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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 2nd, 2008

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Asia Society’s 2nd International Business Conference in Astana, Kazakhstan, will be the premier Central Asian business event of 2008, coinciding with the 10th anniversary of the capital city of Astana. Co-organized with the Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan and the Keleshek Kazakhstan Foundation and building on the success of Asia Society’s June 2005 conference in Almaty, this conference will take a closer look at key investment challenges and issues of economic reform and growth as Kazakhstan prepares for accession to the World Trade Organization.

By bringing together business, government, and thought leaders, this conference will provide an important forum for examining Kazakhstan’s emergence as a global economic player. Kazakhstan’s rapid expansion presents advantages as well as challenges to establishing long-term economic prosperity and stability in the region. This conference aims to promote a deeper understanding of the key aspects of Kazakhstan’s development and to identify future priorities and strategies. Kazakhstan has a pivotal role to play in fostering and strengthening partnerships with its neighboring countries and the broader pan-Asian community. As Central Asia becomes increasingly important, Kazakhstan is poised to become a strategic destination for investment and a bridge for trade between Asia and the West.

For questions, please email  Astana2008 at asiasoc.org.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 19th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

KAZAKHSTAN: THE LAND THAT DISAPPEARED FROM HISTORY FOR QUITE SOME TIME. Asia Society event, New York City, Monday April 21, 2008.

Closed to foreigners under Tsar and Romanov rule, Kazakhstan has remained largely hidden from the world, a remarkable feat for a country the size of Western Europe. Few would guess that Kazakhstan—a blank in Westerners’ collective geography—turns out to be diverse, tolerant, and surprisingly modern, the country that gave the world apples, trousers, and even, perhaps, King Arthur. Christopher Robbins enjoyed unprecedented access to the Kazakh president while crafting this travelogue, and he relates a story by turns hilarious and grim. He finds Eminem-worship by a shrinking Aral Sea, hears the Kazakh John Lennon play in a dusty desert town, joins nomads hunting eagles, eats boiled sheep’s head (a delicacy), and explores some of the most beautiful, unspoiled places on earth. Observant and culturally attuned, Robbins is a master stylist in the tradition of travel writing as literature, a companion to V. S. Naipaul and Paul Theroux.

Christopher Robbins is the author of five non-fiction books: Assassin, Air America (turned into a TV series and film starring Mel Gibson and Robert Downey, Jr.), The Ravens, The Test of Courage, and the award-winning Empress of Ireland. His journalism has appeared in the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Times Magazine (UK), the Guardian (UK), and many other publications. He lives in London.

Meet The Author of “Apples are from Kazakhstan: The Land That Disappeared” – Christopher Robbins at

The Asia Socirty New York, Monday, April 21, 2008.
6:00—6:30pm: Registration
6:30—8:00pm: Program
8:00—9:00pm: Reception and Book Signing

Asia Society and Museum
725 Park Avenue at 70th Street, New York City

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 19th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

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

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

Turkmenistan to cut EU dependence on Russian gas.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Russia questions value of Nabucco energy pipeline.

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 17th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

2008 Goldman Environmental Prize Raises the Stakes.

SAN FRANCISCO, California, April 14, 2008 (ENS) – Seven grassroots leaders who are challenging government and corporate interests and working to improve the environment and living conditions for people in their communities have won the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize this year. In 2008, each individual Prize award will be increased from $125,000 to $150,000.

The winners are being awarded the Prize at an invitation-only ceremony this evening at the San Francisco Opera House and will also be honored at a smaller ceremony on Wednesday at the National Geographic Society headquarters in Washington, DC.
“This year’s Prize recipients exemplify the astounding environmental work being done by ordinary people around the world,” said Goldman Prize founder Richard Goldman. “Their commitment to bettering both the lives of people living in their communities and the environment around them has received our attention and praise.”
This year’s recipients include two people from Ecuador who are fighting oil giant Chevron to bring justice and environmental recovery to an area devastated by oil pollution.

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2008 Goldman Prize recipients: front row from left: Luis Yanza, Rosa Hilda Ramos, Marina Rikhvanova; second row from left: Feliciano dos Santos, Jesus Leon Santos, Ignace Schops, and Pablo Fajardo Mendoza. (Photo courtesy Goldman Environmental Prize)

A Mozambican activist-musician who brings education about sanitation and clean water systems through performance and community-based outreach to one of the poorest nations in the world was chosen by the Goldman Prize jury.

Other recipients include a Puerto Rican grandmother working to protect a precious marshland, an indigenous Mexican farmer utilizing pre-Columbian agriculture techniques to transform a barren area into rich farmland, a Belgian environmentalist who campaigned to secure the country’s first and only national park, and a Russian woman working to protect Siberia’s Lake Baikal from oil and nuclear interests.

The Goldman Environmental Prize, now in its 19th year, is awarded annually to grassroots environmental heroes from each of the world’s inhabited continental regions and is the largest award of its kind.

