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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 11th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The scare tactics – The pundits say: “In a matter of hours of the Strait of Hormuz being shut down, prices would increase anywhere from $25 to $30 a barrel, after 72 hours, they foresee oil prices spiking to $150 very quickly, and rising much faster from there. From there, prices could climb to $180… even $200.

But what is the likelihood of this scenario?

———————

 www.tomdispatch.com/post/175487/t…

Tomgram: Michael Klare, Energy Wars 2012
Posted by Michael Klare at 9:37am, January 10, 2012.

Last week, the president made a rare appearance at the Pentagon to unveil a new strategic plan for U.S. military policy (and so spending) over the next decade.  Let’s leave the specifics to a future TomDispatch post and focus instead on a historical footnote: Obama was evidently the first president to offer remarks from a podium in the Pentagon press room.  He made the point himself — “I understand this is the first time a president has done this.  It’s a pretty nice room.  (Laughter)” — and it was duly noted in the media.  Yet no one thought to make anything of it, even though it tells us so much about our American world.

After all, when was the last time the president appeared at a podium at the Environmental Protection Agency to announce a 10-year plan for a “leaner, meaner” approach to the environment, or at the Education Department to outline the next decade of blue-skies thinking (and spending) for giving our children a leg-up in a competitive world?  Or how about at a State Department podium to describe future planning for a more peaceable planet more peaceably attained?  Unfortunately, you can’t remember such moments and neither can America’s reporters, because they just aren’t part of Washington life.  And strangest of all, no one finds this the tiniest bit odd or worth commenting on.

Over the last decade, this country has been so strikingly militarized that no one can imagine 10 years of serious government planning or investment not connected to the military or the national security state.  It’s a dangerous world out there — so we’re regularly told by officials who don’t mention that no military is built to handle the scariest things around.  War and the sinews of war are now our business and the U.S. military is our go-to outfit of choice for anything from humanitarian action to diplomacy (even though that same military can’t do the one thing it’s theoretically built to do: win a modern war). And if you don’t believe me that the militarization of this country is a process far gone, check out the last pages of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent piece, “America’s Pacific Century,” in Foreign Policy magazine.  Then close your eyes and tell me that it wasn’t written by a secretary of defense, rather than a secretary of state — right down to the details about the “littoral combat ships” we’re planning to deploy to Singapore and the “greater American military presence” in Australia.

Of course, the irony of this American moment is that the Republicans, those supposed advocates of “small government,” are the greatest fans we have of the ever increasing oppressive powers of the biggest of governments.  In recent years, have they seen a single enhanced power they didn’t put their stamp of approval on or enhance further? Predictably, no sooner did the president’s Pentagon press briefing end than assorted Republicans began attacking Obama and his relatively modest Pentagon plan for reshuffling military funds — from House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (“a lead from behind strategy for a left-behind America”) and Senator John McCain (“greatest peril”) to presidential candidate Mitt Romney (“inexcusable, unthinkable”) — as if it were a program for unilateral disarmament.

So when the U.S. faces a problem in the world — say, keeping the energy flowing on this planet — the first thing that’s done is to militarize the problem.  It’s the only way Washington now knows how to think.  As Michael Klare — whose upcoming book The Race for What’s Left: The Global Scramble for the World’s Last Resources will certainly be a must-read of the season — makes clear, a further militarization of oil and gas policy is underway with an eye tothe Pacific, and we have another anxious year on the horizon. (To catch Timothy MacBain’s latest Tomcast audio interview in which Klare discusses the crisis in the Strait of Hormuz, click here, or download it to your iPod here.) Tom

Danger Waters
The Three Top Hot Spots of Potential Conflict in the Geo-Energy Era
By Michael T. Klare

Welcome to an edgy world where a single incident at an energy “chokepoint” could set a region aflame, provoking bloody encounters, boosting oil prices, and putting the global economy at risk.  With energy demand on the rise and sources of supply dwindling, we are, in fact, entering a new epoch — the Geo-Energy Era — in which disputes over vital resources will dominate world affairs.  In 2012 and beyond, energy and conflict will be bound ever more tightly together, lending increasing importance to the key geographical flashpoints in our resource-constrained world.

Take the Strait of Hormuz, already making headlines and shaking energy markets as 2012 begins.  Connecting the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean, it lacks imposing geographical features like the Rock of Gibraltar or the Golden Gate Bridge.  In an energy-conscious world, however, it may possess greater strategic significance than any passageway on the planet.  Every day, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, tankers carrying some 17 million barrels of oil — representing 20% of the world’s daily supply — pass through this vital artery.

So last month, when a senior Iranian official threatened to block the strait in response to Washington’s tough new economic sanctions, oil prices instantly soared. While the U.S. military has vowed to keep the strait open, doubts about the safety of future oil shipments and worries about a potentially unending, nerve-jangling crisis involving Washington, Tehran, and Tel Aviv have energy experts predicting high oil prices for months to come, meaning further woes for a slowing global economy.

The Strait of Hormuz is, however, only one of several hot spots where energy, politics, and geography are likely to mix in dangerous ways in 2012 and beyond.  Keep your eye as well on the East and South China Seas, the Caspian Sea basin, and an energy-rich Arctic that is losing its sea ice.  In all of these places, countries are disputing control over the production and transportation of energy, and arguing about national boundaries and/or rights of passage.

In the years to come, the location of energy supplies and of energy supply routes — pipelines, oil ports, and tanker routes — will be pivotal landmarks on the global strategic map.  Key producing areas, like the Persian Gulf, will remain critically important, but so will oil chokepoints like the Strait of Hormuz and the Strait of Malacca (between the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea) and the “sea lines of communication,” or SLOCs (as naval strategists like to call them) connecting producing areas to overseas markets.  More and more, the major powers led by the United States, Russia, and China will restructure their militaries to fight in such locales.

You can already see this in the elaborate Defense Strategic Guidance document, “Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership,” unveiled at the Pentagon on January 5th by President Obama and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta.  While envisioning a smaller Army and Marine Corps, it calls for increased emphasis on air and naval capabilities, especially those geared to the protection or control of international energy and trade networks.  Though it tepidly reaffirmed historic American ties to Europe and the Middle East, overwhelming emphasis was placed on bolstering U.S. power in “the arc extending from the Western Pacific and East Asia into the Indian Ocean and South Asia.”

In the new Geo-Energy Era, the control of energy and of its transport to market will lie at the heart of recurring global crises.  This year, keep your eyes on three energy hot spots in particular: the Strait of Hormuz, the South China Sea, and the Caspian Sea basin.

The Strait of Hormuz

A narrow stretch of water separating Iran from Oman and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the strait is the sole maritime link between the oil-rich Persian Gulf region and the rest of the world.  A striking percentage of the oil produced by Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE is carried by tanker through this passageway on a daily basis, making it (in the words of the Department of Energy) “the world’s most important oil chokepoint.”  Some analysts believe that any sustained blockage in the strait could trigger a 50% increase in the price of oil and trigger a full-scale global recession or depression.

American leaders have long viewed the Strait as a strategic fixture in their global plans that must be defended at any cost.  It was an outlook first voiced by President Jimmy Carter in January 1980, on the heels of the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan which had, he told Congress, “brought Soviet military forces to within 300 miles of the Indian Ocean and close to the Strait of Hormuz, a waterway through which most of the world’s oil must flow.”  The American response, he insisted, must be unequivocal: any attempt by a hostile power to block the waterway would henceforth be viewed as “an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America,” and “repelled by any means necessary, including military force.”

Much has changed in the Gulf region since Carter issued his famous decree, known since as the Carter Doctrine, and established the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) to guard the Strait — but not Washington’s determination to ensure the unhindered flow of oil there.  Indeed, President Obama has made it clear that, even if CENTCOM ground forces were to leave Afghanistan, as they have Iraq, there would be no reduction in the command’s air and naval presence in the greater Gulf area.

It is conceivable that the Iranians will put Washington’s capabilities to the test.  On December 27th, Iran’s first vice president Mohammad-Reza Rahimi said, “If [the Americans] impose sanctions on Iran’s oil exports, then even one drop of oil cannot flow from the Strait of Hormuz.”  Similar statements have since been made by other senior officials (and contradicted as well by yet others).  In addition, the Iranians recently conducted elaborate naval exercisesin the Arabian Sea near the eastern mouth of the strait, and more such maneuvers are said to be forthcoming.  At the same time, the commanding general of Iran’s army suggested that the USS John C. Stennis, an American aircraft carrier just leaving the Gulf, should not return.  “The Islamic Republic of Iran,” he added ominously, “will not repeat its warning.”

Might the Iranians actually block the strait?  Many analysts believe that the statements by Rahimi and his colleagues are bluster and bluff meant to rattle Western leaders, send oil prices higher, and win future concessions if negotiations ever recommence over their country’s nuclear program.  Economic conditions in Iran are, however, becoming more desperate, and it is always possible that the country’s hard-pressed hardline leaders may feel the urge to take some dramatic action, even if it invites a powerful U.S. counterstrike.  Whatever the case, the Strait of Hormuz will remain a focus of international attention in 2012, with global oil prices closely following the rise and fall of tensions there.

The South China Sea

The South China Sea is a semi-enclosed portion of the western Pacific bounded by China to the north, Vietnam to the west, the Philippines to the east, and the island of Borneo (shared by Brunei, Indonesia, and Malaysia) to the south.  The sea also incorporates two largely uninhabited island chains, the Paracels and the Spratlys.  Long an important fishing ground, it has also been a major avenue for commercial shipping between East Asia and Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.  More recently, it acquired significance as a potential source of oil and natural gas, large reserves of which are now believed to lie in subsea areas surrounding the Paracels and Spratlys.

With the discovery of oil and gas deposits, the South China Sea has been transformed into a cockpit of international friction.  At least some islands in this energy-rich area are claimed by every one of the surrounding countries, including China — which claims them all, and has demonstrated a willingness to use military force to assert dominance in the region.  Not surprisingly, this has put it in conflict with the other claimants, including several with close military ties to the United States.  As a result, what started out as a regional matter, involving China and various members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), has become a prospective tussle between the world’s two leading powers.

To press their claims, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam, and the Philippines have all sought to work collectively through ASEAN, believing a multilateral approach will give them greater negotiating clout than one-on-one dealings with China. For their part, the Chinese have insisted that all disputes must be resolved bilaterally, a situation in which they can more easily bring their economic and military power to bear.  Previously preoccupied with Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States has now entered the fray, offering full-throated support to the ASEAN countries in their efforts to negotiate en masse with Beijing.

Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi promptly warned the United States not to interfere.  Any such move “will only make matters worse and the resolution more difficult,” he declared.  The result was an instant war of words between Beijing and Washington.  During a visit to the Chinese capital in July 2011, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen delivered a barely concealed threat when it came to possible future military action.  “The worry, among others that I have,” he commented, “is that the ongoing incidents could spark a miscalculation, and an outbreak that no one anticipated.”  To drive the point home, the United States has conducted a series of conspicuous military exercises in the South China Sea, including some joint maneuvers with ships from Vietnam and the Philippines.  Not to be outdone, China responded with naval maneuvers of its own.  It’s a perfect formula for future “incidents” at sea.

The South China Sea has long been on the radar screens of those who follow Asian affairs, but it only attracted global attention when, in November, President Obama traveled to Australia and announced, with remarkable bluntness, a new U.S. strategy aimed at confronting Chinese power in Asia and the Pacific.  “As we plan and budget for the future,” he told members of the Australian Parliament in Canberra, “we will allocate the resources necessary to maintain our strong military presence in this region.”  A key feature of this effort would be to ensure “maritime security” in the South China Sea.

