Author: Fuad HILALOV
Our interviewee is Mr. Udo VOIGT, a member of the observation group Civil Dialogue, a deputy of the European Parliament from the National Democratic Party (NDP) of Germany, who has shared his views and impressions on the recent presidential elections in Azerbaijan.
Thank you very much for your time and interview. What is your general impression about the organisation of the elections?
This is my first visit to your country. I used to hear a lot of negative things about Azerbaijan as a country with no democracy, etc. But contrary to my expectations, I saw many friendly people here. Voters participated in elections individually or in groups. I had a chance to visit many polling stations and to talk with voters. They were very interested in discussing political issues. Many of them have clearly mentioned that they came to vote for the president who did a lot for the country and the people. I am sure that they were sincere with me. I saw here something that does not exist in my home country, Germany. For example, I really liked the idea with transparent ballot boxes. Also, mobile voting stations were provided to those voters who were unable to visit polling stations for various reasons.
What factors did influence the results of the elections and the re-election of the incumbent president, Ilham Aliyev?
I do not know much about the policy of Azerbaijan but when I was walking along the streets of Baku and, in particular, in the Old City, I saw many working people, beautiful cars, etc., which indicates the prosperity of your country. Compared with Berlin, for example, Baku is much cleaner. You can often see many unfriendly faces and unemployed people on the streets of German cities. Here people look happy and friendly. Perhaps, this is the reason why the incumbent president won the elections.
What is the role of Azerbaijan in energy security and the diversification of energy resources in Europe?
I know that Azerbaijan intends to become an associate member of the European Union. But I would like to warn your country and people against taking hasty steps in this direction because I do not think that this will lead to positive results. One of the likely prerequisites for the EU membership (in exchange for the number of votes in the EU parliament) will be Azerbaijan's commitment to accept hundreds of thousands of refugees on its territory. Otherwise, you will have to pay 250 thousand Euros of compensation for each refugee who was refused admission. This is huge money. Therefore, I think something must be changed cardinally in Europe considering the current unhealthy situation with immigration. Azerbaijan's cooperation with Europe in energy security seems to me a very timely and thoughtful decision. I think that the North Stream project, which is currently discussed between Germany and Russia, will in no way contradict your energy policy, and both projects will contribute to the regulation of energy prices in Europe.
Yesterday I came across your interview to the Interfax-Azerbaijan news agency. To be honest with you, I was surprised when I read about your father's memories about Baku...
When I was a child, I often asked my father about the events of those years. As a prisoner of war, he served his sentence in your city in 1944-1945. In fact, he was captured in the former Czechoslovakia, transferred to Odessa, and then to Baku. Here he worked at one of the plants located on the shore of the Caspian Sea, where they produced crates for torpedoes. He used to tell me many good things about the local people and their attitude towards German prisoners of war. When I was young, I was quite negative about the Communists, and everything related to the former Soviet Union in general. My father tried to convince me otherwise.
He told me that once the commander of their camp, a Russian major, told him how was captured in Germany and how the local residents helped him survive in the difficult conditions of wartime. I think there was a sort of spiritual connection between my father and that Russian officer...