The 2008 Goldman Prize recipients addressed some of the world’s most pressing environmental issues through grassroots efforts, helping to educate and motivate local communities to get involved in the effort to protect the natural environment around them and to stand up for their rights.

This year’s winners are:

  • Pablo Fajardo Mendoza, 35, and Luis Yanza, 46, Ecuador:
    In the Ecuadorian Amazon, Fajardo and Yanza lead one of the largest environmental legal battles in history against oil giant Chevron, demanding justice for the massive petroleum pollution in the region.
  • Feliciano dos Santos, 43, Mozambique:
    Using traditional music, grassroots outreach and innovative technology to bring sanitation to the most remote corners of Mozambique, Feliciano dos Santos empowers villagers to participate in sustainable development and rise up from poverty.
  • Rosa Hilda Ramos, 63, Puerto Rico:
    In the shadow of polluting factories in Catan’o, a city across the bay from San Juan, Ramos leads her community to permanently protect the Las Cucharillas Marsh, one of the last open spaces in the area and one of the largest wetlands ecosystems in the region.
  • Jesús León Santos, 42, Mexico:
    In Oaxaca, where unsustainable land-use practices have made it one of the world’s most highly-eroded areas, León leads a land renewal program that employs ancient indigenous practices to transform depleted soil into arable land.
  • Marina Rikhvanova, 46, Russia:
    As Russia expands its petroleum and nuclear interests, Rikhvanova works to protect Siberia’s Lake Baikal, one of the world’s most important sources of fresh water, from environmental devastation brought on by these polluting industries.
  • Ignace Schops, 43, Belgium:
    Raising more than $90 million by bringing together private industry, regional governments, and local stakeholders, Schops led the effort to establish Belgium’s first and only national park, protecting one of the largest open green spaces in the country.

The Goldman Environmental Prize was established in 1990 by San Francisco civic leader and philanthropist Richard Goldman and his late wife, Rhoda Goldman. It has been awarded to 126 people from 72 countries.

Prize winners are selected by an international jury from confidential nominations submitted by a worldwide network of environmental organizations and individuals.
Previous Prize winners have been at the center of some of the world’s most pressing environmental challenges, including seeking justice for victims of environmental disasters at Love Canal and Bhopal, India; leading the fight for dolphin-safe tuna; fighting oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge; and fighting against mountain-top removal mining in America’s coal country.
Since receiving a Goldman Prize, eight winners have been appointed or elected to national office in their countries, including several who became ministers of the environment. The 1991 Goldman Prize winner for Africa, Wangari Maathai, won the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize.
For more about the current and past Goldman Environmental Prize recipients, click here.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 26th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Why some reserves are going untapped
SHAWN MCCARTHY, Globe and Mail, March 26, 2008.
OTTAWA — Under the original optimistic plans, nearly half a million barrels a day of crude oil should now be flowing from Kazakhstan’s Kashagan field, which contains the world’s largest untapped reserves.

Despite record crude prices, however, not a single barrel has made it out of the ground. Rather than stimulate production, the rising price of oil has actually contributed to lengthy delays with the Kashagan project.

Already facing extremely hostile physical conditions, the companies developing the project watched as skyrocketing oil prices fuelled inflation in construction costs and prompted the Kazakh government to revisit the production agreement.

A project that was supposed to come on stream in 2005 is now slated to start up in 2011, assuming no further delays by its much-criticized operator, Italy’s Eni SpA, which is partnering with Western giants such as Exxon Mobil Corp. and Royal Dutch Shell PLC.

The problems facing the Kashagan project are increasingly common in today’s global oil industry. Despite a six-year runup in crude prices, which hit a record $110 (U.S.) a barrel last week, oil companies – both publicly traded and state-owned – are having difficulty keeping up with rising world demand.

There are myriad reasons for the surprisingly weak supply response to high prices: a paucity of major discoveries in the past several decades; the more costly and complicated nature of developing resources from unconventional sources like oil sands and deep-water fields; the rise of nationalism in resource-rich countries; and the innate conservatism of oil industry executives, who have been burned by oil price collapses in the past.

But higher prices themselves may actually discourage the addition of new supply in some circumstances, analysts at Swiss investment bank UBS Ltd. say in a study released yesterday.

“Price inflation has created new obstacles as companies and governments try to make sense of project costs,” they said.

“With the temptation for governments to tighten fiscal terms with rising prices, the task of identifying appropriate returns has become tougher.”

The UBS team, led by London-based analyst Jon Rigby, compiled a roster of major projects – those with expected production of more than 100,000 barrels a day – due to come on stream through 2015.

With rising demand, plus declining production from existing fields, the industry needs to add at least 4.5 million barrels a day of new supply each year.

But relying on major projects won’t meet that target. In the current year, the UBS analysts estimate new supply sources will produce 4.4 million barrels a day, but that figure drops to 2.9 million in 2009 and a paltry 1.7 million in 2010.

