In November, foreign policy agenda was dominated by President Aliyev’s visit to Belarus and the memorandum signed between Belarus and Azerbaijan on purchasing military equipment and improving military-technical cooperation. Meanwhile, the country moved its position four places down in the Global Competitiveness Report by World Economic Forum. Moreover, this month the Cabinet of Ministers aimed to solve refugee problems in the country.
Troubleshooting in refugee residences
Azerbaijan hosts more than 1 million refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs). In early 1990s, territorial claims from Armenia led to a lengthy war between two countries. As a result the residents of Nagorno-Karabakh and seven surrounding regions (Agdam, Jabrail, Fuzuli, Kalbajar, Gubadli, Lachin, and Zangilan) were displaced.
Since the population of Azerbaijan is only 10 million, in terms of per capita, Azerbaijan is among the countries having the highest IDPs caseload.
For two decades problems faced by refugees, internally displaced persons and asylum seekers have been the priority of the country’s social policy. In order to build a comprehensive legislative framework the Cabinet of Ministers has adopted 248 Decisions and Orders, in addition to 23 laws adopted by the Parliament and 55 Decrees and Orders issued by the President. As a result of the decisions, during the years of 2001-2016, 95 settlements, 151 schools, 58 cultural, and 59 health centers were built for IDPs.
The Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Azerbaijan held a meeting on November 22 in order to find solutions to the recent problems of refugees and internally displaced persons. During the meeting, Deputy Prime Minister Ali Ahmadov stated that aforementioned people are currently residing in 204 buildings and since winter is coming it is even more important that they are provided with satisfying conditions. Rovshan Rzayev, the chair of the State Committee for refugees and IDPs pointed out the need to upgrade communication lines in several buildings. Following the meeting, on November 27 Rzayev and deputy chairman of the State Committee, heads and staff of departments met with refugees and IDPs to discuss housing, employment, public services, and monthly allowance issues.
Azerbaijan ranks the 69th place in the Global Competitiveness Report
World Economic Forum has published the Global Competitiveness Report for 2018 which used a new methodology for measuring different indicators in 140 countries. The new methodology is based on global trends and thus, is more comprehensive. In this year’s report, the roles of human capital, innovation, resilience and agility have been defined not only as drivers, but also key features of economic success in the 4th Industrial Revolution. The report includes 98 variables organized into twelve pillars with the most important including institutions; infrastructure; ICT adoption; macroeconomic stability; health; skills; product market; labor market; financial system; market size; business dynamism; and innovation capability.
Top five countries in the report are Switzerland, the United States, Singapore, the Netherlands, and Germany, respectively.
According to the report, Azerbaijan is the 69th most competitive nation among 140 countries. Last year, the country ranked 65th place out of 135 countries. Azerbaijan’s average place has been 54.75 from 2007 to 2018 with a record low of 38th in 2015. Azerbaijan has improved its position in institutions, goods market and efficiency, innovation, infrastructure, education and skills, and dynamism of business pillars. The country has ranked 34th among 140 countries and first among former Soviet republics in terms of road quality. Country’s ranking has declined in macroeconomic environment and labor market efficiency pillars in comparison to the last year.
Another milestone in the Southern Gas Corridor
At the beginning of November, the physical connection of the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) and the Trans Anatolian Pipeline (TANAP), which is called “golden weld”, has been completed successfully. Project representatives met on the Turkey-Greece border on the banks of the Merich River to mark the historical step and expressed their hopes to complete the Southern Gas Corridor according to the schedule in 2020.
Military Corporation with Belarus
President Ilham Aliyev paid an official visit to Minsk, Belarus on November 18 and was welcomed by President Alexander Lukashenko, government and military officials, and a guard of honor. Presidents visited Azerbaijan Trade House in Minsk which opened in 2017 and played a major role in boosting economic and trade relations and investment opportunities between Azerbaijan and Belarus.
Ten bilateral documents were signed by the parties, the most important one being the memorandum of understanding between State Military Industrial Committee of Belarus and the Ministry of Defence of Azerbaijan. According to the document, two countries will develop closer military cooperation and Belarus will provide Azerbaijan with air defence systems and weaponry. Azerbaijani President stated that his country is satisfied with the quality, endurance, and performance of Belarusian military equipment and there is a positive trend in the military-technical cooperation between two countries. Another important document was Joint Declaration for extending the strategic partnership.
Azerbaijani President expressed his gratitude to Belarus for its efforts in the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Belarus to Azerbaijan Gennady Akhramovich stated that “…Belarus always supports Azerbaijan at various international platforms – through the UN, the OSCE, the Council of Europe.”