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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 11th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

After the briefing at the US Mission to the UN I crossed the street to the UN proper and found out that the UN had two extraordinary activities that day:

(1) The Launching of an International Year of Water Cooperation in the morning followed by a Press Conference at the Dag Hammarskjold Library Auditorium.

(2) The Launching of the United Nations Children’s Tour in the Visitor’s Lobby – to which all accredited Journalists and media affiliates were invited.

The second event was easy to reject – this because of the fact that the invitation sounded exclusive and then because we always thought that the UN was established in order to do serious business and we never liked the idea that it is being turned by its leaders into a tourist trap.

Oh well! This left the first activity which looked suspicious as well. What is it WATER COOPERATION?

As I was looking for a particular journalist I found my way to the Water Cooperation Press Conference and watched three presentation by three people – The UN Ambasssador from Hungary, Mr. Csaba Korosi, a science specialist for UNESCO Ms. Ana Persic, and Mr. Paul D. Egerton the World Meteorological Organization (Headquartered in Geneva) Representative in New York.

I understood that the UN General Assembly proclaimed 2013 as International Year for Water Cooperation in 2010 following a request by Tadjikistan that is short of water and has disputes with its neighbor Uzbekistan. Instead of looking at the political dispute and at the shortage of water in that dry part of central Asia, the UN gave the lead to the issue to UNESCO which is running UN Water – a project that looks at the importance of water in general. So what we got was a scientific presentation of climate change, droughts and tsunamis. Instead of having an Ambassador from n Asian dryland we got the Ambassador from Hungary and presentations on the importance of water for poverty reduction. We heard of Climate Security and catastrophic weather, of migration and water vulnerability – BUT WHAT ABOUT COOPERATION BETWEEN THE UZBEKS and the TADJIKS? What about international water-sharing laws and agreements?

Yes, from our experience we know that WMD does terrific scientific work as they did when we needed them to prepare information on climate change for the IPCC – but they are not a political organization – not even UNESCO can push for COOPERATION between governments, so what was this event about.

I decided to bring up what I learned just last week from the Brahmah Chellaney presentation at the Asia Society, and which I posted as:

Asia is poorer in water then Africa, and China’s Tibetan Plateau dominates Asia water supply and could impact all other States. Professor Brahma Chellaney of New Delhi publicizes these problems in his books. Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 9th, 2013

My question was about the Water-Hegemony of China because of the fact that most of the rivers originate on the Tibetan Plateau and China does not care to make water agreements with its neighbors. India is a victim of such disputes with China and the development of the whole region will stop because of lack of water and of agreements to share the water.

The answer came crystal clear – the studies will be prepared by scientists and not political people – that will be up to the governments. Let us say that if the UN is not ready to accept the task of getting countries together there is no sense in talking of cooperation – just another example that the UN cannot step up to the plate.

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And The Revealing Inner City Press Report: UN’s Water Year Is All Wet, Distinguishing Science & Politics, Tajik Sponsors

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 11 – The year of 2013 is the year of many things, but according to the UN General Assembly it is the International Year of Water Cooperation, credited to a request by Tajikistan in 2010. Inner City Press covered that 2010 hoopla, here.

At the UN on Monday Inner City Press asked at the inevitable UN press conference about the Tajik – Uzbekistan water and dam dispute, and if the press conference panel’s singling out of Tajikistan for praise didn’t constitute taking sides in this dispute. Video here, from Minute 22:13.

The World Meteorological Organization’s Paul Egerton replied that WMO and UNESCO, whose Ana Persic was also on the panel, are both scientific organizations. “The starting point is to focus on scientific and environmental issues,” he said. “There may be discussions at the high political level, in the UN Security Council or other venues, of the political issues.”

But water cooperation is, of course, a “political” issue.

Witness the Nile Basin and an agreement signed by seven countries but not by Egypt or Sudan. Can UNESCO solve this? The Security Council seems unlikely to get involved on the Nile, much less the Uzbek – Tajik conflict.

