“I do not see a high risk of Russia invading, and trying to occupy, all Ukraine or even any part of it outside of the existing separatist-controlled area…. (Russian President Vladimir) Putin will play this very effectively over the next year. Recall that it was Germany and Russia that wanted Nord Stream 2 after the Ukraine transit crisis in 2009 and it is again both that want the safe direct route for the additional gas. Weafer said the Biden Administration wanted to lift sanctions against Iran in exchange for a new deal with Tehran. A lot of the rare minerals needed for lithium batteries, computer chips and other key products are in China, he said, adding, “That’s going to add another level of nervousness”. US supply, especially shale, is less of a factor than it used be and the major western producers will come under even greater pressure to curtail capex in traditional hydrocarbon projects, Weafer said. Finally, Urquhart Stewart said another area which is going to be interesting for geopolitical issues is going to be China with rare earth mining. The timing is very uncertain, but it seems more likely to happen in early summer as gas companies in Europe will want extra volumes in these months to rebuild inventories ahead of the 2022/23 winter,” Weafer argued. Russian gas flows from it through the Yamal Gas Pipeline Link into the German gas pipeline network and westward. “But they are running out of time as such a move would be deeply unpopular in the US Congress and President Biden will have to avoid any such contentious actions coming up to the mid-term elections in the US. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Gazing into the Energy Crystal Ball for 2022

By Kostis Geropoulos
Energy & Russian Affairs Editor, New Europe

The gas compressor station in Mallnow, north of Frankfurt an der Oder, Germany. Turning to natural gas prices, Weafer believes the EU gas price will stay high in the first half of 2022 but does not see a crisis as such. GAZPROM

Facebook

Twitter

Linkedin

WhatsApp

Viber

Email

Print

The Covid pandemic and geopolitical issues are likely to be key issues for the energy prices in 2022. None of the major producers in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and allies led by Russia, a group known as OPEC+, want to see the oil price crash under an excess supply, regardless of what consuming nations demand, Weafer said, adding that if there is a slowdown in demand in the first or second quarter then OPEC+ would probably suspend the current recovery program and wait until they see demand recovering. It’s going to be going up and down, up and down, up and down, on a relatively small scale and it will be driven by geopolitical issues and, of course, the pandemic issues. According to the Moscow-based expert, the outlier on the upside would be if there was war between Ukraine and Russia that led to Russia being restricted within SWIFT or some other trade restrictions. He opined that Russia will not push more gas through the Ukraine transit system than it is contractually obliged to do. I should expect to see prices probably rise,” Urquhart Stewart argued. A colder than usual winter would push prices even higher. “Germany cannot take the risk of Russia not extending that contract and not having Nord Stream 2 fully operational. That is 40 billion cubic meters per annum until the end of 2024. According to Weafer, the Brent price will trade in the $70s per barrel through the first half of 2022 with a lot of volatility in the first quarter, as Covid numbers and restrictions are likely to be worse then. “What we have to have when we’re looking at these figures would be the economic debate on the use of all those commodities and the increasing demand,” Justin Urquhart Stewart, co-founder of Regionally in London, told New Europe, asked about the oil and natural gas prices for 2022. “Environmental activism is ratcheting pressure on the oil majors, on the investment funds and on banks. That level of coordination clearly works, and I believe Russia and the major OPEC producers, especially Saudi and the UAE, will also want that to continue,” Weafer said. “And then the second point is geopolitical because we have never seen so much political angles on this having such effect and obviously this particularly gas, Russia, Nord Stream 2 and the – unofficial not really talked about – intercountry blackmail but in terms of border with Ukraine and the gas prices. According to the Macro-Advisory co-founder, the price of gas will inevitably stay high in the first quarter and into the second quarter because inventories in Europe are low and demand will be high through the winter months. He expects the price of gas to be a lot lower this time next year and coming into 2023, as Russian supply will be higher with the Nord Stream gas pipeline from Russia to Germany and with the continued use of the Ukraine transit route at least until end 2024. follow on twitter @energyinsider “We’re heading to the coldest part of the year, and I think prices will be maintained at a high level until the level of confidence that political stability or relations with Russia is developed successfully which is unlikely,” he opined. “I expect the price to stabilize close to $80 per barrel in the summer and early autumn – based on an assumption of economic recovery strengthening in 2023 and, with it, finally a return to pre-Covid oil demand,” he said. This is an area completely unknown,” he said, adding that investors should expect higher oil prices and gas prices staying roughly where they are for the time being. What impact that’s going to have on prices? Asked if he expects any more sanctions affecting the pipeline if the situation between Russia and Ukraine worsens, Weafer noted that the major uncertainty is of course what happens in Ukraine and if there is a war or, more accurately, what type of war and for how long? Chris Weafer, co-founder of Macro-Advisory in Moscow, told New Europe the two most important factors for the oil price in 2022 will again be Covid-19 and OPEC+. If we want a letter of the alphabet, it’s probably going to be not a capital but underscore ‘w’. Germany sees transit country routes as less secure in the same way as Russia does,” Weafer argued. So, the odds on a deal and for a return of 2 million barrels of Iranian oil to the export market, are falling quickly,” he said. According to the London-based expert oil prices will move towards $100 per barrel and the gas prices will not weaken any time soon. “The former, especially if the Omicron variant forces extended travel and business restrictions, will continue to hang over demand assumptions and lead to frequent scares,” he said, adding that it seems inevitable that a return to pre-Covid demand volume will be seen later and more likely not until 2023. “I expect the price of Brent to trade in the mid to high $80s in the latter part of 2022, again based on that demand recovery optimism in 2023 and with OPEC+ supply coordination continuing even past the end of the current deal. “The gas crisis and price spikes seen in Europe this year, and the inevitability of high prices this winter, will guarantee that Nord Stream 2 will be approved and become operational in 2022. It means that OPEC+ will be increasingly in the driving seat, in terms of growing market share, to the end of this decade, at least,” he said. Weafer noted that the latter proved very effective through most of 2021 and should again act decisively in 2022 to ensure that supply is more evenly matched with demand and inventory trends. The oil prices would be in mid-$50s per barrel for a month or two. “The V-shaped recovery is a loser that’ s just bouncing back from a terrible position. Weafer expects demand to remain high into the spring and summer, rather than fall as usual, because countries and gas companies will want to rebuild the storage tanks that they let fell to low levels last winter. Urquhart Stewart said the economic recovery should continue. He explained that Russia is the biggest supplier of oil with just over 4 million barrels per day plus oil products of just under 3 million barrels to the world economy, including 800,000 barrels of crude per day to US Gulf Coast refineries, so any disruption in that trade, or even a fear that it might happen, would lead to a much higher oil price – at least $100 per barrel for Brent – for several weeks. the exception being a new land bridge between the separatist region and Crimea perhaps,” he argued. He noted that the outlier on the downside would be if Covid-19 variants prove more damaging and demand for oil falls, or event stalls, and OPEC+ takes no action.

The measure will apply until the end of 2030. In this context, Austria will carry out a yearly review of the costs of producing electricity from the supported renewable energy versus the market prices. EPA-EFE/CHRISTIAN BRUNA/FILE PICTURE

Facebook

Twitter

Linkedin

WhatsApp

Viber

Email

Print

An Austrian aid scheme to support electricity production from renewable sources complies with EU State aid rules, the EU’s antitrust chief said on December 20. Furthermore, Austria envisages maximum price caps based on the cost of production. Finally, the Commission said the positive effects of the measure, in particular the positive environmental effects, outweigh any possible negative effects in terms of possible distortions to competition. Hence, the investments by the selected beneficiaries would not take place in the absence of the aid. Under the scheme, the aid will take the form of a top-up premium, calculated as the difference between the average production cost for each renewable technology and the electricity market price, the Commission said. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Austrian scheme to support electricity production from renewables gets EU nod