While in Australia, President Obama also announced the establishment of anew U.S. base at Darwin on that country’s northern coast, as well as expanded military ties with Indonesia and the Philippines.  In January, the president similarly placed special emphasis on projecting U.S. power in the region when he went to the Pentagon to discuss changes in the American military posture in the world.

Beijing will undoubtedly take its own set of steps, no less belligerent, to protect its growing interests in the South China Sea.  Where this will lead remains, of course, unknown.  After the Strait of Hormuz, however, the South China Sea may be the global energy chokepoint where small mistakes or provocations could lead to bigger confrontations in 2012 and beyond.

The Caspian Sea Basin

The Caspian Sea is an inland body of water bordered by Russia, Iran, and three former republics of the USSR: Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan.  In the immediate area as well are the former Soviet lands of Armenia, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan.  All of these old SSRs are, to one degree or another, attempting to assert their autonomy from Moscow and establish independent ties with the United States, the European Union, Iran, Turkey, and, increasingly, China.  All are wracked by internal schisms and/or involved in border disputes with their neighbors.  The region would be a hotbed of potential conflict even if the Caspian basin did not harbor some of the world’s largest undeveloped reserves of oil and natural gas, which could easily bring it to a boil.

This is not the first time that the Caspian has been viewed as a major source of oil, and so potential conflict.  In the late nineteenth century, the region around the city of Baku — then part of the Russian empire, now in Azerbaijan — was a prolific source of petroleum and so a major strategic prize.  Future Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin first gained notoriety there as a leader of militant oil workers, and Hitler sought to capture it during his ill-fated 1941 invasion of the USSR.  After World War II, however, the region lost its importance as an oil producer when Baku’s onshore fields dried up.  Now, fresh discoveries are being made in offshore areas of the Caspian itself and in previously undeveloped areas of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan.

According to energy giant BP, the Caspian area harbors as much as 48 billion barrels of oil (mostly buried in Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan) and 449 trillion cubic feet of natural gas (with the largest supply in Turkmenistan).  This puts the region ahead of North and South America in total gas reserves and Asia in oil reserves.  But producing all this energy and delivering it to foreign markets will be a monumental task.  The region’s energy infrastructure is woefully inadequate and the Caspian itself provides no maritime outlet to other seas, so all that oil and gas must travel by pipeline or rail.

Russia, long the dominant power in the region, is pursuing control over the transportation routes by which Caspian oil and gas will reach markets.  It is upgrading Soviet-era pipelines that link the former SSRs to Russia or building new ones and, to achieve a near monopoly over the marketing of all this energy, bringing traditional diplomacy, strong-arm tactics, and outright bribery to bear on regional leaders (many of whom once served in the Soviet bureaucracy) to ship their energy via Russia.  As recounted in my book Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet, Washington sought to thwart these efforts by sponsoring the construction of alternative pipelines that avoid Russian territory, crossing Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey to the Mediterranean (notably the BTC, or Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline), while Beijing is building its own pipelines linking the Caspian area to western China.

All of these pipelines cross through areas of ethnic unrest and pass near various contested regions like rebellious Chechnya and breakaway South Ossetia.  As a result, both China and the U.S. have wedded their pipeline operations to military assistance for countries along the routes.  Fearful of an American presence, military or otherwise, in the former territories of the Soviet Union, Russia has responded with military moves of its own, including its brief August 2008 war with Georgia, which took place along the BTC route.

Given the magnitude of the Caspian’s oil and gas reserves, many energy firms are planning new production operations in the region, along with the pipelinesneeded to bring the oil and gas to market.  The European Union, for example, hopes to build a new natural gas pipeline called Nabucco from Azerbaijan through Turkey to Austria.  Russia has proposed a competing conduit called South Stream.  All of these efforts involve the geopolitical interests of major powers, ensuring that the Caspian region will remain a potential source of international crisis and conflict.

In the new Geo-Energy Era, the Strait of Hormuz, the South China Sea, and the Caspian Basin hardly stand alone as potential energy flashpoints. The East China Sea, where China and Japan are contending for a contested undersea natural gas field, is another, as are the waters surrounding the Falkland Islands, where both Britain and Argentina hold claims to undersea oil reserves, as will be the globally warming Arctic whose resources are claimed by many countries.  One thing is certain: wherever the sparks may fly, there’s oil in the water and danger at hand in 2012.

Michael T. Klare is a professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College, a TomDispatch regular, and the author, most recently, ofRising Powers, Shrinking Planet. His newest book, The Race for What’s Left: The Global Scramble for the World’s Last Resources, will be published in March.  To listen to Timothy MacBain’s latest Tomcast audio interview in which Klare discusses the crisis in the Strait of Hormuz, click here, or download it to your iPod here.


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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 24th, 2011
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

NEW TRANSPORT AND ENERGY FORUMS NEEDED IN CENTRAL ASIA, TURKMENISTAN TELLS UN

Turkmenistan’s President called for the creation of new mechanisms for Central Asian countries to cooperate on energy and transportation during a speech to the General Assembly’s annual general debate in New York today.

“I believe there has come the time to start the development of concrete measures on the settlement of energy transportation issues,” Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov said, recommending the establishment of a new forum for Member States to cooperate in this area.

Mr. Berdimuhamedov also pointed to transport as a crucial component to the region’s sustainable development and called for UN support to study and expand transit and transport opportunities among the countries in the Caspian and Black Sea basins, Central Asia, and the Middle East.

“Over the years, our country together with partners in the region is actively working on the implementation of major projects on optimization of traffic flow in the Eurasian space. We believe this is a very promising area, given the huge potential of the North-South and East-West corridors,” he said.

He also spoke of Turkmenistan’s concern for the environment of the Caspian Sea, and proposed hosting the Caspian Environment Forum in Ashgabat, the country’s capital.

“We are convinced of the need to give specific content to international efforts to preserve unique natural resources of the Caspian Sea. In this regard, we propose to organize the Caspian Environment Forum as a permanent body to deal with environmental issues in the Caspian basin, as well as to make appropriate proposals and recommendations.”

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 9th, 2011
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)




The two days Vienna Europe to the Caucasus and Central Asia World Economic Forum, that opened officially Wednesday June 8th, discussed Energy and the Arab Spring.

Chancellor Faymann (SPÖ) of Austria, the host of the Forum,  stressed especially the importance of the Nabucco gas pipeline that goes through Turkey for gas originating in Central Asia.

Austrian  Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger (ÖVP), who is in the middle of a spat with Turkey because of their rejection of an Austrian candidate for the post of Secretary General of the OSCE –  former Foreign Minister, and member of the same party, Ms. Ursula Plassnik, –  said that Europe and the Eurasian space would have much to offer each other.

The Kyrgyz President Roza Otunbayeva, whose sister I was told is married to the Austrian Ambassador to China, said her country was a model for the “Arab Spring.” Roza Otunbayeva was one of the leaders of the “Tulip Revolution” of March 2005 that is credited with the start of democratization in her country. President Otunbayeva spoke already on Tuesday evening at the Bruno Kreisky Forum for International events. Her topic was – KYRGYZSTAN ON ITS WAY  TO FREEDOM OF DEMOCRACY.

(Just watch here please that it goes in stages and it is not a smooth transition – do not expect miracles in the short term – this is our own comment – in the meantime the world will rather be interested in the region’s oil.)

 www.davienna.ac.at/jart/prj3/dipl…

Chancellor Faymann stressed the need for “stable and secure energy supply” and praised the growing cooperation between Europe and the States in the Caucasus and Central Asia. He stressed the importance of the Austrian oil company –  the OMV – for responsible planning the Nabucco gas pipeline to “stabilize the European gas supply, and relations between Europe and Central Asia and the Black Sea region, strengthened thereoff”.

He was seconded on energy import by On Ukraine President Mykola Azarov who criticized the Russian energy policy. The energy dependence of Ukraine on Russia was “not good”, as the oil and gas prices, the Russian government-related utilities are not “what we consider to be optimal. Therefore Kiev cooperation projects with Azerbaijan and other countries have been addressed.”

Austrian Federal President Hans Fischer spoke of the need for social impact of economic transformations in post-Soviet  States. Spindelegger said that the Central Asian region will continue with its wealth of resources to a new focus of the global economy – Austria can offer to these countries innovative products, he said. “If we find ways to increase cooperation, the conference will have been successful.”

Otunbayeva, who on her trip to Vienna also stopped in Budapest, expressed the hope that Central Asia in the future will get more attention in the West. She passed out in her speech, the political foundations for economic development. The downfall of the autocrat Kurmanbek Bakiyev in early 2010 had mapped out the current revolutions in the Arab world. “We could no longer afford the corrupt regime,” she said.

CEOs and Muslim economists called on Europe to support the current upheavals in the region, but sounded caution. The Dubai economist Tarik Yousef L. lamented that Europe in recent years rehabilitated the Libyan regime of Muammar al-Gaddafi. He spoke of European “guilt” because of the slow reaction to the upheavals in Egypt and Tunisia that should help these countries now. From the Central Bank of Tunisia Mustapha Kamel Nabli – the governor –  demanded above all, a closer cooperation with Europe in migration. Europe must assume a share of the costs incurred by the flow of refugees, he said. The Bahraini banker Khalid Abdullah-Janahi, said about Egypt that the Muslim Brotherhood will continue to take the central role. They would get from the upcoming legislative choice between 40 and 50 percent of the vote, he said.

The Kazakh Vice Premier Yerbol Orynbayev and Turkmenistan’s Deputy Prime Minister Akylbek Japarov stressed the need for economic development “to solve their common problems” – such as in the fight against drug crime and poverty. “Poverty is a problem that not all states in the region are equally capable of solving” said Orynbayev. The Turkmenistan speaker Japarov spoke of his country’s economic aid for the unstable neighbors like Afghanistan. Turkmenistan Oil prices were discounted to them. “This contributes to the development of the country and thus to peace in the region,” said Japarov.

Chancellor Faymann met on the margins of the WEF yesterday with six heads of state and government for bilateral talks.

Emphasis during the discussions with the Heads of State of Hungary (Viktor Orban), Armenia (Tigran Sarkisian), Montenegro (Igor Luksic), Ukraine (Azarov) and Georgia (Nikoloz Gilauri) and with Otumbajewa, was the energy policy and EU issues. Faymann confirmed its rejection of the nuclear power policy and referred to his meeting with Ukrainian Prime Minister. “Premier Azarov has invited me to the Ukraine to show me the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster from today’s perspective may have been his words -” This has to be seen with my own eyes. “

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 20th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Press Conference at the UN

World Water Day

Monday, 22 March, 2010
12:30 p.m.
Dag Hammarskjöld Library Auditorium

H.E. President of the UN General Assembly , H.E. Prime Minister of Tajikistan

H.E. Jan Eliasson
Chair of WaterAid Sweden, Former President of the UN General Assembly,
Former Foreign Minister of Sweden

With almost 884 million people lacking access to safe drinking water, and over 2.6 billion people, or almost 39 per cent of the world’s population, living without improved sanitation facilities, the issue of water is critical for tackling today’s challenges related to health, food security, and sustainable development.

To promote the International Decade for Action, “Water for Life 2005 – 2015”, the United Nations General Assembly is holding a special high-level interactive dialogue on water and its implications for the Millennium Development Goals, climate change, disasters, peace and security.

This high-level dialogue provides an important input to the preparatory process for the Summit on the Millennium Development Goals to be held on 20-22 September 2010, and feeds into the High-Level International Conference on water to be hosted by Tajikistan in June 2010.

General Assembly President Ali Treki, General Assembly President Ali Treki, Prime Minister Oqilov, and WaterAid Sweden Chair Jan Eliasson will brief the press on the significance of water-related issues and highlight the urgent need for action to fulfill international commitments on water by 2015.