Inner City Press began by thanking the panelists on behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access. Also on the panel was Hungary’s Permanent Representative Csaba Korosi, who told Inner City Press that “we as member states cannot decide on behalf of other member states to sort out their bilateral problems.”

But that is precisely what the Security Council under Chapter VII of the UN Charter purports to do. Sudan, North Korea, Eritrea and others would like what Csaba Korosi said to be true. But it is not.

Csaba Korosi went on to say that the International Year of Water Cooperation is also “to raise awareness of solutions” and is about the “SDGs and the post 2015 development agenda.”

But isn’t everything?

Still, his answer at least acknowledged that these are political problems, and not only scientific. Now who will solve them? Watch this site.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 22nd, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

nbsp;www.theglobeandmail.com/news/tech…

U.S. Secretary of State Clinton urges China to probe Google case.
U.S. Secretary of State calls for consequences and condemnation of those who carry out cyberattacks.

Robert Burns, Washington — The Associated Press, Published on Thursday, Jan. 21, 2010 in Globe and Mail of Canada.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Thursday urged China to investigate cyber intrusions that led Google Inc. GOOG-Q to threaten to pull out of that country – and challenged Beijing to openly publish its findings.

“Countries that restrict free access to information or violate the basic rights of Internet users risk walling themselves off from the progress of the next century,” she said, adding that the U.S. and China “have different views on this issue, and we intend to address those differences candidly and consistently.”

She cited China as among a number of countries where there has been “a spike in threats to the free flow of information” over the past year. She also named Tunisia, Uzbekistan, Egypt and Vietnam.

Ms. Clinton made her remarks in a wide-ranging speech about Internet freedom and its place in U.S. foreign policy.

“Some countries have erected electronic barriers that prevent their people from accessing portions of the world’s networks,” she said.

“They have expunged words, names and phrases from search engine results,” Ms. Clinton said. “They have violated the privacy of citizens who engage in nonviolent political speech.”

State Department officials have said they intend soon to lodge a formal complaint with Chinese officials over the Google matter, which a senior Chinese government official said Thursday should not affect U.S.-China relations.

Vice-Foreign Minister He Yafei said in Beijing, “The Google case should not be linked with relations between the two governments and countries; otherwise, it’s an over-interpretation,” according to the official Xinhua News Agency. The Xinhua report did not mention censorship, instead referring to Google’s “disagreements with government policies.”

In a passage of her speech before she explicitly mentioned the Google matter, Ms. Clinton spoke broadly about the connection between information freedom and international business.

“Countries that censor news and information must recognize that, from an economic standpoint, there is no distinction between censoring political speech and commercial speech,” she said. “If businesses in your nation are denied access to either type of information, it will inevitably reduce growth.”

“Increasingly, U.S. companies are making the issue of information freedom a greater consideration in their business decisions,” she added. “I hope that their competitors and foreign governments will pay close attention to this trend.”

She then raised the Google case.

“We look to Chinese authorities to conduct a thorough review of the cyber intrusions that led Google to make its announcement,” she said, referring to Google’s recent statement that it is reconsidering its business operations in China. “We also look for that investigation and its results to be transparent.”

—————-

Further – Ms. Clinton wants to see INTERNET FREEDOM AS A PLANK OF AMERICAN FOREIGN POLICY – she says that an attack on one Nation’s computer network should be seen, what it really is, an attack on all!

Censorship should not be accepted by any company, and American companies must take a principled stand she further said.

The US will place a “demarche” with China – a diplomatic move of protest showing its displeasure with the way China treated Google. The US is not ready to accept that this is a mere business squabble. We follow this logic and think the US should also express its displeasure the way certain well placed UN Department of Public Information officials use their positions to intefere with the dissemination of news at the UN. One outside the UN New York Times investigative reporter had looked into this three years ago, but her worldwide distributed article had no impact on the UN, neither did we see the US making a “demarche” to Mr. Ban Ki-moon. Could the State Department under the Hillary Clinton baton have a look there too?

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 6th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 As we know that many of our readers are interested in the nexus of climate change and desertification, we thought that there might be interest in participatingin the following review studies and decided to post this e-mail.

