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    Poland Vice-premier: Azerbaijan plays more important role at European energy markets - INTERVIEW

    Territorial integrity of Azerbaijan is strategically vital issue

    Baku. 14 December. REPORT.AZ/ Interview of Report News Agency with Vice-premier and Minister of Economy of Poland Janusz Piechocinski.

    - How do you estimate current level of bilateral relations between Azerbaijan and Poland?

    - Our bilateral relations at various levels are very successful. Particular attention is paid, of course, to economic cooperation. We want to increase trade and investment between our two countries. I recall that in 2013 the trade turnover between Poland and Azerbaijan amounted to 153.3 million dollars, which is 20.6% higher than in 2012. Exports in this period increased by 8.6%, reaching a value of 133.4 mln. dollars, while imports from Azerbaijan increased by more than 4.5 times, reaching a value of 19.9 mln. dollars. This year we support the positive trend of increasing export of Polish goods to Azerbaijan market. The growth of this number was about 17% during the period from January to September.

    Mainly electrical products, chemicals, metal products, wood and ceramics exported to Azerbaijan.

    Positive trends in the economy of Azerbaijan and Poland also provide a basis for investment cooperation between our countries. Positive factor for the realization of these objectives is the Agreement on the Promotion and Reciprocal Protection of Investments or the avoidance of double taxation. An important platform for dialogue on the prospects of economic cooperation between our two countries and measures to enhance cooperation is bilateral intergovernmental commission on economic cooperation, the sixth meeting of which will take place during my visit to Baku.

    - What areas of the development of cooperation with Azerbaijan Poland is interested in?

    - As I mentioned, the relationship between our two countries are developing well in many areas. One such area is science and education, Polish schools and universities represent a wide range for the Azerbaijani youth. Nevertheless, we believe that there is still considerable potential for the development of this cooperation. We have rich experience in the wider processes of modernization of the country. and we are ready to share it with our partners.

    We also see the need to strengthen and deepen bilateral cooperation in the field of consultation, as well as bilateral meetings of the intergovernmental commission on economic cooperation. Indeed, they have been successfully used for the development of trade and mutual investments.

    We have already identified promising areas of mutually beneficial economic cooperation. Azerbaijani authorities have been working to develop strategies aimed at developing industries outside the energy sector, including through the creation of favorable conditions for investors in industrial parks. Precisely these opportunities will be presented to a group of Polish businessmen accompanying me in Azerbaijan during familiarization with industrial park in Sumgait.

    The prospects for future cooperation, we see primarily in the agricultural and food industries, including in matters of agricultural food supply, logistics and storage, as well as the food industry. Delivery of products is an important asset of Polish exports, and in this area, Poland and Azerbaijan are not competitors, but complement each other.

    Another area of cooperation could be transport, construction of roads and railways, including both supply of rolling stock and technical solutions.

    Polish companies may also offer cooperation in the field of alternative energy sources, including wind energy, construction of sewage treatment plants, hazardous waste management, water treatment, purification of the earth. In addition, companies are also interested in cooperation with Azerbaijan in market sectors such as home appliances, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and clothing. Cooperation in tourism and IT-services is also possible.

    Polish energy companies have extensive experience in the refining sector, which are willing to share with their partners in Azerbaijan. There is a tradition of our cooperation. For example, a Polish engineer Potocky was one of the first specialists in the production of crude oil from the Caspian Sea.

    We are also interested in the broader participation of Azerbaijan Investment Companies in Poland and their wider access to the EU market.

    Of course, there are many other areas for potential cooperation. Factor that positively affect its development, will be Azerbaijan's accession to the WTO. We have already shared the experience of Poland's accession to the organization, and are ready to continue to support Azerbaijan's efforts in this direction. The basis for the development of economic cooperation between our countries is also a stable macroeconomic fundamentals of the economy of Poland and Azerbaijan, as well as projections for future economic development of our countries in the coming years. It should also be noted that the organization of the first European Games in Baku as well, of course, will create additional opportunities for economic cooperation between Polish and Azerbaijani companies.

    - Is Poland considering Azerbaijan as an alternative market for Polish goods taking into account the differences (discrepancy?) between the West and Russia?

    - Ukrainian-Russian crisis continues to negatively impact on the economy of Poland. On trade cooperation with these countries affect primarily the crisis tendencies in the economy of Russia and Ukraine, which is manifested in a significant devaluation of the ruble and hryvnia.

    These factors lead to a further strengthening of interest of Polish companies to other foreign markets, including the Azerbaijani market. To support Polish companies and the release of their new export markets Ministry of Economic Affairs has adopted a program for the development of Activation of exports in target markets. It will also be carried out in Azerbaijan, where we plan to expand the opportunities for cooperation in the construction industry. As part of this program next year in Baku conference will be organized in order to promote development of this area, and will be realized two visits to Poland for potential partners and journalists from Azerbaijan. These missions will include a visit to the Polish companies, special economic zones, direct business meetings, visits to trade fairs and exhibitions thematically related to the industry. We also plan to organize a campaign in Azerbaijan "Made in Poland" in trade journals.

    - Is Poland interested in cooperation with Azerbaijan in the energy sector? How do you assess such projects as TANAP and TAP?

    - Azerbaijan is playing an increasingly important role in the European energy market. Rich deposits of energy resources, including natural gas, transforming it into an important and long-term supplier of raw materials to the European Union. Although Nabucco-West would create more opportunities for gas supplies to Central and Eastern Europe than selected consortium of Shah Deniz gas pipeline TAP, Poland maintains an interest in the possibility of buying gas from the Caspian region. The potential of the region's imports is very high, and the gas market in Central and Eastern Europe still needs to be diversified.

    Our cooperation with Azerbaijan is important, especially in the context of the emerging common EU energy market.

    - What issues will be discussed during your visit to Baku? Do you expect a signing documents during the visit?

    - During my visit to Baku, I will take part in the sixth meeting of the Polish-Azerbaijani intergovernmental commission on economic cooperation, as well as in the business forum, which will be attended by more than 40 Polish entrepreneurs interested in cooperation with Azerbaijan. The agenda of the meeting of the Commission covers a wide range of issues within the framework of cooperation in agriculture, transport, energy, cooperation in tourism, banking and finance sector, culture and science.

    We hope that during the visit an agreement between commercial organizations on cooperation in the field of transport will be signed. Currently negotiations with interested companies are under consideration.

    - Taking into consideration Poland's active role in European Union, what role Poland can play in efforts to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict?

    - Azerbaijan is a country located at the crossroads of transport routes and areas of interest to neighboring countries in the region and an important element of stability and security in the South Caucasus. For this reason, the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan is considered strategically important issue. Stability of boundaries in close proximity to Poland is based on the historic compromise and difficult process of reconciliation between all neighboring countries. Thus, we advocate in favor of a peaceful settlement of all disputes between neighboring countries on the basis of a compromise.

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