President Ilham Aliyev met with heads of leading German companies
Berlin, March 13, AZERTAC
On March 13, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev held a meeting with heads of leading German companies in Berlin.
Opening the meeting, moderator of the event, Chief Executive Officer of the German Eastern Business Association Michael Harms said:
- Excellency, President Aliyev.
Minister of Economy, Mr. Ambassador, ladies and gentlemen.
I would like to wholeheartedly greet Your Excellency here in Berlin, on behalf of the German Eastern Business Association. But I think I can say on behalf of the whole German business community. It's really an honor and a pleasure that we can have today this discussion on the economic cooperation between Azerbaijan and German business. It's for me, especially a personal pleasure, because we met just three weeks ago at the Munich Security Conference. And I'm very happy that we can today make our discussion more concrete about concrete projects.
And I'm also very grateful that so many German companies today attended this very important discussion. We have almost 30 companies from different sectors here. And we have also the pleasure to welcome representatives of the Federal Government Mr. Reichenbecher and Mrs. Alarich from the Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action, so also a warm welcome. We propose the following agenda. After my short introduction, President Aliyev will give us a strategic overview about the plans for economic development of Azerbaijan and especially the chances and opportunities for German business and our bilateral cooperation.
Then, we will organize a roundtable discussion. We have clustered your companies. So, we clustered five clusters - energy, first, then logistics and infrastructure, third industry, fourth agriculture, and the fifth cluster is finance technical regulation and associations. I would ask everybody of you to make a short introduction of your company and your plans and projects in Azerbaijan. Not longer, please, than maybe two or three minutes. Otherwise, I will be very impolite and will interrupt you. Because after every cluster the President was so kind to comment and maybe react on your concrete proposals. So, the time is of the essence and also please be as concrete as possible. The best result of today's discussion would be if we will have a long list of follow up. This is I think, very important. So, that was my short introduction. And I have the pleasure to give the floor to His Excellency President Aliyev.
Addressing the meeting, President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev said:
- Thank you, thank you very much, Mr. Harms.
Thank you, ladies and gentlemen for coming to this meeting. As Mr. Harms underlined, we met a few weeks ago in Munich. So, it's my second visit to Germany in less than month. This time I'm in Germany at the invitation of the Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz. Tomorrow I will have a meeting with President and the Chancellor and, of course, along with the issues related to political agenda, we will definitely discuss also the opportunities of expansion of our trade and economic ties.
Azerbaijan’s development allowed us to rely on our own resources. Country is economically independent, and that was one of the main targets of our government. We are actually close to the conclusion of implementation of our projects, which are financed by international financial institutions, and we're planning new borrowings. Last 20 years was the years of rapid economic growth, mainly driven by energy sector. Now the target is to work more on diversification of our economy. Because with respect to the structure of GDP, most part of the GDP is now produced in non-energy sector, but still, our export mainly is oil and gas.
During the last 20 years, our economy has grown more than three times. I think this can be considered a world record. And at the same time, we based on our reduction of the direct foreign debt strategy, reduced the foreign debt, and this 1st January 2023, it was less than 10% of GDP. So, that was actually a target, which I put in front of the government several years ago. Now when the target is met, we are restarting our borrowing strategy. We have already started preliminary consultations with the World Bank and EBRD and some other international financial institutions. But now unlike previous years, when we borrowed money for infrastructure projects, road constructions, railway etc, now due to the growing capacity of our own companies and growing capacity of our industrial sector, we do not need any longer money for that. We will borrow money for those strategic targets, which our country is facing, based on the strategy 2030, which has been adopted relatively recently and the minimum amount of funds, which we will accumulate for implementation of this strategy will be 40-50 billion US dollars. In other words, we will continue borrowing on issues related to technological transfer and at the same time, we'll mainly base our future economic plans on our own resources.
As Mr. Harms mentioned, there'll be also a cluster on energy. Just a couple of words on that. Azerbaijan was named recently - a year ago, less than a year ago, as a reliable partner in the energy sector for Europe by President of the European Commission Madame Ursula von der Leyen. It's a big honor to get such, how to say, appraisal of our accomplishment. Really, we are a reliable target. We supply many European countries with oil, oil products, petrochemicals.
Some countries already start to receive electricity from Azerbaijan and, of course, natural gas starting something more than two years ago. But, due to the growing demand in Europe for natural gas from new sources, we are now planning to expand our pipeline capacity. In particular, TANAP, which has a capacity of 16 bcm, we will expand up to 32 and TAP, which has a capacity of 10 bcm, will be expanded, we plan up to 20. And that is mainly, because of the growing demand from Europe. Because, you can imagine the pipeline of the length of 3,500 kilometers integrated, free pipeline system commissioned 1st January 2021, now needs expansion.
After the beginning of the Russia-Ukraine war, we got requests from more than 10 European countries with respect to gas supply or increase of existing gas supply. And we're doing everything in order to satisfy the needs of our partners. We already have pretty diversified geography of our gas supply.
Another issue, which will be part of our discussions, is transportation and logistics. We worked very hard in order to channel the funds, which we accumulated from energy sales. So, revenues from oil and gas to channel to transportation infrastructure, now it is almost done. It was almost done a game based on those prognosis, which we had and which actually are totally covered by our infrastructure. But now again, as a result of the Russia-Ukraine war, the demand for Azerbaijani transportation infrastructure is growing. Last year we had an increase in transit goods more than 75%, and we even had some jam at our relatively newly-built trade sea port, which has a handling capacity of 15 million tons.
So, we are working very hard. We allocate additional financing for expansion of the capacity of our seaports and railroad infrastructure. And, of course, all that needs to be implemented. And of course, we hope that companies from Germany will be our partners in that area. Among our main future plans, of course, is reconstruction of liberated areas of Karabakh and Eastern Zangazur, which were under occupation for almost 30 years. Now the territory of the size of the Lebanon is totally in ruins. So, we already started the state program, which is called the Big Return. We elaborated already a program. We have already implemented the first pilot project and resettled more than 400 former refugees within only one year and a half after the war ended. And our plan is to resettle hundreds of thousands of former refugees, because as a result of Armenian occupation, we had more than 1 million internally displaced people and people who became refugees. So, this is a broad program at which we'll need a lot of resources. And we're planning to implement projects based on absolutely new modern standards. We already announced Karabakh and Eastern Zangazur as a green energy zone. There'll be only renewable sources of energy, which will not only feed the demands of people and industry, but also will be very useful for the rest of the country.
And also, a lot of potential in renewable sources of energy. Probably, we can discuss it more broadly during our discussions. But I can tell you that the potential of renewable sources of wind and solar in Azerbaijan is close to 200 gigawatts. So, now we're working already not only to continue to attract foreign investors, but also to provide necessary transmission capabilities to export this volume. Probably, now I will conclude in order to have more time for our discussions. Thank you.
Moderator Michael Harms: Mr. President, thank you very much for outlining clear strategic directions. Thank you for mentioning the impressive numbers. This is very interesting, and I have seen many participants mention it, because it opens up very clear prospects for us. Let us start with the energy field. First, I will give the floor to Mr. Weiss, representative of Siemens Energy. Speaking then will be Mr. Peter Hohaus from “Uniper”. Mr. Dohna from “S.E.T”, Mr. Pallutt from “NOTUS energy”, and then Mr. Kasapoglu and Dr. Falk. There are microphones on the table, so you can use them.
Christian Weiss, representative of “Siemens Energy”: Thank you, Your Excellency President Aliyev. Ladies and gentlemen. First of all, thank you very much for the invitation. It is an important event. My name is Christian Weiss. I represent “Siemens Energy”. I am responsible for commercial energy transactions for Europe and Central Asia. We have 19,000 employees in 90 countries. We also work in Azerbaijan. We service the energy power equipment installed there. I am pleased to note that your economy is growing strongly and you are promoting cooperation with German and other foreign companies. If we talk about specific projects, we have been operating in Azerbaijan for a long time. We are proud of our participation in the 500 megawatt power station project in Sumgayit.
