Prime Minister Ansip Develops Relations With Highly Promising Turkmenistan
Prime Minister Andrus Ansip is on his first high-level bilateral visit to Turkmenistan to develop political and economic relations with the rapidly growing, high-potential Central Asian country. At a meeting with President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov and Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov, it was noted that the potential for economic co-operation exists in several areas, but above all in shipbuilding and port construction, transit, e-government, tourism, and aviation.
“Turkmenistan is a country with very great potential, where tremendous natural gas reserves were discovered only recently,” said Ansip. On the basis of the investigations conducted in recent years, the country, which has 5 million inhabitants, could boast the second largest gas reserves in the world, from which Russia, China and the European Union are looking to benefit. “European Commission President Barroso and energy commissioner Oettinger paid a visit to Turkmenistan this year on the issue,” said the Estonian head of government, and affirmed that the European Union was interested in a gas pipeline running between Turkmenistan and the European Union, which would substantially increase Europe’s energy security.
The European Union has decided to open in Turkmenistan a regional office for its special envoy to Central Asia. Estonia’s first ambassador to Turkmenistan, Jaan Hein, presented his credentials this month.
The European Union is Turkmenistan’s third-most-important trading partner after Turkey and China and its second export partner. Turkmenistan’s primary export articles are gas, crude oil and petroleum. President Berdimuhamedov said the country plans to start processing gas and that it needs foreign partners for this purpose. Turkmenistan, whose economy grew 9.2 percent last year, has clearly indicated that it wants closer economic and trade relations with the European Union and, more narrowly, with Estonia, and to attract foreign investments.
Economic relations between Estonia and Turkmenistan and mutual investments are currently modest. To promote economic cooperation, Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip and Deputy Chairman of the Turkmen Cabinet of Ministers Annamuhamed Gochiyev signed an agreement on avoidance of double taxation which will create favourable conditions for investments between the countries and freedom of movement of people, goods and services.
To develop economic relations, Prime Minister Ansip was accompanied by a business delegation made up of 13 business leaders. Prime Minister Ansip said Estonian business people are interested in Turkmenistan’s oil transit and affirmed that Estonia would be able to offer transit service for oil cargoes arriving by rail. At the meeting, Turkmenistan’s Deputy Prime Minister Meredov, to whom Ansip tendered an invitation, expressed clear intent to engage in transit-related cooperation with the Port of Tallinn. The Turkmen transport and communications minister, trade minister and energy minister were among the ministers participating at the meeting.
Besides transit, the leaders consider e-governance a potential field for cooperation, as one of Turkmenistan’s priorities is the transition to e-governance and Estonia can bring know-how to the table in this area. Turkmenistan, which currently has few Internet users, wants to establish a unified document management system for central and local governments. Ansip introduced the various Estonian online solutions to his Turkmen colleague and confirmed that Estonian companies are prepared to develop e-services in Turkmenistan as well. “For instance, Lithuania visited Turkmenistan earlier and they are already engaged in developing local e-governance,” said Ansip after the meeting.
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