That suggests prices could ease this year, as new additions in Saudi Arabia and the former Soviet Union provide a cushion in the face of demand weakened by the global economic slowdown.

Thereafter, the market will tighten again as new production is unable to keep up with demand growth.

Leading members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, like Venezuela and Iran, are underinvesting in their oil fields.

Instead, they are using revenue to provide social subsidies to large and restive populations.

Among OPEC members, only Saudi Arabia – and new members such as Angola – have a large slate of new crude oil projects coming on stream in the near future.

Canada is well represented in the UBS list, with some two-dozen oil sands projects forecast to add 2.3 million barrels a day by 2016.

Despite the increasing power of national oil companies in places like Russia, Venezuela and the Middle East, the international majors have not lost their clout. But they are being careful with their cash.

Corporations like Exxon Mobil are returning cash to shareholders rather than invest in projects that don’t meet their high profitability standards.

Analyst David Kirsch of PFC Energy Group said companies tend to use extremely conservative price assumptions to determine which projects will proceed.

“You just see some deeply ingrained conservatism in what oil price forecast you use when you are pursuing future projects,” Mr. Kirsch said. “And I don’t see that culture changing over night.”

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 27th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Subject: Women In Great Numbers Descend On The UN for CSW 52 – that is the yearly take-over of the UN by the Commission on the Status of Women. EXXONMOBIL Takes A Ride.

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The Commission on the Status of Women is Having its meeting at the UN – and the UN wants to have us believe that it is all about “Violence Against Women.” The reality is that for the week, a yearly event, women’s organizations take over the UN; the UN will be used for many other purposes, besides the one expressed by the UNSG, as well.

This article picked up first the official statement by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and the very good reporting by Edith Lederer from the Associated Press – based on that UN official position. But then we wish to single out one “Parallel Event” held on February 25, 2008, at the Church Center across the UN. We went to that event because we were sent a flyer that mentioned as a panelist: “EXXON MOBIL CORPORATION – Speaker to be announced.” This was enough to trigger our curiosity and the appetite to devour that unnamed speaker for a named company – this while all other members of the panel were right there named in the open.

The title of that event was – “CORPORATE FEMINISM: ENHANCING CORPORATE INFLUENCE THROUGH WOMEN’S EMPOWERMENT.” The Conveners of the event were The International Council of Jewish Women and cosponsored by: Soroptimist International. The first body is represented in the US by the National Council of Women, the second body came to CSW 52 with the theme – “Financing for Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women.” We will have much more about all of this, but as said, we will first introduce the two postings we mentioned in the previous paragraph.

UN Urges End to Violence Against Women

By EDITH M. LEDERER | Associated Press Writer
11:41 PM CST, February 25, 2008

UNITED NATIONS – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has launched a global campaign to intensify efforts to end violence against women, specifically calling on men to combat the problem.

“At least one out of every three women is likely to be beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in her lifetime,” he told the opening session of the Commission on the Status of Women on Monday. “Through the practice of prenatal sex selection, countless others are denied the right even to exist.”

Ban said he will form a global network of male leaders to assist him in mobilizing men in government, the arts, sports, business and religion, as well as boys, to speak out against the scourge.

“I call on men around the world to lead by example: to make clear that violence against women is an act perpetrated by a coward, and that speaking up against it is a badge of honor,” he said.

According to the U.N., the most common form of violence experienced by women globally is physical violence inflicted by an intimate partner. World Bank data show women aged 15-44 “are more at risk from rape and domestic violence than from cancer, motor accidents, war and malaria.”

In every war zone, violence against women has been reported during or after armed conflict. As examples, the U.N. said, between 250,000 and 500,000 women were raped during the 1994 Rwanda genocide and between 20,000 and 50,000 women were raped during the Bosnian conflict in the early 1990s.

Ban said the campaign will continue until 2015 to coincide with the target date to achieve the U.N. Millennium Development Goals aimed at combatting poverty.

He said he will personally approach world leaders “to spur action through national campaigns,” and will urge all countries to ensure that violence against women is always a crime. He said he will also urge the media, the U.N. system, non-governmental organizations and women’s groups worldwide to set priorities and targets to end violence against women.

“We know that violence against women compounds the enormous social and economic toll on families, communities, even whole nations,” Ban said.

The secretary-general said he will propose that the U.N. hold an event in 2010 to review the campaign’s accomplishments and to map out steps to make further progress by 2015.

World leaders at a U.N. summit in 2005, the U.N. Security Council, and the General Assembly have pledged to combat violence against women, but the secretary-general said much more needs to be done.

The U.N. said the campaign — Unite to End Violence Against Women — will try to mobilize public opinion to pressure policy makers to prevent and eradicate violence against women.