We are making joint efforts with local partners in the area of operation of substations for the local power grid and electricity transmission, especially in the field of potential assessment in the Karabakh region. By the way, there are plans to reinforce electricity transmission lines from Caucasian countries in the direction of Türkiye and Europe. This can ensure complete connection of high-voltage lines. As you mentioned, we can create opportunities for the transmission of electricity generated in Azerbaijan. The last but important thing is that we are ready to undertake and support the implementation of the electrification project in Sangachal together with our partner bp. In order to ensure further development of Azerbaijan within the framework of the de-carbonization strategy, we are already involved in the design of a completely modern concept to prevent direct or indirect release of hydrocarbons into the air according to your instructions and plans. We think we can contribute to these three specific areas. I want to say again that we are working in Azerbaijan and we believe in the country's success. But I believe we can do more. Thank you very much.
President Ilham Aliyev: Thank you.
Peter Hohaus, representative of “Uniper”: Dear Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen.
I represent “Uniper” here. We are very pleased to have this exchange of ideas with you today. I represent “Uniper” in Berlin, so I can confirm that you are a reliable partner in terms of natural gas. I would like to mention this area as the first topic. We as “Uniper” work in two directions: the security of supply for consumers and, secondly, de-carbonization of the energy system. Of course, we have partners with your company SOCAR since 2006. We signed a long-term contract in 2013, and since late 2019, your company has been a reliable natural gas supplier for us along the Southern Gas Corridor. Therefore, we think that considering the current circumstances, our diversification strategy has changed. In Germany, they believe that it would be good if further expansion of the Southern Gas Corridor took place. In other words, the transmission capacity should increase to 20 billion cubic meters, because we as “Uniper” are very interested in supplying more natural gas through that route. Therefore, it would be good if both governments paid attention to the remaining issues and take steps in the field of financing, and speed up the procedures for issuing permits. Here, of course, I mean regulatory procedures.
The second step is that we have already worked with SOCAR in the field of energy efficiency. The first project was implemented in SOCAR’s “AzerKimya” complex in Sumgayit. There we built and handed over the first fully integrated thermal power plant in Azerbaijan. There is additional scope for further expansion of this project, because “Uniper” is fully committed to de-carbonisation by 2035, completely renouncing coal in power generation. Therefore, for the next energy transition, we have already created a joint working group with SOCAR to explore the potential of green hydrogen in your country. We have already commissioned a small wind power plant on Chilov Island. We see and know that the renewable energy potential is very high for the coming years. This is another area I could mention as part of the general bilateral cooperation. Our governments could support it in order not to confine energy to the traditional sectors, i.e. the natural gas and oil sector. As Your Excellency mentioned, this is very important for your country and also for diversification, and we wish to contribute to this area. Thank you very much.
Moderator Michael Harms: Thank you. Please, Mr. Dohna.
Dohna York, representative of “S. E. T. Select Energy”: Dear Mr. President, thank you for your introduction. It was a very interesting speech. We are a fairly small and not so well known German company. It is a family-owned company based in Hamburg. However, we have been operating in the energy sector, especially the oil and gas industry, for over 40 years. One of the first steps we took and the work we did was related to Azerbaijan. At that time, I was not in charge of the company, I was still studying at school. Other members of our family worked with partners from SOCAR in the 1990s and 2000s. Since then, we have maintained our relations with SOCAR. This is especially true in the oil and gas sector. However, just as your country is transitioning from traditional energy to new sources, we have also joined the transition process over the past decade. Although our expertise is in the field of shipping and transportation, we operate as a trading company. For this reason, we are active not only in Germany, but also in other countries, in the Black and Mediterranean regions. We are doing great work in Albania, and this country is one of the main participants in the TAP pipeline. Unlike previous speakers, we are not engaged in so many strategic and political projects, but we hope that some of our ideas and projects in the field of transportation that we would like to discuss with you and our colleagues from Azerbaijan and SOCAR would be interesting. Thank you.
President Ilham Aliyev: Thank you.
Moderator Michael Harms: Thank you. Please, Matthias Pallutt.
Matthias Pallutt, representative of Potsdam-based “NOTUS energy”: Thank you very much. We are a company that develops projects in the field of renewable energy. These are mainly wind and solar energy projects. We started our operations in Germany in 2001 and then moved to other countries in a short period of time. Among the other countries, there are not only European, but also Latin American countries. We have started working in Azerbaijan as well. Last year, we had very promising negotiations with landowners, electricity buyers and investors. We have not yet developed a specific business proposal.
I want to inform you that your country has huge resources. It is not just oil and gas. As you mentioned, this includes solar and wind energy. But when it comes to a solid business proposal, we usually ask ourselves a few questions. I know that when it comes to natural resources, energy production is quite abundant. But questions remain when it comes to other issues, such as energy prices, areas for investors to invest in, and interest rates. I think that as project developers, we see the same problems that everyone else faces. Here we are talking about a sharp increase in interest rates. I think such issues can limit investment. I am interested to know what your strategy is for strengthening renewable energy projects in your country? Thank you very much.
Moderator Michael Harms: Thank you, Mr. Pallutt. Mr. Kasapoglu, the floor is yours.
Edison Kasapoglu, CEO of “Edison Technologies and Engineering Group”: Mr. President, thank you very much. Your goals and the current plans you have presented make a huge impression. The plans you have outlined are quite ambitious.
Our company has been operating in the energy market since 2004. Together with our other engineering partners around the world, we mainly support major government projects. Today, Mr. President, I would like to mention three issues, and I hope to hear your answer to them. The first issue is that after Mr. Putin approved the agreement on the legal status of the Caspian Sea in August 2018, we started working with “Erlikid”, “Sinopec Engineering” and “Mannesmann” companies on a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to Europe through Azerbaijan. The work was carried out to a certain extent. Unfortunately, we could not move on to the next stage. Here, Mr. President, I would like to ask you about the Trans-Caspian pipeline. Can this project be revived? At that time, i.e. back in August 2018, as I mentioned, it was even reported in the press that we have created a complete network for cooperation in that project. Even a very large financial institution joined the board to support the financing of this project. This is the first issue.
The second issue concerns our obligations with “DESFA” and “Snam”. This is related to the receipt of natural gas at the junction between Türkiye and Greece. There are plans to receive several billion cubic meters of gas in the direction of Europe. Obviously, “Snam” has pipelines to European countries. I would like to know if Azerbaijan can support us in purchasing these volumes? We have already discussed the issue with “BOTAS”, and they said that they would support us on these volumes.
The third issue I would like to bring to your attention is a general one. Two weeks ago, we received a delegation from Uzbekistan. They also have major plans for solar panels, large-scale power generation, solar energy.
Mr. President, you also mentioned this at the beginning. As an engineering company, we started working on the production of solar panels back in 2014 and are active in the solar energy market. If we take the current situation, we see that 95 percent of solar panels are dependent on Chinese supplies now. The production of those mono- or polycrystalline-based panels actually requires 85 percent of energy. This clearly shows the production costs of solar panels. The main costs are related to the use of silicon in the production process. We call it “quartz silicon”. We take an alloy from it and make the inner parts of solar panels. Then those panels provide solar energy. This is the final stage of production.
Moderator Michael Harms: Let's save time, please.
Edison Kasapoglu: I am about to finish. This is the last question. My question is for you, Mr. President. We have the technology and we have established a consortium. It may be an interesting project for your country that we start a solar panel production line. This will be a very energy efficient line. In that case, you can sell solar panels all over the world. This was my third question. Thank you very much, Mr. President.
Moderator Michael Harms: Thank you. These are very specific questions. A last but fairly important question in the field of energy. Here you go, Dr. Thomas Falk.
Thomas Falk, Managing Director of Falk Beratung GmbH: Dear President Aliyev, our company is an independent consulting company. My team and I provide consulting services to large international corporations on political and economic issues, as well as business development. We pay special attention to Eastern Europe, the Caspian region and Central Asia. On behalf of two of my clients, I am grateful for the opportunity to attend this event today. One of them is the Japanese company “Nikisa”. It is one of the leading manufacturers of pumps and liquefied gas, as well as separators for natural gas, hydrogen and other industrial gases, and carbon dioxide collection and storage. Our group is already operating in Azerbaijan and, for example, has supplied equipment to your country for the production of liquid oxygen and nitrogen. We have established cooperation with a local company through a German contractor. In the future, “Nikisa” wants to expand its activities and wishes to work on air separators, collection and storage of CO2, liquefied gas fields at the Baku Shipyard and the Sumgayit Technologies Park.
As to the tanks and pumps, we want to build cooperation with “AzerGold” company. Additionally, we can offer injection stations, liquefied gas, special pumps and advanced hydrogen technologies and ready to discuss possible cooperation with SOCAR.
