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Eastern Partnership summit, Astana Economic Forum and more

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The 10 most important things you need to know on Caspian Sea Region for Friday, May 22.

1Riga. EU leaders meet representatives of the Eastern Partnership partner countries at the fourth Eastern Partnership summit in Riga to reconfirm the importance the EU attaches to its Eastern Partnership.

2Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has called on Russia to further help his country in the battle against Takfiri ISIL terror group, saying terrorism poses a serious threat to the security of all its neighboring states. Abadi also said he decided to go ahead with his visit to Russia “despite recommendations by some forces to cancel this trip. We highly value relations with Russia and consider them promising, and I think our visit directly proves this,” he went on to say. Medvedev, for his part, voiced Moscow’s readiness to boost ties with Baghdad, saying, “We are glad to support and advance cooperation with Iraq at the government level.”

3“As long as Russia does not commit itself, and act according to, the fundamental values of international law, a return to the G8 format is unimaginable for us,” Merkel said. “The G8 is an informal club, no one gives out membership cards and no one can expel members,” Lavrov said, in an apparent response to Merkel’s comments.

4Avaza gas congress. Mukhammetnur Khalylov, Turkmenistan’s oil and gas industry and mineral resources minister: “Thanks to the Turkmen geologists’ discovery of gas fields that are unique for their reserves, the country’s potential hydrocarbon resources today stand at 71.2 billion metric tons of oil equivalent, of which 53 billion metric tons account for the onshore, and 18.2 billion metric tons for the offshore areas” Today, Turkmenistan, in terms of the size of proven gas reserves, ranks fourth in the world.

5Asian Development Bank (ADB) Vice-President Wencai Zhang is in Kazakhstan for a 2-day visit where he has been holding talks with government officials on partnership opportunities. He also delivered the keynote address at the 8th Astana Economic Forum. “ADB will continue to support the Government of Kazakhstan’s development agenda through appropriate investment projects under the Partnership Framework Arrangement signed in May 2014,” said Mr. Zhang. “We will also pursue further knowledge cooperation to enhance the efficiency and competitiveness of the country’s economy.”

6“Some circles in the West, Europe don’t demonstrate fair approach toward Azerbaijan” said Novruz Mammadov, Deputy Head of the Azerbaijani Presidential Administration, Head of the Administration’s Foreign Relations Department.“An organized and coordinated campaign is being held against Azerbaijan on some issues. Within a few weeks, there were a number of various processes, hearings, media reports, TV programs which do not reflect the real situation. The Azerbaijani side promptly responds and will respond to it,” he added.

7U.S. President Barack Obama sees a nuclear deal being negotiated with Iran as a key part of his legacy, stressing in an interview with Atlantic magazine May 21 that his reputation is on the line should Iran acquire a nuclear weapon. “Look, 20 years from now, I’m still going to be around, God willing. If Iran has a nuclear weapon, it’s my name on this,” Obama said.

8Iranian Minister of Cooperative, Labor, and Social Welfare Ali Rabiei has expressed hope that the country would be able to import water from Georgia. During a meeting with Giorgi Kvirikashvili, Georgia’s Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development, also signed a memorandum of understanding. He also pointed out that transiting Iranian gas via Georgian soil is possible, adding that doing so will benefit regional countries. Bilateral trade between the two countries stands at $200 million annually, and there is potential to increase it.

9Azerbaijan, Georgia discuss issues of cooperation in military sphere

10Eradicating chronic hunger and malnutrition worldwide will require the collaboration of both developed and emerging economies, and Kazakhstan is well positioned for leadership in this area. These were among the points highlighted by FAO Director-General Jose’ Graziano da Silva as he addressed the VIII Astana Economic Forum today. Kazakhstan is a key grain producer and exporter in the region, significantly contributing to the food security of neighboring countries. It participates in the FAO-based Agriculture Market Information System (AMIS) under the aegis of the G20, and is a member of the Eurasian Economic Union which has set food security as a key area of interest. It played a leadership role in developing a regional food bank.

 

ANALYSIS

Russia and Ukraine Battling for Historical Truth

“The use of historical facts is a long applied instrument for fueling an entire political context, usually with quite material consequences. In fact, turning the status of Crimea into the historical center of Russian statehood may create a stumbling block during zero-sum international negotiations” writes Ekaterina Chimiris for RIAC.

Azerbaijan: What awaits beyond sticks and carrots

“When it comes to Azerbaijan, the country has many different aspects of applicable power tactics. Since hard power relies on displays of military might and economic strength, we can argue that Azerbaijan displayed both in the armed conflict over the Nagorno- Karabakh region with neighbouring Armenia” writes Petra Posega for Modern Diplomacy

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ediplomacy01

Journalist, specialized in Middle East, Russia & FSU, Terrorism and Security issues. Founder and Editor-in-chief of the Modern Diplomacy magazine.

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Ukraine: Commission proposes to criminalise the violation of EU sanctions

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The European Commission is today putting forward a proposal to harmonise criminal offences and penalties for the violation of EU restrictive measures. While the Russian aggression on Ukraine is ongoing, it is paramount that EU restrictive measures are fully implemented and the violation of those measures does not pay off. The Commission proposal sets out common EU rules, which will make it easier to investigate, prosecute and punish violations of restrictive measures in all Member States alike.

