Armenia's choice in Nagorno-Karabakh: peaceful resolution or another war with Azerbaijan?
By George Niculescu,
EGF Affiliated Expert
In the aftermath of the failed summit hosted by the Russian president Dmitry Medvedev between his Azerbaijani and Armenian counterparts, held in Kazan (Russia) on 24 June 2011, with a view to agreeing on a peaceful settlement of the "frozen conflict" in Nagorno-Karabakh, it seems that the future of South Caucasus might be threatened by the specter of a new war. Although the agreement expected from the Kazan summit was politically backed by a previous US-French-Russian summit in Deauville (France) on 26 May 2011, the two conflicting parties have eventually turned it down, placing under a big question mark the whole notion of pursuing international negotiations on Karabakh. Reportedly, a senior official in the Kremlin, reflecting president's Medvedev's frustration with the outcome of the Kazan summit, had declared: "Unless Armenia and Azerbaijan display a readiness soon to solve the accumulated problems, we will consider this mediating mission over" (Kommersant, 27 June 2011).
Ukrainian Parliament passes pension reform
On 8 July 2011, the Supreme Council of Ukraine adopted the law on pension
reform, which was drawn up by the Ukrainian Cabinet of Ministers.
The law envisions that the retirement age for women will be gradually raised from 55
to 60 years, the work history requirement for a pension will be increased by 10 years
for both men and women and the maximum pension will be limited to 10 minimum
wages. READ MORE
EGF Turkey File
Insights into Turkish domestic and international politics during June
- Despite the fact that the ruling AKP did not gain the electoral majority it requiredto unilaterally re-write the country’s constitution, the party continues to be the overwhelmingly dominant player in the Turkish political landscape.
- As was inevitably the case with Turkey’s position towards Libya following prolonged civil conflict in the country, Ankara’s position towards Syria is slowly but surely adjusting towards a tougher stance
- Turkey continues to keep one foot in Nabucco’s door, and the other in bilateral energy arrangements with neighbouring states. READ MORE
Court starts hearing «gas case» against Tymoshenko
On 24 June 2011, the Kiev Pecherskyy district court started a preliminary
hearing of the criminal case against Ukrainian opposition leader and former
Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko.
She is accused of abusing power, which allegedly took place when she signed gas
contracts with Russia in 2009. READ MORE
EGF Turkey File
A snapshot of Turkey’s domestic and regional politics during April 2011
- Turkish leaders continue to navigate the ongoing “Arab Spring”, this time as it moves to Turkish borders with protests engulfing Syria.
- Turkey’s record with press freedom remains under scrutiny, as the NGO, Journalists Without Borders, condemns the country in the run-up to the June 12 elections.
- The political situation in Turkey’s southeast remains volatile, with the Turkish military breaking up large scale protests by Kurdish demonstrators in the city of Hakkari on April 25
- Suggestions by finance experts allude to the overheating of the Turkish economy, while the Turkish Central Bank’s new head moves to quell such speculation.
- The Turkish Prime Minister announces plans for an Istanbul canal that some experts say could replace the need for the country’s participation in the EU-driven NABUCCO gas pipeline project. READ MORE
Europe’s Key Geopolitical Challenges 2011: Summary Document
Key Points for Policy Makers:
- The crisis in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is demonstrating that it is high time for Brussels to re- think its strategy towards the countries of the south bank of the Mediterranean
- EU political initiatives in MENA have often focused on democratisation capacity building, when most of the grievances which sparked this year’s revolts on the Arab street have been predominantly socio-economic in character
- Brussels needs to devise effective mechanisms to overcome divisiveness in the narrow priorities of individual member states if it is to become a credible force in the sphere of international crisis management. It also needs to improve its early warning crisis prevention and detection instruments – or develop such capacities
- MENA remains clouded by substantial uncertainty. There is no guarantee that democracy will emerge in the recently “liberated” MENA countries. However, Turkey might be able to offer such countries a credible model of democratic growth.