By New Europe Online/KG

Wind turbines on fields near Herrnleis, some 50 kilometres northern Vienna, Austria. The level of aid will be determined by competitive tenders for electricity produced from wind, solar energy and biomass. Moreover, Austria has committed to ensure sufficient flexibility to adapt the support scheme to market developments, with a view to maintaining a cost efficient support. In particular, in view of the novelty of the system for the country, Austria put in place a mechanism of review, notably with an interim evaluation by 2025. The aid will be granted in the form of a top-up premium, which cannot exceed the difference between the market price of electricity and the production costs. It also has an incentive effect, as current electricity prices do not fully cover the costs of generating electricity from renewable energy sources. “This scheme will enable Austria to support renewable technologies, as it has set its goal to achieve 100% CO2 free electricity generation in 2030,” EU Commission Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager said.   The aid will be paid out to the selected beneficiaries for a period of maximum 20 years from the starting of the operation of the plant. Austria also committed to open the renewables support scheme to energy producers established outside Austria, subject to the conclusion of bilateral or multilateral cooperation agreements with other countries. In particular for electricity produced from wind, solar energy and biomass, the aid will be granted through technology specific competitive bidding processes, which should contribute to keep the support proportionate and cost-effective. According to the Commission, the measure will help Austria reach its target of 100% renewable energy in 2030, in line with its Recovery and Resilience Plan as endorsed by the Commission and approved by Council, and will contribute to the European objective of achieving climate neutrality by 2050, without unduly distorting competition in the Single market. It has also envisaged a possible adaptation of the system in order to ensure that tenders remain competitive. The measure will contribute to the reduction of CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions, in line with the EU Green Deal objectives and the environmental targets set in Austria’s Recovery and Resilience Plan, without unduly distorting competition in the Single Market,” she added. Furthermore, the aid is proportionate and limited to the minimum necessary. Austria has also foreseen mixed-technology tenders including wind and hydro in their framework. Austria has set itself the target to increase the share of electricity produced from renewable energy sources from the current 75 % to 100% in 2030. The Commission said the aid is necessary to further develop energy generation from renewable sources and help Austria achieve its environmental targets. On this basis, the Commission concluded that the Austrian scheme is in line with EU State aid rules, as it will facilitate the development of renewable electricity production from various technologies in Austria and reduce greenhouse gas and CO2 emissions, in line with the European Green Deal, without unduly distorting competition in the Single Market. Austria notified the Commission of its intention to introduce a scheme to support electricity produced from renewable energy sources namely wind, solar, hydro, biomass and biogas. The measure is one of the targets to be achieved by Austria in the context of its Recovery and Resilience Plan. Payments under the scheme have been estimated to amount to around €4.4 billion until end 2032. The Commission assessed the scheme under EU State aid rules, in particular the 2014 Guidelines on State aid for environmental protection and energy.

It provides for support of inspectors, police, prosecutors and judges through training, investigative tools, coordination and cooperation, as well as better data collection and statistics. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Commission proposes to strengthen the protection of the environment through criminal law

By New Europe Online/KG

EC Sinkevičius hang on a tree a bird house in Pikku Vesijärvi park in Lahti on 03.05.2021

EU Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevicius hanging on a tree a bird house Lahti, Finland, May 3, 2021. The proposal intends to make protection of the environment more effective by obliging Member States to take criminal law measures. Environmental crimes often impact several countries for example the illicit trafficking of wildlife or have cross-border effects (for example in the case of cross-border pollution of air, water and soil). The Commission proposed to set a common minimum denominator for sanctions for environmental crimes. Finally, as environmental crime is a global phenomenon, the Commission will continue to promote international cooperation in this area. At a time where the international community discusses the crime of ecocide, a high level of environmental protection is not only important for present but also future generations as we redouble our efforts to fight environmental degradation,” Sinkevicius said. Criminal law is one of them, and this proposal will give law enforcement authorities and the judiciary the tools to act more effectively against environmental crimes across the Union,” Jourova said. In addition, the proposal clarifies existing definitions of environmental criminal offences, providing for an increased legal certainty. EU Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevicius stressed that environmental crimes cause irreversible and long-term damage to people’s health and the environment. The legislative proposal will now be submitted to the European Parliament and the Council. EUROPEAN UNION, 2021/EC – AUDIOVISUAL SERVICE/ALESSANDRO RAMPAZZO

Facebook

Twitter

Linkedin

WhatsApp

Viber

Email

Print

The European Commission has adopted a proposal for a new EU Directive to crack down on environmental crime, fulfilling a key commitment of the European Green Deal. According to the Commission, the proposal sets new EU environmental criminal offences, including illegal timber trade, illegal ship recycling or illegal abstraction of water. That is why we need to strengthen our environmental criminal law. The proposal today builds on lessons learned and experience gained over the past years and will directly address root-causes that have prevented the protection of the environment from being as effective as it should be,” he said. The Commission said the proposal also aims at making  relevant investigations and criminal proceedings more effective. The Commission proposed that each Member State develops national strategies that ensure a coherent approach at all levels of enforcement and the availability of the necessary resources. Law enforcement and judicial authorities can only tackle these crimes when they work together across borders. Where offence cause or are likely to cause death or serious injury to any person, Member States have to provide at least for imprisonment of up to ten years. Finally, Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders warned that there is no time to lose. Letting law-breakers act with impunity undermines our collective efforts to protect nature and biodiversity, fight the climate crisis, reduce pollution, and eliminate waste,” EU Commission Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal Frans Timmermans said, adding that serious abuses must be met with a serious response, and today’s proposal lays the groundwork for that. Commission Vice-President for Values and Transparency, Vera Jourova noted that the environment knows no borders and crimes against it display their negative effects across Member States. With this new directive, we have another strong tool to protect the environment and ultimately our planet. It also obliges the Member States to support and assist people who report environmental offences and cooperate with the enforcement. It defines new environmental crimes, sets a minimum level for sanctions and strengthens the effectiveness of law enforcement cooperation. The proposal will help cross-border investigation and prosecution. The draft directive also proposes additional sanctions, including the restoration of nature, exclusion from access to public funding and procurement procedures or the withdrawal of administrative permits. The Commission said it will continue to support Member States by offering law enforcement practitioners and their professional networks a platform for strategic discussions and providing them with financial assistance. “We must use all possible means to protect the environment at Union level. “Yet, they are hard to investigate and bring before the Court, while sanctions tend to be weak. “The willful destruction of our natural environment threatens our very survival as humanity. This proposal will help to protect nature and natural resources, as well as public health and well-being. “We must make sure that our rules on fighting environmental crime are targeted and ambitions enough to create a real change.

They include sections to support the decarbonization of the economy in a broad and flexible manner open to all technologies that can contribute to the European Green Deal, including renewables, energy efficiency measures, aid for clean mobility, infrastructure, circular economy, pollution reduction, protection and restoration of biodiversity as well as measures to ensure security of energy supply. The CEEAG introduce safeguards to ensure that the aid is effectively directed where it is necessary to improve climate and environmental protection, is limited to what is needed to achieve the environmental goals and does not distort competition or the integrity of the Single Market. In particular, the new guidelines broaden the categories of investments and technologies that Member States can support to cover all technologies that can deliver the European Green Deal. The new guidelines also cover aid for numerous areas relevant for the Green Deal. EUROPEAN UNION, 2021/EC – AUDIOVISUAL SERVICE/LUKASZ KOBUS

Facebook

Twitter

Linkedin

WhatsApp

Viber

Email

Print

The European Commission’s College of Commissioners endorsed on December 21 the new Guidelines on State aid for climate, environmental protection and energy (CEEAG). According to the Commission, the new rules involve an alignment with the important EU objectives and targets set out in the European Green Deal and with other recent regulatory changes in the energy and environmental areas and cater for the increased importance of climate protection. The revised rules generally allow for aid amounts up to 100% of the funding gap, especially where aid is granted following a competitive bidding process, and introduce new aid instruments, such as Carbon Contracts for Difference to help Member States respond to the greening needs of industry. In this respect, the CEEAG will for example enhance stakeholder participation in the design of large aid measures requiring Member States to consult stakeholders on their main features. The Guidelines also aim at facilitating the participation of renewable energy communities and SMEs, as important drivers for the green transition. The CEEAG also include a new section on aid for the closure of coal, peat and oil shale plants to facilitate decarbonization in the power sector. “Although a significant share will come from the private sector, public support will play a role in ensuring that the green transition happens fast. The new Guidelines endorsed today will increase everything we do to decarbonize our society. They’re critical to the visibility of the industry and preserving and expanding the European wind supply chain” WindEurope Chief Policy Officer Pierre Tardieu said. The rules have also been reviewed to better sustain the progressive decarbonization of these companies by, among others, linking levy reductions to commitments by the beneficiaries to reduce their carbon footprint. Moreover, the CEEAG feature dedicated sections for aid incentivising investments in flagship areas such as energy performance of buildings, and clean mobility, covering all transport modes. This is a major step to ensuring that our State aid rules play their full role in supporting the European Green Deal,” she added. The State aid rules endorsed on December 21 support projects for environmental protection, including climate protection and green energy generation. The European Commission decided to allow for up to 30% of non-price-based criteria to be introduced to national auctions. The revised Guidelines include important adjustments to align the rules with the Commission’s strategic priorities, in particular those set out in the European Green Deal, and with other recent regulatory changes and Commission proposals in the energy and environmental areas, including the Fit for 55 package. The rules aim at limiting the risk that, due to these levies, activities in certain sectors move to locations where environmental disciplines are absent or less ambitious than in the EU. “The European Commission allows for qualitative criteria in competitive wind energy auctions. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>EU endorses new climate, environmental protection and energy guidelines for state aid

