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Monday, 30 December 2013 13:05

We aim at giving rise to development of relations between Latvia and Azerbaijan – Ambassador of Latvia to Azerbaijan Featured

We aim at giving rise to development of relations between Latvia and Azerbaijan – Ambassador of Latvia to Azerbaijan

First Class Journal (FCJ): Dear Mr. Ambassador, it would be of great interest to our readers to learn about you… .

 

Hardis Baumanis, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Latvia to the Republic of Azerbaijan: I am from Riga since I was born there and headed to Moscow after leaving school. I graduated from the Moscow Electronic Technology Institute and was majoring in engineering, physics and circuit design. Then I returned to Latvia. It was 1991 when Latvia regained its independence. It was too hard to be engaged in electronics at that period. Alfa which used to be a big electronics plant by that period stopped operating as there were no projects. The entire chain was broken since plants used to locate in various cities of the Union at that period: Riga, Moscow, Baku and Minsk. It was impossible to work in this area. I thought of places where I could find a job. I worked for private companies established at that time. I joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs early in 1992 owing to my knowledge of the English language and started working for the diplomatic service. I am going to celebrate the 20th anniversary of my diplomatic service in coming year. 

 

FCJ: What played an important role in your appointment as the Ambassador to the Republic of Azerbaijan?

Hardis Baumanis: In this case noteworthy arepositions that I have recently held. I gained the rank of an ambassador in 2006 when I was appointed to Lithuania. Lithuania is currently the largest trade partner of Latvia. Our goods turnover rate exceeded 2 bln Euros in pre-crisis years. Accordingly, my major obligation was maintenance of Latvian-Lithuanian trade relations, economic relations, working with different business structures, promotion of Latvian products and interests of producers at the Lithuanian market. The work I did in Lithuania was highly assessed by the Latvian Employers’ Confederation. I assume this was one of the most important factors for my appointment to Azerbaijan. We have very favorable political relations with Azerbaijan. I wish economic relations between our countries were more integral and developed. The rate of Azerbaijani investments in Latvia is not high. According to our records, the trade turnover reached about 15 mln Euros last year. This figure is not that big compared to that of our neighbors. Therefore, we aim at giving rise to further development of relations between Latvia and Azerbaijan.

 

 

FCJ: Which spheres are more perspective in cooperation between our countries?

Hardis Baumanis: Nowadays, we seek for those economy and cooperation sectors which would be interesting both for Latvian and Azerbaijani entrepreneurs. Different spheres may be noted here. This may be cooperation in the field of processing and trade of agricultural products. Dairy products are exported to Azerbaijan from Latvia. Romashka is our trade mark (milk, sour cream and cottage cheese). We in our turn are ready to provide our ports, logistical, transit and transport system in order to establish a distribution hub for Azerbaijani products in Latvia. In case of agricultural products it is Riga or the port of Riga which could be used as the distribution hub for Azerbaijani juices, fruit compotes and various types of Azerbaijani jams. All of these products produced here in Azerbaijan are high quality and could be supplied from Riga further to north Europe (Sweden, Finland and Denmark). There are also other sectors of cooperation that we could talk about. Sector of financial services provision to local banks in Azerbaijan has been well developed by us. There are representative offices of several Latvian banks here. Parex Leasing which has been operating in your market long enough is also here. They offer services to Azeri citizens on operations that are performed beyond Azerbaijan. This is a very perspective sphere of export of financial services. There are big opportunities for Azeri investments in Latvia. These are investments into real estate and tourism sectors. Our companies show interest to the market here. Opportunities are big enough. We have direct flights available from spring right to the fall. Weather conditions in Latvia are very favorable. We make three flights a week. The flights are made by our national company Air Baltic. Unfortunately, no flight is made in winter because of insufficient flow of passengers. But it will open starting from April. We have been experiencing this practice for the 6th year in a row. Once tourism business developed broadly and more information about recreation facilities of Latvia was spread in Azerbaijan since we have Alpine skiing and agricultural tourism developed well enough then the Baku-Riga flight would be available throughout a year and there would be no need for cancelling it. 