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CSW 52 had nothing to do with the will of the UNSG. As said this is an event organized by the Commission on the Status of Women – though, clearly, it is highly possible and we would say probable, that the UNSG has suggested a topic for this years meeting of the CSW. This is clearly a very welcome move on his part and it comes after we saw so many cases when even UN Peacekeeping forces are accused of rape – not just combatant forces that had to be kept apart by these UN forces. So, besides the global humanitarian problem, there is here also a UN problem – and it could not be soon enough for the UNSG to step into this breach of confidence in the UN.

Further – the UNSG in the words of his Spokesperson:

We ‘cannot wait’ to end violence against women – Secretary-General Ban.

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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launches campaign to End Violence Against Women.

25 February 2008 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today kicked off a multi-year global campaign bringing together the United Nations, governments and civil society to try to end violence against women, calling it an issue that “cannot wait.”

“At least one out of every three women is likely to be beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in her lifetime. Through the practice of prenatal sex selection, countless others are denied the right even to exist,” Mr. Ban said in his address at the opening in New York of the latest session of the Commission on the Status of Women.

Violence against women impedes economic and social growth, and thus the new campaign will run until 2015, the same target year as the internationally agreed aims known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Noting that weapons of armed conflict today include rape, sexual violence and abduction of children to be conscripted as soldiers or sex slaves, the Secretary-General recounted his visits to war-torn areas and his conversations with survivors of violence.

“This is a campaign for them. It is a campaign for the women and girls who have the right to live free of violence, today and in the future,” he said. “It is a campaign to stop the untold cost that violence against women inflicts on all humankind.”

Mr. Ban called on the cooperation of the world’s youth, women’s groups, men around the world, the private sector and Member States to help the new initiative succeed.
He acknowledged that there is no “blanket approach” to tackling the scourge, noting that each country must formulate its own measures to address violence against women.
“But there is one universal truth, applicable to all countries, cultures and communities: violence against women is never acceptable, never excusable, never tolerable,” the Secretary-General stated, adding that he hopes to hold a high-level event in 2010 to review progress.

But there is one universal truth, applicable to all countries, cultures and communities: violence against women is never acceptable, never excusable, never tolerable.

As part of today’s campaign launch, Rachel N. Mayanja, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Gender Issues and the Advancement of Women, held a press conference together with a number of other activists, both male and female, working to end violence against women and are slated to participate in other discussions on the subject at UN Headquarters.

“While everybody professes that women hold up the sky and women’s contributions are critical to development – to everything – it hasn’t been demonstrated concretely.” Ms Mayanja said. “And here we are, halfway through the Millennium Development Goals projected period, and we are still lagging behind.”

Many women have been left out of development efforts because of the violence that is continually being inflicted on them, she said. The Secretary-General’s campaign, she added, would bring a new sense of urgency to bear on this tragic issue.

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News Tracker: past stories on this issue

Saudi Arabian women need support to help advance society – UN expert

Video | Audio

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Further, the press conference, as well as the main meeting itself, included male witnesses talking freely about their own experience of having attacked women. Specially was impressive in his presentation one male from the US that after 20 years of counseling came to the conclusion that the three cases of him attacking women were based on the male culture in his neighborhood. A man is supposed to be aggressive he said, and this translated in the way he dealt with women. Men go to war – successful – they become heroes. He finally recognized that this was his personal problem and now he counsels other delinquent males so they recognize the wrong motivation them act the way they do.

But then the UN has not reached yet the level of self criticism reached by above man who by now is rather a gentleman. The question of rape in the field, and exploitation of women and girls in the field, by UN personnel, was never raised at this event – not even the fact that the UN building itself harbors soft porno and smut. So, the only remaining good investigative journalist at the UN – the man called by all – Matthew – did bring this up. Please his post:

Soft Porn Sold in UN Lobby, Despite Gender Advisor’s Complaints to UN Management.

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, February 25 — As the UN on Monday launched its Campaign to End Violence Against Women, in the lobby of UN Headquarters, soft porn remained for sale. At the newsstand next to the elevator to the Secretary-General’s offices on the building’s 38th floor, titles such as Curve and Smooth and King, along with Dirty South, were on display, with oiled-up women vamping for the camera.

Following a press conference at noon at which time apparently did not permit Inner City Press to ask this question despite a hand raised high throughout the question and answer period, the question was put to the UN’s Special Adviser on Gender Issues and the Advancement of Women, Assistant Secretary-General Rachel N. Mayanja. “I am glad you are raising it,” she told Inner City Press. “I am very appalled. I had already raised it to the Department of Management and had been assured they were going to ask them to take it down.”

Inner City Press asked how long ago the request had been made to the Department of Management, headed by Under Secretary General Alicia Barcena. “At least six months ago,” Ms. Mayanja said. “I am going to go back to them. It should be removed.”

