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Turkmenistan prepares large gas breakthrough in Europe

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

1The West has long been waiting for this step, lobbying for the idea of the Trans-Caspian Pipeline as a part of the Southern Gas Corridor, hoping to take away the convenient instrument of pressure on Europe, that is, Russian gas from the Kremlin’s hands.However, previously, Turkmenistan wasn’t ready for an open confrontation with Russia and to start major gas deliveries to the West. Meanwhile, selling almost all of its gas to China, Ashgabat found highly risky, as both the single customer, and the single seller meant constant dependence. And today, Ashgabat has an opportunity to get away from that dependence on the buyer, and to diversify its supplies to the West” Elmira Tariverdiyeva – [Trend.az]

2Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad seeks political comeback. Iran’s former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has launched a political campaign ahead of February’s parliamentary elections in what could prove a challenge to the moderates behind a landmark nuclear agreement reached last month. Few expect a rerun of Ahmadinejad’s surprise victory in the 2005 elections, which kicked off an eight-year presidency marked by confrontation with the West, incendiary rhetoric toward Israel and refusal to compromise on the disputed nuclear program.[Associated Press]

3Russia, together with Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, will hold two joint naval exercises in the Caspian Sea by the end of 2015, Navy Commander-in-Chief Adm. Viktor Chirkov said Monday.Between August 3 and 11, the Caspian Sea is hosting the open naval competitions Caspian Cup-2015 and Caspian Derby-2015, as part of the International Army Games.”We are planning to hold at least two international naval drills in the Caspian Sea before the end of 2015,” Chirkov said at the competitions’ opening ceremony. He added that one of the exercises would be tripartite, with the participation of the Russian Caspian Flotilla, the Azerbaijani Navy and the Kazakh Navy. The second round of naval drills will involve only the Azerbaijani and Russian forces.

4Iran offers Azerbaijan to supply oil to Gulf. Iran stands ready to carry out the swap deliveries of Azerbaijani oil to the Persian Gulf, the Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh said.He made the remarks August 4 in Tehran addressing a meeting with Azerbaijan’s Economy and Industry Minister Shahin Mustafayev.Zanganeh said that oil can be transported from Iran’s Caspian port of Neka via a pipeline (with a capacity of 500,000 barrels per day) to the Tehran Oil Refinery.“Instead, Azerbaijan will get oil on the southern borders of Iran,” said Zanganeh.

5The construction of a $US10 billion ($A13.74 billion) gas pipeline stretching from Central to South Asia is set to begin in December, Pakistani officials said on Monday after meeting with a delegation from Turkmenistan.Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India have long planned the ambitious project to meet growing energy needs in the three South Asian countries but administrative issues and unrest in Afghanistan have so far delayed its realization. But the project is politically complex, requiring cooperation between at least four governments, and logistically challenging, as the pipeline would pass through areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan plagued by Taliban and separatist insurgents.

6Sweden has expelled a Russian diplomat and Moscow has retaliated by throwing out a Swedish diplomat.A Swedish Foreign Ministry spokesman said the Russian’s activities had not been in accordance with the Vienna Convention, a diplomatic code of behavior.But he did not disclose any details, nor did he say when either expulsion occurred.Sweden has been highly critical of Russia’s actions in Ukraine, and increased military activity by Russian planes and vessels in the Baltic Sea region has intensified regional tensions.

7Russia: Gazprom, A Behemoth No More.”It was not too long ago that Gazprom, the state-controlled energy conglomerate, was one of the Kremlin’s most potent geopolitical weapons. But those days now seem like a distant memory: Gazprom is a financial shadow of its former self.The speed of Gazprom’s decline is breathtaking. At its peak in May 2008, the company’s market capitalization reached $367.27 billion, making it one of world’s most valuable companies, according to a survey compiled by the Financial Times. Gazprom’s deputy chair, Alexander Medvedev, repeatedly predicted at the time that within a decade the Russian energy giant could be worth $1 trillion.That prediction now seem foolhardy” [EurasiaNet]

8Iran’s Ambassador to India has told the country’s media that Tehran is eager to cooperate with New Delhi in mega connectivity projects in the region. Gholamreza Ansari has specifically cited an agreement between the two countries over the development of Iran’s southeastern port of Chabahar as a key connectivity project. “India can be always part of any big ticket projects in Iran,” Ansari told The Times of India in an exclusive interview.Asked about the possibility of reviving the Iran-Pakistan- India gas pipeline project, the envoy said it was up to India and Pakistan to sort out their differences.