 

 

 

FCJ: To what extent is Latvian direction popular among Azerbaijani tourists or the Azerbaijani direction among Latvian citizens? Howmanyvisasdoestheembassyprovideeachyear?

Hardis Baumanis: I have no information about the amount of visas given to Latvian citizens for visiting Azerbaijan as tourists. I estimate the amount of tourist visas at several hundreds. Apart from tourists, there are many Azerbaijanis who pay business visits to Latvia. I assume their number equals to that of tourists. The highest amount falls to the share of private visas because it is Latvia among the three Baltic countries where the biggest Azerbaijani Diaspora exists. According to our records, there are 3-4,000 representatives of Azerbaijani Diaspora in Latvia. They also came here for participating in the congress under the auspices of Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev. But we wish to see establishment of broader contacts on the level of entrepreneurs. The embassy currently works in this direction. I hold meetings with your entrepreneurs showing interest to Latvia almost every day: I call the agencies and people they may apply to in Latvia, help them to establish contacts and send letters. We have determined spheres in which we may establish broad cooperation over the past year. A visit of the Minister of Culture was arranged in order to cover this range. He attended the International dialogue forum in April. Following the results of the meeting held between our Culture Ministers Elerte and Garayev the parties agreed to develop a programme in the culture sphere. Exchange of spectacles will be a part of this programme. New Riga theatre will be able to visit Azerbaijan. We have good spectacles in the Russian language. The Riga Puppet Theatre plans to come here in November for participating in the first international festival. Puppets from the Latvia puppet museum will be presented as well. This is a perfect museum which I offer to attend. I know about the interest to puppets in Azerbaijan. I have seen porcelain dolls in many houses. People collect dolls. It will be an interesting experience to watch our doll man making porcelain dolls. 

 

 

 

FCJ: How would you assess the current level of relations between our countries?

Hardis Baumanis: We have established perfect relations on the level of local governing institutions. Both Azerbaijani and Latvian municipalities visited Latvia twice. 4 agreements were signed between local governing institutions of Azerbaijan and several regions of Latvia following the results of these visits. Apart from this, we have good relations established between the Ministries of Internal Affairs, relevant services of Azerbaijan, Ministry of Emergency Situations and Border Guards. Latvia could apply EU’s resources in this sphere for developing Twinning projects. No such projects have been developed so far. We have shared such experience only in the sphere of veterinary-sanitary service. But we aim at establishment of cooperation in the field of agriculture. This year Azerbaijan has hosted the first seminar of Latvian and Azerbaijani companies engaged in ecology. The seminar was held under supervision of Azerbaijan Minister of Ecology and Environment H.Baghyrov and Latvian Minister of Regional Development and Ecology. There were 9 companies from Latvian and 20 from Azerbaijan which considered projects for implementation. Representatives of Azerbaijani Railways CJSC paid a visit to Latvia in summer. Azerbaijan has plans for renewing its car fleet stock. This process takes about 10-15 years. The old cars should be adjusted within this period since your subway still applies cars produced by the Riga plant. We are ready to help Azerbaijan to adjust current facilities until new ones are bought. 

 

FCJ: You mentioned about past visits. Are there any plans or events that shall be arranged by the embassy soon?

Hardis Baumanis: As far as high level meetings are regarded, our parliament elections ended last Saturday. Latvia experiences the period of political transformations. The new parliament will be summoned by mid of October. Then the matter concerning the government will be solved: passed will be a decision whether it should keep the previous staff or develop a new one. All of these matters are under solution now. Political disputes are underway. For this reason, no official visits are planned. One of the most important events concerning our future plans will take place in November. It will last for a whole month – from November 1 to 30. Latvian days will be held in Baku. Latvian products and their stands will be presented at networks of Bizim and Neptun markets within this month. Besides, invited cooks will demonstrate dishes and the ways they are cooked out of Latvian products for housewives. The similar presentations will be made at local restaurants. The menu of Latvian dishes that visitors may taste will be included to the main menu. Besides, the visit of the Latvian theatre from Riga to the festival of puppets in Baku is timed to coincide within this month. We plan to hold several exhibitions. One of them will be held in the gallery of Maiden Tower for two weeks. Rectors of art academies of Latvia and Azerbaijan held a number of meetings. We shall exhibit air photos of Latvian regions at 19-59 gallery (Latvia from bird’s eye view). We will provide an opportunity for tasting certain parts of Latvia since each region differs and has its own cuisine. I assume the exhibition will last for a week. Of course we would like to complete this month by a concert on popular music of Latvia and invite one of our best pop groups. But I will not call its name now.