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Dear Scientific Colleagues and Stakeholders of the UNCCD. This is an invitation to review the first drafts of scientific analysis papers contributing to the world’s fight against desertification and land degradation.

To begin the review, please go to the website www.drylandscience.org

(or dsd consortium.jrc.ec.europa.eu/php/index.php?action=view&id=160) and click the button on the left entitled ‘Online Consultation’.

You can download and read the papers in PDF format there if you prefer, but all comments must be received via the web feedback system that is accessed through the above path.

—————

Background

The Committee on Science and Technology (CST) of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) has called for a Scientific Conference on the topic of “Bio-physical and socio-economic monitoring and assessment of desertification and land degradation, to support decision-making in land and water management.”   The Conference, popularly known under the shorter title ‘Understanding Desertification and Land Degradation Trends’, will take place at the UNCCD Conference of Parties in Buenos Aires, Argentina during 22-24 September 2009.

In preparation for that Conference, three Working Groups have drafted ‘white papers’ summarizing leading scientific knowledge relevant to the topic assigned by the Convention that leads towards recommendations that can support decision-making in land and water management by the Convention and its Parties. Each of the three Working Group white papers is about 80-100 pages long consisting of several chapters. In addition, there is a cross-cutting topic that the Working Groups collectively address (denoted ‘S1′).

For one month, from 28 May to 28 June 2009, the first drafts of the white papers will be open for review by scientists and stakeholders worldwide.

We look forward to your valuable contributions. Please visit the web link mentioned above to participate in the review process. Thank you for helping to enrich these papers with your knowledge, comments and suggestions.

Sincerely,
The Dryland Science for Development Consortium (DSD)

————
Dr. Christopher Martius

Head, Program Facilitation Unit (PFU), CGIAR Program for Central Asia and the Caucasus (CAC)

Coordinator, Regional Program of the International Center For Agricultural Research In The Dry Areas (ICARDA) for the CAC Region
Tashkent, Uzbekistan

Mail Address: Program Facilitation Unit, P.O. Box 4564, Tashkent, 100000, Uzbekistan
Street Address: 6, Osiyo Street, Tashkent, Uzbekistan

Phones: +99871 2372130, +99871 2372169, +99871 2372104
Fax: +99871 1207125

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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 9th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

EU aid chief says rising food prices risk African ‘humanitarian tsunami:’ As food riots sweep the developing world, the EU’s foreign aid chief has warned that sky-rocketing food price rises threaten a “humanitarian tsunami” in Africa, and has promised a boost in aid to support food security.

“A global food crisis is becoming apparent,” said EU humanitarian aid commissioner Louis Michel after a meeting with African Union Commission President Jean Ping, “less visible than the oil crisis, but with the potential effect of a real economic and humanitarian tsunami in Africa.”

By Leigh Phillips, April 9, 2008, the EUobserver, Brussels.

The commissioner said that the EU would boost emergency food aid from the European Development Funds from its current €650 million to €1.2 billion.

In recent weeks, food riots have swept the developing world as UN World Food Programme officials warn that a ‘perfect storm’ of poor harvests, rising fuel prices, the growth of biofuels and increased pressure from a growing middle class in China and India is rapidly increasing world hunger.

The last two days have seen food riots in Egypt over a doubling of the price of staple food items in the past year. Some 40 people died in similar riots in Cameroon in February, with violent demonstrations also recently taking place in Senegal, the Ivory Coast, and Mauritania.

Less deadly protests in the last week have also occurred in Cambodia, Indonesia, Mozambique, Uzbekistan, Yemen and Bolivia.

In the last week in Haiti, five people have been killed in riots over price rises for rice, beans and fruit, with protesters attempting to storm the presidential palace in Port-au-Prince on Tuesday (8 April), while UN staff in Jordan have gone on a one-day strike this week asking for a pay rise to deal with the 50 percent increase in prices.

Elsewhere, China, Vietnam, India and Pakistan are introducing restrictions on rice exports.

The UN’s undersecretary for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief co-ordinator, John Holmes, on Tuesday said that rising food prices are threatening political stability throughout the developing world.

