Azerbaijan is the future of the Eurasian Region – Matthias Dornfeldt
By Vestnik Kavkaza
A week has passed since the announcement of the results of the presidential polls in Azerbaijan. No one plans to appeal the results (Ilham Aliyev’s win is obvious), but discussions of the level of democracy are still topical. Matthias Dornfeldt, a political analyst of the Berlin Center for Caspian Region Studies, was an observer in Azerbaijan and he the described prospects of development after the presidential polls.
- Mr. Dornfeldt, what is your evaluation of the voting in Azerbaijan?
- We can see an improving turnout. 72% of the population with the right for vote gave votes. Some European states can only dream about that. Germany has recently had parliamentary polls and our turnout was high too. But concerning the states with low turnout of voters, we can say “Excellent!” to Azerbaijan. Electoral commissions were well-prepared and organized, the elections took place in a very peaceful atmosphere. I would like to say that Azerbaijan does its best to become a modern state. The region has conflicts, tensions and controversies. For me, it is part of the world, a state with good relations with all neighbours, although there are many controversies in the region. I believe that the authority of Azerbaijan in the region will encourage its successful development in the near future.
The country is taking the right path. In the context of what I have seen in development of the country in the past years, a lot has happened. When Azerbaijan became an independent state, it was the least developed country in the Caucasus. Today, we can see a state owning 72% of the GDP of the whole region, I mean three Caucasian states. Moreover, it realizes many infrastructure projects to get closer to Western markets. I mean the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars Railway merging into the European transportation system, enlargement of the Heydar Aliyev Airport, construction of the new Alyat Port and, finally, expansion of the Baku Metro. Five new stations have been built here. The country situated in the very center of Eurasia is developing as a partner for the West and the East. I would say that Azerbaijan is a country of great importance to the West, I mean the European Union, the US, as a bridge to Central Asia and the Far East. Of course, we are partners of Russia, Georgia, but Azerbaijan has a unique geographic positions: it is located between the Black and Caspian Seas.
- What could you say about prospects of development of the social and the economic fields of Azerbaijan after the elections?
- I believe that Azerbaijan will continue its development and growth in the future. I mean the domestic growth and rise of the role of Azerbaijan as a partner of the West. In June, it was decided that the TANAP will be continued by the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline, not Nabucco West. It will run through Greece, Albania and Italy. Azerbaijan has invested a lot of money in Greece. It gained a share in gas transportation. I am sure that Azerbaijan will boost the creation of new jobs in Albania where unemployment is high. I lived in Albania 10 years ago myself and I know how much it needs those investments. The same can be said about Italy’s south, which greatly differs from the north. Azerbaijan invests, meets partners (BP, Statoil and many other companies) and becomes a very important state helping develop the poor south of Europe. There is no need to talk about the Greek crisis, about things we faced in Albania earlier. Thus, on the one hand, Azerbaijan invests a lot abroad, becomes a major player following the democratic rules. On the other hand, the is well-developed internally for the benefit of its population. Infrastructure will improve, the economy will diversify. Petroleum industry, food industry, agriculture, tourism, information technologies, construction will develop. I reckon that it is one of the few states, especially among petroleum exporters, that realized practically after the peak of oil extraction in 2010-2011 that it must not let the standards of living of the new generation drop below the previous one’s.
- What impression has Baku and Azerbaijan made on you, in terms of cultural and historic heritage?
- This is my favourite topic. I have visited the Museum of Modern Art today and I was astonished by the diversity of modern artists of Azerbaijan. To be honest, I have been all over the world and have hardly seen other place with such diversity of modern artists. Then, I visited the Museum of Theater History. The theater has been operating in Azerbaijan since 1873 and the culture, in general, there is very progressive. They staged plays of local and Turkish authors, Shakespeare and other famous playwrights. We should not forget that Azerbaijan is one of the first states to give women the right for vote. Besides, you can visit the Apsheron Peninsula and see remains of ancient times. You can visit the Caucasus, Dagestan, where monuments of the times of Islamic power were preserved. I would like to say that Azerbaijan is the center for culture of Eurasia that originates from ancient times and continues development today. Azerbaijan unites many peoples. It is the first state of high-scale oil extraction. This is where the future of the Eurasian Region lies.