By H.E. Mr. Fikrat Akhundov, Ambassador of the Republic of Azerbaijan
This year marks an important milestone in bilateral relations between Azerbaijan and Netherlands. In 2022 the two countries celebrate 30 years of diplomatic relationship. The Netherlands first recognized the independence of Azerbaijan on December 31, 1991 and on April 1, 1992 the diplomatic relations were established. Azerbaijan opened its embassy in The Hague in 2007, while the Netherlands opened in 2009.
For the last 30 years the relations between Azerbaijan and the Netherlands had a trajectory of development in different spheres, from agriculture and horticulture to logistics, from education to tourism, culture and so on. In 2015, within the visit of the delegation led by the Minister of Economy of Azerbaijan the Netherlands- Azerbaijan Business Forum was held in the Netherlands. Along with officials, nearly 50 businessmen operating in agriculture, food industry, construction, finance, energy, consulting and other fields took part in the Forum. Today 50 Dutch companies work in Azerbaijan in different fields.
In way to enhance economic cooperation between the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Kingdom of the Netherlands, “Azerbaijan Netherlands Business Hub” was officially launched in Baku in 2016. The hub has an extensive business and educational network both in Azerbaijan and the Netherlands. Azerbaijan’s main export products include oil products, organic chemicals, fruits, including dried fruits and wine. In this regard, the local Dutch companies work closely with their Azerbaijani partners and Azerbaijan wines and fruits participate at different exhibitions in the Netherlands.
The Dutch chocolatier company “La feve”, for example uses Azerbaijani dried fruits for their signature chocolate products. Meanwhile Dutch companies participate at different annual exhibitions in Azerbaijan, most notably at Agriculture Exhibition- Caspian Agro.
It should be noted that Azerbaijan is interested in development and diversification of its economy and the Netherlands have the experience and tools to assist in this issue.
Azerbaijan widely used the expertise and experience of Dutch specialists in agriculture, as well as in the water management. Water management is one of the crucial issues for Azerbaijan and the involvement of Dutch companies in the clean water projects, providing environmental solutions to pollution of lakes by oil spills, in Baku and suburbs had a positive input to the relations between these two countries. Environmental and green energy issues are also one of the main aspects of cooperation, as upon the decree of the President of Azerbaijan in 2016, the priorities and roadmap of non-oil sector were set.
Those spheres have been attractive for the bilateral economic relations. As an example, it is worth noting that Dutch companies operate in the sphere of the logistics in Baku, at the largest seaport in the South Caucasus- Baku International Sea Trade Port (Port of Baku). The planning, design, engineering and construction of Port of Baku also belong to the Dutch companies. Even during the worst times of COVID-19 pandemic, in 2020, foreign trade between the two countries reached $ 104 million. And that is the proof of the interest and the high level of cooperation between Azerbaijan and the Netherlands. Also, the socio-economic and political stability in the countries create a friendly environment for further sustainable economic growth.
Though the economic relations have always been the fundamental element of bilateral relations between states, the people to people relationship is much more essential and longterm. In this regards, the city of Oisterwijk has a hero, who fought for the liberation of the Netherlands shoulder to shoulder with his Dutch brothers and sisters and the city still commemorates this national hero from Azerbaijan.
Mammad “Medo” Mammadov who was a member of the guerrilla movement during World War II and who stayed in the Netherlands afterwards is dear to the hearts of the residents of Oestervejk and has become the bridge between the city of Zagatala, the hometown of Medo and Oestervejk, his second home. The two cities now cooperate in the framework of sister cities and every year the residents of Oestervejk commemorate this common hero of Azerbaijan and the Netherlands.
Moreover, ADA University in Baku and Maastricht school of management have mutual master program and through these program, Azerbaijani students have a chance to study and get the educational experience in the Netherlands. The program provides graduates with the diplomas of both ADA and MSM. Having one of the largest Azerbaijani Diasporas in Europe, the Dutch-Azerbaijanis have fully integrated to the Dutch society and proudly represent Azerbaijan and the Netherlands. Therefore, there is a street called Rotterdam in Baku, and Baku Street in Rotterdam. A monument to the victims of the Khojaly genocide, dedicated to the one of the tragic pages in the history of modern Azerbaijan has been erected in The Hague, first time in Europe.
Azerbaijan considers the Netherlands an ally and a reliable partner in both bilateral and multilateral field. The relations between the Netherlands and Azerbaijan have been growing on a positive scale for the last thirty years. The relations are built on mutual respect to territorial integrity and sovereignty and it can be noted with a great certainty that would further grow based on those principles and bringing even closer the people and the states of the Netherlands and Azerbaijan.