- Any major disruption in the supply of energy from the Middle East to international markets, as a result of the ongoing protests and civil conflict in the region, is unlikely
- A general realignment may be starting to take place in the Caspian and Central Asian energy markets: Russian may be losing its grip over the region
Ukrainian business ready for work at Russian market – Experts
The Gorhenin Institute held a round table discussion - Prospects for Ukrainian Business in Russia - on 8 February. Experts and businessmen discussed the most promising areas of cooperation for Russian and Ukrainian business.
President of UPEC Industrial Group Anatoliy Girshfeld considers that Ukrainian business has prospects in Russia in the knowledge-based industry sector while operations in raw material sectors may hampered with strong government regulation. ‘The government actively regulates the raw materials and associated industry sectors and it won’t loose it’s hands on it. This is the main source of the budget income’, - O.Girshfeld said. ‘The state of the knowledge-based industry is a common problem to the entire post-Soviet space. That is why Russia has to allow entering its markets the companies developing in the knowledge-based industry, even in strategic sectors,’ – A.Girshfeld said. READ MORE
- February 17, 2011 09:50AM
Viktor Yanukovych: Ukrainian Corrupt Officials are hiring foreign lobbyists
The President of Ukraine does not agree with the statements that the fight against corruption in Ukraine only targets the people that are in opposition to the current Government.
The Head of State says the corrupt individuals, trying to avoid responsibility, are using various lobbying groups in the country as well as overseas with the purpose of discrediting the actions of the Ukrainian authorities. The President reminded that everybody should be held responsible for corrupt acts regardless of what political party they belong to. READ MORE
- February 17, 2011 09:45AM
Ukrainians are not afraid of terrorist attacks – survey
On January 24th through January 26th, 2011, Gorshenin Institute has conducted a phone survey "Explosions in Makeyevka". A total of 1000 respondents age 18 or older representing all 25 regional centers, Kiev and Sebastopol, were selected at random following a systematic procedure aimed at filling sex, age and community quotas. The margin of error is no higher then +/-3.2%. Results of the survey conducted among the residents of Makeyevka are presented separately. READ MORE
EGF Turkey File
• The Nabucco pipeline received several pieces of good news in January, but there is little sign of any movement towards commencement of construction works. Further, Italy’s ENI has rejected any possible suggestions that Nabucco could merge with Russia’s South Stream.
• Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Erdogan, has responded to criticisms that new laws advocating the restrictions of alcohol reflect an infringement on personal freedoms of Turkish citizens.
• The widely discussed “conspiracy” of the Sledgehammer coup plot is once again in the lime light, as prosecutors allege plans by the plotters to bomb two Istanbul mosques.
• Following the release of 5 members of the banned (Turkish) Hizbullah organisation in January, a fiery security- political debate has erupted as to whether there is a link between the AKP government and the outlawed group.
• While Istanbul hosts talks between the P5 +1 and Iran over the latter’s nuclear ambitions, Turkey sits out the meeting. A settlement on Cyprus appears impossible after Turkey and the EU sit out January talks in Geneva, with some critics saying this is the end for Turkey’s own EU accession negotiations.
• A day after Saudi Arabia halted its efforts in support of the formation of a new government in Lebanon, the joint Turkish/Qatari mission followed suit, claiming that the disputing Lebanese factions indicated reservations with external proposals to help broker a deal. READ MORE
EGF Turkey File
• In recent months Turkey has witnessed harsh prison sentences and threats of litigation by Turkish authorities in response to Kurdish protests and unfavourable press respectively in the past months. This is a worrying sign in that after nearly a decade in power, AKP authorities have become just as reactionary as the military backed governments of previous decades, only this time with an Islamic tinge.
• At the NATO Lisbon Summit on November 19-20, Ankara claimed victory for swaying its allies away from designating Iran as the main threat facing the alliance with regards to a proposed missile defence system which NATO is currently considering. While Turkish government officials indicated prior to the conference that they would demand command and control of the system if based on their territory, in Lisbon, that decision was put off for future discussion.
• Wikileaks’ release of American diplomatic cables have detailed the gossip and personalities of leading AKP politicians, but offered little else that could be described as damaging.