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Ban Ki-moon launches Campaign to End Violence Against Women, soft porn not shown

While the sale of soft porn on the newsstand in the United Nations lobby may raise First Amendment issues, it appears to be the UN’s position that while the UN is in the United States, it is international territory to which the U.S. Constitution does not apply. Perhaps then it is Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that has constrained the UN from removing the pornography from the newsstand it licenses in its lobby. Recently, the Department of Management and Ms. Barcena have had no problem condemning journalistic coverage of a death at the UN as causing “complete shock and outrage,” as being “insensitive” and “clearly transgress[ing] accepted boundaries of professional journalism.” Soft porn which the UN’s own Special Adviser on Gender Issues six months ago asked the Department of Management to have removed, however, has generated no such shock or outrage within the Department of Management, nor apparently even a letter to the newsstand.

Footnote: to the UN’s credit, even when time or a moderator deny a journalist a question, most (but not all) UN officials are willing to slow down and provide at least some answer to a question, if a reporter is persistent enough. The matter of soft porn in the lobby is one that Inner City Press has wanted to ask ASG Mayanga about for some time. And despite obstacles on Monday, the question was asked, and now we’ll see what happens. Watch, if not the UN lobby, this site.

Having reported the above, let us see now the CSW 52 Parallel event on Corporate Feminism // Women’s Empowerment, and let us say right front that we do not begrudge women that pushed for equal rights to advance on the corporate ladder. We were friends with such power houses like Bella Abzug and Betty Friedan. Years ago, we hosted them at events of “The Theatre for Ideas” – in Manhattan and in East Hampton, Long Island, New York.
Sure, this is a different level of women’s rights from what the UNSG had in mind in his dealing with the physical protection of women – but then the right of women according to the UN Declaration on Human Rights extends also to equal rights for women’s advancement on corporate ladders. So, naturally, I thought that the panel will be dealing with what was achieved and where we go from here. But what about ExxonMobil? It did not let me bypass the event.

Going to www.soroptimistinternational.org I found that Soroptimist International is a worldwide organization for women in management and professions, working through service projects to advance human rights and the status of women. Even better – Soroptimist International is a launch partner for this vital UNIFEM internet global advocacy campaign which will run until 8 March, International Women’s Day. One in 3 women and girls may be beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in their lifetime.

Greater resources are urgently needed to halt these shameful statistics. The UN Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women, managed by UNIFEM, supports local initiatives, such as work to prevent human trafficking, assisting survivors of domestic violence, or helping to implement laws against rape.
On 22 January, the United Nations Foundation announced a Challenge Grant. It will donate $1 to the UN Trust Fund for each of the first 100,000 signatures to UNIFEM’s “say NO to violence” campaign.
UNIFEM needs YOUR help now! (obviously I signed the petition the day of the meeting) I also met Margaret Lobo, the Australian 2007-2009 International President of the Soroptimists.

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Margaret Lobo

A message from the Soroptimist International President:
“As International President, I am privileged to represent an organization that has been committed to advancing the status of women and human rights for all for over 85 years. With its 90,000 members in 125 countries and territories serves its local, national and international communities through Awareness, Advocacy and Action.
I hope that you will share the passion and enthusiasm of our members as you read about our projects and will want to join us in building a better world for girls and women. We look forward to hearing from you.”

A flyer describes their projects – I will just mention a very small sample: a project “Independence” to help rebuild lives of women in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Rwanda, through education, job training and micro-credit loans for small businesses; “Limbs for Life” that provides prostheses for victims of landmines in Angola, Georgia, Afghanistan; “SIAM” in Northern Thailand villages to develop income-generating activities and AIDS education in order to decrease the number of women entering the sex trade; SI/SIGHT clinics in Bangladesh to prevent blindness in children under 5; anti-malaria bed-nets for children under 5 in Ze, Benin; care, nutrition, education for abandoned children in Vietnam; help for women AIDS victims in Uganda and Ukraine….

Margaret Lobo was not involved in setting up the program of that panel. She told me that this was done by the local organizations in New York. She gave me a second flyer explaining what the organization does –

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The other sponsoring organization was The International Council Of Jewish Women with about 50 member organizations is represented in the US by The National Council of Jewish Women ( www.ncjw.org ). A faith-based volunteer organization that works to improve the quality of life for women, children, and families and to ensure individual rights It is a politically savvy organization. For over a century, NCJW has been at the forefront of social change. NCJW members are outspoken champions for progressive policies at the federal, state, and local levels. Over the years, NCJW’s collective voice has changed the world for the better – improving the lives of women, children, and families in the US and Israel.

The Moderator of the panel was Meryle Kaplan, Vice President of Advisory Services at Catalyst. www.catalyst.org “CATALIST was founded in 1962 as a nonprofit corporate membership research and advisory organization working globally with businesses and professions to build inclusive environments and expand opportunities for women and business.” This according to their flyer. They are “connected to business and its changing needs.” Offices in New York, San Jose, Toronto, and Zug, Switzerland. They work with 340 leading corporations, firms, business schools, and associations – they honor exemplary business initiatives that promote women’s leadership with an annual Catalyst Award. The New York office is on Wall Street and I was not impressed.

