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Baku 2015: A showcase for regional cooperation

Dimitris Giannakopoulos

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The 10 most important things you need to know on Caspian Sea Region for Friday, June 12:

1Host of the European Games offers a showcase for regional cooperation. “European Olympic Committee President Patrick Hickey stated that Azerbaijan was the only country that stepped up to host the first European Games. As Azerbaijan’s 25 years of independent history prove, this is not the first time the nation has led the region through real deeds, not just by words and declarations. In 1998, Baku hosted the first summit of a major international initiative — Transport Corridor Europe-Caucasus-Asia (TRACECA). In 1994, a major international energy deal “the Contract of the Century” was signed in Baku, and by 2006, the strategic Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, one of the largest infrastructure projects in the world and by far the largest in the region, was completed. Today, Azerbaijan is the engine and the source behind the ambitious Southern Gas Corridor, the only feasible source for new natural gas for European markets. The Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway link will dramatically shorten the transit time along the historic Silk Road by connecting the Asian and European railway systems. Moreover, Baku hosts the regular World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue, a platform for the exchange of ideas among global religious and cultural leaders” writes Elin Suleymanov for the Washington Times.

2Several U.S. officials tell CNN the Obama administration does not doubt reports accusing Israel of using a new virus to spy on the Iran talks, but also do not believe there has been any data breach. “We don’t use unsecure hotel computer systems, so if that is what they infiltrated, they would not be able to get anything from us,” one official said. “We always set up our own secure systems when we hold meetings at hotels, and that is true no matter where we are.” However, the U.S. does believe that Israel has been spying on the U.S. and all of the other participants involved in the talks.”They do it all the time,” another official said. “They did it last year, and they did it again this year. This doesn’t come as any great surprise to anyone.” Elise Labott and Evan Perez for CNN.

3A Machiavellian Plan Against Russia? “To the Kremlin, recent events in its backyard have proved once and for all that the amorphous body known as ‘the West’ – its politicians, institutions, media, diplomats, armies, financial architecture and governance bodies – are not to be trusted. The charge sheet is long and contested: it starts with NATO’s ‘out of theater’ bombing campaign in Yugoslavia in 1999, includes broken promises over eastern European integration into the EU and NATO in the early 1990s, color revolutions in neighboring states, botched interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq, destabilization in Libya and Syria, repeated attempts to find common security architecture rebuffed, and leads to the revolution/coup that took place in Kiev in March 2014, breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine, subsequent political and economic sanctions against Russia and, most recently, threats to remove Russia’s FIFA World Cup hosting rights in 2018” writes Timothy Stanley for the Forbes.

4Kazakhstan and Africa – Right Time to Build Ties, Seek Mutual Benefit. “Strengthening our links with Africa should be about more than pure economics. The world is going through an unpredictable and challenges phase. The African continent has not been immune from the evil of extremism. Terrorist groups such as Boko Haram have caused fear and immense suffering. The Ebola crisis last year was the source of great worldwide panic. Food and water shortages in Africa cause devastating ripples throughout the world. Kazakhstan is determined to do what is necessary to help. Last year we sent officers to a UN peacekeeping mission in Western Sahara and Cote d’Ivoire, and consider doing the same in Liberia. We have also donated $300,000 to the “African Union Support to the Ebola Outbreak in West Africa” (ASEOWA) aid program to fight the epidemic that hit the large part of the continent so badly. Last year, Kazakhstan acted jointly with the UN Development Programme to launch a project to support and deliver development assistance to countries in Africa, Oceania and the Caribbean through capacity-building training for young professionals” writes Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan Erlan Idrissov for the AllAfrica.

5Forecast for oil production in Azerbaijan. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has not changed its outlook on oil production in Azerbaijan in 2015. As it was planned, in 2015 oil production in Azerbaijan will decrease by 30,000 barrels per day and reach 0.82 million barrels per day, OPEC’s monthly report on the oil market said June 10. In April, oil production in Azerbaijan amounted to 0.86 million barrels per day, having decreased by 20,000 barrels per day compared to 2014, according to the report.

6Turkmenistan plans to build export gas pipeline. Turkmenistan plans to complete construction of the East-West main gas pipeline by late 2015, the message of the Ministry of Oil and Mineral Resources of Turkmenistan said. This pipeline must unite all the major gas fields of Turkmenistan into a single system, as well as create conditions for the export of Turkmen gas to world markets in either direction.“The commissioning of the pipeline, which will pass through the territory of the whole country, will serve as an additional guarantee for the smooth resource provision not only of domestic demand for “blue fuel”, but also the existing and planned international pipelines,” the message said. The new regional gas pipeline is being laid from Shatlyk to Belek. It is designed to transport natural fuel from the largest fields in the eastern regions to the country’s other gas pipelines, to increase the volumes, to improve the reliability of the gas supplies for export, as well as for the domestic gas supply.

