Trend interviews the Austrian ambassador to Azerbaijan Sylvia Meyer Kaibic on the eve of Austria's National Holiday - October 26
Trend: After opening the Austrian Embassy in Baku, you became the first ambassador appointed to this post. What are the priorities of your activity in this post?
Kaibic: Austria has opened its diplomatic mission in Baku June 23, 2010. Now it is important, first of all, to create the Embassy's infrastructure and establish relations. Our country's diplomatic representation will make every effort to intensify bilateral relations, in connection with which we closely cooperate with the Azerbaijani Embassy in Vienna.
It is necessary to organize mutual visits between Azerbaijan and Austria to develop ties. After the visit of the Austrian Foreign Minister and the Minister of Economy to Azerbaijan to open the Austrian Embassy in Baku, the Austrian Deputy Finance Minister visited Azerbaijan in early September. And Baku will host a meeting of joint economic commission in October.
The Azerbaijani Foreign Minister visited Salzburg in August within participation in an international forum. And in November, the Azerbaijani delegation is expected to visit Vienna, during which discussions will be held on an agreement on mutual assistance in eliminating consequences of emergency situations.
In addition, work is underway to arrange the Austrian President Heinz Fischer's visit to Azerbaijan next year.
Q: What are the priorities for cooperation between Austria and Azerbaijan?
A: One of the priority spheres for the Embassy is to support bilateral economic ties. Exports from Azerbaijan to Austria hit 37.3 million euros in 2009, while import of Austrian products amounted to 42 million euros. Over the past ten years the trade turnover increased by 10 times. Austria mainly exports to Azerbaijan engineering products, medicines, timber and cattle, and mostly imports oil products and equipment. The most important economic project, which is under negotiation, is the Nabucco gas pipeline. The Austrian companies are cooperating with Azerbaijan on several other projects, mostly in infrastructure sphere.
The Embassy also pays special attention to developing cooperation in the culture and education spheres. The Azerbaijani Tourism Institute and the Austrian Krems High Technical School cooperate for several years in training a staff. An Austrian library is opened at the Azerbaijan University of Languages. In 2009 the two countries' culture ministries signed a Memorandum of Understanding. This memorandum mainly envisages close cooperation between museums, galleries and libraries, as well as the development of programs for a specialist exchange.
Q: What is Austria's position on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and the occupation of 20 percent of the Azerbaijani territories?
A: Austria supports the OSCE efforts aimed at the peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Q: How do you assess Azerbaijan's role in Europe's energy security?
A: The EU countries purchase natural gas, primarily from Russia, as well as from Norway and Algeria. However, it is possible to diversify "blue fuel" supplies to the European market from Azerbaijan and neighboring countries through new projects - Nabucco and ITGI. Given the growing demand for gas in Europe, Azerbaijan can play a strategic role as an exporting country, and as a transit country to meet Europe's energy needs.