Along with the “Nikisa” company, we work together with the “Sana Clinic”. It is one of the large private clinic network. In addition to 60 modern clinics, “Sana Clinic” as a network of medical equipment production in Europe. Currently, “Sana Clinic” provides ambulatory medical services in Central Asia.
Mr. President thanks for your attention. I am hopeful that I will get support for activity of my customers with respect to the mentioned healthcare projects. We would be happy to visit Azerbaijan to have meetings in due course.
Moderator Michael Harms: Thank you, Thomas. You are welcome, Mr. President. Please comment.
President Ilham Aliyev: Thank you very much. There have been a lot of issues of practical importance and also questions about some of our future plans. I will start in chronological order with respect to Siemens. I was participating at the opening, of the inauguration of the Sumgayit power plant. I think it was 2005. 525 megawatts, that was the first power plant, which was built on the basis the modern technology in Azerbaijan. And since that time the power plant has worked at full capacity. When we were starting this project, we saw that 525 megawatts is too much. But now we understand that that was a timely project, because now the consumption in Azerbaijan grew because of the growth of industry and population. Unfortunately, due to some climatic changes situation, the Caspian Sea also becomes shallower, and we had to build, we call it Estacada into the sea in order to absorb, accumulate more water. But the power plant works at full capacity, and we're very happy with that.
With respect to projects, which now are being implemented or we plan to implement, particularly, you mentioned the power plant in Yashma. I know that there is a tender procedure in the Yashma project and I'm sure that your bid will be one of the best. The tender procedure is open and transparent. There are several companies as far as I was informed, which are interested in that and I can just wish you success.
Just for your information, I just want to say that just recently we had a groundbreaking ceremony of the construction of a new power plant with a capacity 1,280 megawatts in Mingachevir. Despite our plans with renewables, we still understand that we will need to have more power generation. Because industry is growing, population is growing. We have 10,000 square kilometers of land, which we will rebuild. Therefore, we will need definitely additional supplies.
With respect to Nakhchivan power plant, actually, we have also a plan to transform Nakhchivan also into a green energy zone, along with Karabakh and Eastern Zangazur. There is a big potential of hydropower station building in Nakhchivan. And also there was an expertise recently conducted there and probably soon we will have some developments with respect to construction of the 500 megawatt solar power station. At the same time, traditional power station in Nakhchivan is also more than welcome because Nakhchivan has a great export potential. Because it borders Turkey and Iran, and in both countries there is a growing demand for electric energy.
I fully support your activity with respect to electric grid. This is something, which we really need because huge volumes of renewable energy demand to integrate it within the existing grid. Otherwise, we will not be able to, how to say, accumulate this energy. Therefore, it's one of the main targets in front of our energy companies. And I hope that this project will be successfully implemented.
Also, you mentioned transmission of electric energy. This is one of the most important issues, because today our export capacity is limited with the capacity of transmission. Maximum, as far as I remember, there is kind of 1,000 megawatt or maybe 1,500 megawatts of the transmission capabilities through Georgia and Türkiye. In both countries, in Georgia and Türkiye there are bottlenecks. Therefore, there must be additional investments in these two countries to expand the capability for transmission. Especially, taking into account that last December in Bucharest agreement was signed between Azerbaijan, Georgia, Romania and Hungary to build a subsea cable under the Black Sea to transport green energy from Azerbaijan to Europe. And this February in Baku, we already had the first steering committee of this project with participation of the ministers from these countries and also Commissioner on Energy of European Commission. And we agreed at the first meeting that it will be integrated project, not like Southern Gas Corridor, where we had South Caucasus pipeline, TANAP and TAP. This will be integrated projects from offshore wind farms in the Caspian to the European consumers. The first stage of transmission under the Black Sea is planned to be at the level of four gigawatts. But for that, we need to have transmission lines expanded in Georgia. Otherwise, it will be absolutely useless. Plus, I will tell later about our plans and the contracts and MoUs, which has already been signed by us. We think that four gigawatts is only the beginning. We know the demand in Europe. We know the demand in Germany. I think the figures are tens of gigawatts of demand, and the demand will grow. Therefore, we have this capacity. We need just to assemble all the puzzles on the table.
With respect to Sangachal terminal electric supply, which you implement together with bp, I can tell you that the origin of this project also comes from our policy on renewables. We agreed with bp that bp would be a direct foreign investor to build a power plant, solar power plant in one of the liberated cities of Karabakh - Jabrayil city, with a capacity of 240 megawatt. This production will be put into our energy system. At the same time, we will provide the Sangachal terminal with electricity and they will stop using gas. And this gas will be put into the pipeline, and it will come to Europe. So it's a win-win-win situation. We get the 240 megawatt solar plant. bp Sangachal terminal becomes carbon emission free and more efficient. The gas, which they use, will be exported to Europe, so, this project, which we consider to be very important with respect to energy efficiency.
And there is another project to build electric cables to our offshore platforms, which SOCAR is working on. So that offshore platforms will not use natural gas for the operation. They will use green energy and the natural gas, which is so far used as their power stations or the platforms will be transported onshore, and then again shipped to Europe. So, we are not only increasing the production of gas taking into account the growing demand to Europe. We will accumulate additional gas from energy efficiency.
With Uniper, as far as I know, the contract of purchase and sales is one of the longest, it expires 2045, as far as I remember. Then probably it will be expanded. Because our plans to supply Europe with natural gas will not be limited by this time. As far as, I know your joint venture projects with respect to energy efficiency in Sumgayit is coming to an end this summer. And you mentioned that, you consider enlargement of this project, so I fully support it. I fully support it because other AzerKimya needs it. So, cooperation already has good history. You are our clients with respect to natural gas. And, of course, the more joint business we do in Azerbaijan, the better it is.
With your project of green hydrogen on the Jilov Island, as far as, I understand, it's kind of a pilot project for you because the volume is really small. I will tell about maybe some figures about our plans. But I will advise, if you consider projects related to renewable energy and to all our partners who are interested in that I will just give you some information about what is happening including the pricing. So, existing domestic price for electric energy in Azerbaijan is affordable to foreign investors. This is first. Otherwise, they wouldn't have invested. Today we already have two contracts, which are being implemented. One signed with Masdar, another signed with ACWA Power. These are two global energy companies, and they are investing largely in renewables. These two contracts are in the phase of implementation with total capacity is 470 megawatt. Moreover, I hope we will have the groundbreaking ceremony with bp soon that will be 240 megawatt plus. So, three major energy companies consider that the pricing and regulations and the business climate in Azerbaijan for renewables is acceptable. Otherwise, they wouldn't have invested.
Moreover, we have signed MoUs. And altogether MoUs and contracts signed volume level is 25 gigawatt - ACWA Power, Masdar, bp and Fortescue resources. So, 25 gigawatt MoUs with these companies means that these projects will be implemented. Because these are serious companies and we are serious country. When we use MOU where with these companies we are absolutely sure that they will be implemented. Therefore, the potential is here, as I said close to 200 gigawatt. 157 gigawatts of offshore energy, which has been confirmed by the International Finance Corporation - the rest onshore, not to mention hydro.
So, we really will transform into important green energy supplier to Europe. And taking into account our successful experience in building oil and gas pipelines, already existing history for cooperation with countries and companies in Europe on energy security, full support by European Commission to our plants, energy dialogue between European Commission and our Ministry of Energy, which started more than a year ago. So, all these factors really demonstrate that green energy from Azerbaijan will soon be no less important as natural gas is today.
Then we come to the trading company. And you probably know that SOCAR, our energy company, also has its trading department - SOCAR trading, which is dealing with selling not only Azerbaijan's oil, but also oil of third parties. And I think that there can be some examination or evaluation of opportunities of cooperation. So, I think this is absolutely possible. So yes, I answer the question of Mr. Pallutt with respect to pricing and looking for business case.
We have a map of our solar and wind potential. The governmental body, which is dealing with that is Ministry of Energy and Agency for Renewables, which is part of the Ministry of Energy. I think if you have interest of, minister of economy can provide you with contacts and just maybe to come and to start business in Azerbaijan.
