BAKU, Azerbaijan, July 22. The Czech Republic would be interested in getting access to gas from such reliable partners as Azerbaijan, Ambassador of the Czech Republic to Azerbaijan Milan Sedláček told Trend.
“On 18 July, a Memorandum of Understanding on Strategic Partnership in the field of energy between the European Union and the Republic of Azerbaijan has been signed by the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen and the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev. At the same time, the European Commission, as well as the individual EU Member States and European energy companies, are seeking other potential suppliers of gas, especially LNG, outside Russia,” he said.
According to the ambassador, the Czech Republic managed to lease additional capacity in a Dutch LNG terminal recently. In the context of the energy crisis in Europe, the country considers all options that have the potential to make it less dependent on Russia’s supplies.
“We already know Azerbaijan as a reliable supplier of oil, and the recent agreement on the expansion of the Transalpine Pipeline (TAL) which brings Azerbaijani oil to our country makes us less dependent on Russia. The Czech Republic is interested, in the mid-term perspective, in getting access to gas from all reliable suppliers. This does, of course, not change our long-term commitment to the decarbonization of the European economy which we owe to our descendants and to our planet,” Sedláček noted.
Further speaking, the ambassador noted that experienced companies from the Czech Republic might be interested in hydropower projects’ development in Karabakh.
“I am still quite new to Azerbaijan but my colleagues from our Embassy who visited Kalbajar and Lachin informed me about the major hydro energy potential of these mountain regions, which is also of interest for Czech companies,” he said.
According to the ambassador, in line with the existing decarbonization plans, the EU will undergo a major transition from natural gas to hydrogen in the upcoming years and welcomes the efforts of its partners to do likewise.
“Producing and exporting green hydrogen requires proper infrastructure, and we know our Azerbaijani partners seriously study this option,” Sedláček noted.
At the moment, the companies from the Czech Republic are looking for concrete options regarding participation in the restoration works in Karabakh, he added.
“Timely publication of relevant and complete information would be useful to companies interested in government tenders. The recent publication of a 4-year Action Plan for the establishment of a Green Energy Zone is a welcome development,” Sedláček said.
The ambassador also spoke about trade cooperation between Azerbaijan and The Czech Republic, which increased by 104 percent year-on-year over the first five months of 2022.
“Commercial and economic cooperation is among the main priorities of our bilateral relations. Despite the efforts of both governments, the COVID-19 pandemic significantly affected the trade dynamics between our countries,” he said.
Moreover, according to the ambassador, the absence of direct flights between our capitals for nearly 3 years should also be taken into account as a factor that might have put some restraint on our business relations, making essential travel more difficult.
However, the statistics indicating an impressive year-on-year surge over the first five months of the current year should be seen as the start of a process of a gradual return to our pre-pandemic trade cooperation, Sedláček noted.
Regarding investment opportunities for both countries, the ambassador said that Azerbaijan presents huge investment opportunities to Czech businesses. Companies from the Czech Republic are hoping for new investment opportunities in Azerbaijan in the sphere of connectivity and energy, he noted.
“Generally, the Czech Export Guarantee and Insurance Corporation and the Czech export bank are ready to support quality and well prepared business projects. Needless to say, anyone who wants to invest money abroad will first want to look at the legal climate of the country in question. In this regard, the conditions guaranteed by the Azerbaijani government for potential investors in the Alat Free Economic Zone are of interest, and our Embassy is also in touch with the Agency for the Development of Economic Zones,” he said.
“Over the previous decade, the most important Czech investment projects in Azerbaijan were in the field of transport infrastructure. Our flagship project, the reconstruction of the Azerbaijani part of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars Railway Corridor, was completed by a group of our companies led by Moravia Steel in 2019,” the ambassador said.
A pilot project completed by Czech companies in the Garavalli village school in the Shamakhi region in 2018 was aimed at raising awareness about the efficient use of energy resources. Also, the Czech export bank proposed a loan to the Azerbaijani government to fund the continuation of the project should the government see it as useful, Sedláček added.
Meanwhile, according to the ambassador, the Czech Republic provides tax and other incentives to foreign investors who create jobs in regions with a higher level of unemployment – that is to say, outside Prague. At the same time, prospective investors in the economy are advised and supported by the CzechInvest agency.