7Moscow Moves to Strengthen Iran in Its Standoff With West. “Iran seems to have powerful friends in Moscow and the Russians’ main argument seems to be: We may lose Iran if we hesitate—a fear Sanai and other Iranian officials are constantly promoting. During the Cold War, Iran was a close US ally until Shah Reza Pahlavi was overthrown by the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Many policymakers in Moscow fear that the Obama administration is anxious to clinch a P5+1 deal with Tehran because it is trying to upgrade the US’s tacit alliance with Iran. Russians worry that the US-Iranian relationship in the region could evolve from jointly opposing the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq into something much bigger—perhaps once again turning Iran into a military and intelligence-gathering base for the United States” writes Pavel Felgenhauer for the Jamestown.

8Baku, Azerbaijan: 10 of the city’s weirdest tourist attractions. With Baku hosting the inaugural European Games, Sophie Ibbotson uncovers 10 of the most unusual things to see in the city [telegraph]

9Iran plans to establish a joint rail transport company with Kazakhstan, said Abbas Nazari, the director for international affairs at the Iranian Railways Company. The proposed company will be established through a joint venture and will carry out rail transport operations for the two sides, Iran’s Fars news agency quoted Nazari as saying on June 10. He referred to a recent visit of the director of Kazakhstan’s railways company to Iran’s Shahid Rajaee Port, saying that Kazakhstan has announced readiness to establish silos in the Iranian port in order to store wheat. 10 million metric tons of Kazakh wheat is transited via Iran, he noted.

1030 under 30: Moscow’s young power list. The ‘fresh-faced’ politicians, hipster editors and radical post-Soviet artists shaping the fabric and the future of Russia’s capital city [the guardian]

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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EU Facility for Refugees in Turkey: Solid progress in supporting refugees

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The Commission reported today good progress in the implementation and programming of €6 billion of the EU Facility for Refugees in Turkey. More than 80 projects are currently up and running delivering tangible results to refugees and host communities in particular on education and health.  Out of the €6 billion, some €4.2 billion has been allocated, of which €3.45 billion has been contracted and €2.22 billion disbursed to date. 

Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations,said: “We continue to make good progress in the implementation and programming of the Facility. More than 80 projects to date provide vital assistance in the areas of education, health, protection and socio-economic support, and more projects are in the pipeline. We remain committed to continue our support to refugees and host communities in Turkey, addressing current needs and increasing resilience and self-reliance for the longer term.”

Christos Stylianides, Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management,added: “The European Union is continuing to support refugees in Turkey, in line with its commitment. 1.6 million refugees are receiving humanitarian assistance to meet their basic needs. Looking ahead to the future, we are working to make our support more sustainable. We remain committed to continue working closely with Turkey to make this possible.”

Today, the twelfth Steering Committee meeting of the EU Facility for Refugees in Turkey took place in Brussels. It was chaired by the Commission and brought together representatives of EU Member States and Turkey.

The Committee reviewed the third annual monitoring report on the implementation of the Facility and confirmed the progress made in the programming of the second €3 billion tranche of the budget of the Facility. It completed the evaluation of project proposals in the areas of socio-economic support and municipal infrastructure to the tune of €845 million.

The 84 projects set up in the framework of the Facility bring forth concrete outcomes and a significant positive impact for refugees and host communities alike, facilitating the integration of refugees in the Turkish society.

For education, one of the priority areas of action, the EU signed a €400 million contract to continue its support to existing programmes, which is to be complemented by a further €100 million before the summer. This involves the construction of 136 school buildings and 50 prefabricated schools well under way. This progress in education infrastructure goes hand in hand with the implementation of the project for Promoting Integration of Syrian Children into Turkish Education System (PICTES), which benefits 400,000 students.

In the area of health, 5 million healthcare consultations have been carried out, with 178 migrant health centres now operational, employing over 2,600 staff, two thirds of which are Syrian refugees.

The EU is highly focused on ensuring the sustainability of the Facility’s humanitarian and development activities, which aim to support the Turkish authorities in a structural manner and to facilitate refugee integration. Under the humanitarian strand of the second tranche, the EU is implementing projects for a total of €50 million in addition the ongoing projects under the first tranche, those have already delivered tangible results for refugees and host communities.