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The problem with the above press conference, which is part of the daily UN Spokesperson’s Briefing to the Press, is that the UN General Assembly President is Ali Treki, the Foreign Minister of Libya who was declared practically non-person by the Schengen countries, so he is unwelcome to Europe {a President of the UNGA – mind you – no less}, and Oqil Ghaybulloyevich Oqilov, Prime Minister of Tajikistan, just recently host to Ahmedi-Nejad of Iran,  and whose country is turning  into a pro-Iranian satellite. The fact that the UN water conference will be held in Tajikistan must have to do something with the push for legitimization by some of the world’s less palatable regimes.

That leaves the Honorable Jan Eliason, a friend from the days he served at the UN, and a friend of humanity, the only person worthwhile on that UN panel. We say this with full knowledge that water and climate change are indeed main problems for Libya and Tajikistan, but we just do not believe that the other two speakers on that dais have shown politically real interest in this topic.

We are curious what journalists will show up and how far can questioning be allowed by the UN,  and by the UN General Assembly,  Spokesmen.

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Monday 04 January 2010
President Ahmadinejad lays wreath at Ismail Samani’s statue

Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad laid wreath at the statue of Ismail Samani a former king here on Monday.
President Ahmadinejad arrived in Dushanbe Monday morning for a two-day stay in Tajikistan.

After welcome ceremony held by Tajikistan’s Prime Minister Oqil Oqilov, Ahmadinejad started talks with his Tajik counterpart Imomali Rakhmon.

During the talks, the two presidents signed three memoranda of understanding, two documents on cooperation and a statement on expansion of bilateral relations.

Later in the day, Ahmadinejad is planned to deliver speech to a group of resident Iranians at Ibn Sina Hospital, built by Iran’s private sector in the country. He is also due to inaugurate an Iranology center in the Tajikistan’s medical university.

——

Saturday 09 January 2010
President Ahmadinejad ends Central Asian tour


President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad left Turkmenistan for Iran Wednesday afternoon at the end of his two-nation tour to the Central Asia region.

The Iranian president was officially seen off by his Turkmen counterpart Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov.

He was in Turkmenistan to attend the inaugural ceremony of the first phase of Iran-Turkmenistan’s second gas pipeline project.

The 182-km pipeline was inaugurated by the Iranian and Turkmen presidents earlier on Wednesday.

President Ahmadinejad was in the region on a three-day visit which had brought him earlier to Tajikistan.

He discussed major bilateral, regional and international developments with senior Tajik and Turkmen officials.

A number of agreements were also signed by Iranian officials and their Tajik and Turkmen counterparts for promotion of bilateral cooperation between Tehran and the two Central Asian capitals.

—–

Saturday 09 January 2010
President Ahmadinejad returns home

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad concluded his two-nation tour to the Central Asian region and arrived in Tehran on Wednesday afternoon.

Upon his arrival, the Iranian president was welcomed by Supreme Leader’s Advisor for International Affairs Ali Akbar Velayati, 1st Vice-President Mohammad Reza Rahimi as well as a number of high ranking officials and ministers.

Speaking to reporters at the airport, President Ahmadinejad described his visits to Tajikistan and Turkmenistan as very fruitful and promising.

He discussed major bilateral, regional and international developments with senior Tajik and Turkmen officials.

A number of agreements were also signed by Iranian officials and their Tajik and Turkmen counterparts for promotion of bilateral cooperation between Tehran and the two Central Asian capital cities.

—–

Saturday 09 January 2010
President:
World’s fate to be decided in Middle East.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said here Thursday that world’s destiny will be decided in the Middle East.

“Iran and Syria should in a joint mission establish new world order based on monotheism, justice and humanity,” President Ahmadinejad told Syrian parliament Speaker Mahmoud al-Abrash.

He said the world is on verge of big developments and the tyrannical systems are fading.

“Iran and Syria shoulder a crucial role in present juncture and their cooperation should further expand,” he added.

The 30-year resistance of Iran and Syria is almost close to the victory stage, said the President, adding, “Resistance of nations, including Iran and Syria, has thwarted all the conspiracies of the imperialistic system in the political, economic, military and ideological domains.”

The President went on to say that construction of the wall of separation in the occupied lands and of the steel war in Gaza all show the Zionist regime’s vulnerability. “The US government too will have to end up its interventions in the region and get its forces out of there.”

Al-Abrash said in return that expansion of relations and cooperation among Muslim states, including Iran and Syria, has nullified enemy conspiracies.
He said that Iran and Syria will as before move in the front of perseverance and campaign against global arrogance.


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For more information and the full programme of the day, please see: www.un.org

Jonathan Rich, WaterAid, Tel.: +1 347 262 9115, Email:  jonathan at jcrcommunications.com

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Let the clean water flow

By CAROLINE BOIN, The Japan Times online, Saturday, March 20, 2010

LONDON — The 18th annual World Water Day (March 22) offers the same old problems and rejects the practical solutions. On Monday, 1 billion people will, as usual, spend the day without clean water and a third of humanity without adequate sanitation. As usual, some 3.5 million men, women and children will die from related diseases this year. Yet many nongovernment organizations and politicians still prefer ideology to ideas, spurning what the private sector delivers to the world’s poor.

Activists often claim to be defending the poor from profit-maximizing corporations. But this has more to do with dogma than reality. Given that less than 10 percent of world water management is private, it is hard to see how they can blame corporations for poor supply.

In fact, it is governments that mismanage water and misallocate it to political cronies and powerful lobbies such as farmers. The poor, in rural areas or slums, are left unconnected and unable to do much about it. Anti-privatization groups keep repeating that water should be provided by government but ignore that government has been the worst enemy of the poor.

On another tack, the World Development Movement and similar groups claim that the private sector has done little for the poor, having connected only three million people in developing countries over the past 15 years. But this figure excludes Latin America and Southeast Asia where private water management — and the number of people getting water — has boomed since the 1990s. In Argentina, for example, privately managed areas got lower water prices, more connections and a drop in infectious diseases and child deaths.

Activists have further misrepresented private supply by focusing on multinationals while ignoring the small-scale water vendors who get water to people whom governments have abandoned. In many African cities, they sell plastic water sachets to passersby, while in Paraguay 500 aguateros supply nearly half a million people using tankers and piped water.

A World Bank researcher found in 1998 that “in most cities in developing countries, more than half the population gets basic water service from suppliers other than the incumbent official utility.” Country surveys suggest that the situation has changed little since then.

The World Health Organization, like activists, disregards these “informal” water vendors, bottled water and tankers. It refuses to consider them as “improved water sources” as they are unregulated, unpredictable and allegedly incapable of serving a mass market.

But to the hundreds of millions of people who rely on them, there is nothing incapable about private water providers. For many, they are the difference between life and death.

Informal water vendors come in all types, but they all provide water for profit. Their clients are among the most poorly prepared to pay to protect their families from disease and to put their time to better use than searching for clean water.

The success of these private water services throughout Latin America, Africa and Asia disproves the claim that the poor are too poor to pay for water and that the private sector has no incentive to serve them. In fact, the poor often pay more for water than those in prosperous areas with “formal” supplies. A World Bank survey of South American cities found that, on average, trucked water costs four to 10 times more than the public network’s price. In Kibera, the Nairobi slum of about 1 million people, jerry-can water sells at four times the average price in Kenya.

Activists who accuse the private sector of putting profits before people should realize three things. First, water vendors would stop providing water and sanitation if they did not make a profit. Second, governments are largely to blame for the higher prices because they constrain or outlaw private supply. Finally, people buy from vendors willingly, often with a choice of suppliers.

Water is severely under-priced in China, at around a third of the world average. As a consequence 300 million rural people have no safe drinking water. Where vendors do operate, people are prepared to pay up to 10 times the connected cost.

The theme of this year’s World Water Day is quality, so legalizing the work of water vendors should be a priority. They could then own sources, land and infrastructure, get credit and expand operations, serving more people at cheaper rates with cleaner water. It is these small-scale ventures — not empty government promises — that can quickly improve water supplies for the poor.

Caroline Boin is a project director at International Policy Network, London, which focuses on economic development.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 21st, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

THEN ESCAP URGES the SPECA CENTRAL ASIA TO STRENGTHEN TIES WITH REST OF CONTINENT FOR GREATER SECURITY. The above has clearly political implications by bundling non-Arab Islamic States.

Greater cooperation between Central Asia and the rest of Asia is essential to achieve sustainable development for the whole continent, given the current climate of global financial instability and food and energy insecurity, a senior United Nations official, ESCAP’s Executive Director   stressed today of all places – right in Moscow.

The UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) stands ready to facilitate technical and regional cooperation and provide a neutral forum for engaging in policy dialogue, Executive-Secretary of ESCAP Noeleen Heyzer told a gathering of senior Central Asian policymakers in Moscow.

“We are gathering here against the backdrop of a gloomy economic environment with pressing challenges in food and energy security, as well as the need for greater financial stability,” Under-Secretary-General Heyzer warned participants at the UN Special Programme for the Economies of Central Asia (SPECA) meeting.

“By adopting the South-South cooperation modality, SPECA can provide home-grown solutions and policy options to achieve inclusive and sustainable development,” she told officials from the seven SPECA member states – Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

SPECA aims to strengthen sub-regional cooperation, mainly in the areas of energy and water, transport, trade, technology, gender and the economy, in Central Asia, as well as its integration into the world economy with support from the UN Economic Commission for Europe (ECE).

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 19th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

A NAGORNO-KARABAKH FOREIGN MINISTRY IN DISCUSSIONS WITH THE EU?

01nabucco.gif
The Nabucco pipeline – the EU hopes construction will begin in 2010
(Photo: Nagorno-Karabakh foreign ministry)

Turkmenistan to cut EU dependence on Russian gas.

April 14, 2008 – By Renata Goldirova, for the EUobserver.

Turkmenistan has agreed to supply 10 billion cubic metres of natural gas to the European Union each year – something that should cut the energy-hungry bloc’s dependence on gas from Russia.

“The president [Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov] gave us assurances that 10 bcm will be set aside for Europe in addition to possibilities in new fields to be tendered,” EU external relations commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner told the Financial Times on Sunday (13 April).

Ms Ferrero-Waldner described the deal as “a very important first step” in energy cooperation, although she acknowledged the amount agreed by the two sides does not represent a “vast quantity”.

The former Soviet Republic in Central Asia has the world’s fifth largest reserves of natural gas and substantial deposits of oil. It annually produces 60 billion cubic metres of natural gas, but two-thirds are exported to Russia’s state-run Gazprom.

Demand for energy is sharply rising in the European Union. By 2020, it is expected to import at least 360 bcm – out of 500 bcm consumed – from third countries.

The 27-nation bloc has been trying to diversify its energy supplies away from Russia and is currently pushing for a new energy corridor, the Nabucco pipeline.

The pipeline – connecting Turkey with Austria, via Bulgaria, Romania, and Hungary – would enable the transportation of Caspian energy resources to the European market. Main gas supplies could come from countries such as Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan or Egypt.

Speaking about the fresh deal with Turkmenistan, Ms Ferrero-Waldner called on European business to invest in infrastructure in order to bring the project to life.

It is still unclear how Turkmen gas will be imported to Europe, with the commissioner suggesting three possible short-term scenarios in the interview with the Financial Times.

Under the first one, a 60-kilometre gap between Azeri and Turkmen offshore installations could be closed with a mini-pipeline.

Secondly, an onshore link to Kazakhstan could be built to connect with a route to Azerbaijan.

Under the third option, the gas could be compressed into liquid form and taken by tanker across the sea.

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Russia questions value of Nabucco energy pipeline.

