“Our relations good example for other countries”
Serbian ambassador Zoran Vajovic:
Q. Serbian Embassy in Baku has been opened 2 years ago. What have your Embassy done to develop our bilateral relations?
A. Yes, Serbian Embassy in Baku opened two years ago and we continued bilateral diplomatic relationship with new diplomatic office in Baku. I came here in February, 2011, have found this place. I was alone and it was hard time.
Q. What have we done for two years? We have done a lot.
A. Since two years, the level of cooperation and friendship has been strengthening every day. So I was trying to do my best to reach our strategic relationship.
Bilateral relations are on the highest level now. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic have signed a declaration about friendship and strategic partnership in February, this year.
I am very proud about that, because strategic partnership gives opportunity to develop relationship in all fields, from economy to culture, from sport to education, from science to art and this is very good achievement.
Azerbaijan and Serbia have signed more than 20 documents, including in all fields of life. Last year, the President of Serbian Olimpic Committee, Vlade Divac, came to Baku and he
was received by President Aliyev and got a lot of meetings, including meeting with ministry of sport and youth, Azad Rahimov.
And you know, Azerbaijan became the first county to host Summer Olimpic European games in 2015. This will help again for a good cooperation.
As you know, there is Azerbaijani Embassy in Belgrade, too. Azerbaijan excellent ambassador, Dr. Eldar Hasanov, is very energetic and a very dynamic ambassador.
We do believe that, our bilateral relations are very good, strategic and an example for other countries, how to support each other.
Q. How would you assess Serbian-Azerbaijani political cooperation?
A. As mentioned we have very good political relationship. Our political dialogue on the highest level for three years is very active and dynamic.
In May 2010, the President of Serbia, Boris Tadic visited Baku, and in June 2011, Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev visited Serbia.
In February this year, new elected President of Serbia, Tomislav Nikolic visited Baku and this is the highest level of political dialogue, whatever Presidents discuss and decide, and then you have to implement in life.
Meeting of the Presidents is actually the highest level of the political dialogue and cooperation between two countries.
Q. What are the priority areas in economic cooperation?
A. We do believe that economic relationship is not on the level as political one are. We would like our excellent political relationship develop to economic relationship.
Me personally, I was not happy with the figures, a couple of millions of trade turnover. In 2012 our trade turnover was 40 million dollars.
Serbian export is more than Azerbaijan’s to Serbia. Serbia exports to Azerbaijan from agriculture to equipment, pumps for the oil industry, gas industry, filters for the oil and gas industry.
Azerbaijan exports to Serbia almost butane and aluminum.
We have loaned from Azerbaijan sign for the building Highway in Serbia on the amount of 308 million euro, and construction is going on.
This is a very good example of a good relationship, Azerbaijani and Serbian engineers and workers work together, they have dinner together, they spend time together and this is the best way to improve and develop the relationship between people.
Q. In what spheres do you see prospects for development of cooperation?
A. We see perspective in energy and infrastructure investment from Azerbaijani side in the future. There are some projects which has been presented to Azerbaijani side, during the President's visit, on the Business forum with the business people.
There are a couple of Free Zone in Serbia. Agriculture, pharmacology, hotel, resort and SPA industry, other fields which can be develop by mutual efforts. Q. Any Serbian companies in Azerbaijan? A. We have a couple of Serbian companies in Azerbaijan, they are Joint ventures. These companies are engaged in construction and engineering on various projects.
In Serbia we have Serbian Azerbaijani Chamber of Commerce. This Chamber of Commerce is very active. I think this Chamber of Commerce is very helpful; it supports Azerbaijani companies, which like to develop business in Serbia.
There are a couple of Azerbaijani companies in Serbia, engaged, especially in foreign trade of product, equipment, electronic equipment. This is very good because when you have company, Joint venture in Azerbaijan and Azerbaijani company in Serbia it helps for developing our economic relationship. Q. How many Serbians live in Azerbaijan? A. We do not have exact figures, but there is a couple of hundred, may be four or five hundreds Serbians in Baku. They are engaged in energy, construction and agriculture business.
There are also some Serbians who study in Azerbaijan. .
We have developed our government program for foreign students and some students from Azerbaijan to our universities and it is ongoing process.
Q. Now about your impressions about Azerbaijan. What are your first impressions about our country? Overall, have your impressions about it changed since you arrived here?
A. My feelings are positive. What I see since came here it is that the country is developing.
You can see many changing in Baku and regions. And I like it. There are many good spots for developing tourism. I have been skiing in Shahdag. This is the sign that everything is developing in all fields.
Q. And what do you think, are there any similarity between our people?
A. I like Azerbaijani people. There are certain similarity in character and mentality of people from Serbia and Azerbaijan, Balkan and Caucasus people. They have a lot of same habits, same characters.
You can see this in everyday life, in treating family, treatment towards guests, to friends. Serbian and Azerbaijan people are very hospitable.
These is a similarity which we have in Serbia as well as in Azerbaijan. This is very nice, to see similarity, despite differences in culture and religion. We reach a certain level of friendship and relationship, significant and excellent for the young generation.
Q. What is your impression about our meals, music, culture?
A. I am trying to study and introduce your culture and history. I like your Mugam. I have visited some concerts and events, which takes place within Mugam festival.
And your Middle East Mixed Turkish style dishes are same, like our dishes. My favourite meals are “gutab” and “dolma” with leaves, we also have these meals.
The other similarity between our people is the mentality of people, and I think it helps for cooperation and conversation with people more easily.
Q. What is being done to expand tourism cooperation between the two countries?
A. We have a lot of plans to develop tourism. There are several tourism agencies from Serbia and from Azerbaijan, who are interested to send groups mutually and we support this activity.
Several Serbian tourism agencies, came to Baku to negotiate with Azerbaijani counterparts about relationship and develop touristic activities. We would like to see more Azerbaijani tourists in Serbia. We have good resorts, SPAs. Belgrade is one of the most important hubs in Europe for night life. There are many restaurants, exciting culture and exhibitions, festivals.
We have a lot of festivals, such as EXIT music festival, summer festival, and the most famous our folklore Guca festival.