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
1Nursultan Nazarbayev, Kazakhstan’s leader since 1989 is no stranger to accusations of autocracy. Western media has long been refering to Nazarbayev as “Kazakhstan’s autocratic president”. On the eve of the Constitution Day, President Nazarbayev commented on the accusations of autocracy.”I know that we are often accused of autocracy. But how can one talk about autocracy, when every 4 or 5 years people vote to elect their President and Parliament at free alternative elections. We are told to move faster towards democracy practiced by western countries, from the USA to Europe. We understand it all well. Democracy is a path towards development of humanity. We are making our way there. But we also have to consider that our country is an Asian society. Our traditions differ from Western ones. Our cultural and religious views are different. That is why we must pave our way carefully,” Nazarbayev said during the Conference dedicated to the 20th Anniversary of Kazakhstan’s Constitution.
2America and Russia locked in race to control the Arctic Circle. “Barack Obama was set to become the first sitting American president to visit the Arctic Circle on Wednesday night, as the United States battles to assert itself in a global race to control the region’s natural resources. Melting permafrost caused by rising global temperatures has made the once impenetrable Arctic Circle increasingly accessible, sparking intense competition between Russia, the United States and China to assert control over an area that it is thought may hold as much as 40 per cent of the world’s oil and gas resources” Ruth Sherlock, The Telegraph.
3Why Kazakhstan is building a uranium bank. The world suffers no shortage of uranium, the raw material for nuclear energy and nuclear weapons. The amount of electricity generated globally by nuclear power peaked almost a decade ago. And no reactors have ever been shut down because of a lack of fuel. Yet Warren Buffett has put the first $50m behind a $150m project agreed on August 27th to build a uranium bank in Kazakhstan, the world’s biggest producer of the mineral. It sounds like something a Bond villain might dream up, rather than a philanthropic American billionaire. What is the logic? The Economist
4China plays hard to get with Russia. “Moscow turned to its powerful Asian neighbor last year after being hit with sanctions by the West. But the plan for a deeper economic relationship is not working out. China’s slowdown is making it harder for Beijing to deliver on promises it made to Moscow, and Chinese investors are spooked by Russia’s deep economic crisis. Vladimir Putin is now hoping to give the relationship a second chance. The Russian president is in China this week, accompanied by an entourage of senior officials and business leaders” CNN
5Azerbaijan is a suitable route for transferring Iran’s gas to EU, Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani said. He made the remarks during a meeting with his Azerbaijani counterpart Oktay Asadov.Larijani underlined that cooperation between Tehran and Baku can be developed further in the fields of oil and gas.Iran holds 33.8 trillion cubic meters of proven natural gas reserves— or 18.2 percent of the world’s total proven reserves.The country has been pursuing multiple projects for years to pipe natural gas to Europe. The most serious project was Nabucco which was pursued by an international consortium led by Austria’s OMV. Iran had been originally designated in Nabucco as a key supplier for future exports to Europe.
6Iran has recently showed great interest in neighboring Turkmenistan, in terms of investment, proved by closing deals worth USD450 million, mainly to fund it with technical services. Iran has already been seizing opportunities, such as the nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers in Vienna conducted in July, all in all, supporting the oil industry’s goals.
7Iran is ready to talk extending the “peace pipeline” to Bangladesh which envisages exports of the Iranian gas to Pakistan and India, Tehran’s Ambassador to Dhaka says.Abbas Vaezi said the issue had been discussed between Iranian and Bangladesh governments as well as with India and Pakistan, adding “they must have a feasibility study” to proceed further.Bangladesh’s Power, Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Nasrul Hamid has been invited to Tehran where he will discuss all energy-related issues including the gas pipeline, the ambassador added.The recent conclusion of nuclear talks with Iran has revived interest in the “peace pipeline” which ran into hurdles after India withdrew from the project and Pakistan failed to fulfill its obligations.