9Elections in Donetsk and Russia’s New Conflict-Freeze Model. “Holding an electoral mandate, but fronting for Russia, the authorities of Donetsk and Luhansk could then be seated at the table with Ukraine’s central government, to negotiate an “internal” Ukrainian constitutional settlement. That would introduce an entirely new paradigm of “conflict freeze” in Europe’s East. For the first time in the 25-year history of those conflicts, Moscow and the main Western chancelleries are urging the aggressed country—Ukraine in this case—to authorize elections in the territory under Russian military and secessionist control, then bargain with the predetermined winners of those elections” [Jamestown]

10Research Report: Coffee in Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan is a nation of tea drinkers and drinking coffee is not a normal habit. Despite this, the interest in coffee increased over the review period with Kazakhstanis traveling more and getting to know other cultures and their cuisines better. The westernisation of Kazakhstani culture has also created a noticeable move towards coffee drinking. The increasing number of foreigners in Kazakhstan has had a positive effect on sales of coffee as well. [Fast Market Research]

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

Africa-Europe Alliance: Two new financial guarantees under the EU External Investment Plan

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Today in the margins of the 2019 Africa Investment Forum in Johannesburg, South Africa, the European Commission signed two guarantee agreements with two Member States’ development finance institution: the Dutch ‘Financierings-Maatschappij voor Ontwikkelingslanden N.V’ (FMO) and the Italian ‘Cassa Depositi e Prestiti’ (CDP). These guarantee agreements are part of the implementation of the EU External Investment Plan, the financial arm of the Africa-Europe Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs.

Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica said: “The agreements signed today, worth €70 million, will help us to unlock more than €500 million in new investment in Africa and the EU Neighbourhood. These guarantees aim at mitigating and sharing the risk with other private investors in countries where otherwise these investments would not be as attractive. They will help to boost access to finance for small businesses, notably in the tech sector – and create up to 175,000 jobs directly and indirectly.”

Two guarantees, one goal: more investment in partner countries

The two guarantees will significantly boost investment and access to finance for small businesses (MSMEs), especially in the technology sector, in the countries covered by the Plan.

FMO Ventures Programme
This €40 million guarantee agreement is a partnership with FMO, the Dutch development bank. It targets Sub-Saharan Africa and the EU Neighbourhood. It will guarantee venture capital provided by FMO to start-up companies, in particular led by young entrepreneurs. The companies will use technology to lower the costs of making or supplying products and services that were previously unaffordable to many people. The guarantee will target companies offering digital solutions in a wide range of areas, from agriculture, access to energy and financial services to education, healthcare, transport and logistics. It will support up to 125,000 new jobs, directly and indirectly.

Archipelagos One4A – One Platform for Africa
The €30 million Archipelagos guarantee agreement is a partnership with Cassa Depositi e Prestiti (CDP), the Italian Development Bank, and the African Development Bank (AfDB). It will support access to finance across Africa for high potential small businesses. In order to help their growth, the programme supported by the guarantee will provide financing through innovative capital markets solutions. It will also enable financing partners to share the risk of investing in projects. By doing so it will generate up to 50,000 jobs, many for young people, and benefit about 1,500 small businesses in 10 African countries.

These guarantees are part of the External Investment Plan, which, by investing €4.5 billion, is set to leverage €44 billion in total investment. Out of the total budget, the EU has already allocated €4.2 billion.

Background

The EU External Investment Plan is using €4.5 billion in public funds to leverage €44 billion by 2020 in public and private investment for development in countries neighbouring the EU and in Africa.

The plan has three pillars. The first is finance. Through financial guarantees, the EU mitigates the risk in countries with difficult environments so that private investors and development banks will lend to entrepreneurs or finance development projects.

The plan’s second part is technical assistance. This funds experts who help develop new projects, to the benefit of will authorities, investors and companies. Technical assistance may include, for example, market intelligence and investment climate analysis, targeted legislative and regulatory advice, support to partner countries in implementing reforms, chains and identification, preparation, and help to carry out necessary investments.

The third part is investment climate support. The EU works closely with governments in partner countries to help them improve the conditions which investors consider when making their decisions. These include the business environment and a country’s political and economic stability. The EU also brings together governments and business to discuss investment challenges.

The External Investment Plan is a key part of the Africa-Europe Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs, launched by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in September 2018. The Alliance aims to boost investment which creates jobs and promotes sustainable development.

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Energy News

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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