• In regional energy developments, Russia and its energy subsidiary, Gazprom, have been opting for pragmatism over threats in recent months by signing deals throughout the region with Bulgaria, Serbia, and Ukraine in order to strengthen prospects of realising the South Stream gas pipeline. Brussels and Sofia, for their part, have reached an agreement on bank guarantees for Nabucco (the EU’s rival to South Stream). READ MORE
- December 20, 2010 20:29PM
Viktor Yanukovych sees the possibility of Ukraine joining the Customs Union With Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan
On November 26th, 2010 in Moscow after the Ukrainian-Russian Intergovernmental Commission President of Ukraine announced that he did not rule out Ukraine entering the Customs Union (CU) with Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. He added that, in order to achieve that goal certain amendments to the Constitution of Ukraine should be made, which according to him could be done either in the Parliament or by a National referendum. Earlier, in April, Viktor Yanukovych has expressed an opposite opinion regarding this matter. 'Ukraine has made a choice in favor of joining the World Trade Organization (WTO). Ukraine is already integrated in the WTO and today Ukraine entering the Customs Union would be impossible', -he said. th As a reminder, on November 25 European Parliament adopted a resolution on Ukraine. In this document European legislators are calling on Ukraine to make all effort to finish negotiation on an agreement as to the Association Treaty between the European Union (EU) and Ukraine in the first half of 2011. READ MORE
- December 15, 2010 10:21AM
The IMF is satisfied with Ukraine yet is bringing forward more demands to continue the cooperation
Head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission in Ukraine Thanos Arvanitis said that Ukraine had fulfilled all main obligations within the framework of the cooperation program with the IMF. Prime-Minister of Ukraine Nikolay Azarov predicts that by the end of 2010 the Board of Directors of the IMF would decide on granting Ukraine the second tranche of the loan in the amount of 1.6 billion dollars. READ MORE
- December 15, 2010 09:09AM
EGF Turkey File
• David Cameron’s forceful remarks over the summer on Turkey’s stagnant accession talks have hit a nerve in some circles in Brussels. Criticism of fellow German and French members of the EU by the prime minister on bias and playing to xenophobic political moods has addressed the elephant in the room over Turkey’s much debated membership application. Brussels is predicted to endorse the recent referendum results from Turkey as a positive step in its long standing bid to join the EU.
• A Turkish court struck down the headscarf ban in public universities recently, but no major social disturbances have been reported. The lack of social unrest over such a divisive issue seems to further demonstrate that Turkey is enshrining the values of a law based democratic society where sensitive political issues are settled in the courts and at the ballot box rather than in the streets. Meanwhile the Ergenekon trial (Turkey’s new national coup plot) has faded from national attention as the Istanbul prosecutor’s office has declined to pursue the case citing lack of verifiable evidence.
• The Turkish National Petroleum Corporation has recently won two major contracts in developing the two largest Iraqi gas fields, further increasing Turkey’s interests in its neighbour. This has not alleviated some concern in the business sector that warns a ballooning trade deficit over the past year has dire consequences for the long-term future of business growth.
- November 30, 2010 05:57AM
EGF Turkey File
- The 12 September referendum was seen as a vote of confidence for the ruling AKP, with several constitutional changes ratified by majority. However, a large opposition-voting bloc has emerged and appears to highlight the presence of a vibrant democratic atmosphere in the Republic.
- Kurdish-Turkish reconciliation has faltered in recent weeks, with large portions of the country’s Kurdish areas boycotting the 12 September vote.
- Rumours of a Gulenist-AKP split did not deter cooperation between these two leading Turkish political forces in the run up to the vote. However, with criticism of the AKP increasingly evident within Gulenist circles, there are signs that all is not well in the Islamist camp in Turkey.
- Turkey and Russia’s Gazprom are attempting to negotiate the sharing of burdens and profits from the Samsun-Ceyan oil pipeline with Italy’s ENI. The American ambassador to Turkey has endorsed the Southern Energy Corridor project, but with the caveat that no Iranian gas runs through the Nabucco gas pipeline. READ MORE
EGF Turkey File
John Van Pool
EGF Turkey Geopolitics Analyst
- British Prime Minster David Cameron’s recent speech to the Turkish Parliament, which gave strong support for Ankara’s EU membership bid, is likely to have caused more reaction from European national leaders had it been delivered in Brussels
- Last month’s agreement between Chevron and Turkish Petroleum to explore two deep-water wells in the Black Sea is a reflection of the Turkish government’s efforts to make the country self sufficient in oil and gas production by 2023
- Italian energy company ENI has attempted to reach a compromise for its role in the competing Nabucco and South Stream pipelines by reaching an agreement with Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan in which compressed natural gas reserves will be transported by ship across the Caspian Sea, which will provide supplies to both pipelines without alienating either project’s backers.