8NATO vs. Russia War Could Begin Today Or Tomorrow. “Pentagon’s deployment of F-22 fighter aircraft to the Baltic states would mean nothing if the quality of governance in Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania is low. But the Pentagon explained that the deployment of F-22 fighter aircraft is ‘designed to send a message to Russia’.In Estonia and Latvia, Russian-speaking minorities account for about one-quarter of the population, and over 6 percent in Lithuania. Not long ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that all those people deserve his ‘protection’.Such comments by Putin triggered a wave of fear in the Baltic states, which is why the three countries have been seeking NATO’s security assurances. And NATO couldn’t think of anything better than to respond with war games” ValueWalk
9Azerbaijan’s oil fund SOFAZ is studying investment opportunities in new markets. SOFAZ, an entity that accumulates and manages Azerbaijan’s oil and gas revenues, implements its investment plan in accordance with the regulations outlined by its management. The Fund’s assets fell by 3.56 percent earlier in the year from $37.104 billion to an estimated at $35.783 billion as of July 1. As of June 30, 2015, SOFAZ’s total investment portfolio amounted to $35.726 billion, or 99.8 percent of total assets. Some 33 percent of its investment portfolio was invested for a period of up to one year, 30.5 percent from one to three years, 11 percent from three to five years, 9.7 per cent more than five years, and 15.8 percent funds were invested in real estate, stocks and gold.
10Work on the reconstruction of the water supply system began at the refinery in the town of Seydi (eastern Turkmenistan).Work for the high-volume production of high-quality petroleum products are carried out at the large industrial enterprise at the expense of deep processing of raw materials.Repair and reconstruction of production units are carried out for this purpose. Special attention is given to the important issues related to water supply of the plants, wastewater treatment and their purification.
IRENA to Help Deliver Low-Carbon 2022 Winter Olympics in Zhangjiakou, China
The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) has today signed a co-operation agreement with the People’s Government of Hebei Province, China to provide the city of Zhangjiakou with a renewable energy roadmap that will support its ambition to deliver a low-carbon Winter Olympics in 2022. The agreement will also help the city become China’s first energy transition pilot city. As co-host of the Winter Olympics with Beijing, Zhangjiakou aims to generate 50 per cent of its power from renewable sources by 2020.
The agreement, signed by IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin and the Governor of Hebei Province, Xu Qin, will support the establishment of a ‘low-carbon Olympic zone’ in Zhangjiakou, with plans for both the Olympic centre and Olympic stadiums to be powered by renewable energy. IRENA will also provide strategic advice in the context of the development of an International Center for Renewable Energy Industry Innovation in Zhangjiakou City.
“China has made remarkable progress in the pursuit of renewable energy and in the transition towards a modern energy system,” said IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin at the signing of the Memoradum of Understanding. “From renewable energy adoption to technological innovation – China is emerging as a leader of the new energy economy and a key actor in energy transformation.
“The pursuit of a low-carbon Winter Olympics in 2022 will not only support China’s ambition to lower harmful emissions, but it will also see them pioneer a movement towards the cost-effective decarbonisation of the world’s greatest spectacles,” continued Mr. Amin. “This agreement reflects the Agency’s deepening cooperation with China and will facilitate a positive, two-way exchange of expertise and knowledge.”
Governor of Hebei Province, Mr. Xu Qin said: “President Xi Jinping’s strategic vision for an ecological civilization has significantly advanced environmental protection in China, greatly benefiting Chinese people whilst representing China’s contribution to global green development. Hebei Province will realise the vision proposed by President Xi, by prioritising ecological protection and exercising green development, as we expedite the speed at which we build a beautiful Hebei.
Mr Xu continued: “With abundant renewable energy resources – particularly the area of Zhangjiakou City – the potential of this cooperation with IRENA is broad and bright. As both sides work to advance R&D, technology innovation and the broader development of the renewable energy industry, this will support our planning for a low-carbon Winter Olympic Games.”
The Games will be the first major global sporting event held in China since the Beijing Olympics in 2008. Co-host Zhangjiakou, located approximately 200 kilometers from Beijing, has been identified as having a strong renewable energy resource endowment, with abundant wind, solar and biomass potential in the region.
Between 2012 and 2016 China witnessed a 10-fold increase in solar energy adoption, and in 2017 alone, it added 53 GW of PV. China announced an intention to invest USD 361 billion in renewable power generation by 2020. China chaired IRENA’s 14th and 15th Council Meetings and is President of the Agency’s 9th Meeting of the Assembly in January next year.
