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NATO: Azerbaijan’s importance is growing

Dimitris Giannakopoulos

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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

1Azerbaijan is going to be an important component of global energy security market place, according to NATO Liaison Officer in the South Caucasus William Lahue. It is important that countries have multiple sources of supply in order to protect themselves from fluctuations in available sources of supply,” he said. “In this process Azerbaijan is going to be important, and its importance is growing.”

2A report on the results of the recent talks with Turkmenistan’s official delegation led by Deputy Prime Minister Baimurad Hodzhamuhammedov in Tokyo was heard at the recent meeting of the country’s Cabinet of Ministers. During the working visit, there were held meetings with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and business representatives. The meetings focused on the prospects for attracting Japanese investments in the implementation of the projects for developing fields in Turkmenistan, modernization of the oil and gas industry and diversification of the supply routes of Turkmen gas, as well as cooperation within other bilateral agreements and contracts.

3Russia has become the most attractive market among BRICS countries for investors in 2015, replacing China as the top earner, this according to the Bloomberg news agency. Concerns over falling oil prices and the collapse of the ruble at the end of 2014 have largely dissipated, with investors betting on fewer political risks for Moscow.According to Bloomberg, “the tables have turned in these seven months.” Crude has rebound, and investors have calmed down over the country’s troubles. Oil has stabilised above US$ 55 a barrel and a cease-fire is holding in eastern Ukraine, whose crisis the West has blamed on Russia.“Most Russian stocks are fundamentally undervalued,” said Mattias Westman, the London-based founder of Prosperity Capital Management, a major asset investment firm heavily involved in former Soviet republics. “There is potential for further recovery,” he explained. Russia’s economy, set to contract this year for the first time since 2009, may rebound 0.5 per cent in 2016. At the same time, European economic sanctions over the Ukraine are likely to be relaxed, as it will not be “easy to convince everyone to prolong them” next year, Westman said.

4Iran set for significant investment. A few investors are racing to establish funds for Iran following last week’s nuclear deal with world powers, and many others are tapping into multinationals already present in the $400bn economy. The agreement has made some seek a foothold in Tehran’s $100bn stock market even before sanctions are lifted, although others are taking a more cautious approach. Classified as an upper-middle income country, with a population of 78m and annual output higher than that of Thailand or the United Arab Emirates, Iran is set to be the biggest economy to rejoin the global trading and financial system since the break-up of the Soviet Union over 20 years ago.

5“Hybrid war” – a Scholarly Term or a Propaganda Cliché? “In June 2015 the Finnish Institute of International Affairs (FIIA) published a report entitled “Russia’s Hybrid War in Ukraine: Breaking the enemy’s ability to resist”, by András Rácz, a senior research fellow at the institute [1]. As the title indicates, the subject of the paper is the phenomenon of “hybrid war”. Following Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the start of military actions between Ukrainian security forces and units of the non-recognised Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics in 2014, this phenomenon has attracted the close attention of political, military, academic and journalistic circles in western countries and in Russia” writes Pyotr Topychkanov for RIAC.

6Russia’s Coming Regime Change. Regime change in Russia is inevitable, maybe imminent. But the West should not bet on that eventuality or make it a policy goal. The Russian people will rise up again, but the path to a sustainable democracy and stable economy will be challenging. The West should be ready to help then” writes Andrei V. Kozyrev for the New York Times.

7Your Time Is Over Mr. Netanyahu. “Three years ago, when the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu displayed an imaginary map of Iran’s effort to build nuclear bomb at the annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly to the attendees, he was not taken seriously by anybody, even his own American friends. At that time, some politicians told Netanyahu that “your time is over,” though he did not believe them” writes Haroun Yashayaei, Leader of Iran’s Jewish Community for Iran Review.

8Market study: Home Care in Kazakhstan. Home care saw a good sales growth during the review period benefiting from economic growth in Kazakhstan and rising income levels. There was strong expansion in the country’s mid-income group while many low-income consumers also benefited from increased household budgets. Consequently low-income consumers became able to buy a wider range of home care while mid- to high-income consumers continued to trade up to more specialised and value-added products. Urbanisation also contributed to sales. [Euromonitor]

9Turkmenistan, India to hold talks on TAPI project. Talks on Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline project will be held in India’s New Delhi city July 21. For this purpose, a Turkmen delegation has been sent on an official visit to India in accordance with the order of Turkmenistan’s President Gurbanguly Berdimuhammadov. TAPI project was one of the key issues during the negotiations between Turkmenistan’s president and India’s prime minister in Ashgabat July 11.

10Azerbaijan specifies requirements on state secrets protection. The activities of state authorities of Azerbaijan in the territory of the Republic of Azerbaijan and beyond, regardless of legal form of the organization and types of property, all enterprises, institutions and organizations performing activities related to state secret, formations, military units and institutions of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces and other military agencies established in accordance with the legislation shall be based upon the provisions of the Requirements.