April 18, 2008 – By Renata Goldirova from Brussels for EUobserver:

Moscow has questioned the viability of the EU-backed Nabucco energy corridor, a pipeline designed to lessen the bloc’s dependency on Russia.

“I know few things about political geography. The only way to fill the Nabucco pipeline is to rely on Iranian gas,” Russian ambassador to the EU Vladimir Chizhov told journalists earlier this week (15 April). He added: “But then, it’s up to the West, I would not tell the EU, to make up its mind how to deal with Iran. Either bomb Iran or buy its gas.”



Mr Chizhov’s blunt comments came only hours after Turkmenistan had agreed to supply 10 billion cubic metres of natural gas to the EU each year – something that should cut the energy-hungry bloc’s dependence on gas from Russia.

“There have been some euphoric comments about Turkmenistan,” the ambassador said, stressing that the volume agreed by the two sides is “not enough”. In addition, he questioned the ability of Azerbaijan, another potential source, to fulfil the union’s sharply rising energy demand.

The European Commission considers Nabucco to be “essential” to the EU as it is designed to bring gas from non-traditional suppliers via a new transport route.

The pipeline – connecting Turkey with Austria, via Bulgaria, Romania, and Hungary – would enable the transportation of gas from the resource-rich Caspian region to the European market.

Its capacity amounts to 31 billion cubic metres of natural gas per year. The bulk of the supplies are expected to come from countries such as Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan or Egypt.

The EU is also hoping to secure natural gas from Iraq, with Baghdad earlier this week pledging to provide five billion cubic metres of gas each year. The two sides are set to sign a so-called energy security memorandum of understanding in coming days.

In response to Mr Chizhov’s statements, the commission said that a list of source countries was yet to be defined. It addmitted, however, that once the problems with Iran are solved, Tehran can be taken into consideration on the longer term.

Meanwhile, Moscow – the world’s largest producer of natural gas – has been pushing for its own project, the South Stream pipeline. It should connect Russia’s Black Sea coast and Italy, with Bulgaria, Greece, Hungary and Serbia already saying they will take part in the project.

According to the Russian ambassador to Brussels, there will be enough room for the South Stream, Nabucco and perhaps for another pipeline due to growing energy consumption in Europe – but only in the long run.

In the short run, the defining difference is that the South Stream can rely on real gas supply, whereas Nabucco does not have gas, Mr Chizov said.

The South Stream project is seen by some as a rival to Nabucco, with the European Commission saying “it is not promoting it actively” because the pipeline will bring more gas from Russia.

“The two projects are complementary, not contradictory,” reads the commission’s official line on the issue. The EU needs 80 billion cubic metres of natural gas per year on top of current consumption.

But some experts on EU-Russia energy relations have also suggested that Moscow has made a valid point.

According to Marco Giuli from the Brussels-based Centre for European Policy Studies, the Nabucco pipeline is “economically viable only with Iranian gas”.

He cited political tensions in Central Asia, the proximity of Chinese market as well as the US’ tough stance on Iran among those factors that cloud Nabucco’s prospects.

Within the 27-nation EU, France and the UK seem to have the toughest position towards the Iranian regime, wanting to stop its nuclear ambitions not only through dialogue, but also via sanctions.

On the other hand, Italy’s oil and gas producer ENI is set to undertake some investments in Iran – something, Mr Guili says has been endorsed by the country’s outgoing as well as incoming political leadership.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 20th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Renata Goldirova reports for EUobserver from Brussels – “Germany highly critical of EU energy package:”
As a start – The European Commission president has thrown his weight behind a sweeping reform of the EU energy market, which ultimately should see the break-up of the bloc’s energy giants.

“The commission is clear that the status quo cannot continue…Without change, distortion of competition and fragmentation of the market will continue”, Jose Manuel Barroso said on Wednesday (19 September), after the commission gave the green light to the package.

Mr Barroso has also urged the EU capitals as well as European lawmakers “to move quickly to agree these proposals”, arguing “EU citizens have every right to expect that we act to energize Europe”.

Brussels has clearly spelled out its preference for full ownership unbundling, requiring a company to split its production and transmission wings.   “This is by far the most effective approach”, the commission chief said, adding an increasing number of member states are already going down this route.

This could be achieved in two ways – companies may either sell their transmission networks to an independent investor or form new separate business through a shares split.

Although Mr Barroso anticipated that the negotiations on package will be “tough, long and difficult”, Germany’s reaction was unusually critical of the proposals. German economy minister Michael Glos said “the high quality and security of German electrical power networks should not be put in danger -The package is all in all too bureaucratic and leads to a high regulatory burden,” he said.

Germany “strictly rejects” ownership unbundling, said Mr Glos adding that he is “very sceptical whether through the focus of the commission on ownership unbundling, a way for more competition is found.”

“The contrary is more likely,” he stated. Germany, along with France, had been the strongest opponents of the unbundling option in the run up to the publication of the proposals.

A ‘Gazprom clause: ‘ The commission also received criticism from elsewhere – albeit more veiled – for another part of the proposal on protecting the EU energy market.

Reacting to Brussels’ energy package, Russian state-owned energy giant Gazprom indicated it would present its evaluation of the way these measures will affect security of supply, the competitiveness of European energy markets as well as energy prices in Europe.

“Gazprom has an important contribution to make to the debate about regulation of the energy sector in Europe and feels certain that its voice will be heard”, the company’s Sergei Kupriyanov said in a written statement.

He has also rushed to remind Europe that “Gazprom is a reliable gas supplier to the European Union and a major investor in the infrastructure which brings gas to Europe”.

Under the proposed restrictive rules, foreign buyers who wish to purchase an EU network will have to follow the same unbundling requirements as the union’s own firms.

In practice, third countries as well as their individuals should not be able to acquire control over an EU transmission network unless there is agreement between the EU bloc and the companies’ country of origin.

However, Mr Barroso has refused to label the safeguards as protectionism – or the Gazprom clause as it has quickly become known.

“This is about fairness; it is about protecting fair competition. It is not about protectionism”, he said.

A quarter of the bloc’s gas as well as quarter of its oil originates from Russia.

Despite the expected difficulty of the negotiations, the European Commission believes an agreement could be thrashed out under France’s six-month EU presidency, starting in July 2008 – with Mr Barroso firmly putting the ball in member states’ court.

“Today we put everyone before their responsibilities. If the results are lacking it will not be because of a lack of ambition on the part of the commission”, he concluded.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 11th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Russia and China resist EU play for Central Asia.

By Andrew Rettman EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS , May 8, 2007.

Russia and China are trying to counter EU efforts to secure fresh energy supplies in Central Asia, the EU’s top regional envoy, Pierre Morel, has warned, with analysts worried Turkey could also start competing with European interests if its EU accession hopes fade.

“There’s a level of competition – you’ve got Russia, China and the US. There’s Turkey as well, and India is developing a strategy,” Mr Morel told MEPs at a European Parliament debate in Brussels on Tuesday (8 May), as Europe gears up to launch its first ever Central Asia policy at the June EU summit.

Focusing on Russia and China, the diplomat explained that despite traditional “rivalry” between Moscow and Beijing, the pair are increasingly using the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation – a dormant anti-terrorist club formed in 2001 – to discuss the energy map in Central Asia.

He described the duo’s strategy on Central Asia as a “head of state approach” that differs from the EU’s €750 million Central Asia aid package for 2007 to 2013, which is based on wider social, trade and environmental projects designed to nurture long-term stability.

“I don’t think there’s an equivalent from Russia or China in terms of water or environmental management,” Mr Morel said, adding that EU “institutional strengthening” – it wants to remodel Central Asian judiciaries and parliaments – is the only way to bring in major, international energy investors.

“Just having a head of state approach will not help,” he explained. “The Russians have not struck the right level yet. These countries fear the return of Russia or at least of energy being used as a leverage against them.”

Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan broke away from the Soviet Union in the 1990s and are believed to hold up to 5 percent of the world’s energy resources.

But almost all their oil and gas exports to Europe are currently shipped via Russian-owned pipelines, with Brussels feeling increasingly uncomfortable about its energy dependency on the Kremlin.

Russia’s post-colonial game
In terms of Russia’s “head of state approach,” Moscow’s tactics seem to consist of a mix of intimidation and encouragement for the authoritarian regimes that run the three energy-rich Central Asian states.

“Turkmenistan is very important in terms of gas deliveries to Russia. Russia is going to use Turkmenistan to meet its [natural gas export] commitments,” Mr Morel explained, six months after the sudden death of Turkmen president, Saparmurat Niyazov, which handed control of the country back to the Soviet-era administrative elite.

Estonian socialist MEP Katrin Saks also told Mr Morel on Tuesday that “It was clear during our talks that Kazakhstan was being put under great pressure from Russia on the energy issue,” after visiting Astana as part of a European Parliament delegation last week.

In the case of Uzbekistan, Russia and China’s willingness to tolerate gross human rights violations have seen Uzbek government-backed Russian and Chinese investors drive out US and German companies at a “spectacular” rate, Ms Saks said.

The Turkey question
Meanwhile, EU candidate Turkey sees itself as a natural partner for EU energy interests in Central Asia, due to its geographic position and historic links with the ethnically-Turkic population scattered in neighbouring states. But some analysts wonder how Ankara will react if its bid to join the EU fails.

“Turkish policy towards Central Asia…has a tendency to ebb and flow as Turkey is rejected or not by the west, and the result is that now we see Turkey embracing Central Asia once again with a renewed emphasis on pan-Turkism,” Raffaello Pantucci of the London-based International Institute of Strategic Studies told EUobserver.

“If it plays its cards right, it could become a critical nub for Central Asian energy supplies…[which] seems to be one of Turkey’s major alternatives in the face of European rejection,” he added.

“We have special ties and vested interests in the Eurasia region, but we have never viewed our relations with the region as an alternative to our EU course,” a Turkish diplomat said. “I don’t think Mr Sarkozy’s presidency will change our position on that,” the contact added, on the new French president’s anti-Turkey accession policy.

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[Comment] The EU and Central Asia: from great gaming to gradual playing.

By Raffaello Pantucci, EUOBSERVER / COMMENT (an oppinion piece) May 9, 2007.

The European Commission is not prone to dramatic or sudden shifts, which is the product of a long tradition of rational contemplation that Europeans are so proud of, but more literally, it is due to the simple reality of juggling a decision-making process that has 27 members involved in it. One product of this are ruminative foreign policies, like the new EU policy on Central Asia, that may seem paralysingly slow to outsiders, but in reality have a distinct forward momentum.

It is instrumental to examine early drafts that have been circulating of the EU’s new strategy on Central Asia through this prism and therefore view them with some tentative optimism. We have not seen any grand offerings of immense wealth or exaggerated security benefits; we instead view a branch being offered that attempts to marry the hard economic realities of European energy needs with a desire to help nurture European democratic norms in another part of the globe.

It is not surprising that we have seen this renewed interest in Central Asia under a German Presidency. Germany remains the only European member state with a full complement of embassies in all five Central Asian states, and chancellor Merkel and foreign minister Steimeier have both repeatedly spoken of their desire to reach out and stabilize European relations with their Eurasian partners.

Furthermore, chancellor Merkel has also presented herself as a European leader who is willing to take a more robust stance in regards to Russia. This has not resulted, as some feared, in an apocalyptic schism with Russia, but rather it has produced the beginnings of a balancing in relations between Russia and the EU. While there are undeniable tensions coming to the surface once again – it is worth noting that so far no-one has suggested that Russia turn off the gas taps.

In this regard it is particularly interesting to note that Russia as a topic in early drafts fails to merit much mention at all. A very early draft referred constantly to a strong Russian presence in the region, while in later ones Russia is only noticeable where it would appear to be missing. There is an emphasis on the importance of gas deliveries from the region, the “construction of new oil and gas pipelines to Europe,” and the word “diversification” is used regularly in an energy context. No mention of the EU’s current key energy supplier and former big brother to Central Asia.