With respect to Mr. Kasapoglu’s information about the Trans-Caspian pipeline, it has been discussed for many years. I remember at least 10 years minimum that it has been discussed. While it was discussed, we built Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan, Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum, Southern Gas Corridor, and we will build green energy transmission line to Europe and Trans-Caspian will be still discussed. So, this is the situation. All the projects, which we initiated, already either found their completion or definitely will be successful. Trans-Caspian for us is not our project. In Trans-Caspian project, we are considered to be a transitor. And we already many times, including myself publicly said that we are ready to provide necessary transit for our friends and partners across the Caspian, if they decide to build the pipeline. But according to my knowledge, why it is not yet been resolved, because the source of financing is not determined yet. Who will be carrying the burden of building the pipeline of the capacity of 30 bcm is unclear, whether it will be some European companies or it will be money coming from EU. For that it should be included into the joint interest project, project of joint common interest. As far as I know, it is not the case, and whether it will be government of Turkmenistan or not, we also do not know. Therefore, this is question number one. Who will pay for that? Second question is okay. It is found who will pay. Then it comes to Azerbaijan, where it will go then? Because in TANAP, we don't have spare capacity now. We will expand TANAP from 16 bcm to 32 bcm by building new compressor stations and it will be fully booked with Azerbaijani gas. So, that means that after the Trans-Caspian, its potential pipeline comes to Azerbaijan. Someone should build another pipeline from Azerbaijan, what will be that company? It's a good question. I'm not skeptical, I'm realistic. And again, it's not our project. If anybody decides to build it, we will be more than happy, because we will earn money from transit and we will provide good services to our neighbors in the East and in the West. With respect to DESFA and Snam project of natural gas from the Mediterranean, that's how I understood, yes?
Edison Kasapoglu: In fact, the transit will be carried out from Cyprus to Türkiye and Greece. DESFA is a Greek company but Snam is a subsidiary company. They undertook the obligation to provide free capacity from 1 billion to 3 billion cubic meters.
President Ilham Aliyev: Free capacity where? TANAP?
Edison Kasapoglu: No, from Cyprus. We have a pipeline until the Cyprus-Greece border. They will give us 1-3 billion cubic meters of free capacity to transport gas to Europe.
Mikayil Jabbarov: Mr. President, it is about border of Türkiye and Greece.
President Ilham Aliyev: Is there is a capacity?
Mikayil Jabbarov: Mr. Kasapoglu says, - If I got him right, - the government of Türkiye enables the company to have transit shipment capacity. It depends on finding international gas donors. Right?
Edison Kasapoglu: Right, yes, between 1 and 3 billion cubic meters.
President Ilham Aliyev: I see. I haven’t heard about this idea. Therefore, I cannot comment on it. Maybe you can discuss it after our meeting with our minister to have maybe more information and more details. Of course, any project, which needs our support with respect to energy security, we will definitely support it. And the last comment was about some activity in Azerbaijan Baku Shipyard and Sumgayit Technological Park, as far as I got correct, also hydrogen. So, I think I covered these issues. Baku Shipyard, by the way, will be very busy. We are planning to expand its capacity.
Because, as I said, there is a growing demand for transportation across the Caspian. Azerbaijan so far has the biggest trade fleet on the Caspian of more than 50 vessels. The Shipyard of Baku can produce 6 vessels per year. And this is not enough. For those volumes of oil and dry cargo, which we expect from Central Asia and probably from China. You probably heard that there is a project of construction of railroad from China through Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan to the Caspian Sea. And definitely then after it gets to the Caspian Sea, it will go in our direction. So, we really are now in the process of serious assessment of potential transportation volumes through Azerbaijan and we must be ready for that. We must invest. And there'll be a lot of, how to say, investment opportunities or contract opportunities in that area. I think I tried to cover all the issues.
Moderator Michael Harms: Thank you very much for your specific comments, Mr. President. Before moving on to the next cluster industry, I forgot Mr. Trondle. He represents the solar capital of Germany. He would like to make a brief comment on solar energy.
Dirk Trondle: Hello. I come from Freiburg. Unfortunately, it has been a little late. Sometimes things like that happen, so I am sorry. Freiburg is considered the capital of the solar energy industry, I would even say worldwide. We have a large scientific base, engineers, and they would be very happy to work with Azerbaijan to reduce carbon emissions. If you are interested in working together with Freiburg, I would like to invite you, your team, SOCAR and the ministry so that you can see and discuss everything yourself. I am sure there will be other opportunities.
President Ilham Aliyev: Thank you with pleasure. We were happy to work together and also I forgot to comment about previous issue with respect to opportunities of manufacturing of solar panels in Azerbaijan. We will be happy to work with you or any other company. Because as I said, there will be a big process, a big development. Most of the solar panels, which will be used in our solar power plants are panels, which are produced in China. They are good quality at a very affordable price. As far as I know, European producers are a little bit more expensive, to put it mildly. But if we organize the joint manufacturing in Azerbaijan, taking into account the labor force price, taking into account the energy price and local demand, I think it can work. It can be competitive.
Dirk Trondle: The city of Freiburg has a new generation of solar panels. They are even more flexible and quite perfect. However, science is also required in this matter. It would be good to have overall scientific projects.
President Ilham Aliyev: So yes, very good. Maybe then, you can also, after our meeting, have some more detail exchanged on that, we will be very happy to organize such a production. We are now in the final stage of completion of all the necessary infrastructure for a free zone, which is situated close to Baku on the shores of the Caspian. This free zone already has first residents, and maybe some more information about free zone, its regulations and advantages can be provided by our minister later today.
Moderator Michael Harms: Thank you very much. We have come to the next cluster, industry and construction. Let's start with Mr. Knotzer, representative of “Knauf”. Please, Mr. Knotzer.
Uwe Knotzer, Knauf KG Managing Partner: Your Excellency, first of all, I apologize for being late. “Knauf” is a world leader in the field of building materials. We had sales of 15 billion euros last year and have 42,000 employees in 90 countries. We have been engaged in marketing and sales in Azerbaijan since the 1990s. Since 2008, we have been producing materials for the local construction industry in Ganja. Our products are mainly based on plasterboard. We have 80 quarries and four underground mines worldwide. This is our raw materials stock. Everything is plasterboard based. I have a request from you and the ministry. We have run out of plasterboard stocks. There are many plasterboard molds in Azerbaijan and we need support for larger volumes. Because we want to increase the volumes for local production. We want to produce additional products in Azerbaijan, and we also want to export to Georgia. If politics allows, we want to export to our southern neighbors. This is my request.
President Ilham Aliyev: So do you have difficulty accessing new plasterboard stocks? Have you discussed this issue with the local authorities, the Ministry of Economy?
Uwe Knotzer: We haven't made direct contact yet, because we are working with a partner. But we have difficulties with the amount of material there.
President Ilham Aliyev: So, the available stock is almost exhausted.
Uwe Knotzer: Yes, and we need more licenses and new areas for mining, so that we can continue to be productive.
President Ilham Aliyev: Yes, I fully support it. I know the project. It was implemented, as you said, in 2008 close to the city of Ganja, I think, on the territory of Goranboy district. And I think this will be possible to resolve. Maybe you can give some additional information to our minister of economy and definitely we always support foreign investors and your company is one of them. And you invested in Azerbaijan in the years, where we just started our diversification process. So, you were one of the first from Germany. So, of course, we will be glad to continue. I haven't heard that you already emptied the reserves. Probably, you work very hard. It's good, good indication, but also I now give instructions to the Minister of Economy to look at it seriously and to find additional reserves for you. So, that you can continue to operate. And as far as I know, you supply 100% local market. So, no more imports come from abroad on the country you export yourself.
Uwe Knotzer: Yes, we export a little to Georgia. We want to increase our production by building a gypsum mill. We also want to increase our share in the partner company.
President Ilham Aliyev: If any assistance is needed for that, the Minister of Economy is here. After the meeting, he will be ready to see how we can assist in solving the problem. With the reserve, it is, I think, easy. With your relations with your partners, we cannot interfere.
Uwe Knotzer: That is another matter.
Philipp Michaelis, CEO of “Global Clearance Solutions AG”: Your Excellency, it is a great honor for me to participate in this round table. We operate in the field of demining. I have visited Azerbaijan and have been to several districts a number of times. I myself witnessed the destruction and the mine clearance process. We supply the Ministry of Emergency Situations with equipment and technology produced in Germany. Over the past few months, we have completed extensive training programs. We do not only manufacture equipment, we also operate in other countries. We not only supply quality equipment, but also provide the support necessary to operate this equipment efficiently. We want to accelerate the development of the Karabakh region and intensify our relations with the government of Azerbaijan so that the internally displaced persons can return to their ancestral homes.
