan is interested in studying Germany’s best practices in the field of high technology, creative industry, and innovation, as well as in the import of scientific, innovative, intellectual property, technological products from Germany. Given the fact that Germany is a popular country in terms of travel and business trips, Azerbaijani investors may consider investing in the hotel, restaurant and other services, as well as in construction and transportation.
The German side sees the economic opportunities of Azerbaijan, shows great interest in deepening economic cooperation between the two countries and appreciates the current potential in this regard. German officials always say that Azerbaijan is Germany’s most important economic partner in the South Caucasus.
- Any other visits like last year's visit of German Chancellor Angela Merkel to Azerbaijan are expected?
After the visit of the Federal Chancellor, a number of other high-level mutual visits took place. These visits were carried out both at the level of government organizations and at the level of parliaments. The next round of political consultations between the foreign ministries took place. In addition, the Prime Minister of the Federal State of Saxony (Germany) Michael Kretschmer visited our country to participate in the 43rd session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee held in Baku.
Naturally, taking into account the dynamics of the development of relations new visits are constantly being carried out and, at the moment, the Azerbaijani side along is working on the development of several high-level visits. When the time comes, these visits will be reported to the public.
- Why is Germany among those countries which Azerbaijani migrants most often leave for? How does the Embassy make contacts with them?
In general, Germany is at the center of international migration processes. Germany being among the first 20 countries of the world with the strongest economies, has a strong education and healthcare system, as well as a leading industry. Naturally, because of these factors, many people seeking to get a better education, more promising jobs or looking for new challenges are leaving for Germany. On the other hand, sometimes migration is associated exclusively with personal motives. This is a subjective choice of each person and migration should be perceived as a common phenomenon in the global world.
Azerbaijanis leaving for Germany are guided by the same motives as representatives of other countries. In fact, increase in the number of our citizens living in one of the authoritative countries of the world and Europe is a positive moment in terms of promotion of our country and distribution of the true information about Azerbaijan. Regardless of these political views, age and profession, our compatriots living in Germany are our diasporas and we are interested in their well-being, finding desirable jobs, holding high rank positions, and being active in the political, social, scientific and cultural spheres.
In this context, I want to note that in recent years, part of the migration flow from Azerbaijan to Germany was made up of people who graduated from the universities or defended their doctorate here, or those who came to work as a specialist in areas requiring high qualification.
Certainly, it is very important for the Azerbaijani Embassy to keep in touch with compatriots living abroad, cooperate with them and encourage them. It is also an integral part of the state policy on working with the diaspora laid down by the National leader Heydar Aliyev. We have an employee responsible for relations with the diaspora at the Embassy. Of course, in this field we work closely with the State Committee for Work with the Diaspora of the Republic of Azerbaijan. During our visits to various regions of Germany, we try to hold meetings with representatives of the diaspora, including our youth studying in these regions, to answer their questions and address their concerns. In addition, our compatriots in Germany make extensive use of the consular services of our Embassy.
- Along with the Embassy, the diaspora plays a big role in speaking out the country's fair voice. How do you, as an Ambassador, evaluate the activities of the Azerbaijani diaspora in Germany? How do both structures coordinate their activities?
Of course, along with the existence of the diaspora, the main issue for us is its organized activity. Germany is one of the countries where there are many of our diaspora organizations. But the relationship between them and improving their performance is also an important issue. In 2018, the Coordination Council of German Azerbaijanis was established in Berlin, and the main work on coordination of diaspora organizations is carried out through this structure. The Coordination Council also supports the activities of diaspora organizations and is a bridge between the Azerbaijani diaspora in Germany and the State Committee for Work with the Diaspora of the Republic of Azerbaijan. Our Embassy strongly supports the work of the Coordinating Council.
In addition, our Embassy is always open to cooperate with our compatriots, including youngsters living or receiving education in Germany. We always make efforts to establish contacts with our compatriots, ensure that they take part in the events of the Embassy and stay in touch with us.
We consider that for the promotion of the realities of Azerbaijan, the scientific, political and social activities of the diaspora are crucial and we are happy to discuss any ideas in this respect. But of course, the organization and mobilization of the diaspora in the name of Azerbaijan first of all depends on its members. Successful activities of the diaspora require goodwill, intellectual level, and skills. In the presence of this, cooperation with the Embassy and other state structures gives an even greater effect.
- How attractive is Azerbaijan to German tourists? Is there an increase in the number of people visiting Azerbaijan? What events are organized to develop tourism ties?
In 2018, about 18,000 tourists from Germany arrived in Azerbaijan, which is about 1000 more than in the previous year. In the first 4 months of 2019, about 5,000 German tourists visited Azerbaijan. As you can see, the number of German tourists coming to our country is growing every year. Given the agro-, eco-, eno-potential, as well as the medical, gastronomic and cultural potential of the country, we can say that there are great opportunities to increase the flow of tourists from Germany. To this end, the rich culture and tourism potential of our country is actively promoted in Germany. Azerbaijan takes part in such prestigious international tourism exhibitions as ITB Berlin, Domotex and IMEX with its national stand.
In general, it should be noted that Germany is famous for its prestigious international exhibitions in various fields. In addition to the tourism exhibitions that I noted, such world-famous events as International Green Week, Fruit Logistica, Anuga, ProWein, and the Frankfurt Book Fair are held here. We constantly participate in these events, and thus we are increasingly promoting our country.
And, of course, the holding of high-level international events in our country, such as Eurovision Song Contest, European Games, Formula 1, Euroleague Final, contributes to presenting Azerbaijan as a favorable country for visiting amongst the travel admiring Germans.
At the same time, the historical ties between our peoples and the German heritage existing and protected in our country stimulate the interest of tourists from Germany to Azerbaijan. Given this, we are making every effort to tell in Germany about a 200-year-old common history, about how the Germans lived in Azerbaijan for a long time in conditions of tolerance, closely participated in the political, economic and cultural life of the country, were represented in the Parliament, founded in 1918, about a German who was once the chairman of the municipality of Baku, as well as about a dozen historical monuments of German culture in Baku and the regions. The implementation of the project of a tourist route Tbilisi-Baku, passing through the historical places of residence of Germans in the South Caucasus, also creates a good base for attracting more tourists from Germany to Azerbaijan.