Instead, the EU strategy seems to be a seven-pronged approach with a heavy emphasis on the softer side of relations: youth and education; human rights, rule of law, good governance and democratization; economic development, trade and investment; energy and transport links; environment and regional water security; combating terrorism, transnational crime, and drugs; and finally a typically nebulous European desire to “promote dialogue within civil society and respect for freedom of religion.”

At every level, the emphasis is made to work towards “common aspects as well as specific nation contexts,” showing an EU awareness that each nation in the group has varying needs, and there are clear incentives – the doubling of “financial means to assist Central Asia” and the offer to “support…the WTO accession process and eventual membership” of all five members of the Central Asian cluster (currently only the Kyrgyz Republic is a member of the WTO, while Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan remain observers and Turkmenistan is completely outside).

On the other hand, however, there is an unavoidable emphasis on “democracy” and “human rights,” something that sparked the anthropological rebuke to “take into consideration [our] countries’ national traditions, history, and…mentality” from Uzbek foreign minister Vladimir Norov at a joint press conference on March 28th in Astana.

This is a not entirely surprising comment given the EU’s ongoing retention of an arms and travel embargo on Uzbekistan. Initially a reaction to the May 2005 incident at Andijan (where an unknown number of protestors were killed by government forces) the sanctions and the subsequent Uzbek decision to ask the United States to abandon bases on its territory have left EU-Uzbek and US-Uzbek relations on hold. The main result of this has been for Uzbekistan to wander into the warm embrace of its Russian and Chinese neighbours, who offer a less emphatically “democratic” and more pragmatic relationship.

What is particularly interesting about the new EU strategy, however, is its awareness of the new “great game” that it is trying to play a part of in the region. “Human rights” may play a prominent role, but they are matched by a bevy of realpolitik economic and energy related carrots. While they are not quite the no-strings-attached offers put on the table by the Chinese, they do instead offer “sustainable development” and “capacity building” in contrast to the Chinese tendency to prefer to rely on their own firms to construct local capacity.

There is further no mention of the United States or NATO, both subjects with historical baggage: it seems the EU is eager to re-write its history from scratch in Central Asia. China and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization only merit a strategically brief mention in the fight against drugs and transboundary crime in the region.

Internally within the EU, there are many reasons for optimism within this renewed strategy. Germany has made a point of aligning its policies as presidency of the EU with the next two presidencies (Portugal and Slovenia), providing some unusual continuity in European policy. Currently, the EU is broadly shut out of Central Asia, and shares no contiguous borders with the region: the positive side to this is that the EU is able to steer the rudder towards an internal consensus on the region without having too many onerous member state caveats attached to potential policy. And the member state with the most to worry about, Germany, is the one currently at the rudder anyway.

At a time when European credibility in the world is slipping, a successful policy towards Central Asia would provide the EU’s Common Security and Foreign Policy with a much needed shot in the arm. Hopefully a nurturing incrementalist policy, that will not devolve into an all-too-common Euro-stagnation.

Raffaello Pantucci is a research associate at the London-based think-tank, the International Institute for Strategic Studies

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France wants to save major part of EU constitution, Sarkozy aide says.

By Lucia Kubosova, EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS, May 8, 2007.

France’s Nicolas Sarkozy will seek to maintain as much of the rejected EU constitution as possible in the upcoming talks on a new treaty for the bloc, a top aide to the president-elect has told EUobserver.

Alain Lamassoure, a prominent centre-right MEP and tipped to be the new Europe minister in the Sarkozy government, said Paris will agree to stick “as much as possible to the original text.”

His comments indicate that Mr Sarkozy is in favour of a re-packaged text containing essentially the same elements.

Referring to removing the EU symbols proposed in the original text as part of a general approach to take away the constitutional feel to the new treaty, Mr Lamassoure said “we will play the European hymn or fly the flag whether it is mentioned in the new treaty or not.”

He added that the same applies to the exact title of the future EU’s foreign affairs minister. “As long as his status and powers are preserved we’re fine with [a title change].”

He expects the new “ordinary treaty” – adopted by national parliaments where possible – will have a maximum of 130 instead of the 448 articles originally proposed.

The institutional changes should remain untouched while the Charter of Fundamental Rights, currently appearing as a whole within the text and raising several legal question for member states – being referred to by a single article.

“That way, the charter can be interpreted as legally binding in some countries, such as France and Germany, and non-binding in others, such as the UK.”

Referring to the third part of the constitution which lists EU policies, Mr Lamassoure, who is part of Mr Sarkozy’s inner political circle, says “we must distinguish between provisions that are already present in previous treaties and can be dropped as we do not need to replicate them and the new provisions which need to remain.”

He indicated France is not prepared to compromise on the list of new areas to be decided by qualified majority rather than unanimity, while admitting that this could become one of the most contentious issues, particularly for the UK.

“This is non-negotiable as it is one of the provisions with the most important added value of the new treaty which seeks to help the enlarged EU to work more efficiently.”

The MEP’s statements are the first clear public indication of what Paris will be calling for at the EU table when leaders meet to discuss a new institutional settlement next month – a clear French position on the issue has been lacking since French voters rejected the constitution in a referendum almost two years ago.

Defining Europe’s borders
Touching on another highly controversial issue, Mr Lamassoure said Paris is going to push for a definition of the bloc’s borders in the coming months and a “reorientation” of talks with Turkey.

“EU leaders have been lying to Turks for the past few years and the new French leadership believes we must stop doing so,” he said, referring to the bloc’s membership negotiations with Ankara kicked off last October.

He argues that citizens in most EU member states are against Turkey joining the union and that it was a main factor in the French rejection of the EU constitution.

“The sooner we will have the courage to say this openly to Turkey the better,” said Mr Lamassoure, pointing out that Paris will seek a “re-orientation” of the whole accession talks in which “at the very least, we clearly open other options for the final outcome -other than membership.”

“If everything goes well and we agree on the revised EU treaty by the end of this year we envisage that we could also at the same time present to citizens a common political declaration on the ultimate borders of Europe,” Mr Lamassoure said.

He said that Paris recognizes the bloc’s commitments to the Balkan countries but that “the [EU] borders must be that of the continent.”

His comments come on the back of a presidential campaign by Mr Sarkozy in which he repeatedly said he was opposed to Turkish membership.

Mr Lamassoure said that while Mr Sarkozy will be careful not to hijack next month’s summit on drawing up an EU treaty with the Turkey question, “we definitely don’t want to postpone this issue for too long.”

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Call for veto powers for MPs in new EU treaty.

By Honor Mahony, May 9, 2007.
Prague, Warsaw and the Hague are lobbying to get more power for national parliaments written into a new-look constitution for the European bloc.

According to a report in the German daily Handelsblatt, the three countries want MPs to have the right to refuse legislation coming from Brussels.

At the moment the constitution – rejected by Dutch and French voters two years ago – gives parliaments the right to complain about proposed EU legislation, but the European Commission is not obliged to withdraw it despite any complaints.

Under the trio’s veto scheme, if a third of national parliaments objected to a proposed EU law then it would automatically fail.

This idea also came up during the year and a half long convention to draw up the EU constitution in 2001-2002, but was rejected after opponents argued it would upset the balance of power between the EU institutions – it was particularly opposed by representatives from the European Parliament.

German centre-right MEP Elmar Brok, who was in Berlin along with his colleagues from the parliament’s constitutional affairs committee, told Handelsblatt that the “right of veto for national parliaments would mean the introduction of a virtual third chamber.”

According to the MEP, the the Polish, Czech and Dutch plan also faces some opposition from within the German chancellor’s office.

Treaty talks gather pace
The idea is part of overall negotiations on the EU treaty, which are gathering pace as a June deadline approaches for agreeing the skeleton of a new-look constitution and a timetable for its implementation.

While 18 countries have mainly ratified the original constitution, several of the remaining nine are making demands for change so that they can better sell it to a sceptical domestic public.

Among the most controversial areas are proposals for a new voting system in the treaty – Poland has asked for changes to be made – and the extension of qualified majority to several new areas, which is problematic for Britain.

The Dutch government meanwhile has been making it clear it cannot go back to The Hague without having secured substantial changes to show it has taken on board the rejection of the constitution by Dutch voters in June 2005.

According to sources, a new treaty is also set to have some additional features – including a mention of fighting climate change and an energy solidarity clause, the last as a sop to Warsaw.

It is also expected that enlargement criteria will be written into the new treaty.

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[Comment] Turkey may be France’s price for the new EU treaty

May 11, 2007, Opinion Piece by Peter Sain ley Berry EUOBSERVER / COMMENT.

Two weeks ago I suggested in these pages that from a European perspective the French Presidential contender Ségolène Royal might be a better choice than Nicolas Sarkozy.

I argued that it would be necessary to put any revised constitutional treaty to a second referendum in France (the alternative would be to enlarge the EU’s democratic deficit to dangerous proportions). As the opposition to the first treaty had come, at least in part, from a perception that it would undermine the French system of social welfare, a left-wing president could more easily reassure voters, I argued, and so carry such a referendum early in her first term.

It was perhaps a forlorn piece of analysis, for within a point or two the outcome of the second round, which elected Nicolas Sarkozy, was clear from the results of the first. All the evidence showed that supporters of the centrist, François Bayrou, would divide equally between both camps. And this they did. It would have needed three-quarters of them to have backed Ségolène Royal for her to have scraped a win and all of them for her to have won convincingly. This was never going to happen.

The policies of M. Sarkozy are widely held to be what France needs. I wouldn’t dissent from that view. His ideas on economic reform also chime with the greater part of the Commission’s free market Lisbon agenda, now beginning to show results in terms of rising levels of GDP growth. Though before the free market contingent get too carried away we must remember that the new French President-elect is still at heart an economic nationalist, like his predecessor.

Whether he will be able to implement the reforms he wishes to see is of course another matter. Sarkozy has been likened to Margaret Thatcher, Prime Minister of Britain from 1979 to 1990, who carried through far reaching economic reforms and broke what was perceived as the trade union stranglehold on enterprise. But Thatcher, at least in her early days, embodied a good deal of popular will, importantly from across the working population. Whether Sarkozy has that same support is doubtful.

An interesting analysis by Eric Dupin writing in Le Figaro shows that apart from business owners and the Poujadist rump of the self-employed, those in paid employment voted more often for Royal than for her rival. Sarkozy’s real support came from the older generation, the over 50s, people in the main who were either retired or otherwise inactive economically. Royal had far more support among the young and the employed.

Sarkozy may pose the question, ‘who governs France?’ But the unions may answer ‘we do’ and, moreover, have the forces on the ground to prove it. The President’s irresistible force may meet an immovable object – the resulting stalemate doing neither France nor the rest of Europe much good.

The resistance is likely to be heightened if Sarkozy tries to ratify a new constitutional treaty, in effect the old treaty with a new name, through Parliament alone. We assume that he will be able to command a majority in the Assembly, at least on this issue, though even that cannot be taken for granted.

The idea of a truly mini-treaty, limited to updating voting weights in the European Council and giving that body a semi-permanent Chair, seems to have disappeared. Except in capitals such as London and Warsaw, it always seemed an impractical suggestion.

The European Commission is also viewing Sarkozy with apprehension over his attitude to Turkey. During the election he made it plain that while he accepts the Balkan states should eventually be admitted to the Union, this does not extend to Asia Minor. The talk is all about other types of relationships that might be invented for Turkey (and presumably other non-Balkan aspirants such as the Ukraine).

