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NATO breaks treaty with Russia deploying troops in Latvia

Dimitris Giannakopoulos

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The 10 most important things you need to know on Caspian Sea Region for Friday, May 29:

1NATO breaks treaty with Russia deploying troops in Latvia. NATO forces will be deployed in Latvia, as NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander of Europe, Philip Breedlove claimed. The special request has been already approved by the Latvian government. Latvian Prime Minister, Laimota Straujuma confirmed the permanent presence of the NATO military force in the country. Lithuanian military spokesman Captain Mindaugas Neimontas said: “We are seeking a brigade-size unit so that every Baltic nation would have a battalion.” However, the deployment of permanent forces flies in the face of the Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security between NATO and the Russian Federation which was signed in Paris, France on 27 May 1997. It declared that “NATO and Russia do not consider each other as adversaries” and that the two parties will work together to prevent any potentially threatening build-up of conventional forces in agreed regions of Europe, to include Central and Eastern Europe. The Act states that NATO “will carry out its collective defense and other missions by ensuring the necessary interoperability, integration, and capability for reinforcement rather than by additional permanent stationing of substantial combat forces.” [PRAVDA]

2The new generation of Iranians, the real Islamic Republic that is far less Islamic than its rulers want and ambitious in a different way — not through making mischief or muscle flexing, but through higher education, ideas and its people’s hunger to be citizens of the world. Curious, wired, and desperate for normality, Iran’s youth — under-40s make up 60 per cent of the 80 million-strong population — have been taking the country in a direction that horrifies its rulers. The pace of change among them has been so fast and dramatic, particularly over the past decade, that Iran’s sociologists say they are still trying to understand them and Islamic leaders regularly blame the west for corrupting them,” writes Roula Khalaf for the Financial Times.

3Is Belarus and Russia’s ‘brotherly love’ coming to an end? “Belarusians now fear they’re trapped in a no-win situation: if Lukashenko cows to Moscow, Belarus could return to its place as a Russian frontier land, as it was during Soviet rule. But if Lukashenko tries to diversify his foreign policy and makes new friends in Europe, it’s possible the Kremlin could respond with aggression – both pose a threat to Belarus’s independence.” Writes Mikalai Anishchanka for the guardian.

4“100 Concrete Steps,” a plan to implement five reforms proposed by Nursultan Nazarbayev during his election campaign, has been released, Tengrinews reports. The five reforms, according to Nazarbayev, are Kazakhstan’s answer to the global and internal challenges. These reforms are called to help Kazakhstan join the club of 30 most developed countries of the world. These include formation of an effective state apparatus; ensuring rule of law; facilitating industrialization and economic growth; developing national identity and unity; and enhancing government accountability. In order to implement these reforms, the National Commission for Modernization was established. It is led by Prime Minister Karim Massimov. The commission is composed of five working groups consisting of domestic and foreign experts. [TENGRI NEWS]

5On May 28, the State Agency on Alternative and Renewable Energy Sources, SAARES conducted a full test of all stations in a wind park “Yeni Yashma” with a capacity of 59 MW in the Khizi region and launched a wind turbine with a capacity of 2.5 MW, APA reports.The wind turbine, which was launched on the Republic Day, has already started to transfer electricity, generated from wind power, into the general power grid of the Republic. In the near future a wind park “Yeni Yashma” will be connected into the electrical grid of the country.

6Gazprom Retreats on Europe Export Outlook as Russian ADRs Drop. Gazprom, Russia’s biggest company, fell after the Economy Ministry said the state-controlled natural gas producer will probably see lower gains in Europe, its biggest market, for at least four years amid lower prices and increasing competition. Brent crude, the oil grade traders use to price Russia’s main export blend, rose 0.8 percent to $62.58 a barrel after dropping 5.3 percent in the prior two days. “Europe will remain the main market for Gazprom for a considerable period of time, and lower gas prices in the region will negatively impact the company’s revenue,” Andrey Polischuk, an oil analyst at Raiffeisenbank ZAO who rates the stock hold, said by phone Thursday. “It might mean that Gazprom will have to seek additional funding for its investments, from advance payments from its partners in the east or from loans.”writes Elena Popina for Bloomberg.