Meryle Kaplan told me that she asked her speakers to talk about in-house corporation advancement of women, and as well, about involvement of the corporations in their environments – the interaction with the communities where they do their business.

Elizabeth Cottam, Managing Director, Global Leadership and Diversity at Goldman, Sachs &Co., and Carolyn Buck Luce, Senior Partner, Global Accounts Group, at Ernst & Young, LLP were excellent examples of female leaders in their corporations. Their presentations were indeed examples of what women have achieved in that old fight for advancement within their corporations. They spoke about how funds were created in their companies to help promote the female employees, and how now they are finding new targets for their fights inside the company. Having achieved an increasing percentage of top jobs, though still a minority – they want now also part of the say in the philanthropic funds that these companies have established. This because women may have different interests in the way those funds are distributed. There was a lot of interesting material in their short presentations and much more further information was provided at Q&A time. Their presentations were indeed good examples of how women executives evolved and are now an important factor in the economy as wellas in the social fabric of developed countries that can also help women in developing countries.

Carolyn Buck Luce also teaches at Columbia University a course on “Women in Power” at the School of International and Public Affairs. Corporations want now to put their women into leadership positions in the community – dealing with economics, safety, health – in the community. One point she made is that it still happens that when women succeed they may yet get laid off. this because people are afraid of power. She started out at the US Department of State in the Soviet Union. She wrote about the promotion of minority women. She is a mother of four. She said that by looking at her success she inspired also her sons in their own career development – a comment that was very appropriate to her presentation.

Elizabeth Cottam, working with an Investment Bank, a financial institution that deals only with high net-wealth individuals, governments, corporations, financial institutions, is in an organization were there is an internal competition for who gets to work with the best clients. These competitive women want more career development in house programs. They know that there must be a business rationale for helping the women employees. 2004-2007 she was the company head of Human Capital Management Asia. Now she heads the Global efforts.

Amy Hall, Director of Social Consciousness, Eileen Fisher, Inc., a company that manufactures clothes overseas – in places like China, Korea or Thailand. In those factories 80% of the workers are women. She helps the company carry out the company’s commitment to practicing business responsibly in its relations to these women employees. It is her job to develop community partnerships and oversee the commitment to ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY. She came to Eileen Fisher, Inc. after a fundraising career with Asian-American cultural, educational and social service organizations in New York City. (today we posted also an article about women in Bangladesh that grew with the garment trade – this is clearly a subject with high importance to developing countries’ women empowerment.)

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The ExxonMobil leaf says correctly that an EWGI   (Educating Women and Girls Initiative) yields higher rate of return for society than any other investment available in the developing world – so it says “ExxonMobil is doing this in order to accelerate progress toward international objectives, including the Millennium Development Goals. “

Exxon EWGI programs fund activities in Angola, Chad, Colombia, Equatorial Guinea, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, Qatar – and when Ms. Luxbacher spoke – she also included Washington DC among places they operate.   Now this makes sense – in the countries she mentioned, a very real hodge-podge of dissimilar places in the world, that are all affected by Exxon drilling   for oil and gas – and Washington DC where the drilling is for government favors – all this to the sound of   $11 million grants through 2007 in areas including a long list of activities that most probably had very little application in a country like Qatar, where the paper says that they provided vocational and life-skill training for what amounts there to middle age – to older women (ages 18-45).   Also, remember please that Qatar has little oil but has a long term large reserve of gas. After the US had to abandon its air force bases in Saudi Arabia, the bases were moved to Qatar and located right on top of those gas fields. Qatar is a safe place for a US Oil and Gas company, and doing some limited favors to the government does not hurt. There is no work here with girls – there maybe some work with grown up women, under good supervision, and no chance of causing those women to start demanding rights. That surely would not have been allowed in an Arab country – even Qatar.

In Indonesia, they work in the oil rich semi-independent Aceh region, where the interest by the US oil company was a cause to a rebellious movement. In Colombia they helped fund seemingly a UNICEF   improved Water and Sanitation effort for schools (that is a US Administration affiliated Ms. Veneman effort with good US business savvy activity). Good for Colombian schools in the Cartagena and Santa Maria areas where Exxon is active. Similarly UNICEF related activities go on in Chad (you remember that infamous pipeline that brought about an attempt to divide the country and a war?) and Equatorial Guinea – another trouble spot. To get into activities in Angola and Nigeria would sink us into sand-holes. ExxonMobil does not do any philanthropic work in Venezuela – actually they may nearing the point that they lose all work in Venezuela. Seemingly Venezuela might yet do philanthropic work in Washington DC as they already do in South Bronx, New York City.

This leaves us only with Kazakhstan, where strong local government will simply not let ExxonMobil do as it pleases – so, in order to obtain some favors, under conditions that they must compete for business with European companies,   they may actually do something that is important to the local people, and to US government initiatives. There they work with USAID on a micro-finance program that helped also 1,760 women with their first business training. We hope that with the supervision of the local Enterprise Development Center (EDC) that they actually helped establish, they are now a positive force in the effort, of interest to the Kazaks, to move their past-Soviet style economy, now on a   path more close to private enterprise.

