Head of the EU Delegation to Azerbaijan about his trip to the war-affected regions of Azerbaijan - PHOTO - VIDEO | Eurasia Diary - ednews.net

20 March, Wednesday

Head of the EU Delegation to Azerbaijan about his trip to the war-affected regions of Azerbaijan - PHOTO - VIDEO

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Head of the European Union (EU) Delegation to Azerbaijan Kestutis Jankauskas visited the war-affected Terter and Barda regions of Azerbaijan, on the invitation of International Eurasia Press Fund (IEPF). The aim of this visit was the acquaintance with the potential for economic development of the regions as well we with the life of refugees and IDPs, who are living there. In the end of his visit, the Ambassador shared his thoughts and impressions in his exclusive interview for Eurasia Diary.
Eurasia Diary: Please tell us about your impressions from the visit to Terter and Barda regions of Azerbaijan? Is this your first visit to these regions?
Kestutis Jankauskas: First of all, thank you to the IEPF, to Mr. Umud Mirzayev for taking that initiative and organizing the visit. Since coming to Azerbaijan, in September last year, I made a commitment, saying that Azerbaijan is much more than Baku only, and I have to go to the regions, different cities and see first-hand life of the people there. So, these two days is not my first time here but this is the first time when I am here extensively. I had the opportunity to meet with people, with entrepreneurs, with the governance, to see various projects and the needs of the local population. The first visit to a place, some month ago, it was organized to all of the diplomatic corps. We visited freshly constructed new residential area for the internally displaced person (IDPs), but that was only one day, and it was cold. This visit now gave much more opportunities to get acquaintance with issues, problems, and opportunities for the future.
Eurasia Diary: Just recently EU and Azerbaijan signed a very important document, which determined the priorities for the future cooperation. Do you think that it is a good start for implementation of new projects in the regions of Azerbaijan and for agricultural development of the regions too? 
Kestutis Jankauskas: Absolutely, you are right. Last week in Brussels there was a ceremony where we marked the occasion of finishing negotiations of the text, of so called partnership priorities. It is a document where EU and Azerbaijan jointly have agreed on priority areas for our cooperation, for our partnership for the years to come until 2020. Without what happened last week in Brussels our cooperation would has stopped in the end of this year. Now, it can continue, and we know the areas where we will be channeling that cooperation. Indeed, some of these priorities followed the general eastern partnership, but I think this is exactly what is needed here and in these two regions. It’s a good governance, it is the development of economic relations, it is connectivity between EU and Azerbaijan in many ways and it is people to people cooperation.
Eurasia Diary: When you speak about the economic development of the regions, in your understanding what does it mean exactly for the EU?
Kestutis Jankauskas: I believe that our partnership has a very solid basis because there is a mutual interest of that. On the part of EU, we are interested in a secular multicultural society of Azerbaijan, which can be a corridor in the region, alternative source of energy, and for us it is also developing of all kinds of people to people cultural and business relations. I think, in the same way, Azerbaijan is interested in EU, being its trade partner and developing further by being a market for the various productions. In building that partnership we are cooperating and assisting in what is currently the major goals of your government, which is the economic diversification and building of modern society. In doing that, and considering what I have seen during these two days, I can confirm the conclusion, which we made already last year and which  I just reconfirm again and again, you cannot build the modern society without civil society. You need to let people to help and contribute in that work. Secondly, the basis, at least, as we know it in the EU, the success of the economy is based on small and medium enterprises. 
What we have seen here during these couple of days are that the farmers have ideas, have willingness to work, they want to earn the money for themselves and support their families. They need sometimes the help with microcredits, they need sometimes a little help with advising them on how to grow and innovate whatever they plant, how important is water. Actually, in these two regions, especially in Tartar, there are a lot of conflict-affected people. Still today, we can see the real problems with the shortage of water. But we also have seen the ways of solving that not only with the artesian wells but also by saving of the water by building reservoirs and then using that water for irrigation. 
It was very good to see some places where the EU already brought some assistance some years ago. We tasted strawberry coming from these fields. It is very good to see that investments that we made in the start, continues and it makes people to build their lives on that. EU is now launching the project on vocational education training in Barda. We have seen the school, which is a little bit of the past and it is not the unique problem here in the regions. In years to come, together with one of non-governmental organizations, with the EU assistance, with European partners, we will try to bring new curriculum, connect that to the businesses, which will be future employers, to build the bases to refurbish the soft way of vocational education trainings. Barda school, I hope, will be one of good examples and Tartar region can also benefit from that. 
Eurasia Diary: As you mentioned the Barda and Tartar are the war-affected regions and obviously, there should be some projects aimed to support refugees and IDP's who are living here. Is EU planning to realize any projects in Azerbaijan to support refugees and IDPs? 
Kestutis Jankauskas: Yes, we have agreed, at the meeting with the Chairman of State Committee of Republic of Azerbaijan for Refugees and IDPs, that in all projects that EU will be implementing, we will try our best to have a component for IDPs. 
Currently, EU focuses in Azerbaijan on several major directions. One of them is high education and vocational educational training. The other one is agriculture. EU is trying to prepare the grounds for modern management in agriculture, for food safety and maybe preparing your products, which are well appreciated and well-known nationally, but not yet in Europe, reaching the European markets. And why not? They could. 
We focus on small and medium enterprises and civil society. And I believe that in all of these areas, IDPs can and should be a part. So, we will try to make our best involving them and these few days, while looking into what the International Eurasia Press Fund (IEPF) has done in these two regions, I believe the IEPF has knowledge and know the particular requirements of the population. So, it was very useful to learn, and I hope we will be applying that also in our projects in the future.
Interviewed by Anastasia Lavrina

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