President Ilham Aliyev: Thank you very much. As you know, it is one of the biggest challenges and obstacles in front of us to resettle former refugees sooner than later. Because according to our very accurate estimation, Armenia planted more than 1 million mines during the times of occupation, and since the war ended in November, 2020, we had almost 300 Azerbaijanis either killed or seriously injured. Our potential is relatively limited. Though, recently we purchased equipment from different countries, including European countries. Even we now use drones, which can detect from the air. And also training is very important. So, thank you for that support. We need to maybe look in more details to your proposal, because frankly, speaking when we were looking to invite foreign companies to operate the price for demining was much higher than local. So, demining per one square meter, European price several times higher than the price, which our national demining company is ready to do. And plus recently, several private Azerbaijani companies emerged, which are now also dealing with demining and their prices is acceptable. Because as you can imagine, it is very costly, costly thing because 10,000 square kilometers. Of course, not every meter of that will be checked, because it's high mountains. And, of course, we know where the potential mines contamination is. But I think that maybe have more detailed discussions with our demining agency. Because today three structures provide demining in Azerbaijan. Number one is ANAMA. I mean, number one by the volume of activity. This is Azerbaijan demining agency. Number two is Ministry of Defense, special platoons and battalions created for demining. And Ministry of Emergency Situations - they have very small share in that process. So, I would recommend maybe you to help to establish the contact with our national demining agency, and to see about the pricing, to see maybe we can have some joint venture process. So, I think there is a big potential for that. Unfortunately, for many many years.
Philipp Michaelis: Unfortunately, we can see it in many countries. We believe that we can reduce prices with application of international evaluation and infrastructure. Yes, the price is high. However, we saw the price of 15 cents per square meter in 20-25 year conflicts. Thank you.
President Ilham Aliyev: Thank you.
Moderator Michael Harms: Please speak louder. We have an hour to go. That is why, everybody must be able to give his question. Mr. Schulz please.
Olaf Schulz, Representative of Nokia company: Nokia today is a Nokia today is a business to business innovation, technology leader in the field of digital infrastructure. So we are not a mobile phone company anymore. I still have to analyze it. Most topics that we have discussed so far depend on digitalization to be efficient and successful. And of course on a good digital infrastructure. Of course, we mean electric network and power transmission. All governments have digitalization programs. Your government also has it. You also gained success in this field. We decided that Azerbaijan is the country, which is involved in large activities in the region. So we have established our regional hub in Baku, so we manage our business in the regions also Central Asia from Baku. We also believe that this is only one side of the coin when we really want to be part of your success story. So we believe that technology is one side and people is the other side. And the best technology doesn't help if you do not have the people who are educated and know to leverage the technology to the benefit of the country. We cooperate with the Innovation and Digital Development Agency. We just also gave money for education program. We will open a fixed network laboratory in Baku next month. We do not want only to see Azerbaijan as a market where we deliver products. Today, we do our job and we are proud to do that. But we want also to be part of this digitalization journey in the country. And of course we hope also to grow our business. There are areas where we would like to do more. With respect to digitalization, we would like to discuss where it makes sense for you to do more so that we bring the return for the investment back as soon as possible. Thank you
President Ilham Aliyev: Thank you. By the way, digital transformation now is part of our strategy of not only strategy 2030, but also part of our priorities. And it was not by chance that our Ministry of Communications and Transportation was renamed and now it's named Ministry of Transportation and Digital Transformation. This was not just a change of the name, but the change of the approach. And I fully support what you said. I think that they must be probably more active contacts with our ministry and your company. Because we really plan to be amongst the frontliners with respect to digital transformation in our region. This is general how to strategy of our government to try to attract and to apply modern technologies in the areas, which have a great potential and not to be late and not to be lazy. Thinking about oil and gas, and our geography and transportation, but to attract companies and businesses to the contrary, which can be useful for our future. Plus, I'm very glad to hear that you've selected Azerbaijan as a center for your operations in the region in Central Asia. Every time I hear this news, really I once again, things that we did right things in order to provide not only information about what we are planning to do, but also provide the good investment climate. And by the way, just for your information, the World Economic Forum of Davos - they also decided to select Baku as a regional center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution Center, which was inaugurated almost two years ago, and it covers Azerbaijan and Central Asia. So, it's not only a geographical how to say connection, but I think will be also technological and from point of view, geography proximity to the regions to Europe to Asia, of course, it's difficult to find the better place. Maybe I stopped, how to I say, speaking as a guide, but really, my task is to attract investors, technology, companies, strategic partners in the areas not related to oil and gas. Oil and gas is done. What next we will do is actually based on already existing pattern. Now with digital transformation, which is new for us. We need to have strategic partners for long term and hope that that will be the case with NOKIA.
Moderator Michael Harms: Very good. Mr. Kappelhoff. Please one minute.
Kappelhoff Jan-Bernd, Representative of Tauber company: Mr. President. Thank you for affording your time and roundtable. Our company is operating in Germany, Portugal and Switzerland. It specializes in infrastructure creation. We used to implement works for Azersu. I am hopeful that we can do more projects for Azersu in the future. Thank you.
President Ilham Aliyev: There'll be a lot of things to do. With respect to water distribution. We are implementing the projects now in many cities, where we still need upgrading of our water supply and sanitation. And our target is to have 100% coverage of the drinking water all over the country. Of course, it will be difficult to do, because it's a big scope of work. But, we will also have plans in order to have some structural reforms in the area of water management. The time has come for that. Now the government is evaluating different options and to apply the modern technologies with respect to water distribution, especially now, when we see that there are less and less waters every year. We see it. Unfortunately, as I said, Caspian Sea is becoming shallower and also we have less water in our rivers in transboundary rivers and the rivers, which take source in Azerbaijan. So, water management and efficient water management will be definitely one of the priorities for the coming years.
Marius A. Ryrko, Managing Director of “Gerber Architekten International Gmbh”: Your Excellency, Mr. President, I'm very honored also to be here in this group. My name is Marius Ryrko. I am managing director of “Gerber Architekten” and we are architects, landscape architects and urban planners, and of course interior designers. Now we have been building for about 60 years in Germany, also in Saudi Arabia and in China and mostly in the public sector. So we've been helping also Germany with universities, public sector buildings, libraries, health projects, and many other useful buildings in the environment. What we're experiencing currently in Saudi Arabia is also the transition from a fossil fuel based energy based society to a renewable based society.
We started activities last year in Azerbaijan, in Baku. We have also visited Karabakh. We have talks with the Mayor's Office about our park designs in your city. We are in discussions currently with project developers about residential and other projects. I've got two questions for you, Mr. President with regard to renewable energies. In the future, I think buildings can become energy producers rather than just being energy consumers. Will there be a policy driving that change? If so, “Gerber Architekten” will be very happy to help drive the change. Secondly, my observation, traveling around Baku is with the influx of people. I believe with the growth and the success of the city, visitors congestion issue that is visible. We've experienced this issue in other places. Is there a transit oriented construction plan or metro plan that you would like to share with us in the future. Thank you very much for your attention.
President Ilham Aliyev: Thank you for visiting Azerbaijan. And you visited Karabakh and you know probably, you are aware about our plans. We already approved the master plans for all the cities. Now more than 20 villages` Master Plan has also been approved. And we invited also international companies, you know from different countries and also local companies. And as I said, in Karabakh and Eastern Zangezur, we want to build the residential areas and public spaces - ecologically friendly and very easy to life and with good access to transportation and also services.
With respect to your question about the buildings, which produce energy, during my participation at Davos World Economic Forum, I met the owner of one company. I don't want to name the country and the company, who gave me this information. It was a kind of very, very interesting news for me. And immediately I gave the instructions to the Presidential Administration, which is a coordinator of all the reconstruction in Karabakh. And now we started already to work on the pilot project. The pilot project probably is a feasibility study. It will be ready maybe in a couple of months. Building itself looks very beautiful, very impressive and itself produces not only the panels, but it also produces energy. So, if you have this technology or if you have this know-how or you can make proposals on that that will do more than welcome. Because this is really kind of absolutely new developments, new technology. I think for Karabakh it will be very appropriate, especially taking into account that it is a green energy zone.