Except for Kazakhstan and Qatar, the other 5 countries mentioned are all hot spots of ExxonMobil caused dissensions, where local people oppose the environmental damage that the oil company has caused and is causing. Who is interested there in their philanthropy outstretch?   This is great business for public relation firms – you see we do some good there with the few peanuts we are throwing in the direction of the local poor, while we feast with the local government that will be happy to exchange the future of their people, for the present pay-outs to the ruling few. Now – that is oil business at its best and it needs really very little planning – it needs good technical expertize to get the oil and gas out of the ground, and deliver it to pipelines and shipping terminals. We must have a good PR firm to bring us to the UN, and put us on a panel with others that do good.

 

Now, with above things in mind, I decided to ask an outright killer question at this meeting of well-to-do women.

My question went something like this:   As the only man in this room ( I was immediately told that I was wrong – there were three more men in the room and close to one hundred women) I want to express my male point of view.

I know that men are supposed to be those that are propelled to advance on corporate ladders, and that they do wars, and everything that is bad, but the old concept was that women do good by bringing up the children, worry about the environment, and are inclined to do all the good things in general. So my question to the woman from ExxonMobil is what does ExxonMobil do for the environment, for the health and quality of life of the local people on whom their activities have an impact, for the children, for next generation? For their own children’s future? What does Exxon Mobil do about climate change? Is it fair to say that a company that had profits pushing $50 billion   last year, $11 billion last quarter, throwing a miserable sum of 11 million dollars at the problems they leave behind, is it not a very meager feat of PR?

All what Ms. Luxbacher, the General Manager of ExxonMobil Corporate Planning was able to say was that they spent more then $11 million. She said she was ready to talk to me later. The moderator said she wanted to go back to women’s questions, and I insisted that my question was a women’s question because it dealt with children and the future.   For the rest of the session the lady from ExxonMobil did not say a word. To my discredit, I confess here, that I did not speak with this lady when the session was over, but had rather much more fruitful discussions with other ladies in the room – some that said to me that I did ask the right question that had to be asked indeed. I think that I made some friends – though I am not naive to think that I did not also make some new enemies for life.

I hope that some of the true Soroptimists will send me now material about efforts they wish to be posted, and I really do not feel any obligations to those that just used the UN for the ride.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 20th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

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 June 11th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

CEOs FROM WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM MEMBER COMPANIES MEET PUTIN AND DEPUTIES IN ST. PETERSBURG: 11/6/2007  MaximsNews.com, U.N.)

UNITED NATIONS – / www.MaximsNews.com@ U.N./ – 11 June 2007 – St Petersburg, Russia, Over 150 international CEOs from the World Economic Forum member companies met for an off the record discussion with Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation at the exclusive World Economic Forum Russia CEO Roundtable which was held in partnership with the XIth St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.

The discussions with President Putin were “unusually open” said one of the participants.

The CEOs also saluted the “freshness” and “openness” of the discussions during the two private sessions held with top Russian cabinet members including both First Deputy Prime Ministers Sergei Ivanov and Dmitry Medvedev, Minister of Economic Development and Trade Herman Gref and Minister of Finance Aleksey Kudrin.

At the plenary session entitled “Competitive Eurasia – Space for Trust”, which among others included President Putin, First Deputy Prime Minister Medvedev, President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev, Director–General of the WTO, Pascal Lamy, the President of the EBRD Jean Lemierre and EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson, Klaus Schwab noted that “the meeting had created a much better understanding of Russia and had helped to create a framework for dialogue and cooperation.”

President Putin emphasized Russia’s interest in “sustainable development based on trust”.

The World Economic Forum has brought to St Petersburg 150 top global CEOs to discuss Russia’s ever important role in a globalized world.

Reflecting on the collaboration between The World Economic Forum and St. Petersburg International Economic Forum Klaus Schwab said “We are like two brothers”.

The World Economic Forum has been engaged in Russia since 1991 and has held regional meetings at regular intervals in Moscow ever since. President Vladimir Putin personally took part in the World Economic Forum in Russia in 2001 and 2003 and First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev led a record 50 member delegation to the last Annual Meeting in Davos, which included Minister of Economic Development and Trade Herman Gref and Valentina Matvienko, Governor of St. Petersburg.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 11th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Kazakhstan Drafts Renewable Energy Legislation.

from:  eva.pawlowski at gmail.com, June 11, 2007.

Kazakhstan could become the next country to pass legislation supporting the development of renewable energy after government ministries declared support for the development of draft legislation regulating this new industry.   Last month at a seminar in the Ministry of Energy, chaired by Deputy Minister Almasadam Satkaliev, draft legislation was approved that is now subject to governmental consultations before being sent to parliament. The May seminar was a follow-up to work that the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) began back in March, when the organisation presented a proposed framework for legislation to an audience of ministers and senior officials in the Kazakh parliament.   Currently the Ministries of Energy and Mineral Resources and of Environmental Protection are working with UNDP to continue the development of detailed drafts.