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 Politics

PES Europe Ministers call for a European Budget that rises to the challenge

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President of FEPS Maria João Rodrigues MEP, First Vice President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans, and Germans Minister of State for Europe Michael Roth photo: PES

Europe needs ambitious short- and long-term planning, the Ministers of European Affairs from the PES agreed today during their discussion of the European budget for 2021-2027.

The chair of the network, German Minister for Europe Michael Roth, called for a European budget that promotes social wellbeing, innovation and sustainability across Europe.

Roth said:“The fundamental role of the European budget is to ensure cohesion, convergence and growth. It is the main tool Europe has to invest in the future, to bring countries closer together, and to make sure our children and grandchildren have a good life. When negotiating the European Budget both the short and long term must be kept in mind. Our ambition today, shapes the Europe of tomorrow. I want a bright Europe for tomorrow.”

The Ministers continued their discussion on the state of the rule of law in Europe.

Roth added:“Democracy and the rule of law cannot be interpreted freely. All Member States have to abide to the same clear set of rules. We will continue keeping a close eye on the issue. And we will continue supporting the great work that the EU Commission’s First Vice President Frans Timmermans is carrying out.”

The meeting was attended by:

  • Michael Roth, Minister of State for Europe, Chair, Germany
  • Helena Dalli, Minister for European Affairs and Equality, Malta
  • Ana Paula Zacarias, Secretary of State for European Affairs, Portugal
  • Hans Dahlgren, Minister for EU Affairs, Sweden
  • Frans Timmermans, First Vice President of the European Commission, European Commission
  • George Katrougalos, Foreign Affairs Ministers, Greece (observer)
  • Maria Joao Rodrigues, Vice President of the S&D Group, chair of the PES FEN Network, European Parliament
  • Javier Moreno, Secretary General of the S&D Group, European Parliament
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EU Politics

Migration and asylum: EU funds to promote integration and protect borders

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MEPs backed on Tuesday increasing the EU budget for migration and asylum policies and to reinforce borders.

The Civil Liberties Committee endorsed the renewed Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF), the 2021-2027 budget of which will increase up to €9.2 billion (€10.41 billion in current prices, 51% more than in the previous financial framework). It also backed the creation of a new Integrated Border Management Fund (IBMF) and agreed to allocate €7.1 billion (€8 billion in current prices) to it.

The AMIF should contribute to strengthen the common asylum policy, develop legal migration, in line with the member states’ economic and social needs, contribute to countering irregular migration and ensure effective, safe and dignified return, readmission and reintegration in non-EU countries.

But it should also ensure “solidarity and fair sharing of responsibility between the member states, in particular towards those most affected by migration challenges, including through practical cooperation”, MEPs state.

MEPs also want to make sure that funds can be allocated to local and regional authorities, and to international and non‑governmental organisations, working in the field of asylum and migration.

Integrated Border Management Fund to secure EU’s external borders

IBMF will provide funding to build and enhance member states’ capacities in border management and visa policy. The funding dedicated to member states (60 % of the total envelope) will reflect their needs and take into account additional pressures. Furthermore, a new EU thematic facility (40% of the total envelope) will ensure flexibility to channel emergency funding to member states and EU-level projects when urgent action is needed.

MEPs also added safeguards to ensure that actions and measures funded through the Instrument comply with the EU’s fundamental rights obligations, in particular with the principles of non-discrimination and non-refoulement.

Both funds will operate in full synergy. They will also work closely with the reinforced Internal Security Fund (ISF) focusing on tackling terrorism, organised crime and cybercrime.

Next steps

The draft proposal on the renewed AMIF passed with 31 votes to 23 and 1 abstention. The new IBMF was backed by 41 MEPs, 9 voted against and 2 abstained. The full House will have to confirm its position in the first March plenary, ahead of the negotiations with the Council of the EU.

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EU Politics

Trade negotiations with US can start under certain conditions

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The Trade Committee on Tuesday endorsed the mandate to start limited EU-US trade talks, but set conditions on the conclusion of a deal.

Starting talks is in the interest of European citizens and companies, as it would ease current tensions in EU-US trade relations, brought about by the US administration’s actions, said International Trade Committee MEPs in the report adopted by 21 votes to 17, with one abstention.

They nevertheless note that the conclusion of a trade agreement based on the current negotiating mandate can only be successful if the following conditions are met:

  • the US must lift tariffs on aluminium and steel;
  • a comprehensive consultation process with civil society and a sustainability impact assessment are carried out;
  • the EU insists on including cars and car tariffs in the talks, and on excluding agriculture;
  • talks will be suspended if the US levies another tariff;
  • more clarity on how rules of origin (which lock in how much of the value of a product must be created locally for trade preferences) are handled during the talks.

Background

The European Commission submitted its draft negotiating mandates to the Council for approval on 18 January. The mandates will authorise the Commission to negotiate with the US on eliminating tariffs on industrial goods and on harmonising conformity assessment.

Next steps

Parliament will vote on its stance on the mandates in March. EU Council of Ministers is expected to adopt the draft negotiating mandates in the same month. The Commission will start negotiations on the basis of the final mandate.

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