SPECIAL REPORT / By being sponsors to the Baku 2015 European Games, SOCAR, the state oil company of Azerbaijan which employs 60,000 people, wants to promote sports and a healthy lifestyle in the country, Vitaly Baylarbayov, Deputy Vice President of SOCAR, told EurActiv in an exclusive interview.
Vitaly Baylarbayov has been in charge of the Southern Gas Corridor, the only project to bring gas to Europe from a source other than Russia, during the last eight years. He spoke to EurActiv’s Senior Editor, Georgi Gotev.
SOCAR is an Official Partner, meaning that it is among the main sponsors of the Baku 2015 European Games. What was your motivation?
SOCAR has agreed with enthusiasm to be part of the main sponsors of the Baku 2015 European Games, which I should say are the first European games of their kind, for very many reasons.
Without any doubt, one of the reasons is that SOCAR as a company pays a lot of attention to the health of our employees and consequently to sports as a means to having a healthy lifestyle. We have 60,000 employees and we are probably the largest company in Azerbaijan. And if we consider that a family in Azerbaijan has on average more than 3 members, most probably 4 or 5, it means that we directly promote sports to at least as many as 300, 000 people.
We would like sports to be part of the lifestyle of all the citizens of Azerbaijan, of which an important part are our present or future employees. For us, this is important. Of course, the European Games is not the first sports event sponsored by SOCAR. We actively participate in the work of Azerbaijan Football Federations Association. It would be interesting for you to know that Azerbaijan will be hosting some of the 2020 UEFA European Football Championship games. SOCAR also supports the Azerbaijan football championship, and some members of the leadership of our company are not only sports fans, but sports activists and managers. The President of our company, Rovnag Abdullayiev, is also President of our country’s football federation.
By being sponsors, we also aim at promoting SOCAR as a vibrant and growing company. We have a long history, but we are also a young company, as the country has gained its independence only 23 years ago, and it is in this period that we have been able to develop the way of doing business. In this sense, if industrial oil extraction in Azerbaijan has more than a 150 year-long history, SOCAR has been able to establish itself as a vertically-integrated international company in the last 10-15 years.
It is only natural that we would like others to know us better, that the name of our company, (and) its activity, become widely known to the public. That’s why we value the fact that those who will watch the games will become familiar with our name.
I would like to mention one more, probably the most important, aspect: the European games are a chance for the world to discover our country. SOCAR wants to be associated with this effort. Azerbaijan is known as a country of oils and gas. This is far from being its true portrait. We have great people, beautiful nature, rich cultural traditions, excellent sporting achievements, with a highly developed culture which is European in its essence, also having Islamic characteristics and elements of Asia, of Oriental culture. And we are very proud of this blend of European, Asian, and Oriental culture(s). We are proud of being a very beautiful country, with beautiful people. We are proud of the beautiful buildings, and that we have very noticeable economic and industrial achievements.
SOCAR is sponsoring the Baku 2015 European Games. Are you interested promoting your company in the EU, in relation to the Southern Gas Corridor, in which SOCAR is the key shareholder?
The Southern Gas Corridor is not at all a project aimed at our promotion. It is not a political project, it is strictly a commercial project. We are realising the project with our international partners. You can see from this map, the respective companies are from Asia, from Europe, from the Western world and from the world that we call Oriental. There is also a Russian company, Lukoil, which is a shareholder in the Shah Deniz 2 gas field, there is an Iranian company, NICO, the British company BP, Petronas from Malaysia and (the) Turkish TPAO.
Regarding our European customers, basically all are major European companies: Shell, Gaz de France, Gas Natural of Spain, the Italian companies ENEL and Hera – the geography is huge. Here advertising doesn’t work. What works are the principles of business. Nobody would (take on) a $45 billion project of pipelines and of offshore gas pumping at Shah Deniz 2 if they are not certain that the project is feasible, that it is realistic and that deadlines will be kept. The deadline is 2018 for the start of producing at Shah Deniz 2. In 2018, this gas will start flowing to Turkey, to Eski?ehir. In the beginning of 2020, our customers in Greece, Bulgaria and Italy will start receiving gas originating from Shah Deniz.