 

 

FCJ: What could you tell about the Azeri cuisine as we touched the culinary topic?

Hardis Baumanis: I fell in love with Azeri cuisine. I love meet and fresh vegetables. I mean everything that the Azeri cuisine offers is exactly what I prefer eating. So there is no need for getting accustomed to local cuisine. The Latvian cuisine is certainly different but the Azerbaijanis will have an opportunity to taste it in November during the Latvian days in Baku.

 

FCJ: What impression did Baku make on you? Which regions have you already visited?

Hardis Baumanis: I mainly visited northern regions of Azerbaijan: I have been to Gabala, Sheki but have not gone further. In coming month I plan to visit Zagatala, Gah and the North-Western part of Azerbaijan. I have also been to Gusar, Guba visited Hynalig together with guests from Latvia, Nabran beaches, stopped in Khachmaz and reached Chirag Gala. These are very interesting places with beautiful nature. I am fond of traveling and like visiting new countries. The way the country develops is seen both in Baku and outside. I find this to be the most reliable proof for country’s successful future and wish the best to Azeri people.

 

 

FCJ:  You noted that you like traveling. What else do you do at leisure time and weather you have hobbies?

Hardis Baumanis: I often prefer playing tennis if my schedule allows me to do it. You have good tennis courts. I play it in the national park. I have been playing tennis for 30 years. I have good partners here: there are both Azerbaijanis and local Latvian entrepreneurs who live in Azerbaijan. I enjoy riding on a bicycle at week-ends when the number of cars is few in the city. I have been engaged in these two sports since my youth.

 

 

FCJ:  Do you show interest to languages? Have you any plans on learning Azeri language?

Hardis Baumanis: Among foreign languages I speak only English and Russian. I try to learn necessary phrases in Azeri so that to start conversation or make an order in a restaurant. Just a small amount of words meant for self-service. I will try to deliver a part of my speech dedicated to the independence of Latvia in Azeri by November 18. It does not come easy since sometimes it takes a whole day. I must admit that my pronunciation is not that good.

 

FCJ: How often do you spend your free time with your family?

Hardis Baumanis: In connection with my diplomatic service my family is in Latvia now. I am divorced. My eldest son left a school and headed to study at Manchester University the other day. My younger son and daughter passed into the second and third grades. They live in Riga. I try to spend as much time with them as possible. We spend much time together when they come here: we ride on bicycles, go to cinema and travel on canoes. They come and see me once a year. Last time they visited me in the fall. This is also envisaged by the rules on ambassador’s stay abroad since the Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs cover expenses of the trip made by diplomat’s children to the country he stays in. If it was to me, I would bring them here very often. But they must go to school so we have to wait for their holidays to come.

 

 

FCJ:    What are the minuses and pluses of the diplomatic service?

Hardis Baumanis: The positive side of this position is an opportunity for seeing the world and analyzing the way other countries and people live. It enables to assess one’s country and people externally and make a comparison. It does not mean the decline of patriotism. Everyone is a patriot of his/her country but comparison tells everything. I would not call staying far from the homeland to be a big minus. Anyway you will have to return in a couple of years and head to another country located for or close to Latvia. I find emotional component to be a big minus. A man falls in love with the country where he lives in for 3-4 years. Secondly, he finds many new local friends and counterparts who represent other embassies and the EU. All of this ends when you have to leave a country. Who knows maybe you will meet someone in 10, 20 and 30 years. However, all of this remains in memories.

 

Thank you for the interview.

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