Baku. 19 December. REPORT.AZ/ Interview of Report News Agency with the Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador of Latvia to Azerbaijan Hardijs Baumanis.
- Mr. Ambassador, Latvia is going to take the presidency of the European Union since the beginning of 2015. What priorities will Latvia have during the presidency?
- We have three main priorities during our presidency of the EU in 2015. The first is a competitive Europe; the second is digital Europe. And the third priority is associated with the idea of Europe in the world.
The first priority includes such concepts as facilitating investments in Europe, the revision of the Europe 2020 strategy, strengthening of Europe's single market, the development of the energy alliance, as well as issues of European competitiveness in all sectors and areas of development. Of course, this also refers to strengthening humanitarian cooperation.
As for the second priority, firstly, the issue of strengthening security in the IT field, as well as a single digital market, and most importantly, establishing priority of digital solutions in any process are considered here.
Regarding the priority of how the world sees Europe, here we will work on the following key points, such as relations of Europe with its neighbors, the development of trade relations with them. No doubt, that it is also an issue of security and defense of the European Union, migration and EU enlargement issues.
- Currently, Europe faces a number of challenges, such as the situation in the east of Ukraine. How does Latvia intend to deal with them during the presidency?
- These calls actually mutually complete one another. If we want to be attractive in the world, we need to become more sophisticated internally, undergo certain internal changes, and this coincides with the increase of competitiveness of Europe, but for it we need to apply to the call of improving information technology, of which I spoke above.
And considering the Ukrainian issue, we certainly support the territorial integrity of Ukraine and its efforts in this direction. Furthermore, we fully support the decision of continuing economic sanctions against Russia. In addition, Latvia, as a future chairman, is working with other members of the EU on the correction of the Unified Security and Defense Policy in Europe, and next year Latvia will be actively involved in all activities of the group in this area.
- How Latvia can contribute to the development of relations between the EU and Azerbaijan?
- We have been observing the dialogue between Azerbaijan and the EU in all fields, and, of course, we are very concerned about the fact that it has not always been successful, as, for example, in the field of human rights and freedoms. We try to understand you and your position better. We can serve you as an adviser and lawyer in the EU.
- What will be the priorities of Latvia in respect of the Eastern Partnership? What will be the program of the next Eastern Partnership Summit in 2015 in Riga?
- The Eastern Partnership Summit will be held in Riga on May 21 and 22, and we expect the heads of state to participate in the summit. We currently work on the Summit program, it is not the complete process. The Eastern Partnership as an instrument of cooperation between the EU and the six countries of the program, of course, is a necessary and not outdated program. As for Latvia, we believe that the Eastern Partnership should be more flexible, and be built and adjust to the specific needs and interests of each partner.
- Considering the fact that our two countries have lived in a single state for a long time, and know and understand each other's problems better than nobody, how Latvia can contribute to the solution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict during its presidency?
- Latvia has always supported the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, and, I think, we should continue working in the format of the OSCE Minsk Group, aiming at recently putting forward a proposal to sign a comprehensive peace agreement on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
- What can you say about the level of bilateral relations? Are you satisfied with the level of these relations?
- The level of bilateral relations is excellent, it is very good at any level, including the highest - between our presidents. The good relations have been developed not only between ministries and agencies, but also between our local authorities. So, 12 agreements on cooperation have been signed between the two regions.
- What is the trade turnover between the two countries?
- The level of turnover remains stable from year to year, approximately at about 30 million Euros. The balance is positive on the side of Latvia. The geographical distance influences this constancy. It is not easy to find a product that is beneficial to carry on such a distance.
- What plans are provided for the development of relations?
- There are no concrete plans, but looking ahead, I can say that it is necessary to create more joint ventures in the areas where we can deliver our techniques and specialists, and produce products with greater added value which will be attractive to the markets.
- What is the level of tourism ties between the two countries?
- Unfortunately, I have no information on how many Latvians arrive in Azerbaijan, but I have information about how many Azerbaijanis travel to Latvia. So, 600-700 Azerbaijani citizens travel to Latvia on tourist and private visas per year. This number has remained stable, and I believe that the potential in this area has not been exhausted. Our tour operators and airlines should work harder conducting seminars and provide more information on the Internet and in printed form. The starting of year-round Baku-Riga flights should also be considered. So far, these flights are seasonal and implemented from late May to late September.
- How Latvia and Azerbaijan intend to cooperate in the transport sector?
- In this area, we often meet at the level of ministers and ministries. It is remarkable that the co-chairmen of the intergovernmental commission of Latvia-Azerbaijan are ministers of transport. They communicate well, and we think that 6th meeting of the intergovernmental commission to examine the state of economic relations and to consider their further development should definitely be held next year. The development of the port in Alat, the development of air travel, both in terms of passenger traffic and freight traffic, the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway project and railway construction around the Caspian Sea, which will connect Azerbaijan and Iran are the main aspects we are interested in, in the field of transport.
- Do you expect any mutual visits of officials of the two countries in the near future?
- In the framework of our presidency of the EU, more than 10 meetings on the highest-level will be held in Latvia. One of these meetings is expected at the end of January 2015, when the meeting of the Ministers of Justice and Judicial Affairs of the EU and the Eastern Partnership will be held. In addition, we are working on visits within the framework of bilateral cooperation.