Background

The EU Facility for Refugees in Turkey was set up in 2015 in response to the European Council’s call for significant additional funding to support Syrian refugees in Turkey.

It has a total budget of €6 billion divided into two equal tranches of €3 billion each, allocated over two periods: 2016-2017 and 2018-2019.Out of the operational funds of €6 billion, €2.22 billion has already been disbursed, €3.45 billion contracted, with over 80 projects rolled out.

The Facility provides a joint coordination mechanism, designed to ensure that the needs of refugees and host communities are addressed in a comprehensive and coordinated manner. The support seeks to improve conditions for refugees in Turkey as part of the EU’s comprehensive approach to addressing the refugee crisis inside and outside the EU.

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European Union and World Bank Support to Help Enhance Georgia’s Innovation Ecosystem

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The European Union (EU) and the World Bank launched today the Increasing Institutional Capacity for Innovation (IICI) project, at an event held at Tech Park Georgia. Nika Alavidze, Deputy Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia, Mercy Tembon, World Bank Regional Director for the South Caucasus, and Stig Kjeldsen, First Secretary at Delegation of the European Union to Georgia offered opening remarks at the event.

“The World Bank is proud to continue to stand by GITA as it transforms from a young ‘startup’ agency into a mature framework for Georgia’s coordination of its innovation and entrepreneurship policy and practice,” said Mercy Tembon, World Bank Regional Director for the South Caucasus. “With support from the EU, and the Bank’s technical assistance, this project will allow GITA to take the next step toward greater institutional capacity and effectiveness, test the potential for technology transfer, and improve opportunities for investing in innovative, early stage companies in Georgia.”

“Innovation increases SME competitiveness and creates jobs, and innovation policy is actually at the heart of the EU’s own Europe 2020 strategy for growth and job creation,” said Stig Kjeldsen, Cooperation Officer at the EU Delegation to Georgia. “Further assisting GITA in building Georgia’s innovation ecosystem falls naturally in line with the EU’s commitment to supporting business development in Georgia.”

The IICI project is financed by the EU to the amount of €2.7 million and will be implemented by the World Bank. The overall objective of the project is to increase GITA’s capacity to develop and implement innovation and entrepreneurship policies and programs with medium- and long-term strategies and results; test and demonstrate the viability of technology transfer between educational institutions and the private sector in Georgia; improve the deal flow of innovative start-ups ready for investment, and fund availability for early-stage companies.

The IICI project is expected to generate important results, including: easier access to support and finance for a greater number of small and medium enterprises and innovative firms, a more coherent public approach to supporting entrepreneurs and SMEs and a boost in overall innovative economic activity.

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World Bank Group Releases Little Data Book on Gender

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The World Bank Group today released the Little Data Book on Gender 2019 to provide an easily accessible entry point to statistics tracking gaps between men and women, boys and girls for 217 economies around the world with comparable data for 2000 and 2017.

In addition to demographic and economic information, the Little Data Book on Gender indicators include the proportion of women and men who use the internet, sex-disaggregated smoking prevalence, and the percentage of female graduates from science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs in tertiary education.

The book includes two indicators from the Women, Business and the Law database: the length of paid maternity leave and whether women are legally able to work in the same industries as men.

“Progress in eliminating poverty and ensuring shared prosperity can be enhanced and accelerated when we have good data,” said Caren Grown, World Bank Group Senior Director for Gender. “The Little Data Book on Gender offers policymakers and development practitioners easy access to data on males and females in the domains in which we work – health, education, and economic life.  As sex-disaggregated data becomes increasingly available, there is no excuse to not use it in our policy dialogue and to inform choices about interventions.”

This edition of the Little Data Book on Gender also features online tables that will be updated quarterly.

“Regular online updates will make it easier than ever to see how women and men are faring across a range of global indicators, and to track progress over time,” said Haishan Fu, Director, Development Data Group. “This supplements the fuller, curated data and analysis tools provided by the World Bank Group, including through the Gender Data Portal.”

The Little Data Book on Gender shows remarkable broad progress toward gender equality in education enrollment and health, while gender inequality remains stubbornly persistent in access to economic opportunities. On virtually every global measure, the Little Data Book on Gender reveals that women are more likely than men to be engaged in low productivity activities, and to work more in vulnerable employment.

The Little Data Book on Gender can be accessed online through the World Bank’s Gender Data Portal, and can be used by researchers, journalists, policy makers, and anyone interested in gaps between men and women.

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