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Monday, 30 December 2013 10:54

Europe needed an advanced harmonization of regulations - Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Austria to the Republic of Azerbaijan Sylvia Meier-Kajbic

Europe needed an advanced harmonization of regulations - Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Austria to the Republic of Azerbaijan Sylvia Meier-Kajbic

"Austria intends to expand her economic cooperation with the South Caucasus. Therefore, Austria is interested in intensifying her relations particularly with Azerbaijan as basis for a successful cooperation in the future. Within the last 10 years the bilateral trade volume already underwent a tenfold rise and several Austrian enterprises are already working in Azerbaijan, mainly in the infrastructural sector", Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Austria to the Republic of Azerbaijan Sylvia Meier-Kajbic said in her exclusive interview with Caspian Energy Investor.

 

Caspian Energy Investor (CEI): Ms. Ambassador, how successful was the 2012 year for your diplomatic mission? Could you, please, tell about the development of the economic relations between the two countries?
Sylvia Meier-Kajbic, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Austria to the Republic of Azerbaijan: The Austrian Embassy had been established in June 2010 in order to further improve and deepen the bilateral relations between Austria and Azerbaijan.
During the last 20 years Austrian investors had been very active in Eastern Europe. Austria is among the three biggest investors in Romania, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Turkey. Over and above that, Austria intends to expand her economic cooperation with the South Caucasus. Therefore, Austria is interested in intensifying her relations particularly with Azerbaijan as basis for a successful cooperation in the future. Within the last 10 years the bilateral trade volume already underwent a tenfold rise and several Austrian enterprises are already working in Azerbaijan, mainly in the infrastructural sector.
As refers to bilateral visits, several delegations from Austria came to Azerbaijan and vice versa including visits on ministerial level. In October 2011, the Austrian president paid his first visit to Baku and at that occasion, he invited H.E. President Ilham Aliyev to come to Vienna.

CEI: How attractive is the South Corridor project for Austria today?
Sylvia Meier-Kajbic: The South Corridor project creates the possibility to deliver gas from the Caspian Sea to Europe: The Trans-Anatolian gas pipeline TANAP will transport Azerbaijani gas as far as the western Turkish border. For further transport, two projects were proposed - either the Trans Adriatic Pipeline heading for the south Italian coast or Nabucco West ending at Baumgarten in Austria. The Nabucco pipeline will help not only Austria but mainly various countries in South East Europe to diversify their gas supply. Besides, Baumgarten offers access to the Western European gas pipeline system. Gas from the Caspian Sea could be delivered to Germany, Italy and other countries.

CEI: Could you, please, tell about the progress in projects implemented in Austria by the European Commission within the frames of the third energy package?
Sylvia Meier-Kajbic: The third energy package comprises a mechanism against a possible shortage of gas supply in Europe. The crisis in January 2009 clearly demonstrated that Europe needed an advanced harmonization of regulations. The third energy package will facilitate the delivery of gas between member states and will reduce monopoly situations by separating producing enterprises from transporting enterprises. In Austria, the regulations of the third energy package had already been transferred into national law. As a consequence, a new enterprise - Gas Connect Austria - had been created and deals now with gas transport, while OMV concentrates on the exploiting and selling business in the hydrocarbon energy sector.

CEI: Please, tell about the progress of meridional gas pipeline projects?
Sylvia Meier-Kajbic: Algeria is - besides Russia and Norway - one of the main suppliers of gas to the member states of the European Union. Algeria has infrastructure already available to meet an export potential of 79 bcm per year. Algeria delivers gas through the Maghreb-Europe Gas Pipeline via Morocco to Spain and Portugal. The newly built MEDGAZ Pipeline connects Algeria directly with Spain. The Trans-Mediterranean Pipeline crossing Tunesia brings gas to Sicily. An additional planned pipeline - GALSI - will transport gas from Algeria to Northern Italy crossing Sardinia.
Besides, several countries like Egypt supply Europe with liquefied natural gas (LNG). This is an expensive means of transport but it opens additional far-distanced gas resources for the European market, such as - in the long run - the newly discovered off shore gas fields between Israel and Cyprus.

CEI: What underlies the energy security in Austria?
Sylvia Meier-Kajbic: Austria puts an emphasis firstly on locally produced renewable energy (2/3rds of the Austrian electricity consumption is covered by renewable energy, mostly by hydropower. Coal, gas and oil cover only 17 %) and secondly on diversification of energy resources.
Taking the shortage of gas in 2009 as an example, this is how we acted: Before 2009, Austria had already a certain level of diversification, but most of the gas still came from Russia. During the crisis in January 2009, Austria asked Norway to supply us with additional gas. In the following years, Austria reduced the percentage of Russian gas. Now it is already down to 49%, the reminder mainly coming from Norway (12 %) and from domestic resources (15 %). Additionally, Austria created sufficient capacities to store gas. In 2009, we had sufficient storage for seven weeks. Afterwards, Austria decided to increase the national storage capacity even further. Now Austria has a gas storage capacity of 7.45 billion cubic meters. In 2009, Austria could handle the shortage of gas due to the fact that we had already a diversification of gas supplies and sufficient storage capacity.

CEI: How would you evaluate the progress in cooperation in alternative energy sector and in development of tourism between Austria and Azerbaijan?
Sylvia Meier-Kajbic: Austria is well experienced in producing alternative energy. For example, more than 60% of our electricity is produced by water power. Recently, Austrian delegations visited Azerbaijan and met with representatives of the Ministry of Energy, with the Agency of Renewable Energy and with private enterprises. It is now up to Azerbaijan to decide if further cooperation should be established.
Concerning tourism, this is also an area where Austria is willing to share her experience with Azerbaijan. We register 120 million overnight stays of tourists in Austria per year. A close cooperation in the area of tourism vocational training has already been established between the Azerbaijani Tourism Institute and the University of Applied Sciences in Krems. The Azerbaijani Ministry of Tourism recently approved a twinning project for with Austria and Lithuania as junior partner.

CEI: How many Austrian tourists are visiting Azerbaijan now?
Sylvia Meier-Kajbic: By now, the number of Austrian tourists coming to Azerbaijan is quiet small compared, for example, with Turkey where lots of Austrians annually spend their summer holidays. But Azerbaijan also fulfills the preconditions for a booming tourism industry: Baku is an exiting city with lots of high class hotels and restaurants and Azerbaijan offers wonderful landscapes and cultural treasures to attract tourists from all over the world.

CEI: Could you please tell why did you choose a diplomatic carrier? What are positive and negative sides of such carrier?
Sylvia Meier-Kajbic: I studied anthropology and commerce in Vienna. I always wanted to go abroad and spend my professional life in different countries, so I joined the diplomatic service. I served in Ireland, the Czech Republic, Italy and Algeria where I met many fascinating people. But as soon as I got acquainted with a country it was already time to say good bye again.

Thank you for the interview

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