As winter approaches, the gas issue starts to further puzzle Europe. Sanctions imposed on Russian energy imports in connection with the war in Ukraine have further increased the EU’s need for Azerbaijani gas. Considering the statements of a number of large countries-exporters on the impossibility of aiding Europe with gas supplies, the importance of Azerbaijan as a provider of Europe’s collective energy security vastly increases. This became possible thanks to the thoughtful foreign policy and successful energy strategy of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. The head of state’s principled approach to the system of international relations, his strategic vision, and his balanced political course have turned Azerbaijan into one of the most reliable energy partners of Europe.
The contemporary world energy map does not have only economic importance but is also of great value in terms of influencing the formation of new political configurations. Satisfaction with modern economic requirements is closely connected with the rapid development of the industry. Therefore, no matter how much talk there is about alternative energy sources, world countries are still facing a serious need for oil and gas. This reality encourages large energy consumers, in particular, European countries, to establish mutually effective and long-term partnerships with energy producers. In this sense, Azerbaijan, with about 70% of its territory containing oil and gas reserves, holds a unique position.
The development of partnering relations with the European Union is one of the main priorities of Azerbaijan’s foreign policy. The EU remains Azerbaijan’s main trading partner. Our country accounts for 2/3 of the trade turnover between the countries of the South Caucasus and the EU. Among the EU countries, Azerbaijan’s largest trading partners are Italy ($1.445 billion or 30.5%), Germany ($768.7 million or 16.25%), and Britain ($449.71 million or 9.5%). The EU mainly exports machinery and transport equipment to Azerbaijan, while the key share of Azerbaijan’s exports to the EU is oil and gas products.
Currently, a third of the EU member states consider Azerbaijan as their strategic partner, which is no small achievement for a country that is not part of the European Union. At the same time, it creates additional opportunities for wider cooperation. It is no coincidence that today Azerbaijan is considered one of the most reliable suppliers of energy resources to Europe. The existence of a long-term, predictable and trusting relationship of cooperation in the field of energy between Azerbaijan and the EU is of great importance not only for the region but also in a more global sense.
“The partnership between the European Union and Azerbaijan is not cooperation based mainly on financial support. On the contrary, it is a partnership based on the desire to work together, innovation, technological exchange, and economic cooperation,” EU Council President Charles Michel said during last year’s joint press conference with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev in Baku.
On July 18, President Ilham Aliyev and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen signed a Memorandum of Understanding on strategic partnership in the energy sector. In his speech at the signing ceremony, President Ilham Aliyev noted that the energy projects, launched by Azerbaijan and supported by the EU, are completely changing the energy map of Europe.
“We started with oil production. Then we moved on to gas production. We laid an oil pipeline connecting the Caspian Sea with the Black and Mediterranean Seas. Of course, the 3,500-kilometer Southern Gas Corridor integrated pipeline systems, thanks to which our natural gas is delivered to the European continent. Southern Gas Corridor is operating at full capacity for less than two years. All segments are being exploited. We already see the benefits of this cooperation. Energy security issues are more important than ever today. Long-term, predictable, and very reliable cooperation between Azerbaijan and the European Union is, of course, a great achievement,” the head of state noted.
The signed Memorandum once again confirms the trend toward deepening strategic relations between the EU and Azerbaijan. Interconnector IGB Greece-Bulgaria, which will be put into operation in October this year, will allow at least four European countries to become buyers of Azerbaijani gas.
After the start of the Russian-Ukrainian war, Azerbaijan increased the export of blue fuel to the EU countries. In January-August 2022, Azerbaijan exported 7.3 billion cubic meters of gas to Europe, which means an increase of 23% compared to the same period last year.
The liberation of Karabakh and Eastern Zangazur is of great importance in increasing the potential of Azerbaijan as an exporter of energy resources. Today, many international think tanks and representatives of civil society are amazed at the rapid pace of restoration work in the liberated territories of Azerbaijan, which, no doubt, fills every Azerbaijani with a great sense of pride.
After signing the memorandum with the EU, President Ilham Aliyev, speaking to the press, said that Azerbaijan has great potential in the field of renewable energy production, and the European Union highly appreciates this.
“We have already begun the process of investing in wind and solar energy. We have already carried out a preliminary assessment of our potential. I can say that the potential of solar and wind energy in the liberated territories of Karabakh and Eastern Zangazur is 9,200 megawatts. And the potential of wind energy in the Caspian is 157 gigawatts. In other words, we have gigantic resources. In addition, of course, we have new gas sources that we will use in the coming years. In this way, we will increase gas production. By using renewable energy, we will provide more gas for export. This is an excellent situation created thanks to our efforts and supported by the European Union,” the head of state said.
It is gratifying that Azerbaijan, which the EU views as an important regional power in terms of the energy security of the old continent, is improving its international reputation as a reliable partner supporting global initiatives. As the development of events shows, the day is not far off when Azerbaijan and the EU will conclude a new comprehensive agreement on strategic partnership.
Thus, the energy factor continues to hold an important place in Azerbaijan’s foreign policy. As a result of the far-sighted policy of President Ilham Aliyev, Azerbaijan is now able to ensure its own energy security, as well as play a leading role in the energy security of some other countries. Azerbaijan’s approach is that energy resources should unite countries and peoples, not divide them. Energy resources should serve regional and international cooperation, not fuel conflicts. The interests of suppliers, transit countries, and consumers must coincide, be predictable and lead to mutual benefit. This is an energy philosophy, which is a reflection of Azerbaijan’s successful foreign policy and our growing authority in the world community.
By Abdul Kerimkhanov