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Is Turkmenistan’s gas line a pipe dream?

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Welcome to the Caspian Daily, where you will find the 10 most important things you need to know on Caspian Sea Region. We appreciate ideas, reports, news and interesting articles. Send along to Caspian[at]moderndiplomacy.eu or on Twitter: @DGiannakopoulos

1For many, the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (Tapi) gas pipeline is nothing but a pipe dream.Its starting point is in Turkmenistan, one of the most isolated and closed-for-business states in the world, before it goes through war-torn Afghanistan and then reaches two countries that are hard to describe as partners – Pakistan and India.However, Turkmenistan insists that the pipeline’s construction will start by the end of 2015. The visit in May of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to Ashgabat seemed to confirm this – both sides pledged to put fast track the project. Likewise the recent visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Turkmenistan is also being seen as a boost to the project” writes Abdujalil Abdurasulov for BBC.

2Azerbaijan to produce nuclear fuel? Azerbaijan aims to develop nuclear research in the country and produce nuclear fuel. The Emergency Situations Ministry together with the Ministry of Communications and High Technologies and the International Atomic Energy Agency are working on a feasibility study for a nuclear research reactor, according to a statement by Communications Minister Ali Abbasov at a meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers.“We also teamed up with the Ecology and Natural Resources Ministry to launch a geological investigation of nuclear deposits in Azerbaijan,” he said.“If we find enough sources we will draw up a package of proposals on the production of nuclear fuel in the country, and submit it to the government,” the minister added.

3Russia, China to Stage Naval Exercises in Sea of Japan in Late August. The exercises will include approximately 20 ships and support vessels, as well as aircraft from both sides. “For the first time joint training on the marine Klerk Range will include marine landings using landing vessels and flight aviation from both sides,” Capt. 1st Rank Roman Martov said.

4How Iran’s nuclear deal affects India. The landmark nuclear deal between Iran and major world powers has enabled Tehran to restore normal trade with many countries. But before the deal was reached, and despite crippling sanctions, India was among a handful of countries doing billions of dollars of trade with Iran. The lifting of sanctions will have significant implications for Delhi, which hopes to reinvigorate its economic and strategic engagement with Tehran. However, there are concerns among Indian businessmen that Iran may now play hard to get, or even turn to more competitive international players. The BBC’s Anbarasan Ethirajan looks at the impact on India and its economic interests.

5Rosatom promotes its technologies at the PowerGen Africa conference in Cape Town. Rosatom executives gave an overview of the State corporation, which had 250 000 employees in over 360 companies and boasted an order portfolio of $101.4-billion. It is the second largest nuclear energy corporation in the world according to installed nuclear capacity and makes up 17% of the world nuclear fuel market. Besides its dominance in nuclear power stations, it had extensive experience in thermal power technologies, which it was keen to share with South Africa. Rosatom had a separate thermal power utility.

6Kazakhstan to build new refinery jointly with Iran. Kazakhstan will construct a new – fourth refinery in the Mangistau region, Rakimbek Amirjanov, the deputy akim of the Mangistau region said at a briefing on July 15. He also noted that the construction of the refinery will be conducted jointly with Iran, local Kazakh media reported.”Akimat is considering the construction of Kazakhstan’s fourth refinery jointly with the Iranian side. We have conducted an analysis and received a confirmation from the Iranian side,” he stressed. “Currently, we have offered to jointly construct a refinery. It will be located in the Mangistau region. Oil products will be sent from Mangistau to the northern ports of Iran.”Amirjanov went on to add that Iran and Kazakhstan have already held a number of official negotiations. Also, there are large companies in Kazakhstan that are interested in investing in this project.

7Ukraine wants to buy Kazakh and Turkmen gas. Head of the European integration department at the Ukrainian Energy and Coal Industry Ministry Mykhailo Bno-Airiyan said that Ukraine was interested in buying gas from Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. It was reported by in October 2014 Ukraine’s temporary charge d’affaires in Kazakhstan Yuri Lazebnik expressed Ukraine’s interest in getting gas from Kazakhstan bypassing Russia. But that time Kazakhstan did not confirm that any official request from Ukraine regarding gas was made.

8Electronic property registration service for Azerbaijan. A new online system will simplify the procedure of real estate registration for Azerbaijani citizens. After having signed and notarized a real estate purchase contract, citizens and legal entities will no longer need to revisit the registrar for documentation. The new paperless system will make it possible to register real estate online. The National System of Real Estate Registration may provide an online payment system for state fees to further simply the registration procedure.

9A new era for Iran. “Iran, host to many unique cultural treasures largely unseen by western eyes, is expecting a significant rise in the number of tourists visiting the country in the wake of this week’s historic nuclear deal. President Hassan Rouhani’s government is taking fresh measures to ease or abolish visa requirements for most foreign visitors and build as many as 200 new hotels, as existing accommodation is insufficient to cater for the spike in tourism that has occurred since his election in 2013. Iran’s vice-president for tourism, Masoud Soltanifar, said that “bright days” lie ahead for the country’s tourism industry following the nuclear agreement struck in Vienna. “No other industry in Iran will see a bigger boost than tourism as the result of this deal,” he said” writes Saeed Kamali Dehghan for the guardian.

10Azerbaijan’s oil production fell by 1.7% year-on-year. In June 2015 oil production in Azerbaijan declined by 2.5% compared to May 2015.The State Statistics Committee reports that in Jan-Jun the country produced 20.971 million tons of oil that was less than production in Jan-Jun 2014 by 1.7%.

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.

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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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