By New Europe Online/KG

Margrethe Vestager

Press conference by Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice-President of the European Commission, on the project guidelines on state aid for Climate, energy and the environment, Brussels, December 21, 2021. “Europe will need a considerable amount of sustainable investments to support its green transition,” EU Commission Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said. The Guidelines specifically mention revenue stabilisation mechanisms in the form of two-sided Contracts for Difference (CfD) as a good model to support the further expansion of renewables. The new Guidelines on State aid for climate, environmental protection and energy introduce changes to the current rules on reductions on certain electricity levies for energy intensive users. In order to cater for the enhanced decarbonization efforts required to meet the EU climate targets, the CEEAG cover the reductions in all levies financing decarbonization and social policies. Moreover, they ensure coherence with the relevant EU legislation and policies in the environmental and energy fields, by, among others, ending subsidies for the most polluting fossil fuels, for which a positive assessment by the Commission under State aid rules is unlikely in light of their important negative environmental effects. The new rules create a flexible, fit-for-purpose enabling framework to help Member States provide the necessary support to reach the European Green Deal objectives in a targeted and cost-effective manner. “National Governments can continue with technology-specific auctions: good. Furthermore, with a view to enable Member States to maintain a level playing field, and based on objective indicators at sector level, the CEEAG have streamlined the number of eligible sectors. Among others, they will facilitate investments by Member States, including in renewables, to accelerate the achievement of our Green Deal, in a cost-effective way. Measures involving new investments in natural gas are unlikely to be approved unless it is demonstrated that the investments are compatible with the Union’s 2030 and 2050 climate targets, facilitating the transition from more polluting fuels without locking-in technologies that may hamper the wider development of cleaner solutions. The rules aim at helping Member States meet their ambitious EU energy and climate targets, at the least possible cost for taxpayers and without undue distortions of competition in the Single Market. This includes new or updated sections on aid for the prevention or reduction of pollution other than due to greenhouse gases, including noise pollution, aid for resource efficiency and circular economy, aid for biodiversity and for the remediation of environmental damage. The CEEAG will be formally adopted in January 2022 and will be applicable from that moment.   Price will continue to be the lead criterion for allocating public support to wind energy projects, but not the only one. That’s good. Also, the new guidelines increase flexibility and streamline the previous rules, also by eliminating the requirement for individual notifications of large green projects within aid schemes previously approved by the Commission. A new single section covers the reduction or avoidance of greenhouse gas emissions, facilitating the assessment of measures supporting the decarbonization of different sectors of the economy, including through investments in renewable energy, energy efficiency in production processes and industrial decarbonization, in line with the European Climate Law. It will continue to ensure that the energy transition is delivered at the lowest cost for society,” Tardieu said, adding, “At the same time, it allows National Governments to consider whether they want to factor in sustainability, system integration or activation of the economy in their auctions”.

EU Commission Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal Frans Timmermans said on December 15 the proposed measures will reinforce solidarity between Member States in the event of gas supply emergencies. Saudi Arabia and Russia could also hit records if remaining OPEC+ cuts are fully unwound. Urquhart Stewart noted that like people trying to de-risk their companies by having shorter supply chains and local developments, governments will be doing the same in terms of trying to stockpile more basic commodities, if they possibly can. In that case, global supply would soar by 6.4 mb/d next year compared with a 1.5 mb/d rise in 2021,” the IEA report read. As this upward trend extends into 2022, the US, Canada and Brazil look set to pump at their highest ever annual levels, lifting overall non-OPEC+ output by 1.8 mb/d in 2022. Concerns that Russian could invade of Ukraine disrupt energy supplies over the winter also fueled prices. “Rising gas prices push up the cost of electricity in EU,” European Commission Ursula von der Leyen wrote in a tweet on December 16 “Almost all EU Member State have taken measures to shield the most vulnerable people, as recommended by EU Commission. If it gets colder it could get worse
Cold weather in Europe has lifted demand while Russian gas giant monopoly is reportedly waiting for a permit to start shipping gas through the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline. The International Energy Agency (IEA) said on December 14 demand for oil is set to be lower than expected in 2022. “And the fear is interruption of supply with geopolitical threats over Ukraine and the Belarusian issue over immigrants expected to be difficult for the EU so whilst nervousness there that price is not going to come down any time soon and there will be countries who will be demanding more and building up stockpiles,” he said. However, rising cases of the COVID variant Omicron could lead to more restrictions across Europe, slowing economic growth and reducing energy demand. The benchmark front-month contract on the Dutch TTF hub climbed as high as €120 per megawatt hour (MWh) on December 14, close to record intraday levels seen in early October, according to Reuters. Electricity prices have surged across Europe. On average, oil demand has been revised down by around 100 kb/d since last month’s Report for both 2021 and 2022. Prices in Europe had jumped this year by as much as 700% by October, with British prices up around 500%. “Global oil production is poised to outpace demand from December, led by growth in the US and OPEC+ countries. “A surge in new Covid cases is expected to slow the recovery in global oil demand, with air travel and jet fuel most affected. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>High gas prices push up electricity cost in EU

By Kostis Geropoulos
Energy & Russian Affairs Editor, New Europe

A worker of Russian gas monopoly Gazprom

GAZPROM

Fears of energy supply interruption, geopolitical threats over Ukraine

Facebook

Twitter

Linkedin

WhatsApp

Viber

Email

Print

High energy prices in recent months have drawn attention from the European Commission, highlighting the importance of energy security, especially in times when global markets are volatile. Europe’s energy crisis
Europe’s gas storage levels could hit record lows by the end of the winter heating season due to an early cold spell and muted Russian flows, leaving consumers and companies with much higher prices for longer, Reuters reported, citing Gas Infrastructure Europe data. On December 12, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said the Nord Stream 2 pipeline could not be permitted in its current form because it did not comply with EU law, FT reported. “It is up to the Member States to decide the parameters of the joint action and to inform the Commission, who will ensure that energy market and state aid rules are respected,” Timmermans said. “Today we are proposing measures to reinforce solidarity between Member States in the event of gas supply emergencies,” Timmermans said, adding that the package also requires EU countries to consider gas storage considerations in their risk assessments and create a framework for voluntary joint purchase of strategic stocks. Storage sites in European countries and Britain were only 75% full at the start of the winter heating season in October, and have fallen to around 63% full by early December, data from Gas Infrastructure Europe shows, Reuters reported. Global oil demand is now set to rise by 5.4 mb/d in 2021 and by 3.3 mb/d in 2022, when it returns to pre-pandemic levels at 99.5 mb/d,” the IEA said in its latest monthly report, which was released on December 14. Spot natural gas prices trading in the Netherlands soared this week near to record highs seen in October. “This is fear,” Justin Urquhart Stewart, co-founder of Regionally in London, told New Europe by phone on December 17. follow on twitter @energyinsider
 
  This week, we presented proposals make our energy system more robust as well as more sustainable.”
The EU Commission proposed on December 15 to improve the resilience of the gas system and strengthen the existing security of supply provisions, as promised in the Communication and Toolbox on Energy Prices of October 13, and as requested by EU Member States. It will also foster a more strategic approach to gas storage, integrating storage considerations into risk assessment at regional level, the Commission said, adding that the proposal also enables voluntary joint procurement by Member States to have strategic stocks, in line with the EU competition rules. “In case of shortages, no household in Europe will be left alone, with enhanced automatic solidarity across borders through new pre-defined arrangements and clarifications on controls and compensations within the internal energy market,” the Commission said in a press release, noting that the proposal extends current rules to renewables and low carbon gases and introduces new provisions to cover emerging cybersecurity risks.

The projects’ commercial parallel lender is DNB ASA, with Denmark’s ECA EKF providing guarantee for a portion of the term loan.  
 
  EPA/ADAM WAROAWA/FILE PICTURE

Loans will support new Grajewo and Sulmierzyce wind farms

Facebook

Twitter

Linkedin

WhatsApp

Viber

Email

Print

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) said on December 16 the bank will lend PLN 175 million (€38.9 million equivalent) for the development, construction and operation of two wind farms in Poland with a total capacity of 63.1 MW. The EBRD works extensively in Poland, where it has invested more than €11 billion in 463 projects. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Poland’s wind power secures EBRD financing

By New Europe Online/KG

A wind-propelled power-generating plant in Losino near Slupsk, northwestern Poland. The projects, which are expected to generate more than 182.4GWh of renewable zero-carbon electricity a year, leading to carbon emissions savings of almost 140,000 tonnes per year, will support Poland’s ongoing energy transition as it shifts away from its reliance on coal. Poland currently uses coal, the most polluting fossil fuel, for over 70% of its electricity generation. In December 2020, the European Council agreed to increase the bloc-wide emissions reduction target from 40% to 55%. Keeping up the momentum of its green energy transition is vital for Poland as European Union ambitions grow. According to the bank, the EBRD financing makes up half of a bigger loan package for Grajewo and Sulmierzyce wind farms, which are ultimately owned by funds managed by DIF Capital Partners, an independent global infrastructure fund manager expanding its renewables investment footprint in Poland. An ambitious renewable energy programme supported by policy dialogue with the EBRD allowed Poland to hold its first large-scale renewable energy auctions in late 2018 and achieve 12.2% of final energy consumption from renewables by the end of 2019. It faces one of the most significant energy transition challenges of all the EBRD’s countries of operation as it moves to align with the goals of the Paris Agreement on limiting global warming to no more than 1.5C. Despite economic crosswinds in the wake of the global coronavirus pandemic, Poland aims to meet a demanding target of 23% by 2030.