With respect to Baku city development, you've been to Baku, you know the city. Yes, with underground we have big plans. We are among a few countries of the former Soviet Union, which builds underground, because many of them stopped it after the collapse of the Soviet Union. We have a strategy and also we're now working on integration of our public transportation with underground, and we are now close to applying the unified system for that. Plus population is growing. Baku becomes bigger and bigger. Therefore, now we are elaborating the new projects with respect to the traffic, roads, bridges, tunnels, all that is in the process. Plus, a lot of interest now and again it is kind of a new construction boom. Because Baku already had a couple of waves of growing market of residential compounds. So, I think your project will be interesting to look if I can have a look at some ideas, I will be very glad.
Marius Ryrko: I would love to share, of course.
President Ilham Aliyev: Maybe you can share with me after the meeting.
Marius Ryrko: I would like to add to the words of Mr. Schulz. After working in the Arabic-speaking region, in China, it is currently our goal to come to Baku as a center that studies and contributes to the construction of the environment in the Central Asian region. I would welcome your support in creating a smarter and healthier environment for everyone.
President Ilham Aliyev: Thank you.
Moderator Michael Harms: Let's now move on to logistics and infrastructure. I would start with Mr. Sweens, then Mr. Kerstgens, Mr. Klaner. Mr. Theoman and Mr. Nowak.
Philip Sweens, Managing Director of “HHLA INTERNATIONAL GMBH”: Good morning, Your Excellency. “HHLA” is the port of Hamburg. We are mainly active in Hamburg, because it is precisely in the port of Hamburg that we are known as a container terminal operator. We are also the largest intermodal operator in Western Europe. We have been operating in Georgia and Azerbaijan as a subsidiary company called “HHLA Project Logistics” for more than 20 years now. This started with NATO transportations to Afghanistan. Having gradually developed, we are now engaged in the transportation of heavier loads and even the relocation of factories between the Black Sea and Azerbaijan. We recently opened an office in Kazakhstan. We see ample opportunities in the Middle Corridor. You mentioned them a while ago. We are especially interested in the route between the ports of Aktau and Poti or the Turkish town of Kars. There are limited opportunities for transshipment or reverse transportation of goods from sea to rail. As an operator, we see great opportunities there. We also see geopolitical opportunities that can be developed. It would be interesting for us to support the operation of ports and the development of free transport.
President Ilham Aliyev: As I already said, now we are facing a new challenge. We need to expand existing capacity, because the capacity we will be building was based on the existing volume of cargoes and our prognosis. So, now after the big turn towards Azerbaijan from Central Asia, we need to work hard. So, just for your information we are now investing Azerbaijan and probably next year this investment project will be completed into the expansion of one of the bottlenecks, which is Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railroad, it's Georgian segment. From 1 million tonnes it will be expanded to 5 million tonnes. Azerbaijan's investments, additional investments will be more than 120 million US dollars and we will complete it hopefully next year. There are other bottlenecks, one of them can be our trade seaport. We are now in the process of completion of feasibility study of expanding from 15 to 25 million tons and 1 million TEU. But, again, we have some other bottlenecks on route. Therefore, of course, we are working on integration of transportation, infrastructure and also on customs administration. In several days in Baku, there’ll be a visit of the general director of the World Customs Organization. And one of the things, which we'll discuss will be how World Customs Organization can help in coordination between Central Asia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Türkiye. So have this route as integrated, of course, there must be unanimous approach to the tariffs, because if one country for instance, Azerbaijan reduces a tariff and other country do not reduce or increase - it will not work. And from point of view of transparency, and good governance and management, probably your representatives in Azerbaijan, you said you're 20 years there can see a lot of changes in our transportation segments of our government. And it is transparent, it is should be efficient, and being able to accumulate the cargoes, plus we should not forget that there is another transportation corridor North-South, which also crosses Azerbaijan. And we are exporting or transiting cargoes not only from East to West, but also from North to West and also from South to West. So, the pressure on our railroad infrastructure, seaport and highway will grow. So, you know that we have a diversified railroad system, but now we are upgrading our railroads in order to increase the speed of trains. So, that will make the time of transit time even shorter. And at the same time, of course, all that should be done in coordination with the facilities on the eastern shores of the Caspian - the ports of Aktau, Kuryk, Turkmenbashi and Baku need to work as one single mechanism. And also, of course, if you have some ideas and recommendations, what you think will be good for transit volumes and for business will be highly appreciated.
Moderator Michael Harms: Thank you, Mr. Kerstgens, please.
Heinrich Kerstgens, Corporate Representative and Director of Board Projects of “RHENUS SE & CO. KG”: Mr. President, you have already answered many of my questions. “Rhenus” is a logistics company operating in 60 countries with a total of 40,000 employees. We have been operating in your country for eight years, we have an office in Baku. We also operate in Central Asia, China and India. Last week, I returned from my second business trip to Azerbaijan. Our strategy right now is to do everything we can to make the Middle Corridor work really well. In this regard, I have held talks with the advisers of the Minister of Economy, the advisers of the Minister of Transport, the chief executive director of the Baku port in Alat and the chief executive director of the Alat Free Economic Zone. The negotiations went very well and very efficiently. We conducted research at the Baku port, made certain plans and proposed them to the CEO. We have seen in the second and third phases of the port that the potential you are planning may not be feasible. We came up with the idea to redesign the container part of the port. It will be much cheaper, only 200 million euros instead of 1 billion. We have been working on it for a week now. Another issue we discussed with the Ministry of Economy was shipping in the Caspian Sea, because the current capacity will not be able to withstand the volumes that will be required in the future. It is necessary to design ships of optimal size for the Caspian Sea. As you have already mentioned twice that the Caspian Sea is getting shallower. So the problem is drought. Germany had this kind of problem with the Rhine River. There is a need for developing a special shipping concept. In particular, the front and rear parts of the deck can be designed differently. We believe that optimized ships will be needed in the future. Twenty to 40 such ships can be shared between Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan. Because ships can be operated for 20 to 40-50 years. At the same time, the engine should not only be an internal combustion engine. All this should be done together with ministries, people from within the industry, universities. This investment cannot be made by one private company alone. It should be a joint effort of the state. The last thing I want to mention is the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars line, which you have already mentioned. You are also a shareholder in the operation of Akhalkalaki, the gateway to Türkiye and Kars. What we see is that the planning of the terminal was not done in a rational way. It needs to be redesigned as a matter of urgency. We are ready to help you in this matter. But it has to be done because otherwise there will be no good connection with Türkiye. Thank you.
President Ilham Aliyev: Thank you very much for your valuable ideas. I'm glad that you being recently to Baku and you met all the officials. You mentioned the Alat Free Zone, port. The ministries of Transport and Economy is a good contact for that. And of course, your recommendations with respect to optimizing design of ships will be very valuable. Because as far as I know, the idea was just to continue construction of the ships, which we have - whether it's dry cargo ship or tanker. But if due to some reasons or maybe some shallow waters and some canals digging, we still have to dig canals on both sides of the Caspian. If there is a kind of a new approach to optimize ships, which can be bigger capacity or can go faster. I think that we will be taking into account. With respect to the terminal in Akhalkalaki, it will also will be interesting, because I am not deeply, how to say, involved in these technical issues. My target was to provide financing for expansion of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars. But, of course, we need to do it based on the efficiency and also with respect to expansion of the seaports. If we can do the same thing with less price, of course, we have to do it. And, definitely we'll be very glad to get your proposals. I do not know whether the Ministry of Economy already got these proposals or not. So, in few weeks there will be already a proposal to make a decision, right? Very good. So, you will be informed about that. Thank you.
Henrik Klaner, Representative of “Thales” company in Azerbaijan and Georgia: Dear, Mr. President Aliyev. Thank you very much again, also from my side, for taking time. Actually, I'm in Azerbaijan for more than 20 years. As you may know, we have a project with the Baku Metro. In the future, we will be even more concentrated to make business with the Azerbaijan Railways. Just three weeks ago, I did have the honor to meet Mr. Rustamov from Azerbaijan Railways. We talked about modernization of the east-west corridor from Baku to the Georgian border. And we have also discussed the north-south corridor from Iran coming via Baku to the Russian border. It's definitely one of our key issues in the future. We are ready for business in order to improve Azerbaijan’s railways. As the first step, we are planning to open the authorized center of the company in Baku. It will be center of operations for Azerbaijan, Georgia and Central Asia. Just one additional information. Actually, the German part of Thales will be sold to the Japanese company Hitachi. So in the future, the company will operate under the Hitachi Germany name. The company will not have other business in Azerbaijan. And this will be the German business. Thank you very much.
