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The forum was organized by the EU Delegation in Azerbaijan in cooperation with COWI Belgium, the Azerbaijan-France Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Italy-Azerbaijan Chamber of Commerce, InvestBaku and AZPROMO.
The annual event drew a high turnout of over 500 participants, including government officials, EU Ambassadors, representatives of international organizations and business leaders from EU countries and Azerbaijan, who took part in panel discussions and business-to-business meetings. The 6th annual edition of “The EU Business Climate Report Azerbaijan” was presented during the Forum which is based on confidential surveys from 139 companies and 24 European countries, operating in Azerbaijan. The Forum enclosed two different panel discussions, featuring as “Opportunities for European Investors in Azerbaijan” and “Access to Finance and Other opportunities”.
The purpose of the forum is to enhance economic cooperation between the EU and Azerbaijan, providing companies the opportunity to effectively network, exchange their views and challenges as well as supporting the economic diversification and enhancing the awareness of the business climate and investment opportunities in Azerbaijan by promoting public-private dialogue.
The forum opened by the introductory speech of Ambassador Peter Michalko, Head of the European Union (EU) Delegation to Azerbaijan.
“The EU-Azerbaijan Business Forum 2022 opens up new opportunities for European companies to learn about a business environment in Azerbaijan, to get information from the Government officials on upcoming reforms and investment opportunities in the country. The Forum serves to promote a business-friendly environment where the voice of all business representatives can be heard and where EU-Azerbaijan cooperation and strong partnership can further prosper. I invite the EU businesses to have a fresh look into Azerbaijan where new prospects for doing business will only increase in the coming years.
EU Business Climate Report 2021 presented today not only provides an independent assessment of the current business climate, but also enables to see the changes in perspective compared to previous years. We strongly believe that the EU-Azerbaijan Business Forum will continue to support Azerbaijan in fulfilling its economic diversification and growth objective,” EU Ambassador Peter Michalko said.
Mikayil Jabbarov, Minister of the Economy of the Republic of Azerbaijan gave a main keynote speech in official part.
The Minister emphasized that the EU is Azerbaijan's largest investment partner. The minister said that more than 20 billion euros have been invested in Azerbaijan's economy by EU countries so far, and the EU's support for Azerbaijan through Twinning and other mechanisms is highly appreciated. Mr.Jabbarov noted that the 6th edition of the EU Business Environment Report 2021 is one of the indicators of the expansion of cooperation and the great interest in the development of Azerbaijan-EU business relations.
EU Business Climate Report
The EU Business Climate Report Azerbaijan 2021 is funded the European Union (EU) and implemented by COWI Belgium in partnership with Italy-Azerbaijan Chamber of Commerce, Azerbaijan-France Chamber of Commerce, and Industry, InvestBaku and in coordination with Export and Investment Promotion Agency of the Republic of Azerbaijan (AZPROMO) as part of the Ministry of Economy of Azerbaijan. Since 2015, this regular study reflects the main challenges of EU businesses in the country, tracks the progress of economic reforms and determines priorities for further improvement of the local business environment.
The 6th annual edition of report emphasizes the highlights on recovery of economic and business environment as a more stable and predictable in 2021, which is allowing companies to look to the future with more certainty and optimism. The numbers show that 80% of European companies are ready to choose Azerbaijan again for their business operations, 53% of respondents have plans for future expansion.
The “EU Business Climate Report Azerbaijan 2021” represents the views of representatives from 24 countries in total, including 20 EU member states, 2 EFTA countries, the UK, and Azerbaijan. Over 90% of the companies that participated in the survey are SMEs. The majority of entities are operating in Azerbaijan as limited liability companies (LLC) (58%) or representative offices (31%) and are being present in the country for over 5 years (77%).
The study underlines that ICT and transportation, construction and engineering businesses grew and continued to show a positive trend for further expansion of their capacities. The state projects and investments with a substantial budget of USD 1.3 bn. in the Karabakh and East Zangezur economicregions brought optimism to construction and engineering companies. Over half (54%) of respondents reported interest in upcoming projects in these regions, and 14% have already started active work in these economic regions. The main sectors of interest among respondents were in civil construction, alternative energy, and transport infrastructure.
European companies considered the work of ASAN, E-Taxation platform, E-customs services, DOST centers and SMBDA as the top-5 most effective ongoing reforms.
Azerbaijan continues its movement towards global strategic priorities, including the development of a sustainable and green economy. With the support of EU initiatives, the country keeps strengthening its policy and legislative framework in this area.
This is the first year the EU Business Climate Survey included questions devoted to gender segregation and women`s roles in their entities.
Bogdana Efe, Team Leader of EU-Azerbaijan Business Forum 2020- 2022 presented the “EU BUSINESS CLIMATE REPORT AZERBAIJAN 2021”. Kamola Makhmudova, Head of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) in Azerbaijan, Maciej Czura, Head of Regional Representation for the South Caucasus at The European Investment Bank (EIB) and Marius Bordalba, International expert from the EU participated in the discussions on the report and provided their valuable insights and feedbacks into the findings of study. The discussion was moderated by Natalia Cardona, Project Manager at COWI Belgium.
Starting from the last year, it becomes a good tradition also for the European business operating outside of Azerbaijan (in Europe) to join online to the event and learn more about business environment, investment opportunities and upcoming reforms in the country. This year, the Forum was held in hybrid format and over 200 companies joined to the event in online format. Together with the position of the largest trading partner and largest export destination, the EU and its Member States are also the largest source of foreign investments in Azerbaijan. Activities of the European investors will be another important factor for the economic and social recovery of Azerbaijan after the pandemic.
Panel Discussions on Key Sectors
The EU-Azerbaijan Business Forum 2022 enclosed two different panel discussions, featuring as “Opportunities for European Investors in Azerbaijan” and “Access to Finance and Other opportunities”. The discussions covered the latest economic developments and reforms, business opportunities and challenges for European and local investors, with participation of state officials from public institutions and international industry experts.
Javid Mustafayev, Managing Director of InvestBaku gave a presentation of the EU Networking Platform. Elnur Soltanov, Deputy Minister of Energy of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Valeh Alasgarov, Chairman of ALAT FEZ Economic Zones, Elshad Nuriyev, Acting Chairman of Economic Zones Development Agency and Yusif Abdullayev, Acting Executive Director of AZPROMO were main speakers of first panel session- “Opportunities for European Investors in Azerbaijan”. The discussion was moderated by Manuela Traldi, President of the Italy - Azerbaijan Chamber of Commerce, ITAZERCOM.
The second panel session of EU-Azerbaijan Business Forum 2020-2022 was dedicated to “Access to Finance and Other Opportunities”, with participations of Orkhan Mammadov, Chairman of SMBDA, Maciej Czura, Head of Regional Representation for the South Caucasus at the European Investment Bank (EIB), Kamola Makhmudova, Head of EBRD in Azerbaijan, Osman Khaliyev, Chairman of the board of the Entrepreneurship Development Fund, and Ulvi Mansurov, Executive Director of Azerbaijan Investment Company (AIC) as main speakers. The discussion was moderated by Teyba Guliyeva, Chair of Azerbaijan - France Chamber of Commerce, AFchamber.
The Forum continued with business-to-business meetings and networking cocktail.