9th International Black Sea Symposium: Blue Growth as a driver for regional development
The International Centre for Black Sea Studies (ICBSS) organized successfully the 9th International Black Sea Symposium on Blue Growth as a driver for regional development, in Athens, on 20-21 March 2018.
In its ninth year, the International Black Sea Symposium (IBSS) built on the success and positive impact of its previous eight editions to bring together the next generation of stakeholders with an interest in the Black Sea area, focusing on blue growth, a long term strategy for sustainable development in the marine and maritime sectors.
Opening the Symposium, ICBSS Director General Mr. Georgios Mitrakos, highlighted the importance of coordinated action among all involved stakeholders that will allow for a result-oriented strategy and inclusive blue growth. To this end, as he noted, the aim of the 9th IBSS was to enable constructive dialogue and generate future synergies.
Keynote speech was delivered by the Secretary General of the BSEC Organisation, H.E. Ambassador Michael B. Christides. Opening his speech, Amb. Christides underlined “Growth was, is and will remain the objective of humans”. He continued stressing that, our adaptation to the continuously growing technological impact and innovation demands for joint cooperation and coordination. As he noted,“the BSEC Organisation has invested a lot of efforts in new realities” and will continue to support initiatives that aim to motivate the youth and “bring forward a new generation of stakeholders”.
The Symposium was developed in four targeted sessions, focusing on i) interregional cooperation and governance, ii) entrepreneurship and competitiveness, iii) investment in people, skills and services, and iv) knowledge and mitigation measures.
Within two days of interactive discussions, seventy participants, speakers and observers had the opportunity to network, to exchange knowledge and to form ideas for new joint projects related to sustainable blue growth in the wider Black Sea region.
Among the distinguished participants of the 9th IBSS were the Vice-Mayor of the Municipality of Piraeus, Mr. Petros Kokkalis, the Deputy Secretary General of PABSEC, Mr. Miltiadis Makrygiannis, the Honorary Consul of Italy in Piraeus, Capt. Mauro Renaldi, the first Secretary of the Embassy of Italy, Mr. Enrico Barbato, Senior Officials from the Embassies of the BSEC Member States in Athens and the Hellenic Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Director of the Romanian Diplomatic Academy and Chairman of the ICBSS Board, Mr. Dan Petre, Mr. Leornardo Manzari, Director of the European Institute of EurAsian Dialogue in Italy, as well as policy-makers, academics, journalists, entrepreneurs, civil society representatives and researchers primarily from the countries of the wider Black Sea area and the EU member states.
The results of the 9th IBSS will be published in a collective edition of the ICBSS Xenophon Paper Series, which will include the contributions of speakers and participants to the event.
Poland must make urgent legislative reforms to combat foreign bribery
Poland must make urgent progress on carrying out key recommendations of the OECD Working Group on Bribery that remain unimplemented, more than four years after its Phase 3 evaluation in June 2013.
Poland still needs to take urgent steps to ensure companies can be held responsible for foreign bribery, even if the persons who perpetrated the offence are not convicted. In addition, Poland must increase the fines for companies in order to ensure foreign bribery is punishable by effective, proportionate, and dissuasive sanctions.
The Working Group is disappointed by Poland’s failure to take measures to ensure that the “impunity” provision in the Penal Code that applies to foreign and domestic bribery cannot be applied to the bribery of foreign public officials. This provision allows perpetrators of bribery to automatically escape punishment by notifying the law enforcement authorities of the offence before the authorities learn about it from other sources.
In the context of ongoing reforms, Poland should also ensure that appropriate measures are in place to protect from retaliatory or disciplinary action private and public sector employees who report suspected acts of foreign bribery in good faith and on reasonable grounds.
The Working Group reviewed a report submitted by Poland on its progress in implementing these outstanding recommendations at its plenary meeting on 13-15 March 2018. The Working Group requested that Poland provide a written report on further progress in addressing these concerns in December 2018, at which time the Group will consider additional measures in the absence of significant progress.
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