However, a temporary derogation will allow Cyprus and Malta to have one hydrogen-ready gas project each funded with a view of connecting them to the EU network, under strict conditions. The ITRE will vote on the text on January 26 next year. The aim is to align the existing regulation to the Green Deal objectives of the Union. Ending Cyprus and Malta’s energy isolation
Projects based on natural gas will no longer be eligible for EU funding. The cost of projects will have to ensure that consumers are not disproportionately burdened, especially if that could lead to energy poverty. The selected projects will have to help EU countries to move away from solid fossil fuels such as coal, lignite, peat and oil shale. According to the European Parliament, MEPs reiterated that eligible projects have to be in line with the “energy efficiency first” principle, which stipulates that energy savings are the easiest way to save money for consumers and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The revised TEN-E framework will encourage investments in hydrogen and CO2 networks, as well as offshore grids development” he added. EPA-EFE/OLIVIER HOSLET/FILE PICTURE

MEPs secure funding for projects that repurpose existing natural gas infrastructure for hydrogen transport or storage

Facebook

Twitter

Linkedin

WhatsApp

Viber

Email

Print

The updated rules to select which energy projects will receive EU support were informally agreed between Members of the European Parliament and the Slovenian Presidency of the Council on December 15, according to the European Parliament’s Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE). Boost hydrogen, phase out natural gas
During negotiations, MEPs supported including the funding of the development of hydrogen infrastructure as well as carbon capture and storage, the European Parliament said, adding that eligible projects should also drive market integration and increase security of supply, the agreed text says. “We are not only improving the infrastructure planning process, but also pushing for new types of projects of common interest, in line with the climate objectives. Finally, the legislation will not affect a country’s right to determine how to use its energy resources and define its own energy mix. “We managed to achieve a balanced agreement in line with our mandate,” Polish MEP Zdzisław Krasnodebski said. The informal agreement will now have to be formally endorsed by Parliament and Council to come into force. MEPs secured funding for projects that repurpose existing natural gas infrastructure for hydrogen transport or storage during a transitional period. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>MEPs reach deal with Council on EU-backed energy projects

By New Europe Online/KG

A general view of a plenary session of the European Parliament. These projects would be eligible to receive EU financial assistance until 31 December 2027. The draft legislation sets criteria and the methodology for selecting energy projects of common interest (PCIs), such as high-voltage transmission lines, pipelines, energy storage facilities or smart grids, which would benefit from fast-track administrative procedures and be eligible to receive EU funds. MEPs also secured a stronger involvement of stakeholders in the cross-border infrastructure planning and PCI selection process and a wider representation of different sectors in the consultations. They also pushed for boosting offshore renewable energy projects and facilitate their integration into the EU networks with the aim of reaching the EU’s climate neutrality goals and the 300 GW objective, the European Parliament said.

Consumers should be able to choose renewable and low carbon gases over fossil fuels. One of the main aims is to establish a market for hydrogen, create the right environment for investment, and enable the development of dedicated infrastructure, including for trade with third countries. The market rules will be applied in two phases, before and after 2030, and notably cover access to hydrogen infrastructures, separation of hydrogen production and transport activities, and tariff setting. It should be aligned with National Energy and Climate Plans, as well as EU-wide Ten Year Network Development Plan. Gas network operators have to include information on infrastructure that can be decommissioned or repurposed, and there will be separate hydrogen network development reporting to ensure that the construction of the hydrogen system is based on a realistic demand projection.   This will ensure a level playing field in assessing the full greenhouse gas emissions footprint of different gases and allow Member States to effectively compare and consider them in their energy mix. The European Union needs to decarbonise the energy it consumes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030 and become climate-neutral by 2050, and these proposals will help to deliver that goal, the Commission said. We want Europe to lead the way and be the first in the world to lay down the market rules for this important source of energy and storage. As a second step, to effectively tackle emissions of imported fossil fuels along the supply chain to Europe, the Commission will engage in a diplomatic dialogue with our international partners and review the methane regulation by 2025 with a view to introducing more stringent measures on fossil fuels imports once all data is available. “Our proposals also strengthen the security of gas supply and enhance solidarity between Member States, to counteract price shocks and make our energy system more resilient. Another priority of the package is consumer empowerment and protection. According to the Commission, the new rules will make it easier for renewable and low-carbon gases to access the existing gas grid, by removing tariffs for cross-border interconnections and lowering tariffs at injection points. EUROPEAN UNION, 2021/EC – AUDIOVISUAL SERVICE

Facebook

Twitter

Linkedin

WhatsApp

Viber

Email

Print

The European Commission adopted on December 15 a set of legislative proposals to decarbonise the EU gas market by facilitating the uptake of renewable and low carbon gases, including hydrogen, and to ensure energy security for all citizens in Europe. The new rules would require companies to measure and quantify their asset-level methane emissions at source and carry out comprehensive surveys to detect and repair methane leaks in their operations. “A key element of this transition is establishing a competitive hydrogen market with dedicated infrastructure. As requested by Member States, we improve the EU’s gas storage coordination and create the option for voluntary joint purchase of gas reserves,” she added. Tackling Methane Emissions
In parallel, in a first-ever EU legislative proposal on methane emissions reduction in the energy sector, the Commission said it will require the oil, gas and coal sectors to measure, report and verify methane emissions, and proposes strict rules to detect and repair methane leaks and to limit venting and flaring. They also create a certification system for low-carbon gases, to complete the work started in the Renewable Energy Directive with the certification of renewable gases. In order to avoid locking Europe in with fossil natural gas and to make more space for clean gases in the European gas market, the Commission proposes that long-term contracts for unabated fossil natural gas should not be extended beyond 2049. The Commission’s regulation and directive proposals create the conditions for a shift from fossil natural gas to renewable and low-carbon gases, in particular biomethane and hydrogen, and strengthen the resilience of the gas system. EU Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson noted that the proposals presented on December 15 create the conditions for the green transition in the EU gas sector, boosting the use of clean gases. To address methane emissions, we are also proposing a solid legal framework to better track and reduce this powerful greenhouse gas, helping us to fulfil the Global Methane Pledge and tackle the climate crisis,” he said. The proposal foresees that the national network development plans should be based on a joint scenario for electricity, gas and hydrogen. Member States should also establish mitigation plans, taking into consideration methane mitigation and measurement of abandoned mine methane and inactive wells. First, importers of fossil fuels will be required to submit information about how their suppliers perform measurement, reporting and verification of their emissions and how they mitigate those emissions. The proposal would establish a new EU legal framework to ensure the highest standard of measurement, reporting, and verification (MRV) of methane emissions. The Commission is also following up on the EU Methane Strategy and its international commitments with proposals to reduce methane emissions in the energy sector in Europe and in the global supply chain. Mirroring the provisions already applicable in the electricity market, consumers may switch suppliers more easily, use effective price comparison tools, get accurate, fair and transparent billing information, and have better access to data and new smart technology. “Europe needs to turn the page on fossil fuels and move to cleaner energy sources,” EU Commission Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal Frans Timmermans said, adding that this includes replacing fossil gas with renewable and low carbon gases, like hydrogen. We are also proposing strict rules on methane emissions from gas, oil and coal, to reduce emissions in these sectors by 80% by 2030 and to trigger action on methane outside the EU,” Simson said. A new governance structure in the form of the European Network of Network Operators for Hydrogen (ENNOH) will be created to promote a dedicated hydrogen infrastructure, cross-border coordination and interconnector network construction, and elaborate on specific technical rules. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>New EU framework to decarbonize gas markets, promote hydrogen, cut methane emissions

By New Europe Online/KG

EU Commission VP Frans Timmermans and Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson give a press conference on a package of proposals on energy and climate action, Brussels, December 15, 2021. The Commission said it will establish two transparency tools that will show the performance and reduction efforts of countries and energy companies across the globe in curbing their methane emissions: a transparency database, where the data reported by importers and EU operators will be made available to the public; and a global monitoring tool to show methane emitting hot-spots inside and outside the EU, harnessing our world leadership in environmental monitoring via satellites. “Today, we are proposing the rules to enable this transition and build the necessary markets, networks and infrastructure. Finally, with respect to the methane emissions of the EU’s energy imports, the Commission proposed a two-step approach. It also puts forward global monitoring tools ensuring transparency of methane emissions from imports of oil, gas and coal into the EU, which will allow the Commission to consider further actions in the future. In addition, the proposal bans venting and flaring practices, which release methane into the atmosphere, except in narrowly defined circumstances.

