Dear Mr. Kairat Abdrakhmanov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan,
Dear Mr. Guglielmo Picchi, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and
International Cooperation of Italy,
Ambassador Vuk Žugić, Co-ordinator of OSCE Economic and Environmental Activities,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Let me start first by thanking our friends, brothers and sisters from Kazakhstan for coming up with this initiative to organize the Side Event on this important topic.
No doubt, connectivity can contribute to strengthening our co-operation and the sustainable economic growth. The 2016 Hamburg OSCE Ministerial Council decision on Strengthening good governance and promoting connectivity, as well as all relevant previous OSCE documents and decisions, provide a useful framework for cooperation in this regard.
Over the past years my country has taken significant steps in the development of the non-energy sector, in particular, by improving business and investment climate and investing in and building transport infrastructure in Azerbaijan. But our efforts are not limited only to Azerbaijan. Among the main priorities of the Government of Azerbaijan is the development of regional and trans-regional multi-modal transport corridors in partnership with other interested OSCE participating States and neighbouring States along the East-West and North-South axes. Among the projects contributing to the increased connectivity is the Baku – Tbilisi – Kars railway with a freight-forwarding capacity of 6-7 million tons at the first stage and its subsequent increase to 17 million tons a year. The BTK is a key segment of the emerging transcontinental corridor, called New Silk Road, which will link trans-Europe and trans-Asian railway networks and will significantly contribute to a reliable and integrated freight railway connection between Europe and Asia.
Given constantly increasing volume of trade, it is obvious that there should be a diversity of reliable trade routes – not in or competition with each other, but in complementarity to each other.
Another priority area of the Government of Azerbaijan is good governance in transport and trade facilitation, inter alia, through streamlining import, export and transit border procedures, introducing efficient trade formalities, which allow more transparent customs processes in transit and trade. Particular attention is given to introduction of information technologies in trade facilitation such as e-declaration system based on e-signature principle.
One area, which I want to mention specifically is our efforts to provide a favourable, liberal investment regime for foreign companies in trade-logistics sector through creating a Free Economic Zone around the new Port of Baku. The objective of this Free Economic Zone is to increase the attractiveness of Azerbaijan as a regional trade-logistics hub, which will facilitate trade between Europe and Asia along numerous trade routes.
The OSCE extra-budgetary project on Promoting Green Ports and Connectivity in the Caspian region, which is ready for implementation and which will involve Azerbaijan and our Central Asian partners and potentially Afghanistan, will further strengthen connectivity between Europe and Asia. Taking this opportunity, I thank Ambassador Žugić, Co-ordinator of OSCE Economic and Environmental Activities and his team for putting together this important project and call on all OSCE participating States to contribute to its realization.