Baku. 29 March. REPORT.AZ/ Report News Agency presents an interview with the newly appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Denmark Svend Olling:
- Mr. Ambassador, please tell us more about yourself. What are your priorities as Ambassador of Denmark to Azerbaijan?
- I am a 49 year old career diplomat currently posted in Ankara as Denmark’s Ambassador to Turkey. I hold a degree in political economy from the University of Copenhagen and have been posted to the Danish Embassies in Dhaka, Berlin and Washington. This week, I had the honour of presenting my credentials to President Aliyev which means that I am now able to work as Ambassador of Denmark to Azerbaijan.
Denmark does not currently have an Embassy in Baku, but an Honorary Consul is taking care of business. Typically, our consul will take care of daily matters as well consular issues and trade issues. I can assist from Ankara and visit Baku - typically when more political issues are at stake.
I will work hard to foster further cooperation between our two countries. From Baku, I went directly to Denmark where I am meeting companies that are planning new large investments in production facilities in Azerbaijan.
At a more personal level, my family and I look forward to exploring Azerbaijan, its rich history and stunning nature. I brought my family on a quick visit to Baku last month, but we are already planning to come back. On the to-do list are a long road trip to the country side, a ski vacation and perhaps seeing the Formula 1 in June.
- How can you assess the current level and future prospects of Denmark-Azerbaijan relations?
- Azerbaijan and Denmark enjoy friendly cooperation in many fields. However, I believe there is room for closer cooperation, for instance on trade and investment. I also note, that there is increasing awareness in my home country about what Azerbaijan has to offer. This is not least due to the many sports, music and cultural events which Azerbaijan hosts and which create awareness about Azerbaijan among the people of Denmark. Next step is for them to come visit as tourists.
Denmark and Azerbaijan are also both members of the OSCE and the Council of Europe which are both important platforms for further cooperation, for instance on human rights and democracy.
Finally, as an EU member, Denmark supports strengthening cooperation between the EU and Azerbaijan. In fact, negotiations on a new comprehensive framework agreement started immediately after President Aliyev’s recent visit to Brussels. That is a very positive development.
- In which areas of economic relations can our countries cooperate more? What was the amount of trade turnover last year?
- The current level of trade and investment is much too low. Currently, trade volume is around 200 MDKK. Azerbaijan buys much more from Denmark than it sells to us. More than half of Danish exports to Azerbaijan are pharmaceutical products. I believe there is a potential for much higher volumes of trade and investments. One exciting thing is that Danish investors are starting to bring very modern agricultural investments to Azerbaijan partnering with local companies. Combined with the governments investment in agriculture, for instance the large irrigation projects, this sets the stage for developing the sector, hopefully with potential for producing agricultural products for export from Azerbaijan to Denmark and the EU. Another interesting area for cooperation could be green and clean energy. This could be within the impressive Azeri oil industry, in the form of energy efficiency and maybe renewables.
- Today's EU is facing lots of challenges like migrants crisis, lack of confidence and euroscepticism. What's Denmark's position on these issues?
- There are many issues facing the European Union, but the Danish people’s support for continued membership is higher than in many years. One interpretation is that people feel that we need rules-based European cooperation in order to solve the many issues. European cooperation and developing joint solutions is the best answer we have to challenges such as migration, financial crises and climate change.
- Are there any visits of officials expected this year?
- We have not planned high-level Danish visits for the immediate future. However, the Danish Minister for Taxation Mr. Karsten Lauritzen visited Baku February 16-17. He met with his Azerbaijani counter part Fazil Mammadov and they signed a double taxation agreement . Such an agreement is an excellent foundation for further economic cooperation between Denmark and Azerbaijan because our companies need the predictability of clear rules on taxation. Minister Lauritzen also visited some of the investments in Azerbaijan that Danish companies are behind, including Maersk Drilling and Carlsberg (formerly Baltika).
- How can Denmark assist in resolving protracted conflicts in Europe, especially Nagorno Karabakh conflict?
- Of course, Denmark has a limited role on the Nagorno Karabakh issue, but in my meeting with President Aliyev, I took the opportunity to reconfirm Denmark’s full support for the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. Also, we encourage the effort for finding a peaceful solution to the conflict, including the important work of the co-chairs of the Minsk Group.