He is, of course, not alone in voicing such doubts; other leaders, indeed the German Chancellor herself, have never been convinced of Turkey’s future place in Europe, however far in the future that place may lie.

This has led to a ruffling of feathers in the Berlaymont hencoop, with no one quite sure whether to ignore the French President-elect or to remind him of Europe’s obligations. As he is only President-elect – and on holiday to boot – he is something of a will o’ the wisp. He cannot easily be criticised. Nevertheless, guarded statements about the necessity of respecting European commitments are cropping up with regularity. Even Margot Wallström had a pop at him on her blog this week.

It is not impossible that Turkey might commit some act of folly – such as a military coup – that would disbar the country, at least for a while – and let Europe of the hook. Recent rumblings from the Turkish military about the need to safeguard Kemal Attaturk’s secular legacy were serious enough and led Olli Rehn, the Enlargement Commissioner, to issue a veiled reminder about the need to respect state institutions.

Not impossible perhaps, but unlikely. Which will leave us in a tricky position come June when Mrs Merkel hopes and expects to have the roadmap to the EU’s constitutional reform agreed.

I have to say the prospects for this were looking uncertain before Sarkozy’s election; after it they look even bleaker. Sarkozy appears likely to insist that the new treaty does not compromise on the issues to be settled by majority voting that were written into the old treaty. This may prove contentious, especially, in London, where Gordon Brown is expected to have taken over from Tony Blair by mid-July.

But it is Sarkozy’s position on Turkey and his insistence that a new treaty say something about the EU’s boundaries that is likely to prove more difficult – at least in the short time that remains. I happen to agree with this position and have argued the point several times in this column. But to attempt an agreement on this in the few weeks that remain before the June European Council may well prove impossible.

Nevertheless, some statement along these lines may be Sarkozy’s price for delivering a French ratification. He may even have the majority of the French electorate behind him also. He is something of a Napoleonic figure, after all; not averse to using a whiff of grapeshot to get his way. I foresee trouble ahead.

The author is editor of EuropaWorld

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 14th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Now, as we go much less to the UN as before, this thanks to the UN gate watchdogs Fawzi & Fowlie, who are intent, by hook or crook, to remove the inquiring press from being present in the Press Briefing room – now – I do not make this up – it slowly will be documented on this site, the positive attitude is that we have now more time to review events in the real world. Thursday the April 12th we attended three such events.

A. 12:30 – 14:00 PM     – The Presentation by old Natural Gas hand, Jonathan Stern – the Director of   Gas Research, Oxford Institute of Energy Studies, and Honorary   Professor at the Centre for Energy, Petroleum & Mineral Law & Policy, University of Dundee. Since 1992 he has been Associate Fellow of the Royal Institute of International Affairs’ Sustainable Development (formerly Energy and Environment) Programme; and since 2001 Honorary Principal Research Fellow in the Department of Environmental Science and Technology at Imperial College in London. From 1985-92, he was Head of the Energy and Environmental Programme, based at the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London. From October 1990 to September 1991, he was Director of Studies at the Institute. Jonathan P. Stern is the author of “The Future of Russian Gas and Gazprom.”

This event was being hold at the Center for Energy, Marine Transportation and Public Policy, Columbia University, School of International and Public Affairs, 420 West 118th Street, New York, NY 10027
 www.cemtpp.org

At the same time, in parallel, Governor Schwarzenegger was speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations on the Greening of the   Golden State of California. www.CFR.org

B. 3:00 – 5:30 PM     – A very Special Event “A Letter To The Stars – Botschafter Der   Errinerung (“Ambassadors of Remembrance”)” which is a great story of Austrian Schoolchildren who through the internet were able to compile a very unique list of 2,500 people from Austria, who survived the Nazi regime in concentration camps, in hiding, or in exile, and now live around the globe. The Austrian high school students contacted on a one-to-one basis the people on that list, and asked them if they want to share their memories and experiences with young people from their former country, who really are trying to understand the human aspects of what has happened. Some of the exchanges, in a program that started in 2003, has by now become material for joint publications intended to keep the memory alive of this remnant of the survivors, before it is too late.The event held at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, 36 Battery Place, New York, NY and was attended by quite a few of these pairs of old&young friends – some of whom were just meeting for the first time, and others had already encounters when the former refugees/survivors came to visit in Austria.   www.MJHNYC.org.   The website of the Austrian Initiative: www.LetterToTheStars.at One such pair, both spoke at this reunion,   a young girl who found on that list the name of a man who lived in the same street in the Vienna district of Hitzing, where she and her parents reside now, and that was her reason for picking him for contact,   seem now to have become somehow an extended family- this because of that common angle in their humanity.

To-date, more than 40,00 high school students have participated in this project and it is the largest school project on contemporary history in Austria. Spin-off projects evolve – the like of the May 5, 2006 “Flowers of Remembrance” where the students put a white rose in front of the 80,000 known addresses were a victim of the Nazi regime used to live. In May 2005 the students took 100,000 candles to Mauthausen concentration camp in memory of the 100,000 people that were killed there. In May 2004 they planted 100,000 sunflowers there. In may 2003 they release 80,000 white balloons in the Heldenplatz in Vienna..

C. 5:30 – 8:00 PM – The Chicago Climate Exchange that is actually based in New York City, and Tudor Investment Corporation, presented at the Energy Forum Inc. of New York City, a discussion on matters relating to “Public Policy and Climate Change initiatives.”   This was about Carbon Trading as the financial mechanism to turn the Kyoto Protocol Mechanisms Into reality. NYU Professor of Economics, Dermot Gately, former consultant to the World Bank, the IMF, the US DOE, the IEA, ExxonMobil, ARCO, and Saudi ARAMCO, and is President of the Energy Forum Inc., was the Moderator, with Robert McNally, Managing Director of Tudor, and Paula DiPerna, Exec VP of the Exchange. Present at the Forum events are people from business Intelligence organizations, Law firms, some oil companies, academics etc.

In this article we will cover some of the things we heard from Mr.Stern in event (A), and we will bring out our own main idea that was born from the situation as described by Mr.Stern – then we will Jump over to event (C) and we will bring in the same question that we asked in event (A).

We will not write here further on ideas connecting that human aspect of event (B) that makes actually a very logical connection to what we have in mind, when talking of the issues in the other two events, but trust me, in some later article we will come back also to that.

THE JONATHAN STERN PRESENTATION:
Mr. Stern presented to us the Natural Gas supply and demand situation in Europe, the already existing shortage, and the projected future increased shortage when the UK also becomes now an importer of gas, the Netherlands starting their decline in production in 2015, and Norway in 2020. He does not see in this a “train wreck” he does not believe in increased imports via pipelines, but he thinks that eventually all will prefer the flexibility of sea transport as LNG. We saw all the potential pipelines involved – the pipelines via Tanger in Morocco, those through Sicily and those through Sardinia. Then the various pipelines from Russia and Central Asia, and his bottom line was that there will not be available the supplies needed to expand and diversify these pipelines at a time that Russia projects a large increase in its domestic market for gas.

He kept pointing out the double whammy, that Russia and the other former CIS are suffering from very old infrastructure, and very inefficient use of their Natural Gas, and the serious underpricing of the gas for their internal market. Nevertheless, they did increase the price to the Ukraine and Belorussian satellite (and transit) markets, pushing them to the level of international pricing, but they will be much slower doing that inside the country for internal policy reasons – thus continuing to suffer from the inefficiency of using a lot of cheap gas, rather then less gas at a higher price, that could come from rejuvenating their industry.

When the Q&A period arrived, I brought up the Kyoto Protocol mechanisms. At first, in all honesty, KP would not have come into existence if there were not people believing that the “hot air ” issue will give a boost to the former CIS. That so called “hot air” was created by the fact that Russian industry at that time, did halt to a stand still – so they could claim they are emitting less in 1997 then their industry did     emit in 1990. But nothing happened because the KP was not ratified fast enough – and now there is no “hot air” because they climbed back, with mainly the same old equipment, and emit now more then they should! But now, instead of using the CDM KP mechanism, why not go for the JI KP mechanism with full throttle? And backed up by government agreements that could thus also level some of the political disagreements between the EU and Russia – with the introduction of serious joint economic interests.

All EU-Russia meetings in the last couple of years deal with the gas supply to the EU, why not turn this into a — we build you highly efficient new industry and you provide us the gas saved at a going international price? That would be fair to everyone and everyone wins. There would be a saving of CO2 emissions in the former CIS, and this would justify the use of the Joint Implementation Kyoto Mechanism. On the European side, with gas they could start replacing coal fired plants, and also gain in environment terms further decrease in CO2 emissions. The Russian population would get their increased standard of living, but the difference is now that their improved industry would be less polluting!

Now lets go to the other side of the ocean, to the late evening discussion at the McGraw Hill building.


THE PAULA DI PERNA and the Chicago Climate Exchange PRESENTATION:
She was talking about the permits’market in the US and in Europe – this at a time that the US Supreme Court makes it possible to have non-challenge-able State reductions rullings of CO2 emissions – even with a still recalcitrant Federal Administration. This was for the first time that I heard the Chicago Exchange get on solid ground. Before, when they initiated a contract based on voluntary participation, it looked to me as a great idea to have the exchange there ready, when the government removes its damming activity on the anti-global warming international and national activities – we said that the talk of voluntary action is the US version of ‘hot air.” It was not very attractive to sit in Chicago or New York and to try to take advantage of laws that were passed in Europe, but rejected by Washington. An exchange in the US, needs US clients, and US clients will come about if there are US laws – that seems to me simple logic.

OK, now, after the large markets for permits in Germany (the Largest), the Netherlands, it is California and the North East (the RGGI region), that together amount to half of the German market. But this is a start – now we have something to go by, and those ready to invest, can indeed prepare to do so.

Now again my question from the earlier meeting. Could the Chicago Exchange get involved in creating permits by working with the Russians? It is quit feasible but they think the Europeans will get involved, but then sometimes a technology might be available here and the EU really wants the gas – so with US involvement, there is a risk-spreading effect and credits are credits – specially as it was pointed out by Mr. Robert McNally that Senator Obama made the correct obsevation about Liquefied Coal that it is still …coal. So, the US idea of createing a new source for US fuels via coal liqefaction, will never fly in a Kyoto, or post-Kyoto context.


 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 6th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

An   Institute That Could Help Solve Central Asian Disputes – Specially On Water Use But Also For Energy.

ASTANA, Kazakhstan, April 5, 2007, ENS- {Published in cooperation with News Briefing Central Asia, an independent network of journalists based in Bishkek. NBCentralAsia is a project of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting, IWPR.}

 A proposal by Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Ednan Karabaev to establish a regional research institute for water and energy could help end the persistent political wrangling over cross-border water use in Central Asia.

During a meeting between European Union delegates and foreign ministers from all five central Asian states in Astana on March 28, held to consult on the new EU strategy for the region, the Kyrgyz foreign minister put forward a proposal to set up a Water and Energy Academy in the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek, with the EU’s support.

Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Ednan Karabaev proposes to establish a Central Asian water and energy research institute in Bishkek. (Photo courtesy Government of Kyrgyzstan)

The new institute would train experts from all the Central Asian countries on hydroelectric power, while undertaking research that will benefit the region, Karabaev said.
Central Asia’s largest rivers have their sources in the mountains of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. These two countries use the water flow mainly to generate electricity, whereas Uzbekistan and Kazakstan further downstream rely on the water for crop irrigation.

Although numerous mechanisms and plans have been produced to manage water use, the upstream and downstream countries have failed to agree on terms that would be acceptable to all. Political and water analysts in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan say developing a regional-level academic centre for water management could help Central Asia reach a common view of how the resource should be distributed.