Petkov revealed Bulgaria would be offering unspecified economic incentives to reach a quick compromise in the joint economic working group. Regarding the bilateral dispute, Prime Minister Petkov’s novel approach appears technocratic and results-oriented, something that has been welcomed by North Macedonian President Stevo Pendarovski, who noted that “the approach of the new Bulgaria PM, that history should not be the only venue of communication is acceptable to me.”
Time will tell how Petkov’s approach plays out and whether his diverse coalition including some strongly nationalist elements can move the issue forward considering the turmoil in Skopje. Facebook

Twitter

Linkedin

WhatsApp

Viber

Email

Print

While Bulgaria’s November 14 elections managed to break the political logjam that had paralyzed the country for most of 2021, which required three consecutive elections, the incoming government in Sofia has indicated it hopes to see progress, but will not remove its longstanding veto on North Macedonia’s EU entry without compromise. His diverse coalition is comprised of the right-leaning anti-corruption group Democratic Bulgaria, the left-leaning Bulgarian Socialist Party, and the anti-elite “There Is Such A People” party. Bulgarian Presidency website

Another EU presidency, this time Slovenia, passes with no measurable progress for the Western Balkans. Also, there was no decision on the controversial idea of separating the accession processes for Albania and North Macedonia, leaving Albania effectively a hostage to the dispute. However, Petkov did not indicate that he was willing to give away much of anything on the core issues, noting “once we put the upsides on the table… While not fielding a huge majority, Petkov’s new coalition government will comfortably control slightly above 130 MPs in the country’s 240 seat parliament, which will contain a total of seven parties. Petkov has indicated his intention to bring the country fully back into synch with the EU and NATO. In presenting his coalition cabinet which contains a number of new and relatively unknown personalities drawn from the coalition parties, Petkov explained that “zero tolerance for corruption” will be the working motto of his government. However, one needs to ask the question as to whether Zaev would be an asset in these negotiations if he remains in place. On procedures, he noted, “let the two populations start talking about the benefits of working together.”  
Petkov said the working groups he was proposing would cover joint economic activity, infrastructure, culture, and history. Petkov told the Financial Times earlier this week “we will propose a new process, very fast, with a limited timeframe, just six months long” which that publication interpreted as a U-turn in Bulgarian policy and predictably focused its coverage on this issue over the real issues the country faces, which is Petkov’s challenging domestic agenda. Zaev’s “long farewell” continues
In North Macedonia, Zaev had previously offered to resign after his party performed poorly in the October municipal elections, opening the way for months of political uncertainty in Skopje including a no-confidence vote in Zaev’s government that was cancelled for lack of quorum, with one MP missing. Up to now, the calculus has assumed that in his weakened state, Zaev would quickly sign up to anything the Bulgarian side put in front of him. The former governing GERB party led by ex-Prime Minister Boyko Borisov retains 59 seats in parliament. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Bulgaria’s new government maintains Enlargement veto

By Alec Mally
Director for Global Economic Affairs at IPEDIS

Incoming Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov. A new Bulgarian Government forms up
Kiril Petkov was confirmed (134-104) as Bulgaria’s new Prime Minister on December 13, after his new anti-corruption “We Continue the Change” party (PP) sealed a coalition deal with several smaller parties the week earlier. Sofia’s firm position has essentially demolished the “fantasy scenario” being sold by a few politicians and a number of Western diplomats in Skopje, who have argued that only Prime Minister Zoran Zaev could bridge the chasm with Bulgaria and somehow magically re-energize the country’s now-frozen EU accession process in short order. The last two of those subjects cover the political minefields that have kept the dispute alive over the years. It produced yet another repeat of Brussels’ usual formula — encouraging words for the aspirant countries but no dates in sight. He said “Once this is all achieved … discussions about compromises are much easier to have.”   Bulgaria will not drop its requirement that North Macedonia must amend its history textbooks and remove all references to Bulgarian troops as the “Fascist occupying force.”
Of course, Petkov dangled the necessary political carrot but perhaps offended Greece by forgetting an important geographical component of the neighboring country’s name. Bulgaria’s former Prime Minister Boyko Borisov. For most, the issue that matters is Bulgaria’s deep ongoing dispute with North Macedonia over the nature of that country’s political, linguistic, and cultural evolution, all of which Bulgaria views as recent and politically motivated deviations/separations from core Bulgarian roots. This is all being seen as a cynical political maneuver, since Zaev now claims he must stay on to resolve the language and ethnicity dispute with Bulgaria, even after handing the leadership of his social democratic party (SDSM) to a handpicked successor. What has been revealed up to now about the new Bulgarian approach including multiple working groups is based on Petkov’s own statements to the media. I believe we can happily sign Macedonia into the EU.”  Eye on North Macedonia dispute
It is doubtful that most foreign observers will do more than gloss over Petkov’s domestic initiatives. Petkov announced that accelerating the country’s unimpressive COVID-19 vaccination program and devising new measures to shield citizens from the surge in energy costs would be his top priorities, along with yet another overhaul of Bulgaria’s anti-corruption agency. That is simply not happening as the European Council meeting on December 16 was once again unable to establish any kind of date for the start of accession negotiations.

The West is always reacting to Russia rather than forcing and focusing on the issues that would be both in the national interests of Ukraine and the Western democracies. His maneuver proved that in the issue regarding Ukraine, he is not only allowed to control the agenda, but is also allowed to frame the issue to his advantage. Ukrainian military forces near the Maiorske checkpoint in the country’s war torn eastern Donbass region. To grow in maturity to that of a sovereign and independent European nation that cannot succumb to the geopolitical interests of other nations, but to ensure that it is the main determiner of its national fate. Putin does not want Ukraine’s security to be guaranteed by the NATO alliance. A strategy that would ensure Ukraine’s stated goal of joining NATO from being realized. Empires know how to wait to get what they want, democracies are restless because they are formulated to solve one issue and then move on to another. Sanctions, he said, would be expanded beyond individuals. In reporting on the summit, there was no indication that any progress was made in dealing with the details of Russia’s original invasion of Ukraine in direct violation and spirit of international law. It could well be argued that had those types of sanctions been then imposed, the world may have not come to this point and that close to 15,000 Ukrainians would not be dead and almost 1.6 million people would not have been displaced internally. New Europe's Ukraine correspondent. It is unfortunate that this issue did not have greater prominence because, for Putin, this is his greatest strategic interest and objective. And so, the discussion was not about dealing and attempting to resolve the fundamentals of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine 8 years ago, but on issues that act as a distraction from negotiating the original transgressions for the conflict. In the case of Ukraine, an adequate formula has not been found. Facebook

Twitter

Linkedin

WhatsApp

Viber

Email

Print

Although it is stating the obvious, Russia has been at war with Ukraine since 2014. The summit, when being summarized, said that Putin should expect severe sanctions that were being discussed, but not implemented 8 years ago. To date, and in the present, one way in which Putin has succeeded was to force the West to respond to military threats, making that the ‘threat’ the issue, rather than have the focus being the dealing with the issue of his illegal invasion of Ukraine and the occupation of 7% of its land, including Crimea. Empires such as Russia and China should also be added to the list, always rely on and exploit the passage of time over its democratic adversaries on the assumption that democratic memories are short, while being subject to impatience as a result of democratic presidential terms and the inherent desire to solve an issue. This means that Putin must leave Ukraine in accordance with international law. It thrust Russia’s interests once again to the forefront of international discussion on his terms, and furthermore, forced the United States to acquiesce to his desire to discuss Ukraine in a head-to-head scenario. The second being, not imposing even greater sanctions when Russia disregarded his threat and went ahead with its invasion of Ukraine. President Obama made two fateful mistakes whose lessons for Biden have not been lost. By Yuri Polakiwsky
Canadian-born political analyst. Authoritarians are only limited by the timing of their death. It’s time to move on. In dealing with Putin, the West must always focus and frame their discussions with Putin not only being aware of his long-term strategic objectives, but to ensure the uncompromised sovereignty and independence of Ukraine.  The first being the “drawing a line in the sand” in Syria and not following through, thus allowing for Putin to invade Ukraine in the first place. Those interests are based on seeing the removal of Russia’s invading forces from the Lugansk and Donetsk regions and the return of Crimea. The issue into which Ukraine has been thrust should be clear: the respect of its sovereignty and independence and the willingness to assuage Russia’s security interest. President Biden clearly articulated his will to act in a tough and clear manner of the ramifications if Russia would invade Ukraine on yet another front. The Minsk Agreement is not the framework. That may be well and good, but it must be remembered, he is threatening a country that survived the devastation of Stalingrad and which has not been forgotten. However, in the reporting on Russia’s response to the talks, one major aspect was not adequately reported on in Western media. Russians are a suffering people, and furthermore, how would one judge the efficacy of severe economic sanctions on a people whose leadership doesn’t really care about them? Putin’s recent tactical actions both illustrates and reveals his greater strategy, that being to ensure the continuation of a “frozen conflict” in Eastern Ukraine and to make Russian occupation of Crimea a fait accompli. In both general and specific terms, it is to reestablish the Ukrainian government’s autonomy of its internationally recognized lands and borders and establish an order in the region based in accordance with the principles of international rule of law. Putin’s strategy is to hinder, if not to totally stop the integration of Ukraine into the democratic world and free-market sphere, as well as prevent Ukraine’s consolidation into rules-based Western institutions. That being that Putin asked for a written guarantee that Ukraine not be allowed to join NATO. But in addition, it is to ensure that Ukraine remains divided both politically and socially, as well as weaken its resolve to attract Western foreign investment while destabilizing the country economically. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Biden and Putin talk, but about what? The recent video summit between president Biden and Putin as a result of Russia’s large military buildup at Ukraine’s border was once again a reaction to a potential threat of further invasion. In defining its national narrative, Ukraine must articulate, both to Russia and its western partners that its uncompromising quest, as a nation and as a people’s, is to proceed along a path to freedom. This focus should always be paramount in any discussion with Russia. In any search for an agreement where there is a dispute, it is imperative that the parties find a mutual language, and an agreed-to framework, for which to resolve their dispute. As Ukraine gravitates to its rightful place within the family of the democratic West, it expresses its resolve in rejecting Russia’s sphere of influence and the authoritarianism of Putin. It is not to respond to any minutiae, however dire, which would force deviation from this strategic objective. For Putin, this was a momentary tactical achievement. He reminded Putin that further sanctioning would occur and that the consequences for Russia would be devastating. It also proved that just a “show” of a military threat could illicit a reaction from Western competitors. Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu (far right) has been accused by Ukrainian authorities of helping to mastermind the creation of armed pro-Russian militias in eastern Ukraine.