President Ilham Aliyev: Thank you very much. All these projects are very important. I am very glad that you met with officials. With respect to metro constructions, you know our plan. We do it step by step with the railways. Yes, we need to upgrade as I already said. East West is mostly done, but North-South, the speed of the trains is very low. So, now we are investing in the reconstruction of railroad from Baku to the Russian border and hopefully in a couple of years it will be done. And also we are planning to change the direction of the railroad, which goes into South direction, because now it goes right on the shore of the Caspian Sea. So, potential of the North-South transportation corridor, potential volume of cargoes will be from 15 to 30 million tons. This is a recent information, which we`ve got from those who plan to use Azerbaijan as a transit country. Therefore, we should have such a railroad, which will be able to transport this volume, So, we hope, there'll be a lot of business activity on that route, not only building the railroad, but all the necessary additional industrial, commercial infrastructure. And of course, the railroad should be built based on the modern standards. So really, without direct access to open seas, Azerbaijan is already becoming an important transportation hub, because it's not only from east to west backwards, but from north to south and from north to the west. Because you know that there is a big need now for companies to find new ways of transportation or their cargoes in order to be able to export their goods. So, transportation will be one of the drivers of our economy and we again hope not only from point of your getting transit revenues, we want en route to create additional opportunities for business, mainly small and medium enterprises. And the Alat Free Zone will be instrumental, I think, in bringing foreign manufacturers to Azerbaijan.
Representative of Germany’s Silkway West Airlines: Dear Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen. I represent Silkway West Airlines here in Germany. Silkway West is putting next operating flights to Azerbaijan. So we have 28 flights per week from Frankfurt-Hahn Airport and additionally flights from Leipzig airport to Africa. And so we use the Baku hub. The Baku hub has a very good performance. I mean the port, the airport Baku. We have transit flights to Asia Pacific region, but also for the region of Central Asia and Baku is for the German economy also the airport hub for more than 90 million people in that sort of thing. So I would like only to give that statement because we are quite happy and satisfied sector and thank you for your support of your government and also of course for the German government because in the last years, especially during the COVID times there was really a big support to operate flights. Thank you.
President Ilham Aliyev: Thank you very much. I'm very happy that you are happy. This is the best news. Thank you, wish you success in the future.
Mirco Nowak, CEO of “LUNO-Gruppe”: Your Excellency, Mr. President. It is an honor to be here. Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. Headquartered in Hamburg, our company has been working with Eastern Europe for over 30 years, specializing in logistics and infrastructure development. One of my favorite topics in the last two years has been the Middle Corridor and the development of this corridor. For this purpose, we have established a company in Georgia and are currently conducting feasibility studies of the Middle Corridor with actual data, as well as indicators and forecasts for the next 30 years. It will be ready by the end of next month. I think it will be interesting for you too.
We are also working on the development of port infrastructure. We have a huge investment project in the Port of Constanta. Of course, we also consider the ports of Poti and Anaklia. There is an investor interested in being active there – the new Poti port and terminal, Anaklia port. My question to you is that like Kazakhstan Railways, which is currently actively developing international logistics - as far as I know, they want to invest in the port of Poti, maybe in Anaklia, I don't know the numbers at the moment – I hope it will be attractive. Probably, the creation of a new connection to the Black Sea will be interesting for Azerbaijan as well. We are very active there.
President Ilham Aliyev: Thank you, I was informed about a project with respect to Anaklia Port in Georgia. Some, maybe, six or seven years ago, if I'm not mistaken. We started actually to evaluate the possibility of being co-investor. We were invited by the Georgian government to be a co-investor, but then the Anaklia Port project was cancelled. You know it. And now we heard that it's again coming back. So, we have to look at it again, because probably the reasons why it was cancelled and reasons why it is now the rebirth. So, if we have some information about the composition of investors, the shares of investors, who will be the co-investor for us, it will be interesting to look at this capability.
Because now with respect to this new direction across the Caspian what we discussed today, there'll be, of course, the need to expand sea ports on the Black Sea. And also I'd like to say that our Caspian Shipping Company, ASCO, has the vessels in the Black Sea, and they have plans to acquire more vessels. Because not only is the Caspian they operate, but in the Black Sea. But their operation is relatively modest in the Black Sea. But, we think that there is a big potential for the Azerbaijan Caspian Shipping Company to be more visible in the Black Sea. Because I know that there are plans to build new vessels in the Black Sea between European ports and Georgia ports and Ro-Ro vessels and others. And the Caspian Shipping Company of Azerbaijan has potential, it has the governmental support. The government can also provide some financial assistance to them in order to use this opportunity and to make good business and at the same time to contribute to transportation security. So, let us discuss work, look at the figures and then we'll decide.
Moderator Michael Harms: The next very important section is agriculture.
Thomas Bottner, Export Director of “EUROPLANT Pflanzenzucht GmbH”: Thanks for allowing me to ask a question. It is interesting that agriculture is part of today’s discussion. As you mentioned, your country is trying to reduce oil dependency. We are glad that we joined this event. We are the company specialized in potato seeding with 120-year experience. We are the country’s main seed supplier. It is not only about the products sold in supermarkets but also potato chips and fried potato so that your country does not import it and export the finished potato products. We are ready to support your producers to increase productivity and efficiency. Thanks.
President Ilham Aliyev: Thank you very much. With respect to the potato production in Azerbaijan, you know that finally we got, how to say, to the point when we are self-sufficient and for even some years we have exported. But of course, we need to increase productivity. Because you know, our country – there are special regions in Azerbaijan, where potato production is really, really very efficient. And also now in the liberated area of Karabakh and Eastern Zangezur – there is a big potential for agriculture. And we are actually now working. Our government, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Economy and other bodies, President’s special representatives in those districts plan to maximum efficiently use this agricultural land. Because for 30 years, there was an illegal use of our land by Armenian occupation forces, but very inefficiently, because they did not invest. They were just using what the land can give and productivity was very low. It was three times lower than productivity, which we have in Azerbaijan in different cultures. So, now we are preparing, and maybe it's already almost done. A kind of recommendations for our farmers who will go back to the liberated territories, what kind of culture they should produce. We cannot dictate, but with subsidies with the flexible subsidies, we can direct them to use part of the land for potato, part of the land for fruits and vegetables, part for other purposes.
Therefore, with respect to the supply of seeds, you will know better than anyone, how this is important. And of course, if you started to produce products like chips – it is very good. And it will be, I think, the good diversification of our exports and reduction of our imports. And what are your plans in Azerbaijan with respect to manufacturing maybe?
Thomas Bottner: The main issue is productivity. Production per each hectare is important because if productivity is low, it becomes more profitable to import. For this reason, our main goal is increase productivity.
President Ilham Aliyev: Very good. Thank you.
Moderator Michael Harms: Mr. President, representative of the regional Director of CLAAS Global Sales GmbH company Klima Martin is participating in the event. The company is specialized in machinery manufacturing.
Klima Martin: You mentioned productivity. Today, there is a transition in agriculture from small and medium-sized production to industrial volume production and more modern technologies and big equipment and machinery is applied. Today, the biggest problem we face is our partners’ financial difficulties in utilizing big equipment. My question is concerned with financial support for importing this equipment. In addition, trainings are also important for technical inspection and equipment usage. Engagement of more people in such trainings is one of the main issues.
President Ilham Aliyev: Thank you. Yes, of course. I know your products. I, as you mentioned, visit many times your stands at our agricultural exhibition. And we were purchasing equipment from you. I think from the state funds, but I don't know now what is the situation. If there are some problems with funding the private companies or some loans to private companies or you mean a direct purchasing from you, that can be done. You just tell me what practically should be done in order to expand our cooperation?
Klima Martin: Private companies need more financing because the volume of production is increasing and the need for this type of equipment is rising against the background of demand. As I said, technical service and training.
President Ilham Aliyev: With respect to the training, we hope that you will provide services for that with respect to the funds. We have a mechanism of funding the small and medium sized businesses through our fund, which is under the umbrella of Ministry of Economy. Maybe the Minister of Economy can give some information about some soft loans, low interest loans to the private sector to be able to purchase this equipment.
Mikayil Jabbarov: Thank you, Mr. President. The question is probably related to concessional financing. Currently, the annual volume of this financing is equivalent to 100 million euros. The loan is mainly given to small and medium-sized enterprises for a period of seven years, and the purpose is to modernize the enterprises. We may contact you to review certain new software. Financing here is not provided by the state, but by commercial banks.