7Turkmenistan mulls constitution changes extending presidential term.The speaker of ex-Soviet Turkmenistan`s pliant parliament has proposed constitutional changes extending the presidential term limit and removing the maximum age for the presidency, state media reported Friday. The amendments — which look aimed at expanding the already iron grip of 57-year-old incumbent strongman President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov in the gas-rich republic — would increase the presidential term from five to seven years and remove the presidential age limit of 70 from the constitution.

8A landmark event, part of the project to bring Azeri gas supplies to Europe, could take place next month – the signing of the final investment decision on the construction of the interconnector Greece-Bulgaria (IGB), according to an article carried by rosinvest.com. The IGB construction is projected to start in March 2016 and close in 2018. The interconnector with Greece will enable Bulgaria to make a big step toward reducing its almost total dependence on Russia for gas supplies, the article “Azerbaijan and the Gas Hopes of Bulgaria” reads. With the South Stream gas pipeline project now abandoned by Russia and the risk of potential disruption of Russian gas supplies via Ukraine still existing, Bulgaria now has all its hopes of energy diversification pinned on Azeri gas which the country could start receiving via the IGB. [rosinvest.com]

9Azerbaijan expands cooperation with Turkey, Russia and Macedonia in fighting the financing of terrorism and money laundering. In accordance with the agreements Azerbaijan will cooperate with Turkey and Macedonia in the field of exchange of financial information. The agreement with Russia provides for cooperation in the fight against terrorism financing and money laundering.

10Absheron Hotel Group launches its fourth hotel – BOULEVARD HOTEL BAKU in the capital of Azerbaijan. The hotel is affiliated with the Autograph Collection, Marriott’s brand featuring an exclusive portfolio of upscale independent hotels and resorts. Named after the eponymous seafront walking promenade, Boulevard Hotel offers 818 comfortable rooms and it will be the largest conference hotel in Azerbaijan. It provides perfect accessibility to all major business and cultural sites of the city as well as the finest facilities that are designed to suit a wide variety of occasions and functions. Boulevard Hotel is one of four hotels Absheron Hotel Group will operate in Azerbaijan. The first hotel, the 167-room Pik Palace, was opened in December 2013 in Shahdag Mountain Resort, followed by the opening of a 164-room Park Chalet in January 2015 and a 150-room Intourist Hotel Baku, in May 2015. Absheron Hotel Group is a young hotel management company in Azerbaijan. It aims to become a strategic hospitality industry player with a medium-term aspiration of taking a leading position in national and regional markets, through establishing a world-class portfolio of hotels and resorts.

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

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UNIDO and Morocco’s MASEN to strengthen cooperation to deploy renewable energy technologies

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photo: UNIDO

The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the Moroccan Agency for Sustainable Energy of the Kingdom of Morocco (MASEN) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to develop and implement projects deploying advanced renewable energy technologies in Morocco and targeted African countries, with the aim of creating aspirations to support African countries on their path towards inclusive and sustainable industrial development.

The partnership with MASEN complements UNIDO’s ongoing activities under its flagship ‘Low Carbon Low Emission Clean Energy Programme’ in Africa, which seeks to reduce poverty by promoting industrial growth through renewable sources of energy. It already started in 2017, on the margins of the 22nd Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 22) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), when UNIDO Director General LI Yong, and MASEN President Mustapha Bakkoury launched the Vanadium Flow Battery project to demonstrate smoothing and stabilizing electricity output. An official handover ceremony is planned to take place in Ouarzazate, Morocco, in conjunction with a workshop gathering Moroccan officials and representatives from neighboring countries.

With MASEN’s support, UNIDO proposes to create a platform for the dissemination of renewable energy technologies in targeted countries while developing the local production of some technology components, thus creating grounds for achieving shared prosperity, economic competitiveness and environmental sustainability.

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EU Politics

EU delivers on stronger European Border and Coast Guard to support Member States

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Today, the Council has officially adopted the Commission’s proposal to reinforce the European Border and Coast Guard. The European Border and Coast Guard Agency will have a standing corps of 10,000 border guards, a stronger mandate on returns and will also be able to cooperate more closely with non-EU countries, including those beyond the EU’s immediate neighbourhood. This will give the Agency the right level of ambition to respond to the challenges facing Europe in managing migration and its external borders.

Welcoming today’s final adoption, First Vice-President Frans Timmermans and Commissioner for Home Affairs, Migration and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos said:

“Today the European Union has achieved an ambitious task of transforming the EU border agency, Frontex, into a fully-fledged European Border and Coast Guard. This Agency will be equipped to offer tangible support to Member States to manage the EU’s external border – wherever and whenever needed.