The most recent crisis in Kosovo-Serbia relations was instigated by Serbia in September 2021. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Conflict in Ukraine and Kosovo are connected

By David L. Phillips
Director of the Program on Peace-building and Rights at Columbia University's Institute for the Study of Human Rights. The Russia-Ukraine border is a dangerous flash-point for conflict escalation. Biden would terminate Nord Stream-II, a critical source of revenue to Russia selling natural gas in Europe in the event of an attack on Ukraine. The Government of Kosovo imposed reciprocity measures on vehicle license plates with Serbia. Serbia, acting as Russia’s proxy, is intensifying efforts to destabilize Kosovo, a staunchly pro-American country that aspires to membership in NATO and the European Union. Biden warned Putin that the US was prepared to implement a package of diplomatic and economic reprisals during their recent teleconference. Columns of naval infantry attached to Russia's Black Sea Fleet march through the huge port city of Sevastopol in Crimea. Serbia is apparently preparing for war, spending lavishly on sophisticated offensive weapons. Putin thinks he can avoid a major confrontation with the US over Ukraine by creating a crisis between Serbia and Kosovo. Ukraine is a sovereign and independent state, which makes decisions for itself. Biden made no such guarantee. Putin believes that “The breakup of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical tragedy of the 20th century.” Soviet revisionism and anti-Americanism are defining characteristics of Putin’s imperial rule. The legendary American diplomat Richard Holbrooke said of Serbia’s ex-President Slobodan Milosevic: “[He] tries to solve a problem by making a bigger one.” The same can be said of Putin’s policy in Russia’s near abroad and the Balkans. Russia and Serbia are testing the commitment of NATO and the US to allies and partners. Putin believes that concurrent “war theaters” in Ukraine and Kosovo would overextend NATO and test Washington’s commitment. That’s a lot of money to spend when there is no external threat. He served as Ambassador of Kosovo in Stockholm and briefly as the first Liaison Officer of Kosovo to Serbia. Ukraine is a tinderbox. Facebook

Twitter

Linkedin

WhatsApp

Viber

Email

Print

Vladimir Putin claims that protecting ethnic Russians justifies military action against Ukraine. Tensions were exacerbated by MIG-29s skirting Kosovo’s airspace. He served as a senior adviser and foreign affairs expert at the State Department during the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations. In Ukraine, Russia deployed “little green men”, operating undercover without military insignias. By Lulzim Peci
Director of the Kosovar Institute for Policy Research and Development (KIPRED). More than 120,000 Russian troops have massed on Ukraine’s eastern border, including snipers, tanks, and artillery. Russia’s Ambassador to Serbia, Alexander Botsan-Kharchenko, chose this toxic time to inspect Serbia’s military corps, which were in a state of elevated combat readiness. Nor does he want the United States to implement biting sanctions. An attack could provoke Albania to intervene. He is catering to a domestic Russian audience, which believes that Ukraine is part of Russia and should be disciplined for breaking away from the motherland. It was only seven years ago that Russia invaded and occupied Crimea, part of a sovereign and independent Ukraine, claiming to protect ethnic Russians. Chapter 35 in Serbia’s EU accession talks require mutual recognition and normalization of relations with Kosovo. His greater global goal is to confront NATO and undermine US leadership to redeem the Russian Empire’s past glory. In response, Serbia’s President Aleksander Vucic deployed military close to the border with Kosovo. Putin does not want a live-fire confrontation with the US in the Black Sea. The US must be ready for Russian incitement on multiple fronts.  
Putin has cited the “Kosovo precedent” to justify Russia’s occupation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia. When Putin and US President Joe Biden met via teleconference on December 7, Putin demanded guarantees that Ukraine would never join NATO or allow NATO infrastructure on its soil.         
While the Biden administration is focused on Ukraine, a similar scenario is unfolding in the border between Serbia and Kosovo. Echoing Putin’s remarks on Ukraine, Vucic threatened to intervene militarily in Kosovo in order to “protect the undefended Serbian population”. Over the last decade, Russia and Serbia have greatly expanded their military cooperation. He wants to reorient Kosovo-Serbia talks, which could be accomplished through a flare-up. While President Joe Biden is focused on Ukraine, another threat is looming in the Western Balkans. Putin calculates that an escalation of deadly violence in Southeast Europe would distract the Biden administration from a resolute response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine. The base is a hub for intelligence operations and a staging ground for special operations, including Russian mercenaries. The strategic peninsula was illegally seized by Moscow in 2014. Russia’s intelligence operations involve extensive cyber operations and malign influence operations aiming to radicalize Kosovo Serbs. Vucic is unwilling to acknowledge Kosovo’s independence, so Serbia’s EU aspirations are blocked.   
Putin pursues a bellicose approach to Ukraine, knowing that conflict ill-serves Russia with the international community. Failure to defend Kosovo would open the door for a wider European war, affecting the current world order. Similarly, Russian agents are present in north Kosovo. His action was a statement of Russian–Serbian solidarity against Kosovo. Putin’s concern for Ukraine’s Russian minority is bombastic. Serbia doubled its defense budget over the last three years to $1.5 billion. “An attack on any NATO ally would be considered an attack against all members of the Alliance”, which would take the necessary actions to assist. NATO must be ready for the possibility that Serbia, in cooperation with Russia, might instigate a crisis in the northern part of Kosovo, opening a proxy armed conflict. Serbia and Russia- established a “Humanitarian Center” in Niš about 100 km from the Kosovo border. It purchased MIG warplanes, T-72 tanks and other armor from Russia. This scenario mirrors Russia’s approach to Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region. Violence in Kosovo would embroil the US and troops from NATO countries that are based in Kosovo. The North Atlantic Council could activate Article 5 of the North Atlantic Alliance charter. His recent books include An Uncertain Ally: Turkey Under Erdogan’s Dictatorship.

Bush in Tirana in 2007. Berisha always professed loudly his “Atlanticism” and stood on the US side in the wars in former Yugoslavia, in Iraq and Afghanistan by contributing troops; he also received at the behest of the US government refugees no one else would accept like Uyghur extremists from the Guantanamo Bay camp and Iranian resistance fighters chased by the despotic regime of the ayatollahs. He also had them sometimes covering up these transgressions. His successor, Edi Rama, from the opposing Socialist Party, who was appointed Prime Minister after winning the 2013 general elections also did favors for the US by tripling the number of Iranian asylum-seekers and recently accepting Afghans who worked for American entities. Rama’s Interior Minister Saimir Tahiri 2013-2017 is facing charges of corruption and narcotics trafficking and has appealed his standing convictions on these charges. The affair has been brought to public attention since a naval officer who resisted government orders and was consequently fired has publicly denounced the ploy and referred the matter to the Prosecutor’s Office and, by his own admission to the US Embassy. The then-US Ambassador Donald Lu, contrary to State and other international reports, kept praising his wars on drugs. Former Albanian President Sali Berisha. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Amateur hour for US diplomacy in Albania

By Genc Pollo
Albanian MP and former Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on European Integration. When eventually Basha complied with Kim’s request Berisha protested and launched a series of party grassroots meetings. On the democracy issue, Ambassador Kim, together with her European colleagues, mediated a deal in 2020 on electoral reform between the government and opposition. The political event was a novelty in many ways: one of them was the direct call by Mr. This was a welcome relief for the party faithful and was also interpreted as serious political blowback for the US Embassy. Berisha on Madame Yuri Kim, the US Ambassador, not to be bossy like her Soviet counterpart in the late 1950s when Albania was part of the Warsaw Pact. Ambassador Kim unsuccessfully asked the election authority to cancel Berisha’s parliamentary mandate. Then she put pressure on the Democratic Party chairman Lulzim Basha to expel him from the party’s parliamentary group; she even and went public about this matter using offensive quotes from Enver Hoxha, the longtime Communist leader. While the Albanians have historical reasons to be thankful to the United States, current opinion polls show diminishing support figures. An investigative media report, partly covered by US Embassy media development funding, showed how significant assets of certain Albanian navy bases were given to property developers close to the government. This has seriously hampered the naval capacity of Albania, a NATO member. He is also an ex-Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Education; Telecoms

