Interview with the EU Ambassador to Turkmenistan: about plans, about gas and about people

Interview with the EU Ambassador to Turkmenistan: about plans, about gas and about people

The Ambassador of the European Union Diego Ruiz Alonso, accredited in Turkmenistan in February 2020, gave an interview to ORIENT, in which he spoke about the joint work ahead of his diplomatic mission and Turkmenistan in the near future.

– Mr. Ambassador, let me express my gratitude for that you, despite your busy schedule, found the time to answer the questions of interest to readers of the ORIENT website. So, recently, with the support of the European Union, a number of programs and projects have been implemented in Turkmenistan, but I would like to know what projects the EU Delegation to Turkmenistan plans to implement in the country in 2022?

– As you know, the EU Delegation to Turkmenistan was opened not so long ago, and we are faced with the task of effectively working with the government and people of the country. We have a lot of ideas and projects in our plans. And we aim, without wasting time, to progressively intensify bilateral cooperation.

Now, we are completing the period for resolving procedural issues that will become the basis for the interaction of the representative office with Turkmenistan. By the end of the year, we will have agreed on an action plan and budget for 2022, which we plan to implement jointly with the government of Turkmenistan.

I can state that the priorities of the EU cooperation in Turkmenistan, as well as throughout the world, are very clear and transparent. We are currently working towards a more active practical implementation of green technologies and in the field of reducing CO2 emissions. This is the first direction, and it includes all aspects related to a sustainable economy and sustainable development.

The second direction is to strengthen the potential of the private sector of the Turkmen economy. We believe that entrepreneurship and business are significant tools in the development of the country's economy. And the European Union is a striking example in this respect.

The third priority is related to the development of rural areas. This direction is very important, because we are aimed at equal development of all regions of the country.

And the last direction is to stimulate the development of trade and economic ties. We are working with the government of the country on the entry of Turkmenistan into the World Trade Organization. We believe that promoting free trade will bring success to the entire CA region...

– Mr. Ambassador, let us dwell on this issue in a little more detail. As you know, Turkmenistan has recently submitted an application for membership in the WTO, the accession to which was initiated by President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov. In your opinion, what prospects will this open up in trade relations between Turkmenistan and the European Union?

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– Thank you for your question. This is a very important topic, so it is not surprising that the European Union is actively cooperating with Turkmenistan on this aspect. Free trade is at the heart of the EU. We believe that free trade is the main instrument for regional integration. I am convinced that Turkmenistan made the right decision when it applied for membership in the World Trade Organization.

The European Union is funding a regional project called Ready4Trade Central Asia. For several years now we have been working with Uzbekistan to join the WTO. And we intend to apply the same model in our work with Turkmenistan. Accession to the WTO will help open up the market and integrate the economy of Turkmenistan into the global economy. This will positively affect the development of the country and the welfare of the population of Turkmenistan.

– Recently, natural gas prices in Europe have broken all records, and its cost continues to remain very high. Experts cite various reasons for this. As an official representative of the EU, do you think Turkmenistan has the capacity to influence energy security in the European region?

– The countries of the European Union do not have their own hydrocarbon resources, so we import the necessary volumes. Today, the EU has a new energy policy that aims to reduce or eliminate carbon dioxide emissions by 2050. This is a common goal. But we are currently in the process of moving towards a safe energy.

You rightly noted that energy prices are prohibitively high. This confirms that the new energy policy chosen by the European Union is on the right track, because we need to change the situation, we cannot all the time depend on the unpredictability of the energy market and price surges. We do not have gas and oil and other traditional energy resources. Therefore, we, relying on new - renewable energy sources: wind, solar, hydropower, etc., in the foreseeable future cannot abandon traditional carriers. I am confident that Turkmenistan, as a producer of commercial gas, can influence the situation on the market and stabilize prices.

– Recently, at the international forum “Oil and Gas of Turkmenistan”, ex-ambassador to Turkmenistan Alan Mustard presented the project of the Trans-Caspian connector, which in two years from the start of construction can begin deliveries of up to 12 billion cubic meters of gas to Azerbaijan, and from there to Europe. This project is less scaled, but more realistic than the previously considered Trans-Caspian gas pipeline. How would you rate it?

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– The previous project for the transportation of Turkmen gas to Europe through the Caspian Sea provides for large investments and large volumes of work. Today the situation has changed. The future of Europe and the energy market is CO2-free production from coal, oil and natural gas.

You have touched upon a very practical and realistic idea. For today, huge investments in long-term gigantic projects are no longer justified. The calculation is carried out for the next 20-25 years. Therefore, the project of the Trans-Caspian connector you mentioned is less ambitious and less scaled, but at the same time it is the most realistic and practical. Such projects can be implemented in a short time. Therefore, they are the most viable.

I believe that during this transitional period, Turkmenistan can supply natural gas to the European market. We are also working with the government of Turkmenistan to ensure that the supplied natural gas is cleaner, because this will become one of the main requirements of the energy market of tomorrow. Since production of natural gas or oil will affect the price that consumers are ready to pay.

– The EU Delegation to Turkmenistan regularly participates in various public events related to the environment, gender equality, civil society, etc. They get a positive response on social media. What interesting comments did you personally receive from the people of Turkmenistan?

– This is one of the main directions of our activity in Turkmenistan. We want to tell the largest possible audience about the European Union. Our society is based on values such as equality, tolerance, respect for people and protection of their rights. Of course, values related to climate change and environmental protection are also a priority for us. Therefore, by carrying out actions and implementing projects, we tell the residents of Turkmenistan about the model of our development and our vision of the future.

We involve in the events friends whom we met on the hospitable Turkmen land. We believe that our initiatives have a positive impact. Participants are enthusiastically involved in our actions and share with their friends the gained knowledge. Therefore, I am sure that working with people is the main element of our initiatives.

The European Union demonstrates by its example that the most effective way to deal with global challenges is integration. This is an example that we want to show everyone, including through the initiatives of the EU Delegation, in order to create a peaceful future for the future generations.

– Mr. Ambassador, we live in a time when everything around is rapidly changing - in the political, economic and other spheres. The climate also requires that we adapt to it. You have recently arrived in Turkmenistan, tell me, how did you adapt to the new for you conditions?

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– I have been working in the diplomatic service for many years. Therefore, my adaptation skill is something that I am proud of. I also want to note that it was not difficult for me to adapt in Turkmenistan, because people here are very open and hospitable. It is easy for me to communicate with them, and I was very well received here from the very beginning.

I am originally from Spain, but my homeland and Turkmenistan have a lot in common. Therefore, it was easy for me to feel at home here. It even seemed to me that I had been here for a long time. I believe that Turkmenistan should tell more about itself. After all, Turkmenistan has something to be proud of and something to show the world.

- Mr. Ambassador, let me thank you on behalf of the readers of the ORIENT website and wish you great success on the path of developing friendship and cooperation between the peoples of the European Union and Turkmenistan.

Bekdurdy AMANSARYEV