Azernews’s interview with Lithuanian Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs Darius Skusevičius
Question: How do you assess the current state of political dialogue between Azerbaijan and Lithuania?
Answer: Lithuania’s relations with Azerbaijan has sustained history – this year our countries celebrated the centennial anniversary of the establishment of the democratic state. In 2019 we will also mark 100 years since we have first established diplomatic relations – in mid-war period there was a consular section of the Republic of Lithuania in Baku.
Lithuania and Azerbaijan are engaged in a close political dialogue, we share mutual respect and understanding. We have intergovernmental commission as well as regular exchange of visits and consultations at different levels, including between ministers of foreign affairs, where we discuss a wide range of issues of common interest.
Parliaments are also well involved in the political dialog between our countries. The group for Inter-Parliamentary Relations with the Republic of Azerbaijan in Lithuanian Seimas is one of the biggest and consists of members of different factions.
Cooperation between the European Union and Azerbaijan is yet another important aspect of our political dialogue. We are pleased that the EU and Azerbaijan have recently agreed on Partnership Priorities. We also look forward to a successful conclusion of the negotiations on a new EU-Azerbaijan agreement that will open new avenues for engagement. We attach great importance to the EU Eastern Partnership initiative and are interested in Azerbaijan’s active participation in implementing its ambitious work plan, 20 Deliverables for 2020. That would bring tangible benefits to Azerbaijan’s citizens and create further incentives for our cooperation.
In the framework of our political dialogue, we also encourage Azerbaijan to intensify its efforts in ensuring respect of fundamental human rights and liberties, based on Azerbaijan’s international commitments.
Q: What is your vision of the future cooperation in the economic field between the two countries? What measures should be taken to increase the trade turnover between the two countries?
A: Azerbaijan is one of our main trading partners in South Caucasus and we see a potential to deepen our economic and investment cooperation. Being on the EU border with CEE and the CIS, Lithuania delivers access to huge potential markets. Moreover, with the EU’s most Northerly Ice Free Port in Klaipėda this access becomes truly global. The best way to foster our economic and trade cooperation is by exchanging our business delegations and encouraging direct B2B contacts.
Q: What areas of Azerbaijani economy are of particular interest for Lithuanian businessmen?
A: The information technology, transport and logistics, furniture, electronic equipment, medicine and food industries could be the most potential to expand bilateral cooperation. Lithuania could be a gateway to the EU for Azerbaijan producers. We offer attractive conditions for investing in free trade zones, engineering, industrial equipment, automotive, electronics, biotech, clean-tech, ICT, R&D, transportation sectors. Ranked 4th in the world for fulfilling business needs for ICT, Lithuanian companies can offer innovative IT solutions for Azerbaijan institutions and private companies. Lithuania takes a leading place in the EU according to the implementation of e-government services. We can efficiently contribute implementing cyber security solutions in Azerbaijan. Renewable energy could be another field of interest (solar panels, biomass energy). Lithuania is becoming the European hub for block chain technologies and fintech industries so we offer Azerbaijani business to utilise our favourable legislative and business environment in the EU.
Q: What are the plans for further development of cooperation in transport field between Azerbaijan and Lithuania?
A: Lithuania has established a well-functioning multimodal transport and logistics system and plays an important transit country role in the East-West and North-South transportation corridors. Therefore, our country can offer Azerbaijan a safe, fast and inexpensive transportation of Azerbaijani cargo to Europe and the Scandinavian countries.
Additional cooperation possibilities are offered by the accession of Azerbaijan to the international combined train project the Viking Train, which links the network of sea container lines of the Baltic and the Black seas, Mediterranean and Caspian seas.
We also see cooperation possibilities in the Europe-China cargo transportation chain through the Eurasian transport multimodal corridor of TRACECA as well.
Q: What is done to further develop humanitarian aspect of bilateral relations? What can be done to expand cooperation in tourism sector between the two states?
A: Lithuania and Azerbaijan are the countries of beautiful nature, rich history and culture. Lithuania may offer for Azerbaijani tourists medical and health services. Also, we may invite you to spend some quiet time in Lithuanian countryside or enjoy baroque old town of Vilnius.
Currently, the main challenge for expanding tourism is the connection between Azerbaijan and Lithuania. We anticipate that with the conclusion of the negotiations on the Common Aviation Area Agreement between the EU and Azerbaijan more itineraries emerge and we will witness an increase in the number of Lithuanian tourists visiting Azerbaijan and vice versa.