- Turkey’s National Security Policy Document (also known as the ‘Secret Constitution’), which is due to be reviewed shortly, will identify energy security as the country’s most pressing strategic issue, and will remove Russia, amongst other neighbours, from the countries it would consider as potential enemies. READ MORE
The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation: The Tashkent Summit Generates More Questions than Answers
On June 11-12 2010 the member countries of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) held their annual Summit in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, under the auspices of the (rotational) Uzbek presidency. The previous SCO Summit was held in 2009 in Yekaterinburg, Russia, where the agenda of the member states was dominated by the search for the right exit strategies out of the global economic-financial crisis, particularly those that would serve to minimise its nefarious consequences upon SCO members. In Tashkent, the agenda of SCO member country leaders was dominated by the following issues:
• Enhancement of regional stability and security
• Coordination of the intergovernmental struggle with international terrorism, extremism and separatism
• Contemporary problems relating to the above, including ongoing crisis in Afghanistan (a regional thorn for all of the SCO members) and the fallout of the political-security crisis in Kyrgyzstan
• Coordination of national and intergovernmental efforts to counter organised crime and narco-trafficking. READ MORE
EGF Turkey File
John Van Pool
EGF Turkey Geopolitics Analyst
• Terrorism-related acts of sabotage, linked to the outlawed Kurdish-separatist group, the PKK, took place on the Kirkuk-Ceyhan oil pipeline on 10 August, disrupting production
• The Moscow-backed South Stream gas pipeline has been losing support amongst influential stakeholders in the region (the Italian Energy company, ENI, has raised concerns that the project will not be commercially viable)
• Turkey appears to be slowly correcting its energy policy shortcomings of the past with Russia, and Ankara now seeks a more balanced energy partnership with Moscow
• Conciliatory gestures towards Turkey’s Kurds by the present Ankara government appear to have done little to ease tensions in the country’s south east, which is heavily populated by Kurdish minorities. READ MORE
Geopolitical Challenges 2010
At the end of December 1999, as the world prepared to usher in a new Millennium, in Europe and other parts of the planet, there was widespread concern that the so called “Millennium Bug” would strike, causing unforeseen disruption and havoc. Ten years on, in December of last year, for many in Europe, the Millennium Bug was just a shade in the memory as a far more ominous concern was pressing home – the prospect of another gas crisis. Although the fact that the Russia-Ukraine gas dispute of January 2009 – and its knock-on effect of leaving much of Europe without natural gas in the peak of winter – did not repeat itself during the record cold European temperatures of January this year, the very fact that European attention has become so focused on this theme demonstrates how geopolitical developments in the European hinterlands have come to impact the day-to-day livelihood of all Europeans.
Leading experts have shared their views on how such geopolitical challenges are likely to pan out during 2010 and beyond in an online session. Click here to go into the discussions or here to view forum summary
The EU-Russia Energy Partnership: Overcoming the Challenges
The energy trade between Russia and the countries of the European Union (EU) is of fundamental significance for the energy security of each party. Despite the close proximity of the EU-Russia energy relationship, however, the legal and political basis underpinning this relationship, particularly with regards to the gas trade, has proven itself inadequate in guaranteeing the energy security of both parties. Russia's recent announcement of its intention "of not becoming a member" of the Energy Charter Treaty, and new proposal for global energy security has created further uncertainty. While it is hoped that a new government in Kiev will lead to an improvement of Russian relations with Ukraine, Ukraine's national gas transportation operator remains in a difficult financial position and another gas crisis embroiling Ukraine, Russia and the EU, whilst hardly imminent, cannot be entirely ruled out.
Leading Russian and international energy professionals have shared their views on these energy policy challenges in an online session. Click here to go into the discussions or here to view forum summary