“Azerbaijani remains the most successful former Soviet state”, announced Tale Heydarov, Chairman & Founder, The European Azerbaijan Society (TEAS), to an assembled group of politicians, diplomats, business leaders and academics on 12 October at the Oxford Summit of Leaders Conference. The event highlighted the commercial opportunities that exist around the European Neighbourhood Policy, and featured a speakers’ roster which included H.E. Zef Mazi, Albanian Ambassador to the UK; Professor Ahmet Erentok, Chairman, Azerbaijan–Turkey Business Association (ATIB); Piotr Maciej Kaczynski, Research Fellow, Centre for European Policy Studies; Paul Briggs, Group Chief Executive of the Thames Valley Chamber of Commerce; Simon Garrett, Partner, Haines Watts; Mykhallo Chernysh, President of the PE ‘Serviceagrotrade’; and representatives of diplomatic missions of Azerbaijan, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Czech Republic to the United Kingdom.
Mr Heydarov went on to explain the country’s recent achievements, such as registering the highest GDP growth rate in the world at 41.7 per cent during the first quarter of 2007 and achieving 9.3 per cent GDP growth in 2009, despite the economic downturn.
He continued by outlining the outstanding economic opportunities in the country that have particularly stimulated FDI inflows from the UK. He explained: “FDI has been primarily attracted by the Shah Deniz gas condensate field, developed by the BP-led Azerbaijan International Operating Company (AIOC) consortium, which has invested $60bn (£38.2bn) in Azerbaijan, to date; the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas pipeline; and further development of the Azeri-Chirag-Guneshli (ACG) offshore oil field.” Recently, a production-sharing agreement (PSA) was signed between BP and the State Oil Company of the Republic of Azerbaijan (SOCAR) regarding exploitation and development of the Shafag-Asiman gas field over the next 30 years. SOCAR estimates that these reserves comprise 300–500bn m3 of gas.
Mr Heydarov also commented on the new oil pipeline passing through Georgia and Turkey and the recent liquefied natural gas project, known as the Azerbaijan–Georgia–Romania Interconnector (AGRI). Both have potentially strategic importance for the EU as a thoroughfare for the exporting of Caspian oil and gas.
During his speech, he went on to outline those non-oil sectors that provide opportunities for overseas investment, such as Financial Services and the Communications and Information Technologies sectors. The latter is expected to overtake hydrocarbon extraction revenue by 2020.
Mr Heydarov also spoke of the Armenian occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh and the seven adjacent regions. This continues, despite four UN Security Council Resolutions against Armenia remaining outstanding, thereby stifling further development of the South Caucasus region.
He concluded by explaining TEAS’ role in assisting UK businesses that wish to capitalise upon the opportunities presented by the Azerbaijani economy.