Ambitions for renewable energy in Kazakhstan remain fairly modest by European standards, the power sector modeling carried out as part of the UNDP project shows that 1,000MW of small scale hydro power and 2,000MW of wind power can be constructed by 2024 without significant effect on the consumer price for power.   Nevertheless, the significance of this is immense in a country whose economy is so linked to the hydrocarbon markets.

Kazakhstan is largely dependent on sizeable coal reserves for its power needs.   Eighty-five percent of the country’s power production comes from its sources of cheap and often poor quality coal.   As a consequence Kazakhstan is the largest per capita emitter of greenhouse gases in Central Asia.

During initial debate on the draft legislation Kazakh government officials agreed that fossil fuels provide stable income for Kazakhstan and that by reducing the country’s reliance on them for domestic use, valuable resources can be saved.  

They also acknowledged the value of renewable energy as a means of hedging against world fossil fuel prices, reducing the country’s dependence on power transmission and eliminating energy deficits in remote areas of the country.

UNDP Regional Representative Haoliang Xu stated “Kazakhstan is in the process of transition to sustainable development and UNDP is supporting the government in implementation of the transitional programme.   A key part of the process is the promotion of RES in Kazakhstan and to facilitate this we used Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEEP) funding to draft a law tailored to the needs and conditions of this country.   The adoption of the law and the commitment shown by the Ministries of Environmental Protection and of Energy and Mineral Resources is a sign that RES development and environmental protection are being taken seriously by the Republic of Kazakhstan.”
Marianne Osterkorn, International Director for REEEP commented further that, “It is very exciting to see strongly emerging economies, particularly those with a dependence on hydrocarbons like Kazakhstan, making such a clear commitment to sustainability.”

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 11th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

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 6th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

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.info)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 28th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regarding Energy – the example of Kazakhstan:

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

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

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 16th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

                                                                                  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.info)

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

brussels002.gif

brussels003.gif

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 7th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

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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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 1st, 2006
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

From www.planetark.org/dailynewsstory….

INTERVIEW: Kazakh Biofuel Pioneer Plans More Plants.

RUSSIA: December 1, 2006
ASTANA – Biohim Co., the first bioethanol producer in the former Soviet Union, plans to build at least three more plants in Kazakhstan to produce fuel from wheat and other crops, a senior company official said on Thursday.
The privately-owned company, which opened a $100 million plant in northern Kazakhstan in August, will decide by mid-2007 where to build its second factory, executive director Yevgeny Sutyaginsky told Reuters.

“All our attention is on our current plant. We’ll move onto the second project in the spring,” Sutyaginsky said in a telephone interview.

Asked how many plants his company planned to build, he replied: “Three — minimum”.

Ethanol, mixed with gasoline to make motor fuel cheaper and more environmentally friendly, is becoming more popular among consumers as high crude oil and gasoline prices encourage the use of renewable alternatives.

Biohim, a joint venture between privately owned Russian group Titan and Kazakh firm Basko, can produce 57,000 tonnes a year of bioethanol at its existing plant in Taiynsha, a town 400 km north of the Kazakh capital Astana in the heart of the country’s main wheat-growing region.

Sutyaginsky said the plant was on track to produce at full capacity in 2007. The second plant would have similar capacity, he said, though the company’s expertise might make it cheaper to build than the first.

He said Biohim was considering building the plant either in the north of Kazakhstan, near the existing plant, or in the south, where it would run on maize.

“The potential for grain-growing in Kazakhstan is very large. There’s a lot of potential land,” he said.
WHEAT CROP

Biohim Co. has acquired about 200,000 hectares of land for its existing plant, which needs about 220,000 tonnes of wheat of any quality.

Kazakhstan’s 2006 grain harvest is expected to be 18.5 million tonnes by bunker weight, or just over 16 million tonnes by clean weight, up from 13.8 million tonnes by clean weight in 2005.

Sutyaginsky said Biohim would export all of its bioethanol. Its main customers are in the European Union, China and Russia.

Titan — the Russian partner in the Biohim joint venture — said this month it planned to start building a bioethanol plant in the Siberian city of Omsk that would be three times bigger than its Kazakh predecessor.

If such plants are successful, say analysts, supply and demand patterns for grains could be altered significantly.

Andrei Sizov Sr., president of Moscow-based analysts SovEcon, earlier told the Kazakh Grains Forum that such a project in Omsk would demand 600,000 tonnes of wheat — 24 percent of the annual harvest in the Omsk region.

“Omsk, currently an exporter to other regions of Russia, could hardly be expected to continue like that in the future,” Sizov said.

Several other Russian companies have announced ambitious plans to produce fuel from grains, sugar and oilseeds.
Story by Robin Paxton, REUTERS NEWS SERVICE.

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