Erkin Orolbaev, a Kyrgyz expert on water issues, said the institute may well achieve this goal if it is internationally recognized and recruits capable lecturers and researchers from the region and the rest of the world.

Anatoliy Kholmatov, technical director at the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea based in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, points out that a similar initiative was launched in 2003 at an international forum on fresh water. The plan then was to have an International Water Center based in Dushanbe to look at water, related social issues, and electricity generation. The center is currently under construction.

But Kholmatov says the Kyrgyz initiative is a good one, as a great deal of research is needed to develop the economic mechanisms for shared water use.

According to a senior official in the Tajik Ministry of Energy and Industry, the academy should be a place where experienced energy officials can get advanced training and network rather than a college for training new people from scratch.

“If this is an academy for advanced training, something serious may come of it… Personal connections, which often count for a lot, will be able to have a major impact on decision-making,” he said.

Almost all the experts interviewed agree that simply strengthening research capacity will not solve water disputes – there must also be the political will to do so.

Bazarbay Mambetov, a Kyrgyz energy expert said, “The problem can be solved through constructive talks among the regional states, provided their leaders are willing and ready to do this.”

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 29th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

EU launches new Central Asia policy in Kazakhstan, writes Andrew Rettman for EUobserver, March 28, 2007, from Brussels.

The EU has said “the time is right” for new engagement in Central Asia after a high-level meeting in Kazakhstan saw joint agreement to hold more such talks in future, with the German EU presidency hoping the dialogue will lead to political reform but with human rights groups on alert over Europe’s real agenda in the energy-rich region.

“The talks showed that the time is right for a new, closer cooperation,” German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in Astana on Wednesday (28 March). “The EU aims to diversify its energy policy. This is why it is necessary to increase our contacts with Central Asia,” he explained, AFP reports, on a region believed to hold 5 percent of the world’s energy resources.

“It’s in our interest that the Central Asian countries take a path to be peaceful, democratic and prospering states,” Mr Steinmeier added, with external relations commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner saying Kazakhstan should chair Europe’s pro-democracy club, the OSCE, in 2009 if it upholds promises on human rights. “Now we want to see these reforms,” she said.

The EU aims to spend €750 million on the five states in question between 2007 and 2013, with the talks raising Mr Steinmeier’s hopes of one day building a Trans-Caspian gas pipeline to Europe, getting the EU involved in counter-terrorism and border monitoring, getting people talking about democratic reform and setting up new education and student exchange schemes.

Mr Steinmeier privately raised the issue of a Deutsche Welle correspondent, Natalia Bushuyeva, who has reportedly fled Uzbekistan after facing criminal charges of tax evasion. But the reaction of the region’s two most repressive states – Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan – did not bode well for any future change in political climate.

Uzbek foreign minister Vladimir Norov said publicly the EU should not “interfere in domestic affairs…we don’t have to justify ourselves.” Turkmenistan’s deputy foreign minister Yolbors Kepbanov, due to attend the press conference, simply vanished. “I hope he did not get stuck in the lift,” Mr Steinmeier quipped, Reuters reports.

Wednesday’s meeting will now be digested by EU diplomats in Brussels, who will decide in May whether or not to renew sanctions against Uzbekistan. Brussels and Berlin will also use the talks to shape a final draft of a new EU strategy paper on Central Asia for the June EU summit. If all goes well, up to 200 EU officials could ship out to new embassies in the region in 2008.

No laughing matter: Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan are no laughing matter, however. Both states practice torture and extra-judicial executions of political prisoners. In one example in 2005 documented by Amnesty International, Uzbek activist Ahkrorkhudzha Tolipkhozhaev was shot in the back of the head three weeks before Uzbek diplomats told the UN he was alive and well.

In May 2005 Uzbek president Islam Karimov’s soldiers machine-gunned around 500 unruly civilians in the eastern town of Andijan, which led to the small-scale EU sanctions being imposed. The government has never admitted the massacre or allowed an international enquiry, simply restating its official position at an EU experts’ meeting on the case last December.

When a delegation of MEPs briefly visited the town of Andijan on 22 March, two plain clothes policemen visibly followed British conservative deputy Martin Callanan as he walked through the marketplace, making local people too scared to speak. “There’s a sinister atmosphere,” he told EUobserver. “It would run Turkmenistan a close second in terms of repression.”

Uzbekistan – which has almost half the region’s whole 60 million-strong population and its biggest army – is seen by Germany as a cornerstone of future EU engagement. Berlin has in the past bent over backwards to fly Uzbek officials to Europe for medical treatment and got the EU to scale back its sanctions against Tashkent last November on the back of vague commitments to human rights dialogues.

Germany’s willingness to drive EU policy on the face value of Uzbekistan’s statements has rung alarm bells among the world’s NGO community. A January draft of the classified EU strategy paper – seen by EUobserver – states “In some cases, such as Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, concerns about human rights have proved a set-back and prevented relations from developing.”

The draft paper also says on Kyrgyzstan in 2006 that “the issue of the Uzbek refugees following events in Andijan was handled appropriately” even though the refugees in question were forcibly repatriated, arrested by Uzbek authorities as “terrorists” and face an uncertain future today.

NGO’s contend that EU integrity is at stake: The integrity of EU statements on human rights in Central Asia is also put in doubt by the funding model for the €750 million aid pile, which will be spent on projects officially sanctioned by the local regimes, meaning that the cash will enrich “approved” NGOs instead of helping the underground pamphleteers or campaigners who put their neck on the line for reforms.

“Russia is a big player in Central Asia,” Amnesty analyst Maisy Weicherding – who has travelled extensively in the region – said. “We don’t want the EU to say, ‘look at Russia, if we want to have a big impact in Central Asia we need to be more like Russia and so human rights should not be a big priority for us’.”

The NGO wants the EU to focus aid on Kyrgyzstan, where authorities show more tolerance for real NGOs such as Justice to circulate samizdat-type free press publications and where a new US university in Bishkek is helping disseminate “revolutionary” ideas – like the notion it is wrong for police to extort money and beat innocent people – across the border to Uzbekistan.

It remains to be seen how Germany together with the more human rights-oriented EU states such as the UK, Sweden or the Czech Republic will shape the EU’s future activities in Central Asia. But away from the grand rhetoric of the high-level Astana event on Wednesday, the attitudes of some EU politicians are not encouraging.

The MEPs’ visit last week – which was treated to the sight of Uzbek president Karimov doing a folk jig with a child held aloft in his arms during a Spring festival – was marked by some of the three German MEPs preferring to meet with local businessmen rather than dissidents invited by the German embassy in Tashkent.

Come to splendid Samarkand: German socialist MEP Vural Oger spent a large part of the visit seeking new contacts to help his company, Oger Tours, bring more Turkish tourists to cultural sites like Samarkand or Bukhara. Mr Vural declined to comment on the issue.

German conservative MEP Daniel Caspary, who says he met with “other” activists – such as the local head of the Konrad Adenauer foundation – instead, was on-message with Berlin. “If we only talk about human rights nobody will listen to us,” he said. “We have to also talk about economics and other issues. We have to talk about all the topics, the same as we do with the Chinese.”

The MEPs’ brief tour of the country also shed extra light on the primary motivation of the German EU ambassador to Tashkent, Martin Hekker, who is among the most influential EU diplomats stationed in the region today. “When we met the German ambassador, he made it very clear that they are keen on lifting the [EU] sanctions and normalising relations,” the UK’s Mr Callanan said.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 28th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

EU moving to operational phase of Central Asia policy – says Andrew Rettman from Brussels, February 27, 2007, on EUobserver.

The EU is quietly moving from the theoretical to the operational phase of its Central Asia strategy, with spending set to soar in the next seven years. But major NGOs are worried Europe’s new “special relationship” with Central Asia will do little to improve living conditions in one of the most downtrodden parts of the world.

German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier will in Kazakhstan on 27 March meet the foreign ministers of the five Central Asia states for final consultations before presenting a draft Action Plan to EU experts in Brussels in April. The plan – consisting of a 15 page theory section and a 70 page analytical annex – is to get formal endorsement by EU leaders on 20 June.


The evolving document – a January version of which was seen by EUobserver – proposes to boost European Commission spending by 61 percent to €719 million between 2007 to 2013 on projects including: basic poverty eradication; new gas and oil pipelines; training security officials; introducing accounting standards; building roads and staving off water shortages.

To put things into perspective, the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) budget for the 16 states adjacent to the EU bloc went up 32 percent to €12 billion for 2007 to 2013. But with Central Asia’s total population standing at 59 million, Central Asia spending will be €12 per head compared to neighbourhood spending of €3.5 per head. International banks and individual EU states are also facing pressure to top up the Central Asia kitty.

The EU will back up the cash injection by sending some 200 new diplomats from Europe to create four embassies in the region by 2008. “High level visits are indispensible to demonstrate the interest of EU member states,” the Central Asia blueprint states, adding that “local visibility” will be enhanced by “EU buildings” acting as “landmarks.”

The document paints a disturbing picture of a region of vital interest for EU energy security – Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are rich in gas, oil and uranium – but which has languished in a “strategic void” in EU policy-making for 50 years. Reports that Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan practice systematic torture are well-known, but new problems are also coming to light.

Disturbing picture : At the political level, the EU is worried “how to ensure a peaceful transfer of power” in Kazakhstan in the coming years, as its 67-year old president becomes more frail. Uzbekistan has swung toward Russia due to “extreme irritation” at EU sanctions and faces a potentially turbulent presidential selection process in December. Turkmenistan has a shaky new government in a limbo left by the sudden death of totalitarian leader Niyazov last year. Kyrgyzstan is also considered unstable.

The 59 million people who live on the steppe face staggering social problems: the rich live on $230 a month, the poor on $2 a day. Clean drinking water is a luxury for 90 percent of rural people, with gastro-enterological disease a major cause of high infant mortality and with HIV said to be “rife.” In Tajikistan – the poorest – one third of GDP comes from heroin smuggling.

On top of this, bad water management is pushing Central Asia to the brink of another environmental disaster after the collapse of the Aral Sea in the mid-1990s. “Shallowing and salinization of Balkash [a lake half the size of Belgium] may have repercussions comparable to the Aral Sea tragedy,” the EU document states, noting that pesticidal pollution has already helped reduce the fish catch in Central Asia by 60 percent since 1990.

Focusing on human rights, it may be wrong to portray the EU’s new “special relationship” as a simple energy grab: individual EU diplomats see themselves as principled people trying to bring stability and prosperity to countries considered closed even by old Soviet standards. Any friendly gesture – such as a superficial discussion on the 2005 killing of 180 civilians in Andijan, Uzbekistan – is seen as important progress.

Human rights as strategic interests:   The document avoids the usual platitudes on “EU values” and addresses the strategic importance of political reform for EU interests. “Mounting popular discontent, if handled in an authoritarian manner, might pave the way for a period of turbulence and destabilisation at a time of political secession, which is due to occur in the coming years in most of the Central Asian states,” threatening EU energy and counter-terrorism projects, it states.

But despite this, analysts are worried by the EU approach. For one thing, EU funding is to be modeled on the old TACIS programme, which is based on co-management of funds with local authorities. The TACIS instrument was discredited as slow-moving, bureaucratic and all-but-useless with respect to democracy-building by the EU’s own auditors last year. It is being scrapped in the EU’s “neighbourhood” foreign policy wing.

NGOs are also concerned that in the test-case of Uzbekistan, EU sanctions are being sold too cheaply: the German EU presidency is using the prospect of further dialogue on the Andijan massacre to persuade the UK and Sweden the EU should relax its Uzbek visa ban list in May and scrap its arms trade embargo a further six months down the line. The first Andijan meeting last December is a key argument for Berlin to develop high-level talks.