“The security implications [of the food crisis] should also not be underestimated as food riots are already being reported across the globe,” said Mr Holmes, speaking at the Dubai International Humanitarian Aid & Development (DIHAD) Conference, according to the Guardian. “Current food price trends are likely to increase sharply both the incidence and depth of food insecurity,” he added.

Kanayo Nwanza, vice president of the UN’s International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) said on Tuesday: “Escalating social unrest as we have seen in Cameroon, Mauritania, Burkina Faso and in Senegal could spread to other countries,” reports AFP.

African finance ministers met last week in Addis Ababa to consider the food crisis. In a statement, the ministers warned that food price rises “pose significant threats to Africa’s growth, peace and security.”

Last month, the head of the UN World Food Programme, Josette Sheeran, said that high oil prices, low food stocks, growing demand from China and the push for biofuels are causing a food crisis around the world.

“We are seeing a new face of hunger,” she said. “We are seeing more urban hunger than ever before. We are seeing food on the shelves but people being unable to afford it.”

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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 March 27th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Monday March 26, 2007, the Human Rights Council of the UN   decided to end scrutiny               of – Iran, Uzbekistan.

GENEVA, March 26 based on a report from Reuters: – “The United Nations top human rights body voted on Monday to end routine scrutiny of Iran and Uzbekistan despite accusations of abuse in both countries. The 47-state Human Rights Council accepted the recommendation of a five-country working party, whose members included Zimbabwe, that they be removed from the so-called 1503 procedure under which accusations of violations are discussed in closed-door, confidential sessions.”

The decision had been widely expected because a majority of states on the Council, launched last year to replace the discredited Human Rights Commission, oppose the singling out of individual states for special attention. So – this is how goes out the window the much touted – supposedly most important innovation – in the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s UN Reform.

“We are very disappointed at the decision. We think that it is deeply regrettable that the Council will not have the opportunity to consider the human rights situation in those countries,” a U.S. spokesperson said. “This decision is completely out of step with the view expressed by the (U.N.) General Assembly which only a few months ago voted again to condemn human rights violations in Iran,” she added.

The United States has declined to stand for election to the Council because it says the Geneva-based body lacks credibility.

Before taking the decision, the Council had heard accusations from individuals and groups alleging continuing arbitrary executions, judicial failings and the use of torture in Iranian jails, diplomats said.

According to human rights sources, European Union states on the Council voted in favour of maintaining monitoring of Iran, but Switzerland, Brazil, Japan and South Korea were amongst Council members to abstain in the secret vote.    

SWITZERLAND, BRAZIL, JAPAN, KOREA ??

The United States and European Union criticised Uzbekistan – the former Soviet state – for using indiscriminate force to quash protests in the town of Andizhan in May 2005, killing hundreds.     Uzbekistan has said the Andizhan violence was organised by Islamist rebels. Human rights groups, including the New York-based Human Rights Watch, had said that ending monitoring of Uzbekistan would amount to the sanctioning of abuses.

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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 26th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

UN Briefing: Canada Human Rights Scorecard
News and Analysis from UN Watch in Geneva February 26, 2007

Read UN Watch’s Human Rights Scorecard: Canada at the UN in 2006-2007
Click here for the full report

UN Watch today released a new report assessing Canada’s record on human rights and democracy issues at the UN Human Rights Council and General Assembly. Below is an op-ed about the report by Executive Director Hillel Neuer that appeared in The Globe and Mail.

“Canada scores well on human rights at the United Nations.”
By Hillel C. Neuer, Hillel Neuer is the executive director of UN Watch in Geneva.

Human rights at the United Nations is everywhere under assault. At the newly created Human Rights Council in Geneva, and at the General Assembly in New York, an increasingly brazen alliance of repressive regimes is not only spoiling needed reform, but undermining the few meaningful mechanisms of UN human rights protection that already exist. Impunity for systematic abuses is their goal. Amid all this, where does Canada stand?