US Ambassador to Albania Yuri Kim. And unfortunately for many of us, also against the country and symbols of liberty and democracy that they happen to represent. No easy matter given the very polarized politics in the country and no small feat given the serious shortcomings of past elections. On May 19 this year US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken approved the public designation of Mr. The government however did not wait for the ink to dry on the agreement to unilaterally change the election seat distribution formula to its advantage. Such biased stances paired with what was seen as “celebrity-like” attention-seeking behavior had already spurred criticism of the US Ambassador. Still, he somehow managed to do something unprecedented: he managed to silence the US Ambassador on his many and serious transgressions involving democracy and the rule of law. Bush and Bill Clinton and he also officially hosted President George W. Many would be surprised to hear this from a leader who boasted he was the first among his Eastern European peers to formally ask for NATO membership in the early 1990s and to achieve it as prime minister in 2009. Indeed, he was received as Albania’s President in the White House by Presidents George H.W. The journalist found serious breaches in the asset transfer procedures and alleged official corruption as a motivation. He oversaw a huge and unprecedented illegal cannabis cultivation in 2016. His successor Yuri Kim has not fared much better. With the opposition and European officials crying foul, Ambassador Kim was the only one arguing that the government changes did not actually breach the internationally mediated agreement. Criticism of Kim for asking editors of the main media not to cover these
meetings spiced feelings up. Tahiri was even included in the Rama-led delegation visiting the White House in April 2016 sitting across from President Barack Obama. When prosecutors finally went after Tahiri in the fall of 2017 Lu publicly defended him comparing the judicial case with a Communist-era kangaroo court. Kim has repeatedly stated her priorities would be to promote democracy in Albania and improve defense ties with the US. Facebook

Twitter

Linkedin

WhatsApp

Viber

Email

Print

On December 11, Sali Berisha, a two-term Prime Minister and President of Albania, was addressing some ten thousand jubilant Democratic Party congress participants in the Tirana main soccer stadium. With Basha unable to score a single election win during his years of chairmanship, Washington’s questionable designation that many perceived as politically motivated and convenient to the very corrupt Socialist government along with Kim’s arrogance bordering on insolence, it is no surprise the Berisha movement expanded exponentially. Berisha was quick to add that he always believed that the Moscow-led bloc was an evil empire while the United States has been a steady beacon of liberty for the world. While it may have been unethical for the US to support their various “sons of a bitches” at crucial times in recent history, it certainly served a core diplomatic and strategic purpose at the height of the Cold War, but it is rationally inexplicable why American diplomats would behave like this in what has been up to now the most pro-American country in Europe. The move, under the State Department’s so-called Section 7031 (c) authority, was widely questioned by many, including members of the US Congress, since Berisha has been eight years out of power; further, his criticism of the Rama government often tracked closely with various State Department reports. But more was still to come. Berisha as ineligible to enter America on grounds of corruption. The December DP congress called by a majority of its members removed Basha by an overwhelming majority and appointed a Provisional Committee including Berisha to run the party. The US Ambassador, unperturbed, has excessively shown herself in public, exchanging congratulations with the politicians who are the prime suspects in the report. This is in my view certainly a direct consequence of hubristic and inept diplomats who are solely responsible for turning at least half of the body politic and of the general public against them.

The lack of framework and a full concept has led to division and confusion within the EU and its allies. It was even echoed by top EU leadership. With the Strategic Compass set to be rolled out in March of 2022, the confusion and lack of clear messaging around has caused EU member states as well as allies, confusion on what the end goal is for the EU. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Its time to rebrand or put the idea of a European Defense Force to rest

By Danielle Piatkiewicz
Research Fellow, EUROPEUM Institute for European Policy. Another point driving countries like Poland, who remain a top defense spender in the EU, who still view US as a security provider and NATO as a security umbrella. The messaging has and continues to be wrong
The recent withdrawal of troops in Afghanistan is just the latest example of the latest murmurs of developing a European army. If the EU wants to pursue its objectives within the Strategic Compass, it needs to get the messaging both internally and externally, right. French President Emmanuel Macron has established himself as a driving force of the ‘European Army idea, calling for a united Europe able to defend itself from external threats, without the auspices of the US. Since then, the debate reemerges often after political or security shifts in the EU but primarily when the US’s priorities shift. That is why if the EU wants to further invest in defense and security cooperation, it should do just that but within the existing framework. Members of the German Bundeswehr carry torches during a ceremonial parade. The development of a rapid response force, alongside the already established battlegroups, have already been discussed, but many critics explained that due to a lack of political will and their effectiveness, the battlegroups, in whichever form, have not proved to be an efficient endeavor. In 2018, “68% of Europeans said they would like the EU to do more on defense.”
The survey showed a clear split with countries in Central and Eastern Europe, mainly driven by Poland who have voiced concerns both around creating a European Army. To take various strains of strategic autonomy forward, the EU has implemented a Strategic Compass that sets out a common strategic vision for EU security and defense which includes improving the readiness of EU armed forces on a multitude of fronts. Macron’s urge was later endorsed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, with the caveat that such an army would complement NATO, not compete with it. Rebrand or put the European Army to rest? All aimed at enhancing collaborative research between the 27 members of the EU to develop their military capability. If not approached correctly, it can weaken the trust between the EU and the US and potentially EU cohesion. Would each country give up their national armies to merge into one force? Issues around incentivization and low defence spending among European countries remains an obstacle to both a strategic autonomy as well as European Army. The end goal of having a more independent EU defense force, utilizing existing forces and capabilities needs to be clearer. Ongoing questions linger – what would a European Army look like? In September, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen stated in response to the situation in Afghanistan that “the EU should seek to beef up its military capabilities to confront security threats and global crises”. On paper, it looks a lot like the points driving a European Defense Army, but without creating an actual autonomous EU army – hence lies the confusion. And how to develop it without duplicating resources and capabilities with NATO? With the French driving the strategic autonomy and European army debate, would they take charge or would Germany’s approach of keeping NATO integrated take the lead? This is essential as the EU faces growing challenges along its borders and needs to be on the same page security-wise. Why the division? As outlined before, the EU has mechanisms in place to bolster and upgrade its military and defense capabilities – but more needs to be done to further exchange and incentivize member states to invest in programs like EDF and PESCO projects. And not to mention that dividing history within Europe of trying to jointly build military equipment. The concept of a European Army has its roots in the early 1950s when strengthening joint defense capabilities against threats such as the Soviet Union were in discussion. Facebook

Twitter

Linkedin

WhatsApp

Viber

Email

Print

There are a few reoccurring issues that come up around the EU water cooler and that is the idea of a European Defense Force, commonly known as a “European Army”.  
2022 offers a unique opportunity, as the NATO Strategic Concept and Strategic Compass roll out, it is a moment to align on security priorities while deepening cooperation.  
Unfortunately, the idea of a European Army continues to generate more questions than answers. Since then, programs such as European Defense Fund (EDF) and Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) have been established to provide funding towards defense projects and research, while encouraging military cooperation and EU-wide defense-industrial projects. In the end, a stronger EU in defense, means stronger NATO and transatlantic defense. Another issue is that the idea of a European Army has become synonymous with the EU’s pursuit of strategic autonomy which essentially means military, economic and technological independence from the US. Who would be in charge? A previous Eurobarometer survey examining perceptions from EU member states from 2017 mentioned that “three quarters (75%) are in favour of a common EU defence and security policy” and “a majority (55%) were in favour of creating an EU army”. Best highlighted in 2018, when the EU found itself dealing with a disengaged US global leadership under the Trump administration. The political clout often hovering around the European Army is distracting from the goals of the EU – to ensure a stronger and more cohesive defense partnership. Generated by fears that a more assertive EU military plan would simply erode the EU-US relationship. Essentially, cultivating the political will to intervene militarily without reliance on the US or a US-led NATO.