But some of the 14 EU police and legal experts who attended the December talks told Human Rights Watch (HRW) that “at most it provided an opportunity for the Uzbek government to recount its version of the events, leading up to the massacre.” Since the December meeting, HRW translator, Umida Niazova, and another activist, Gulbahor Turaeva, have been put in jail as part of a process described as “decimation of civil society” by the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights.

Cynicism or pragmatism?
HRW is pushing for EU “principled engagement” that sees relaxation of sanctions and “staggered funding” tied to “measurable improvements” such as Red Cross access to jails. “It will help to counter cynicism that EU interests in the region are solely about energy and counterterrorism. It will make clear that the EU has an interest in people’s lives,” the NGO said in an unpublished paper last week.

Meanwhile, the genteel culture of EU diplomacy is hard to swallow for some action-oriented activists on the ground. EU diplomats talk about Central Asia in antique French and Latin terms such as “demarches” or “primus inter pares.” Some even have grudging respect for harsh nation-builders such as the late Turkmen leader Niyazov, and find themselves mildly fascinated by Satrapic tea-drinking rituals when meeting men such as Uzbek leader Karimov.

“Our recent meeting with [one EU diplomat on Central Asia] was not very encouraging, to say the least,” a senior HRW analyst said.

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Further notes:   – Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are rich in gas, oil and uranium.

This is just one reason for EU interest, in addition – Kazakhstan, like Turkey,   claim as being in part in the Geography of the European continent.

Regarding Energy – the example of Kazakhstan:

Energy Supply
Kazakhstan has abundant energy reserves. Estimated at about 1.2 Gt for oil, 900 Gm3 for gas and 31 Gt for coal. The hydroelectric potential is estimated at 30 TWh…

Consumption
The total energy consumption fell between 1992 and 1999 (-47%). It has been recovering since and reached 51 Mtoe in 2004. The consumption per capita is about 3.4 toe, of which 3400 kWh…

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 16th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

                                                                                  EU states fail to agree binding energy targets.
Andrew Rettman reports from Brussels for EUobserver

EU states did not back European Commission calls for binding targets on renewable energy or biofuels at an economy ministers’ meeting in Brussels on Thursday (15 February), with a long way to go before the EU has a real energy policy despite broad agreement on the direction to take.


More than 10 member states led by Sweden and Denmark were keen to sign up to a binding target of 20 percent renewable energy consumption at EU level by 2020, but the rest, including the UK and Poland, declined amid confusion on the impact of industrial reforms individual states would have to undertake to hit the EU goal.

On the surface, the 27 EU states did agree to a binding goal of 10 percent of biofuel use at EU level by 2020. But taking a closer look at ministers’ conclusions, the small print says “the binding character of this target is subject to…biofuel becoming commercially available” in what is a fledgling industry today.

Member states also fudged the question of ownership unbundling, with the commission last month campaigning that national energy champions such as Germany’s E.ON or France’s EDF should be broken down into smaller pieces because they stifle competition and investment.

EU capitals endorsed the general principle of “effective separation of supply and production activities.” But they did not commit to any specific legal model, asking Brussels to do more homework on questions such as: would EU unbundling give the edge to predatory outside firms, such as Russia’s Gazprom, in future?

Thursday’s text fleshed out the EU’s new energy philosophy: climate change is a clear and present danger; each country has sovereignty over which type of energy it uses; EU states must “speak with one voice” and show “solidarity” in the face of foreign supply shocks, such as January’s Russia-Belarus oil crunch.

It also pinpointed stronger EU relations with gas and oil suppliers in Algeria, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan and transit state Georgia as key foreign policy goals. And it backed nuclear energy as a way of driving down CO2 emissions.

The European Commission’s most ambitious energy proposal – for the EU to stick its neck out with a binding, unilateral target to cut CO2 emissions by 20 percent by 2020 – will be discussed by environment ministers next Tuesday, with one EU diplomat saying “we are optimistic this will be agreed.”

The economy and environment ministers’ ideas will underpin energy talks by EU leaders in March and form part of the EU’s final energy action plan in June, with the European Commission then set to propose a basket of new energy bills in autumn that should become EU law by 2010.

Little steps:
“The longest journey begins with the first step – that is how we will have to progress here,” German economy minister Michael Glos said, speaking for the EU presidency. “We have made a breakthrough [today]. We have adopted a draft energy plan.”

“It’s an area where we’ve never had a common policy and it’s not an easy task,” energy commissioner Andris Piebalgs said. “We need a policy that is acceptable to everybody from Cyprus to Ireland and that is acceptable to both Germany and Poland, so it’s not easy.”

Commenting on the overall tone of the Thursday joint statement, Polish economy minister Piotr Wozniak said “It’s not exactly written in the language of directives. It’s a little bit more general and descriptive than we would have liked.”

One of the most divisive issues in the EU energy sector today – Germany’s plan to build a Baltic Sea gas pipeline to Russia, bypassing Poland – also came up on the margins of the meeting, with Mr Glos praising the €12 billion project on EU energy security grounds but appearing to rule out any EU funding.

Weather celebrities :
“There are a number of very important private companies involved in the consortium, so I don’t see that they would need any [EU] help,” he said, after the president of the European Investment Bank, Philippe Maystadt, declined his support for the pipeline earlier this week.

Pipelines and big international agreements are not the only tricks in the EU’s energy bag, however.

On Friday, 45 TV weather presenters from across Europe will come for a day-long seminar in Brussels, with commission officials set to encourage the TV crowd to talk more about climate change and CO2 on their shows in future.   “These are credible celebrities. Many of them have meteorological training and speak with a great deal of awareness on the issues, as well as being faces that people see in their living rooms every day,” an EU official said. “So it’s the best of both worlds.”

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 14th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The transatlantic relationship is not over, as has sometimes been suggested in recent years – but it has changed. There is still consensus in Europe and the US that the urgent global challenges confronting us today can only be met in a joint effort. The goal is to identify specific fields for strategic cooperation and formulate effective and coherent policy options towards them.

The Bertelsmann Stiftung aims to help in this process. As part of its long-standing project work on “Europe’s Global Responsibilities”, it has made a major effort to foster transatlantic ties. One of the measures taken is the annual “Brussels Forum” (an initiative launched jointly by the main organizer German Marshall Fund, Daimler-Chrysler, Monitor, Fortis and the Belgian government) which aims to bring together the best and the brightest from the spheres of politics, industry, and ideas on both sides of the Atlantic. In the run-up to this major event in late April 2007, we would like to outline the main opportunities for a common transatlantic agenda.

Our new paper series “Transatlantic Thinkers” provides a fresh perspective on these opportunities, touching upon topics such as energy security, climate change, civil liberties in an age of terror, non-proliferation and many others. These short papers are “mind-challenging” in the best possible sense – sharp, precise and provocative. Often, we will form “Transatlantic Doubles”, pairing up prominent voices from both sides of the Atlantic to collaborate on one issue.

Richard Morningstar, the former US Ambassador to the European Union and US Special Representative for the Caspian Region, has written the first piece in our series (attached to this e-mail). Morningstar focuses on the importance of the Caspian Region for a future EU energy policy. He chastises the European decision makers for having neglected the strategic importance of the region – and delivers pointed recommendations for re-evaluating European energy policy..

Gregor Peter Schmitz
Director Brussels Transatlantic Office
Bertelsmann Stiftung
Résidence Palace
Block C, 3rd floor
Rue de la Loi 155
B-1040 Brussels
Phone: ++ 32 2 280 28 30
Fax: ++ 32 2 280 32 21
E-Mail:  Gregor.Peter.Schmitz at bertelsmann.de

URL: http: //www.berteldsmann-stiftung.debrussels001.gif

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 7th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

EU to beef up diplomatic corps in Central Asia, informs Andrew Rettman from Brussels, the EUobserver, February 6, 2007.

EU states are keen to open four new EU embassies in Central Asia by 2008 to help compete with Russian, Chinese and US influence in the energy-rich region, as upcoming Turkmen elections put Brussels’ new Central Asia policy to the test.

The embassy idea was put to member states in a 15-page document on 2 February by EU officials and the German EU presidency, with the German ambassador to Uzbekistan, Matthias Meyer, the same week calling for the fresh crop of diplomats to be in place by next year.

The European Commission already runs a 60-man delegation in Kazakhstan’s old capital in Almaty and three smaller offices with less than 10 officials each in the new Kazakh capital of Astana, as well as in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan and Dushanbe, Tajikistan.

The move would see full-scale missions in Astana, Bishkek, Dushanbe and Tashkent in Uzbekistan, with no plans for Turkmenistan as yet and with Brussels warning the timetable could change as it is not proving easy to attract high-calibre staff to the far-flung posts.

The new strategy paper also sets out wider goals that could see multilateral meetings at EU-level to talk about a new gas pipeline under the Caspian Sea and encourage political reform, including education projects to stymie radical Islam.

It suggests extending the mandates of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the European Investment Bank to help build basic infrastructure and provide alternatives to the heroin trade on the Afghan border.

EU states – including human rights advocates UK, Sweden, Denmark and Ireland – have broadly welcomed the draft as a “good balance” between energy and humanitarian interests, with national experts set to tweak the wording before it goes to EU leaders at the June summit.

“The actual content of the document is not so important. It’s designed to send a political signal to our partners, to the five states in question and to Russia, China and the US,” one EU diplomat said. “We are saying – look we want to be in there, we want to work there.”

Post “Tulip Revolution” Kyrgyzstan is currently the most progressive country in the region, with Kazakhstan also showing interest in reform. But Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are egregiously repressive while Tajikistan is seen as a “heroin-based economy.”

Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan also claim to have massive gas reserves, but some experts say EU plans to compete for new pipelines with Russia and China are doomed to fail, as existing elites are more keen to get rich from the status quo than to get better EU gas prices with strings attached.

“In terms of the opacity of these regimes and the depth of Russian influence, if the EU thinks it can use Central Asia to improve its energy security it is being highly naive,” International Crisis Group director Bob Templar told EUobserver.


The Turkmenistan opening:

Meanwhile, the sudden death by heart failure of 66-year old Turkmen leader Saparmurat Niyazov last December has seen some MEPs, as well as exiled Turkmen dissidents in Sweden and Vienna, call for the EU to use the “new opening” to step up pressure for reform.

EU capitals and the European Commission have so far decided to give free rein to an old guard of army men and civil servants fronted by ex-health minister Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov to take power in pseudo-elections this coming Sunday.

“We have to find a way to get into dialogue with these countries in a way that they actually listen,” another EU diplomat said, amid worry that EU envoys could be frozen out by the new regime and that the exiled dissidents might create a “new kleptocracy” if they got in.

NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) is urging Brussels to push for gas money to be used for rebuilding schools and hospitals in the post-election phase before unfreezing relations – most schooling stops at age 15 and clinics are often staffed by untrained soldiers.

“There is a danger that the new government will be given too much credit before any across-the-board reforms,” HRW analyst Ian Gorvin said. “Some EU diplomats out there have already started congratulating Berdymukhammedov simply for not being Niyazov.”

Brussels puts squeeze on MEPs:

A 25 January letter from external relations commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner to pro-reform MEP, Dutch conservative Albert Jan Maat, urging the European Parliament to approve a new trade deal with Astana, casts light on the EU’s new Central Asia thinking.

“I strongly believe that engagement over time is likely to have a more positive impact than isolation…beginning with allowing the interim agreement to come into force as soon as possible,” she said, in a move seen as exerting undue pressure on MEPs by Mr Maat.

“This is saying there will be no EU reform effort until we allow the trade agreement,” the parliament’s Central Asia delegation vice-chair said. “If a member of parliament in the Netherlands received such a letter, you would soon have a big problem.”

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