According to a new report that will be presented to members of Parliament today by UN Watch, a Geneva-based non-governmental organization, Canadians can be proud that their nation ranks at the very top — in both the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly — for its record of consistent support for positive initiatives, and solid opposition to malicious measures. The study, Human Rights Scorecard: Canada at the UN in 2006-2007, also shows, however, that Canada falls short in its failure to speak out often or strongly enough for victims of most of the world’s worst regimes, or to initiate proceedings that would hold violators to account.

The study offers a meaningful evaluation of Canada’s actions by comparing them with those of other countries on a selection of votes considered the most significant by diplomats and activists. These include, most prominently, the “name and shame” resolutions, where a handful of the UN’s 192 countries are singled out for censure, along with other resolutions that encroached on bedrock democratic principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

At the 47-nation council, inaugurated in June to replace the discredited Commission on Human Rights, there have been only 10 country-specific resolutions: eight harsh condemnations of Israel, and two soft, non-condemnatory resolutions on Sudan.

Canada stood shoulder to shoulder with the major democracies in protesting the obsessive focus on censuring Israel that marked the first months of the council, in one-sided texts and special sessions that granted impunity to armed provocations by Hamas and Hezbollah. When the Islamic group introduced its fifth censure of the Jewish state —condemning Israel for holding the Golan Heights but ignoring Syria’s sponsorship of terrorist organizations — Canada was a lone voice in protesting the imbalance. (The General Assembly already had adopted two censures on the same matter, which Canada had supported).

On Darfur, Canada was at the lead of the minority democratic bloc of 11 countries that demanded strong actions for the victims of Darfur and was responsible for the belated convening of a special session in December. Regrettably, to win a majority, the resulting resolution had to be negotiated with Sudan and its powerful allies, and wound up applauding Sudan for its “co-operation.” It did create a council team to visit and assess the situation in Darfur, but Sudan has now reneged on admitting the monitors.

Other indicative votes at the council included that on the resolution introduced by Algeria, in the name of the African group, to impose a “code of conduct” on the 41 independent rights monitors, who examine thematic violations such as torture, or the situations of rights in specific countries such as Belarus. Canada strongly defended the experts, most of whom do excellent work. Joining Britain, France, Germany and other democracies, Canada also fought repeated attempts by the Islamic group to curb freedom of speech by prohibiting the media and others from “defamation of religions” — a thinly veiled reference to the controversy over the Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.

At the General Assembly, Canada’s support for human rights and democracy issues was on a par with the other major democracies. It led the resolution that held Iran to account for its policies of torture, arbitrary arrest and repression of women, minorities and independent activists. Canada also joined other democracies in citing major abuses in Belarus, Burma, and North Korea, and in supporting the attempt to censure Uzbekistan, whose religious affiliation won it enough votes for a “no action” motion that killed the resolution.

While Canada voted correctly on all of these, it failed to take the floor when the situations in Belarus and North Korea were debated. Atmospherics influence country attitudes — something the repressive regimes have internalized far better than the democracies.

What is perhaps most revealing is the report’s analysis of what Canada has done for victims of the most repressive regimes. Looking at the latest list of 19 compiled by Freedom House, Canada did nothing for 13 of them.

Canada took no action whatsoever at the Human Rights Council or the General Assembly against China’s violations of civil, political and religious rights — which harm over a sixth of the world’s population. Canada was equally silent regarding Fidel Castro’s police state, where journalists languish in jail for daring to speak the truth. It said nothing about Saudi Arabia’s refusal to allow women to vote or drive a car, or its state-sponsored schoolbooks that teach children to hate Christians and other non-Muslims. Nor did it protest Robert Mugabe’s repression in Zimbabwe.

The horizon ahead offers imperatives as well as opportunities.

First, Canada must commit itself to speaking out on far more situations of gross violations, and to do so more vigorously.

More importantly, if it chooses to seize the moment, Canada can marshal the considerable respect it enjoys from both the European Union and the U.S. — which should be encouraged to join the council — to spur a much broader democratic alliance that, with conviction, energy, and unity, can retake the initiative and ensure that the UN’s foremost human rights bodies live up to their promise.

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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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