Author: Aydin BAYRAM
One of the most remarkable events of the 2020 was the anniversary 50th World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland. This forum has long been known as an important platform for discussing urgent problems of the global economy and politics. Almost three thousand representatives of the world political and economic elite from 117 countries, including 45 heads of states and governments, took part in the anniversary summit. One of the participants was the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev.
The theme of the anniversary WEF summit was Stakeholders for a Cohesive and Sustainable World. But in the context, both the organisers and participants attached particular attention to the discussions of environmental problems, which become increasingly significant for the humankind.
The current forum was full of speeches of environmental activists demanding the world leaders to rule in line with the norms and principles of the Paris Climate Accord. Remarkably, the business program of the forum was opened by the young Swedish eco-activist Greta Thunberg, who again accused the global political elites and their media outlets of suppressing and ignoring the environmental disasters threatening the world. In response, the U.S. President Donald Trump argued that the priority issue today is not so much environment than the economy. That is why he sharply criticised the activities of environmentalists.
Nevertheless, Trump's initiative to plant a trillion trees did not have any special effect. Thunberg reacted to this initiative with a statement that "new trees alone will not help to stop climate change."
German Chancellor Angela Merkel supported the position of eco-activists. She believes that achieving the goals declared in the Paris Accord is a matter of survival, in particular for the European continent. "The world must come together and act, but every country must do its bit," said Merkel. The aim is to make Europe climate neutral by 2050. For this, however, new ways of creating value will be needed, and the increasingly important role of digitalisation must not be ignored. That means no more greenhouse gas emissions, and where emissions are unavoidable, they must be offset, continued German leader. Germany has decided to end the use of nuclear power by 2022 and to end the use of coal to generate electric power no later than 2038, and if possible by 2035.
Discussion of environmental sustainability were followed by talks about humane ways of doing business, creating jobs for the future, new technologies for the benefit of society, particularly, the expanding of economic opportunities of individual countries in Eurasia and the whole world. That is when the world political and economic elite has demonstrated obvious interest in Azerbaijan once again. In fact, it was the 14th visit of the Azerbaijani leader Ilham Aliyev to Davos to take part in the WEF.
Sovereignty, independence and self-reliance
Ilham Aliyev used the prestigious platform of the Davos Forum again in order to talk about the priorities of foreign and domestic political strategies of Azerbaijan. At the same time, he emphasised the fundamental principle of Azerbaijan’s policy - the consistent upholding of its independence and national interests on the world stage.
Mr. Aliyev was one of the participants of panel discussion Strategic Outlook: Eurasia. His response to the question of moderator 'Who do you call first—Moscow or Beijing,—considering that Eurasia has now these great super-powers, Russia and China on each side?" was extremely laconic, but quite comprehensive one: "I'd call Baku." He then clearly briefed the participants on significant accomplishments of Azerbaijan, primarily due to the firm commitment of the Azerbaijani people and the state to independence.
"The main idea and the main ideology of Azerbaijan, including the young generation, is sovereignty, independence and reliance on own resources. One of my goals as president was to turn Azerbaijan into a self-sufficient and independent country. In other words, economic independence was the main priority, because it is the foundation for political independence," Aliyev said.
Talking about the reforms carried out in Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev also mentioned the universal principles of Azerbaijan's internal and external policies. "We in Azerbaijan always keep our words. We never promise that which we will not be able to fulfil," Ilham Aliyev said. He drew the attention to serious threats to regional stability and to the growth of tension along the borders of Azerbaijan, especially the situation in Afghanistan and the U.S.-Iranian relations. "Unfortunately, we cannot completely influence this process. Responsibility lies on the super powers, which must agree on certain issues between themselves so that this fragile stability is not shaken more..." said President Aliyev.
He also mentioned the occupation of Azerbaijani territories by Armenia, which is a constant source of threat to the stability and security of the region as a whole.
Ilham Aliyev focused on "new approach in the good governance, transparency, accountability, bringing the criteria of our life and living standards closer to the standards of European Union." At the same time, he referred to the assessment of Azerbaijan’s accomplishments published by the Davos Forum. Indeed, the fact that the World Economic Forum awarded the Government of Azerbaijan 10th place on a global scale for its strategic outlook and 11th place for its ability to ensure stability testifies to the effectiveness of the Azerbaijani state, whose internal potential allows it to achieve a consistent strengthening of its position and in the international arena.
Numerous meetings held in Davos between President Aliyev and the leaders of various countries and major world companies shows the growing international prestige of Azerbaijan, especially at the WEF. Meetings with the Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan, President of Poland Andrzej Duda, Prime Minister of Croatia Andrej Plenkovic, President of Mongolia Khaltmaagiin Battulga, Prime Minister of Georgia Georgy Gakhariya, President of Switzerland Simonetta Sommaruga, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey Mevlut Cavusoglu again showed the range of partners and foreign policy interests of Azerbaijan.
The meetings of Ilham Aliyev with the WEF President Börge Brende, the head of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development Suma Chakrabarti, CEO of Equinor (Norway) Eldar Saetre, President of LUKOil (Russia) Vagit Alekperov, CEO of Signify (the Netherlands) Eric Rondolat and other representatives of large world businesses confirmed Azerbaijan’s desire for further integration into the global economy as well as the interest of leading companies and financial and economic centres in expanding cooperation with our country. During the anniversary Davos forum, specific agreements were reached on expanding Azerbaijan’s cooperation with LUKOil, Signify (one of the world leaders in lighting), Swiss Re (Swiss reinsurance company), Procter and Gamble Europe (one of the leaders in global consumer goods market), Carlsberg Group (a large brewing corporation).
President Aliyev also met with Secretary General of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) Mohammed Barkindo, who recalled that five years ago, Mr. Aliyev was the first world leader at the World Economic Forum who had called on all countries—OPEC member and non-member states—to unite and work together. Mr. Barkindo praised the clear vision of Ilham Aliyev of ways to solve problems in the global energy market, and the prospects for cooperation between oil-producing countries.
Thus, the 50th anniversary forum in Davos has demonstrated once again the growing influence of independent Azerbaijan in regional and global processes. It is no coincidence that one of the landmark decisions of the forum was the signing by the President Ilham Aliyev and the WEF president Börge Brend of a protocol on the creation of an affiliate WEF regional centre in Azerbaijan. For Azerbaijan, this means not only the prospect of a new large flow of investment, but also its recognition as one of the key economic centres of Eurasia.
In other words, Baku's long-term efforts to turn Azerbaijan into a link between East and West, North and South are acknowledged by international political and economic elite with the prestigious World Economic Forum in Davos being one of the driving platforms. This is a statement by global centres of power of the very fact of Azerbaijan’s leading role in the South Caucasus, the reliability of Azerbaijan as an attractive economic partner, its significant contribution to the development of regional security.