As I mentioned several years ago, North Korea is not Iran and it is at an impasse. Simply, the weaker North Korea becomes, the more dangerous it becomes to China, the Indo-Pacific region, and by extension, the rest of the world. For the past few years, the U.S. It is certainly feasible that without Beijing’s foreign aid, Pyongyang would face a regime collapse, which alludes to every leader’s worst nightmare. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>The Korean Peninsula should remain a security concern

By Christopher Lee
Geopolitical, military and security expert focusing on the Indo-Pacific region. Alliance’s ability to adapt and modernize to meet the North Korean threat has enhanced regional and global security, success is not limited to equipment such as the Patriot upgrade. It is difficult, if not impossible, to overstate the threat North Korea poses to the Korean Peninsula and the Indo-Pacific region. China’s actions reveal its insecurity in internal politics and its role on the international stage. China is shaping its international relations path while abdicating its role as a true regional leader responding to a geopolitical crisis such as North Korea’s nuclear brinkmanship. P5+1 will not be able to negotiate a deal with Kim, Jong-un, and no country, not even the U.S. Thus, if Beijing hopes to uphold armistice and stability on their borders, its policymakers have no choice but to maintain its status quo with Pyongyang and Kim Jong-un, even when facing more severe criticism from the international community. PAC-3s. Xi has become increasingly proactive in defending its interests, but ambiguous about what its actual interests are in delaying open conflict with other leaders for as long as possible. Further compounding the situation, China is by no means a reluctant stakeholder, but rather self-interested, unwilling leader. History teaches us that Xi’s passive course of action regarding Kim Jong-un may be intentional. Lee holds an MA from Columbia University and is currently pursuing an executive MBA at UCLA. The alliance’s ironclad strength is made manifest through its signature ability to seamlessly integrate personnel and systems capabilities. Bolstered by the frequent modernization of capabilities and ongoing efforts to strengthen interoperability, the U.S.-South Korea Alliance may conceivably develop into a resilient and adaptable partnership to best respond to a changing security environment. By working together, the alliance can win the “fight tonight” and defeat the enemy threat. Facebook

Twitter

Linkedin

WhatsApp

Viber

Email

Print

With both South Korea and the United States focused on domestic matters – 2022 presidential race and 2022 midterm elections respectively, it will be extremely difficult for both to offer exit strategies to North Korea’s imposing threats in the foreseeable future. While the South Korea-U.S. With the world’s fourth-largest conventional military located merely 35 miles away, the South Korea-U.S. To enhance footprint coverage for BMD, the South Korean government upgraded its PAC-2s to PAC-3s last year, when combined with current U.S. The demilitarized zone separating South Korea from the Communist North. has deployed its third-generation Patriot missile batteries (PAC-3s) and Terminal High Altitude Area Defense to South Korea, which increases the shoot down capability of enemy ballistic missiles due to enhanced performance in range, height, maneuverability, and detection. A graduate of West Point, Mr. Alliance confronts and deters a potentially devastating conflict daily. Nonetheless, after Pyongyang’s sixth nuclear test, now more than ever, it is critical that the alliance make every effort to maintain readiness to defend South Korea at a moment’s notice. Seoul cannot depend on Beijing and should not expect President Xi Jinping to alter course on Pyongyang. It has worked since the Kim Jong-il era from 1994-2011, but it also reminds us that totalitarian regimes close to demise are bound to behave rashly and little Kim would be no exception to this history lesson. Washington and Seoul must continue to improve interoperability and institutional combined operations. will be able to stop North Korea’s nuclear brinkmanship. Upgraded software enables tailored searches for Theater Ballistic Missiles and a “keep-out altitude” to destroy missiles with chemical warheads or early release sub munitions at specified altitudes, minimizing ground fallout. A robust and integrated layered defense system is critical to counter the increased North Korean ballistic missile threat to the Korean Peninsula. Seoul needs to continue to rely on strengthening the alliance with Washington and work on defense modernization geared towards its Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD). South Korea has vast varieties of armor, aviation, air defense, aviation, and missiles in their armed forces. In short, by upgrading and modernizing its military, South Korea will continue to grow as a middle-power country as they fulfill their role as a buffer and rapid deployment force in the Indo-Pacific Theater, constraining North Korea. These upgraded PAC-3s are ballistic missile “hit-to-kill” intercept capable like the U.S. PAC-3s, will create an effective missile defense system across the Korean Peninsula. Therefore, South Korean policymakers must focus on what they can control.

But what would a pause and diplomacy accomplish? For proof, look no further than the Washington Post editorial page, which from the very start of the Ukraine crisis has been cavalierly dismissing calls for diplomacy and engagement and, instead, has been calling for outright war. Harvard University’s Stephen Walt once quipped that “Being a Neocon Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry.” And in this regard, the story of the Kagan family is instructive. Having brought about multiple disasters in the two decades since 9/11—from the Iraq War to the twin debacles in Libya and Syria—the neoconservatives seem to have perfected the art of failing up. His brother, Frederick, is a resident scholar at the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute. What, one wonders, has been the United States’ return on this massive investment? At no point did the [Washington] Post actually explain how it would propose to go about reversing Putin’s aggression.”
This remains the case even today. Carden
Former adviser to the State Department and a frequent contributor to The American Conservative and The Quincy Institute’s Responsible Statecraft. Robert Kagan, a contributing columnist for the Washington Post, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, and author of pseudohistories such as The Jungle Grows Back, has for years been a leading advocate of American militarism. national interests where none exist. Not much has changed since the start of the Ukrainian crisis nearly eight years ago. Indeed, both Nuland and the SFRC seem to see U.S. Indeed, both Frederick and his wife are frequently cited as the brains behind the surge strategy pursued by George W. At no point do the armchair warriors braying for war with Russia over Ukraine discuss how such a “reversal” might be carried out, or, even more tellingly, what the odds might be of a successful outcome of a war between the U.S. stands “united” in support of Ukraine and against Russia. Bush’s administration in 2007-2008. SFRC Chairman Bob Menendez, who, in 2015, was indicted on federal corruption charges, seems to be under the impression that Russians do not have the overwhelming military advantage on their own border. and Russia. The most astute comment of the day came from Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI), who was clearly proud that the committee had achieved a rare bipartisan agreement for a change. is at grave risk of a war with Russia—and there is precious little debate about the policies that have brought us to this point—is that foreign policy in Washington is conducted by a virtually closed circle. It was in this role that Nuland helped orchestrate the overthrow of a democratically elected president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, in February 2014 that led to a civil war in Ukraine, in which more than 13,000 people have died, according to the United Nations. Part of the reason the U.S. An example of this is the Washington Post view published on their editorial page on August 21, 2014:
“…it is tempting to look for a cease-fire or some kind of time out that would lead to a period of diplomatic negotiation. More worrying still, they seem to possess a kind of blind faith in America’s ability, indeed duty, to shape outcomes of conflicts that are taking place thousands of miles from our shores through a combination of sanctions and military threats. and European ground and air forces to what could become a new Iron Curtain.” He and his wife, Kimberly, who heads the Institute for the Study of War—another pro-war Washington think tank—were close advisers to the disgraced General and former CIA Director David Petraeus. But the most powerful member of the Kagan clan is Victoria Nuland, who is the wife of Robert and is the U.S. Washington’s legacy media organizations play their part in perpetuating these foreign policies as well by functioning as the permanent bureaucracy’s echo chamber. Ukrainian paratroopers outside the Donbass city of Kramatorsk in 2014. Likewise, Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) intoned that a Russian invasion of Ukraine would “require us [the U.S.] to escalate.”
Senator Todd Young (R-IN), meanwhile, pressed Nuland on “what measures are being considered by the administration to counter Russian aggression,” while Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) indicated that during her conversations with members of parliament (MP) from Estonia, they spoke about the importance of “European unity with respect to Ukraine.” Also, the MPs from Estonia along with Poland and other Eastern European countries expressed anxiousness about “whether or not to station more troops in the Baltic nations,” Senator Shaheen said. Writing in the Hill on December 7, Frederick Kagan claimed that Russian control of Ukraine, “would create an existential threat to Poland and even to Romania—one that could be met only by major deployments of U.S. By James W. The only acceptable solution is for Mr. OLYA ENGALYCHEVA

Facebook

Twitter

Linkedin

WhatsApp

Viber

Email

Print

If anything, Washington’s neoconservatives have an unerring instinct for survival. Much of this comes right out of Putin’s 2014 playbook but this time, it is on a much larger and more lethal scale. And that circle is dominated by people like the Kagans. government has given $2.4 billion to Ukraine since 2014 “in security assistance,” which included $450 million that was given in 2021 alone. Under Obama, Nuland served as the State Department spokesperson, a position for which she was manifestly overqualified (and that becomes especially clear if one takes the qualifications of the current spokesman into consideration), before assuming the role of the assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs. And Johnson was absolutely correct: The committee was completely united in its desire for conflict over Ukraine, with whom the U.S. government officials who testify before them; from the staffers who brief them to the scholars and policy hands-on whom the staffers rely; right down to the reporters and journalists who uncritically regurgitate what they are told by their ‘anonymous’ administration sources. has no treaty obligations whatsoever. The SFRC hearing showed, if nothing else, that American foreign policy is held hostage by a venal, avaricious and, above all, a reckless claque of elites: From the members of the SFRC to the high U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs. Any negotiations that leave this blight festering in Ukraine must be avoided. He further emphasized that the U.S. Putin’s aggression to be reversed.”
As Jacob Heilbrunn, the editor of the National Interest, and I commented at the time, “Almost as bad as the callousness on display is the lack of candor. So despite our uncertainty about exact intentions and timing, we must prepare for all contingencies, even as we push Russia to reverse course.”
Nuland went on to note that the U.S. As such, one of the most urgent questions before us is: How do Americans of good conscience finally break their stranglehold on power before it’s too late? Nuland testified that:
“We don’t know whether Russian President [Vladimir] Putin has made a decision to attack Ukraine or overthrow its government but we do know he is building the capacity to do so. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>How do we stop the neocons from starting another disaster in Ukraine? Consider for a moment the testimony on “Update on U.S.-Russia Policy” by Nuland made before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) on December 7.