President Ilham Aliyev: Also, I think we'll be good, if you look at opportunity to create a service center in Karabakh. Because we have two industrial zones in Karabakh - one in Aghdam region, another in Jabrayil region. And they're already service centers of some machinery in the process of construction. I think they'll be good from all points of view, because agricultural equipment Class`s tractors and combines are the most popular in Azerbaijan. The big potential, because there'll be a lot of agricultural activity in that area.
Brodersen Per, Managing Director of German Agribusiness Alliance: We represent the agribusiness segment. You have talked about natural resources and renewable energy. In the field of agriculture, your country has good results in the production of certain products such as tomatoes and sugar beet. However, if we look at the numbers in 2020-2021, we will see that your country imported vegetables worth 300 million dollars. We want to cooperate with your country in terms of increasing productivity and creating new jobs. You touched on climate change and water scarcity. Our alliance is ready to cooperate with Azerbaijan in the field of agriculture.
President Ilham Aliyev: Thank you very much. You touched on a very important issue with respect to irrigation until relatively recently we had a very chaotic situation in that area. Especially with respect to the absence of meter on our water reservoirs and also unfair distribution of water resources among the farmers. And this was bad management and also a lot of wrong doings. So now, we established a special governmental commission, which deals with these issues. And our water reservoirs are monitored on a daily basis. So, that was the first thing. Now we need to apply new technologies with respect to efficient use of water, because, as I said, every day we have drought. I think it's already the fifth or sixth year that we have drought. It was never like that before. Because, before it was good one year and one year it was bad. It was kind of compensation. But now it's endless process, and less and less rivers, water in our rivers.
So, we need modern irrigation system, which will save water needed. Plus many canals, which we have built up during the Soviet times, and there are no concrete canals, there`re no pipe canals, there are just sand land. And, of course, there's penetration of water, there's a lot of losses, plus the soil becomes absolutely useless. Therefore, now we are facing, the challenge how to modernize these canals what will be the most efficient technology and also irrigation of land in parallel with that.
So, food security is really something, which we seriously need to take care of. We cannot satisfy 100% our needs with what we consume, but at least to be able to satisfy the basic, for instance, with respect to grain. We do not even put a target to have 100% self-sufficiency, because it will just occupy a lot of land, which can be used for other products, which have more efficiency. But at the same time trying to be maximum self-sufficient is important from a point of view of security.
Now there are big disruptions in supply chains, there are sometimes big problems in even importing the goods, which you contract it and you paid for that. We faced that in previous years several times. This becomes issue number one. The water is basic need for that. And I think we can have a kind of long-term strategic institutional cooperation in this area with respect to elaboration of strategy of water management. So, we will be very grateful, if you can provide your support to us.
Moderator Michael Harms: Mr. President, do you have time for two more questions?
President Ilham Aliyev: Of course.
Moderator Michael Harms: Two other important areas are funding and technical regulations.
Evgeniy Epifanov, Senior Regional Manager of “ODDO BHF”: Hello, Mr. President. Thank you for meeting with us. I represent the banking sector. As you mentioned, the Russia-Ukraine war has opened new opportunities for countries like Azerbaijan. We are already represented in Azerbaijan, we cooperate with the International Bank of Azerbaijan and Pasha Bank. We are ready to support big projects. We are ready to promote cooperation between the German export agencies of the Ministry of Economy and the Small and Medium Enterprise Development Agency. In October last year, we had a fruitful meeting with the Chairman of the Central Bank, Taleh Kazimov.
President Ilham Aliyev: Thank you very much. Probably you've heard about some comments with respect to some countries in our neighborhood, which are involved in this illegal activity. This country also starts with “A”, but it is not Azerbaijan. And it is not a secret and all the figures are available. And of course, we wait when they will be sanctioned, or whether they will be sanctioned for that? Because if you look at what is happening, and also the comments of very respectable officials of different countries clearly demonstrate who is in this, I would say, dirty business. Azerbaijan is not and from the very first days of this process, my instructions were straightforward. No parallel input, no facilitation to avoid any sanctions. We are law obedient people, law obedient country. We don't need headache. We don't need to earn money, which is not clean for us. What we have, what we earn is enough and we want to protect our good reputation, also in financial markets. And also as you mentioned, you spend some time in Azerbaijan. Hope you enjoy that time.
I`m very glad that you also maintain contacts with our leading financial institutions. You know that we had the problems in banking sector, very serious problems. One of them was International Bank of Azerbaijan, which actually attempted to destroy the whole financial system of Azerbaijan. That was a deliberate provocation, and it was not just the stealing of money from the government. It was an attempt to destroy Azerbaijan's financial system. And we more or less know who was behind that.
So, we had to do a lot of cleaning. And I think finally we managed to come almost to the end of that process. So, banking sector in Azerbaijan is much more healthy than ever before. According to some additional information, which I got from our bank, Central Bank officials that still there are issues, which we need to address. But I am sure that very soon banking system in Azerbaijan will be one of the most transparent and efficient in our region.
Thomas Krause, Managing Director of ALPHA GmbH: Your Excellency, Mr. President. It is very good to sit here and discuss topics covering various fields in the interests of our countries. We offer solutions to engineering companies. We provide services in secure solutions for plant construction, project management, technical charter, cybersecurity. We cooperate with some companies in Azerbaijan including Siemens Energy.
President Ilham Aliyev: So, we have the Regional Development Program, which is a five year program adopted every fifth year. The first was adopted in 2004, just several months after I became president for the first time. And now we are in the process of finalization of the fourth program. All these programs they have been published in our press and they are known. So, these programs are very concrete and they actually reflect the projects, which will be done in Azerbaijan within five years. Apart from that, we have annual investment program. Now we divided it into two. One is traditional, another is for reconstruction of Karabakh and Eastern Zangezur. So, all the information about the projects, which will be implemented this year, and next years are with the Minister of Economy. The minister is here. You can discuss with him later even more practical issues.
At the same time, as I said before, we already approved the national strategy of development until 2030 with 42 to 50 billion US dollar investment. Most of that investments will be state funded, but at the same time it will be private public partnership projects also. Therefore, concrete projects, which we will implement, and we need to implement, we have in our ministers` notebook. So, you are more than welcome to participate.
Moderator Michael Harms: Mr. President. Thank you for affording your time. We went beyond our time schedule. We know your time schedule and that is why it is an honor for us. I believe that we achieved our goal. We have a long list of projects to follow. Let me mention a few of them. Of course, green energy is one of the priority issues. Given your country’s big potential, green energy logistics is very important. Because, there are many projects on the global scale. For example, the country, which can organize the best logistics for green hydrogen and other energy sources will be the winner, and there Azerbaijan has better position. Transport and infrastructure are also important . It is clear.
You mentioned not only transport and logistics but also industrial development along transport routes. I believe that it is also an important issue. Then, digitalization and agriculture were mentioned and some participants indicated personnel training for all spheres. This is an important matter too, and we are ready for cooperation in this direction. The last issue which is important for your country is rehabilitation of irrigation canals. I think Germany can offer much to you in this field. This matter can also be put onto the list of issues to follow up. We will probably have discussion with the minister and at the appropriate time, we will have online meetings with respective ministries. Maybe, you will appoint a coordinating person and I can later announce the business delegation to Baku in second half of the year. Thank you.
President Ilham Aliyev: Thank you very much. First of all, thank you for this initiative to organize this meeting. And thank you to all the participants for very interesting discussion.
Just couple of remarks to conclude with respect to education. We'll be very glad to see more cooperation in this area between German educational bodies and Azerbaijan, especially in the area of vocational training. Because there is a big demand now, especially in the areas, which we discussed - agriculture, etc. So, I think we need to, maybe have a kind of special, maybe track on educational cooperation. Also, I would suggest before delegation comes to Azerbaijan, I will suggest to, maybe, to channel some concrete proposals to us through the Ministry of Economy. So, that by the time you and delegation come to Baku, we already have analyzed all those proposals. And maybe, by the time when you come, or maybe even before that, we can, if everything goes successfully, conclude the contract. So that could be a good, also practical result of your visit. And, of course, I invite all the participants and maybe a bigger group to come to Azerbaijan when it's convenient for you and maybe to spend several days and to meet and to continue our discussions.
I'm really looking forward to having a very strong partnership between Germany and Azerbaijan in the area, which we discussed and the beyond. Thank you very much for your attention and for your patience.