-- Translation of advance text --
Ladies and gentlemen,
I’m delighted to be here in Baku today to open the German-Azerbaijani Chamber of Commerce Abroad with my Azerbaijani colleague Mr Safarov and Director-General Brauner from the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology.
Today we are celebrating the successful conclusion of seven years of intense preparations. Foreign Minister Westerwelle introduced the last stage of this process here in Baku this March when he and his Azerbaijani counterpart Elmar Mammadyarov completed the exchange of notes founding the Chamber of Commerce Abroad.
The Baku Chamber of Commerce Abroad is only the second – after the one in Moscow – that Germany has opened in the CIS area. Germany’s decision to establish it is a response to the impressive economic dynamism that has transformed Azerbaijan into the region’s powerhouse within the space of a few years.
This dynamism is apparent to visitors even on the journey from the airport to the city centre. Demand for foreign companies’ services is steadily growing in Azerbaijan. We have every reason to believe that this trend will continue in the coming years.
Germany and its businesses enjoy an excellent reputation in Azerbaijan. This is reflected in Germany’s position as the third-largest exporter to Azerbaijan, with a projected order volume of 900 million euros for the current year.
German companies are well positioned to pitch in with the Azerbaijani economy’s ambitious efforts at modernization and diversification.
This is true when it comes to carrying out major infrastructure projects and also when it comes to exporting machinery and technical devices for the medical and agricultural sectors.
We see major potential for German businesses here. Further tapping into this potential and acting as a bridge and a catalyst in both directions will be one of the key tasks of the new Chamber of Commerce Abroad.
As the famous German journalist and author Kurt Tucholsky remarked almost a century ago, “As far as the world economy is concerned, it is interlinked.”
Building on the intense and long-running work of the German-Azerbaijani Trade Association, the Baku Chamber of Commerce Abroad will further network the German and Azerbaijani economies.
This means further growth in trade, it means each country investing in the other, it means exchanging knowledge, technology and values and building more personal ties between the people of our countries.
There is an attractive symbolism to opening the Chamber of Commerce Abroad in Baku in the year that marks the twentieth anniversary of diplomatic relations between our countries. But our countries’ relations go back much further than this. We will soon be able to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the founding of the first German settlement in what is now Azerbaijan – Helenendorf, known today as Goygol.
The German influence in Azerbaijan, which lasted more than a hundred years, was not just an impressive economic success story. It has also given German-Azerbaijani relations a special depth which remains to this day. Today our bilateral relations are close and multifaceted. Economic and energy issues are a key area of focus. Azerbaijan is our sixth-largest oil supplier. We appreciate your country’s willingness to help secure the energy supply in Germany and the EU. Developing the Southern Gas Corridor has great strategic significance for the European and German energy supply. Your country has a decisive role in this. You know our – and Europe’s – position that every pipeline from Azerbaijan to Europe should fulfil two requirements: it should be scalable and it should be open to third parties.
At a political level, we are maintaining an intensive and frank dialogue on a broad range of issues. Germany sees Azerbaijan as an important partner in a region which continues to face major geopolitical challenges.
This makes it seem all the more essential for Azerbaijan to hold fast to the decision it made many years ago to continue to look towards Europe. Germany has supported Azerbaijan along this path from the outset, and will keep doing so.
I firmly believe that the broad spread of European values and norms will also help resolve the conflict in the Southern Caucasus.
German-Azerbaijani friendship and Azerbaijan’s European orientation are also the foundations for the successful and sustainable continuation of Azerbaijan’s growth course as well as the expansion of trade relations and investment.
I’m very confident about the further expansion of our relations. All those present here today are making an important contribution. I wish the German-Azerbaijani Chamber of Commerce Abroad and its members every success!