Lithuania can offer Azerbaijan a fast route to Scandinavian countries – Vice Minister
According to trend
Exclusive interview from Trend with Deputy Foreign Minister of the Republic of Lithuania Egidijus MeilÅ«nas.
Question: What are the priorities of the cooperation between Lithuania and Azerbaijan in the field of economy?
Answer: Azerbaijan is one of our most important trading partners in the South Caucasus. Although trade relations between Lithuania and Azerbaijan are not currently intensive, they could be intensified in the short and medium term. In some sectors, opportunities are to be considered to expand trade between Lithuania and Azerbaijan. Industrial engineering (mechanical engineering, electrical appliances), food industry, transport and logistics, furniture, electrical appliances, medicine could be the potential sectors to expand our bilateral cooperation.
Lithuania has a well-developed food industry – this sector generates a large proportion of the added value of the economy. We can offer a wide variety of food to Azerbaijan, for which the main export market is the EU – the market that requires food of the highest quality. Industrial engineers from Lithuania also carry out outsourcing activities. The most developed sub-branches of industrial engineering are mechanical engineering, metal processing, automotive, computer, electronic and optical products as well as the electrical appliance industry. Lithuania is known worldwide for its optical and laser industries. I believe that Azerbaijani companies can offer high quality products in these areas too, so we will undoubtedly find better opportunities for further economic cooperation.
The 4th place for Lithuania in the Global Fintech Index 2020 means that we have enormous potential to become a center for financial technologies. Lithuania has significant advantages in the ICT sector – good information and communication infrastructure, one of the fastest Internet in the world, multilingual qualified professionals. In the area of ââcyber security, we are among the strongest in Europe. Last year, the Lithuanian company Nord Security won the German and Baltic Business Award 2020 as the best company offering cybersecurity solutions in the Baltic states.
In addition, Azerbaijani tourists have been welcome for decades to enjoy both Lithuanian nature and quality, innovative health and rehabilitation services. The flow of tourists had been disrupted by pandemic restrictions. But as soon as the Schengen borders are reopened, we look forward to further promoting incoming tourism to Lithuania, which will hopefully exceed pre-pandemic numbers.
Q .: What are the opportunities for investment between the two countries?
A .: We are looking for further Azerbaijani green field investments in Lithuania, especially in high quality and innovative service sectors (health and life sciences and high technologies). We offer a favorable investment environment, highly qualified employees, perfect logistics and infrastructure (IT and communication), competitive operating costs and standard of living. Companies in the areas of manufacturing, data processing or web server services can benefit from the Green Corridor. This legislative package offers significant tax incentives and considerably reduces the administrative burden, so that international companies can set up and expand large-scale operations in Lithuania more quickly and easily. We invite Azerbaijani companies to take advantage of not only the favorable conditions in Lithuania, but also the advantages of the Green Corridor and make the most of it.
Q .: Could the two countries open trading houses to strengthen their trade ties?
A .: The expansion of trade relations requires mutual interest and the best way to promote our economic and trade cooperation is to exchange our business delegations and to promote direct B2B contacts. In addition, Azerbaijani and Lithuanian companies can use various initiatives to find potential business partners. For example, an event in Lithuania planned for 2020 and postponed to 2021 – Life Sciences Baltics 2021, which will take place in Vilnius from September 22-23 – will focus on the life sciences, pharmaceuticals, bio- and medical technology sectors. This forum is organized online, so we invite Azerbaijani companies looking for a unique opportunity to meet industry stakeholders and trendsetters not only from the Baltic States but from all over the world to participate in this event. It must also be taken into account that not only state institutions, but also companies themselves can take the initiative to establish bilateral economic relations. Chambers of Commerce can be established to make a significant contribution to promoting trade relations.
Q .: What progress have the two countries made in integrating their transport sector? What are the prospects for further growth in cooperation in this area?
A .: Lithuania is an important transit country in the east-west and north-south transport corridors. One of the most important tools to increase the opportunities for cooperation between Azerbaijan and Lithuania is an international combined train project – the Viking Train – which connects the network of sea container lines of the Baltic and Black Sea, Mediterranean and Caspian Seas. Therefore, our country Azerbaijan can offer safe, fast and inexpensive transportation of Azerbaijani goods such as oil and its products to Europe and the Scandinavian countries.
We have a well-functioning multimodal transport and logistics system, a well-developed railway network, a modern state sea port of KlaipÄda and good roads. Klaipeda State Seaport is the northernmost ice-free port on the east coast of the Baltic Sea. It is the main and largest Lithuanian transport hub, connecting sea, land and rail routes from east to west. Klaipeda is a universal, multi-purpose deep water port providing high quality services with 14 large stevedoring companies. Ship repair and shipbuilding yards as well as all kinds of shipping and cargo handling services operate in the port. The annual port handling capacity is up to 70 million tons. In 2020, 47.8 million tons of cargo were handled in the port.
Q .: How do you assess the energy cooperation with Azerbaijan? What possibilities are there to further develop bilateral relations in this area?
A. As Lithuania paves the way for a more dynamic and diversified economy, it is proactively and continuously focusing on strengthening regional energy security. To this end, large-scale energy projects are under way to increase connectivity and competitiveness, such as the Gas Interconnection Poland-Lithuania (GIPL) and the synchronization of the Lithuanian electricity network with the continental European network.
Lithuania also has bold plans to encourage investment in reliable and competitive local power generation. The development of offshore wind farm projects in the Baltic Sea will increase local power generation and meet Lithuania’s commitment to green energy transition. Our goal is to generate 50% of Lithuania’s energy consumption from renewable sources by 2030. We also want to fully decarbonise our energy system by 2050.
We see renewable energy sources among the fields of possible bilateral cooperation with Azerbaijan in the energy sector. We are open to international cooperation and exchange of experiences in green energy generation, clean energy technologies and innovative solutions to improve both energy security and the realization of a low-carbon future. We have a strong laser industry with a focus on solar energy – solar cell research, development, innovation and manufacturing. Lithuanian companies producing high quality and innovative photovoltaic modules work in Europe and worldwide and are interested in building relationships in the development of solar energy projects in Azerbaijan.
Lithuania remains a strong advocate of an ambitious and results-oriented policy of the Eastern Partnership. On the energy side, Lithuania emphasizes the importance of working together in solidarity to deliver equitable, inclusive and sustainable recovery, alleviate the effects of the pandemic crisis and accelerate the transition to clean energy in the EU and the Eastern Partnership countries [including Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia].
Lithuanian institutions as well as Lithuanian energy companies have already developed numerous initiatives in the Eastern partners and shared their expertise and best practices. In 2021, Lithuania, together with Georgia and with the support of the European Commission, will lead a newly established network of the Eastern Partnership on Renewable Energies. The aim of the network is to research and identify existing barriers to achieving a higher share of renewable energy sources in the energy mix of the eastern partners.
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