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Being a member of the EU Lithuania supports the deepening of the dialog between Azerbaijan and the EU

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Baku, 15 December 2016 – Newtimes.az

Valdas Lastauskas

Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary

of the Republic of Lithuania to the Republic of Azerbaijan

The Republic of Lithuania recognized de jure the Republic of Azerbaijan on December 20, 1991. Since November 27, 1995 Lithuania and Azerbaijan established diplomatic relations. Both countries are actively implementing political dialogue as well as developing economic cooperation and diplomatic relations based on international principals, one of which is of great importance for the newly re-created country – it is a respect to country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Important impetus to the development of economic, cultural, business and institutional relations has been given by the Intergovernmental Commission after it’s establishment in 2010. The Intergovernmental Commission organizes it’s bilateral meetings annually in Azerbaijan and Lithuania. The chairman of the Intergovernmental Commission is the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania, the co-chairman is the Minister of Taxes of the Republic of Azerbaijan.

During the last years, both countries had created a vital legal base for the cooperation between Azerbaijan and Lithuania: countries have signed 13 intergovernmental treaties and 11 interinstitutional agreements. Currently there are 6 drafts of intergovernmental agreements waiting for the signing, which include cooperation in the fields of economy, particularly transport as well as education, metrology and standardization, veterinary and etc.

There are many important fields of cooperation between Lithuania and Azerbaijan, but one of the most important still remains the trade and economic relations, which are growing every year. During the last decade trade turnover between Azerbaijan and Lithuania increased more than ten-fold.

Nowadays the cooperation in the energy field becomes more and more active, particularly in the field of renewable energy as well as in the field of communication and information technologies.

Azerbaijan plays important role in ensuring the energy security of the European Union. Lithuania is one of the most active members of the EU countries which seeks to implement the requirements of diversification of the energy sources. The project "South Gas Corridor'' is one of the biggest priority projects for the EU in energy sphere. The implementation of the project "South Gas Corridor'' which will bring Azerbaijani gas to Europe has the vital importance for the energy strategy of the EU. This project would not only ensure the diversification of the energy sources, but also will give the opportunity to strengthen political, economic and social relations with the number of partners, since the "South Gas Corridor'' will transport gas from the Caspian Sea region through Georgia and Turkey to the European countries.

Last year the terminal of liquefied natural gas was opened in Lithuania. It has created wider opportunities for the provision with the LNG by market prices not only for Lithuania, but for the whole Baltic region.

The new connection of the electric networks between Sweden and Poland also gave to the Baltic region an opportunity to reduce the energy dependence on one supplier. It connects the networks of the European countries to one common network and ensure the acceptable prices of the electricity not only for Lithuania, but also for the European Union countries.

Wide opportunities of cooperation with the Republic of Azerbaijan might be opened by the development of alternative and renewable energy particularly by the development in the field of solar energy. Lithuania has a wide experience in that field and willingly participates in numerous common projects with the EU countries and international partners.

Currently the Republic of Azerbaijan became the important transport hub after the development of International Trans-Caspian transport route. Lithuania has been always paying a great attention for the development of transport sphere. Lithuania already some time is successfully implementing project of Lithuanian container train "Viking'' which with the help of partners connected by the cargo shipments the Baltic Sea with the Black Sea. Already few years Lithuania proposes possible ways how to prolong the route of cargo shipments to the different directions. Lithuania is very positive about the idea to connect with the project of "Silk Way'' which implements the cargo shipments by the railways from Ukraine to China via Georgia, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. We hope that the new opportunity will occur for the cooperation of our countries and it will remarkably increase the number of our load traffic with the countries of Central Asia and China.

Each year more and more citizens of our two countries visit Lithuania and Azerbaijan. This is the consequence of increasing touristic activity of our people. Tourism is one of important spheres of cooperation between Lithuania and Azerbaijan. Lithuania pays great attention for the development of tourism – the instrument for the cognition of history, traditions, culture and custom of our countries.

In this sphere there are many opportunities as well. Each year the number of Azerbaijani tourists who visit health resort Druskininkai increases, but there are more places in Lithuania which deserves their attention. Lithuania is a rich country with the beautiful sites of nature: lakes, sea cost, unique Curonian Spit and etc. On the other hand the number of Lithuanian tourists who visit Azerbaijan also is growing year by year. Azerbaijan is a unique country which has 9 out of 11 major climate zones on Earth, a very rich cultural heritage, rich and very special cuisine as well. All of it might be very interesting to coming Lithuanian people.

During the last year Lithuania and Azerbaijan had strengthened ties of cooperation in the field of education. Lithuanian universities and other educational institutions quite actively participate at the educational fairs of Azerbaijan, had established constant working relations between educational institutions which allow them to share their scientific experience by exchanging information and their achievements.

Active cooperation between the municipalities of both countries began since 2014. Since then the first partner-cities started appear, the new possible joint projects are under construction as well. Knowing that the main institutions of our countries (Parliaments, ministries and other institutions) already have a good practice of cooperation, the cooperation on municipality level is of big importance because it allows to implement the real projects.

Lithuania as a member of the EU and NATO had accumulated wide experience in various spheres. Lithuania willingly shares its experience with the Azerbaijani colleagues in different sectors, mainly in the field of social development, health care, development of administrative experience by implementing projects through the TWINNING program of the EU. Lithuanian institutions had already participated in implementing 4 projects in Azerbaijan. In 2016 – 2017 one more project will be implemented together with the Commission of civil service of Azerbaijan in the field of development reforms of civil service. That common work of both countries with the projects gives the opportunity to share their achievements and experience in improving the most important spheres of the state activities.

Being a member of the EU Lithuania supports the deepening of the dialog between Azerbaijan and the EU. Lithuania endeavors that the Eastern Partnership initiative of the EU would include the cooperation in the field of security policy and defence.

Lithuania supports the activities of OSCE Minsk Group and hope that the necessary practical measures will be taken in order to resolve the conflict. The unresolved conflict is the biggest threat to regional peace, security and stability.

Lithuania as a NATO member state supports the cooperation with Azerbaijan in the sphere of defence and is grateful for the Azerbaijani contribution to the NATO mission in Afghanistan. Azerbaijan is an active member of NATO partnership, and Lithuania has a fruitful cooperation with Azerbaijan in the framework of this program. Another opportunity for the further extension of cooperation of both countries might be the common work at the NATO Excellence Center for the Energy Security, which is operating now in Lithuania.

During the last 25 years of independence the Republic of Azerbaijan proved being the reliable partner in the region. The Republic of Lithuania wishes to Azerbaijan and its people happiness, good luck and prosperity in the future.

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