From less than 300 border guards on the ground in 2014, the European Border and Coast Guard is now deploying around 1,300 officers and will soon have a 10,000-strong standing corps available for deployment. This is a collective achievement, which would not have been possible without strong political support for a common approach.

The European Border and Coast Guard is now stronger than ever. While Member States will remain responsible for the management of external borders, the standing corps will provide unprecedented operational support on the ground. Its officers will be able to assist national border guards in conducting identity and document checks, with border surveillance and return operations.

The Agency will also provide support beyond the EU’s borders. With European Border and Coast Guard officers already deployed in Albania and soon in other Western Balkan countries also, the Agency will be able to cooperate with third countries beyond the EU’s immediate neighbourhood.

We have spared no effort to make sure that Member States have the necessary tools to protect their borders and ensure the security of European citizens.

But our work is not yet done. The Commission will now provide its full support to help the Agency quickly take up its new tasks and ensure the standing corps swiftly reaches its full capacity of 10,000 border guards.”

Next steps

The European Parliament and the Council will now jointly sign the final text. The text will then be published in the Official Journal of the European Union and the European Border and Coast Guard’s reinforced mandate will enter into force 20 days later. The new European Border and Coast Guard standing corps will be ready for deployment from 2021, and will then gradually reach its full capacity of 10,000 border guards.

Background

The European Border and Coast Guard consists of Member States’ authorities responsible for border management and return, and of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency. It was established in 2016, building on the existing structures of Frontex, to meet the new challenges and political realities faced by the EU, both as regards migration and internal security. The reliance on voluntary contributions of staff and equipment by Member States has however resulted in persistent gaps affecting the efficiency of the support the European Border and Coast Guard Agency could offer.

In his 2018 State of the Union Address President Juncker announced that the Commission will reinforce the European Border and Coast Guard even further. The objective of this upgrade was to equip the Agency with a standing corps of 10,000 border guards and to provide the agency with its own equipment to allow it to respond to challenges as they arise. The European Parliament and the Council reached a political agreement on the Commission’s proposal on 28 March 2019. With the last step completed in the Council today, both institutions have now formally adopted the text.

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EU Politics

EU-Singapore agreement to enter into force on 21 November 2019

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EU Member States today endorsed the trade agreement between the EU and Singapore. This means the agreement will enter into force as soon as 21 November.

President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker said: “This is the European Union’s first bilateral trade agreement with a Southeast Asian country, a building block towards a closer relationship between Europe and one of the most dynamic regions in the world. It crowns the efforts of this Commission to build a network of partners committed to open, fair and rules based trade. Trade has created 5 million new jobs in the EU since I took office in 2014, and now contributes to the employment of 36 million people. This, together with the fact that it accounts for 35% of the EU GDP, shows how critical trade is for Europe’s prosperity.”

Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström said: “Our trade agreement with Singapore provides further evidence of our commitment to fair and rules-based trade. The agreement will benefit workers, farmers and companies of all sizes, both here and in Singapore. It also includes strong clauses protecting human and labour rights and the environment. This agreement means that in the last five years we have put in place 16 EU trade deals. This brings the total to 42 trade agreements with 73 partners, accounting for a third of total EU trade. This is the largest such network in the world.”

Singapore is by far the EU’s largest trading partner in the Southeast Asian region, with a total bilateral trade in goods of over €53 billion and another €51 billion of trade in services. Over 10,000 EU companies are established in Singapore and use it as a hub for the whole Pacific region. Singapore is also the number one location for European investment in Asia, with investment between the EU and Singapore growing rapidly in recent years: combined bilateral investment stocks reached €344 billion in 2017.

Under the trade agreement, Singapore will remove all remaining tariffs on EU products. The agreement also provides new opportunities for EU services’ providers, among others in sectors such as telecommunications, environmental services, engineering, computing and maritime transport. It will also make the business environment more predictable. The agreement will also enable legal protection for 138* iconic European food and drink products, known as Geographical Indications. Singapore is already the third largest destination for such European specialty products. Singapore also agreed to remove obstacles to trade besides tariffs in key sectors, for instance by recognising the EU’s safety tests for cars and many electronic appliances or by accepting labels that EU companies use for textiles.

The EU and Singapore have also concluded an investment protection agreement, which can enter into force after it has been ratified by all EU Member States according to their own national procedures.

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