Violating EU sanctions is a serious criminal offence

The implementation of EU restrictive measures following the Russian attack on Ukraine shows the complexity of identifying assets owned by oligarchs, who hide them across different jurisdictions through elaborate legal and financial structures. The proposed Directive will establish the same level of penalties in all Member States. Thereby it will close existing legal loopholes and increase the deterrent effect of violating EU sanctions in the first place. The main elements of the proposal include:

  • A list of criminal offences, which violate EU sanctions, such as:
  • making funds or economic resources available to, or for the benefit of, a designated person, entity or body;
  • failing to freeze these funds;
  • enabling the entry of designated people into the territory of a Member State or their transit through the territory of a Member State;
  • entering into transactions with third countries, which are prohibited or restricted by EU restrictive measures;
  • trading in goods or services whose import, export, sale, purchase, transfer, transit or transport is prohibited or restricted;
  • providing financial activities which are prohibited or restricted; or
  • providing other services which are prohibited or restricted, such as legal advisory services, trust services and tax consulting services.
  • Offences will cover circumventing an EU restrictive measure: this means bypassing or attempting to bypass restrictive measures by concealing funds  or concealing the fact that a person is the ultimate owner of funds.
  • Common basic standards for penalties: depending on the offence, the individual person could be liable to a maximum penalty of at least five years in prison; companies could be liable to penalties of no less than 5% of the total worldwide turnover of the legal person (company) in the business year preceding the fining decision.

Next steps

The proposal will now be discussed by the European Parliament and the Council as part of the ordinary co-legislative procedure.

Background

Since the start of the war in Ukraine, the EU has adopted a series of sanctions against Russian and Belarussian individuals and companies. The implementation of EU restrictive measures shows the complexity of identifying assets owned by oligarchs, who hide them across different jurisdictions through complex legal and financial structures. For example, by transferring ownership of sanctioned property to a non-sanctioned third party. They are helped by existing legal loopholes, as the criminal law provisions on breaches of EU sanctions vary across Member States. An inconsistent enforcement of restrictive measures undermines the Union’s ability to speak with one voice.

In May 2022, the Commission proposed to add the violation of EU restrictive measures to the list of EU crimes. At the same time, the Commission proposed new reinforced rules on asset recovery and confiscation, which will also contribute to the implementation of EU restrictive measures. The proposals come in the context of the ‘Freeze and Seize’ Task Force, set up by the Commission in March.

Following the adoption on 28 November of the Council Decision identifying the violation of Union restrictive measures as an area of serious crime that meets the criteria set out in Article 83(1) of the TFEU, the Commission is now putting forward this proposal for a Directive on the violation of Union restrictive measures, as a second step.

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Americans are outraged: US has given about $54B of assistance to Ukraine. The EU only 16B

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On a broadcast of the Fox Business Network’s “Kennedy,” Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) said he will not continue to support aid to Ukraine until the European Union matches the aid already provided by the U.S.

We need a complete audit of the money sent by America. There should be assurances that the country hasn’t had an illegitimate relationship with FTX, and “the millions of dollars that were paid to the Biden family by Ukraine over the years isn’t influencing our foreign policy,” said Tom McClintock. (Through this crypto-exchange FTX the Democrats laundered huge amounts of money that were allocated by the US Congress for Ukraine).

McClintock stated, “I supported the initial assistance to Ukraine. Ukraine is primarily a European security issue. Now, you look at the numbers, the United States has given about $54 billion of assistance to Ukraine. And the EU had only 16 billion.

“So, they’ve got about half of our GDP. But they’ve only given about a third of the assistance that we have. Now, given the fact that’s happening right on their doorstep, not on ours. It seems to me they need to at least match what we’ve already done.

“And then I also believe there needs to be a full audit of where our money has gone and we need assurance that Ukraine’s relationship with FTX is entirely legitimate, as Ukraine contends. And I think the American people would also like to be assured that the millions of dollars that were paid to the Biden family by Ukraine over the years isn’t influencing our foreign policy,” said Tom McClintock.

International Affairs

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Europe accuses US of ‘profiting from war’

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Top European officials are furious with Joe Biden’s administration and now accuse the Americans of making a fortune from the war, while EU countries suffer. “The fact is, if you look at it soberly, the country that is most profiting from this war is the U.S. because they are selling more gas and at higher prices, and because they are selling more weapons,” one senior official told POLITICO.

Washington announced a $369 billion industrial subsidy scheme to support green industries under the Inflation Reduction Act that Brussels went into full-blown panic mode. “The Inflation Reduction Act has changed everything,” one EU diplomat said. “Is Washington still our ally or not?”

“We are really at a historic juncture,” the senior EU official said, arguing that the double hit of trade disruption from U.S. subsidies and high energy prices risks turning public opinion against both the war effort and the transatlantic alliance. “America needs to realize that public opinion is shifting in many EU countries.”

The biggest point of tension in recent weeks has been Biden’s green subsidies and taxes that Brussels says unfairly tilt trade away from the EU and threaten to destroy European industries. Despite formal objections from Europe, Washington has so far shown no sign of backing down.

As they attempt to reduce their reliance on Russian energy, EU countries are turning to gas from the U.S. instead — but the price Europeans pay is almost four times as high as the same fuel costs in America. Then there’s the likely surge in orders for American-made military kit as European armies run short after sending weapons to Ukraine.

Officials on both sides of the Atlantic recognize the risks that the increasingly toxic atmosphere will have for the Western alliance.

“The U.S. is following a domestic agenda, which is regrettably protectionist and discriminates against U.S. allies,” said Tonino Picula, the European Parliament’s lead person on the transatlantic relationship.

Cheaper energy has quickly become a huge competitive advantage for American companies, too. Businesses are planning new investments in the U.S. or even relocating their existing businesses away from Europe to American factories. Just this week, chemical multinational Solvay announced t is choosing the U.S. over Europe for new investments, in the latest of a series of similar announcements from key EU industrial giants.

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