This engagement reflects the strength of U.S.-Greece relations and the importance of further deepening our countries’ partnership. First of all, at the helm of the DFC, Trump nominated Adam Boehler, who was incidentally a college roommate of son-in-law Jared Kushner.  
The plan to create the DFC was seen as the biggest change in US development policy in the last 15 years, and the newly rebranded organization was thought of, and sold as, a tool to partially counter China’s heavily funded One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative. Boehler was thrust into supporting US policy in the region because the agreements the US had mediated over 2020 between Kosovo and Serbia all aimed to improve bilateral economic cooperation and transport infrastructure with US financing where possible.  
Boehler also participated in a rushed ceremony to open the DFC’s at-that-point-unstaffed Belgrade office and some documentation for that office was reportedly approved during Trump’s last day in office. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Development Finance Corporation’s first overseas office sparks controversy

By Alec Mally
Director for Global Economic Affairs at IPEDIS

US DFC Website

Confusion over the need to utilize US development funding in an EU country

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A controversy has erupted in Washington over a Trump-era plan to establish the first overseas office of the US International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), covering all of Southeast Europe, in Belgrade, Serbia. Reports have also surfaced that a good number of DFC officials believe the organization should focus its resources on lower-income countries, not those in Eastern Europe or EU members. It took over a year for OPIC’s reorganization to be completed, and DFC formally began operations in January 2020, after absorbing USAID’s Development Credit Authority into its existing structure. OPIC has done investment and insurance projects in Southeast Europe for many years. Instead they jumped into the fray for one reason, believing that the DFC office itself was also a symbol of the so-far unrealized US commitment to use federal funds to support Greece’s extensive infrastructure and energy privatization/development projects and accordingly assist Greek economic development, something that US legislation on development financing partially restricts because Greece is an EU member state with a high per capita income level, and already has adequate access to EU financing. Rumors have been circulating in Washington in recent weeks that the DFC Belgrade office might not be a priority for the Biden administration and accordingly not get fully staffed up, triggering more concern and reaction from the Greek American Washington-based organizations than from others across the region who would be expected to show concern.  
When the so-called “Washington Agreement” was signed in the White House in September 2020, Boehler and Kushner were important players in the signing ceremony; shortly thereafter Boehler was in Belgrade and Pristina signing vaguely worded cooperation agreements, enabling President Trump to claim a small foreign policy victory for his re-election campaign which many observers at the time believed was the principal motivating force.    
As is often the case, once any kind of media release from these ethnic lobby groups is published, the Washington Greek media corps will lock onto the message. Signals that the Biden administration was taking a second look at this initiative — mainly focused on promoting the Trump-era Kosovo-Serbia economic dialogue — and rushed to approval in the final hours of the Trump administration in the style of a last-day-in-office presidential pardon, triggered alarm bells from some of the initiative’s politically connected supporters — largely but not exclusively in the powerful Greek American community. It is unclear when the extra responsibilities for the rest of Southeastern Europe were added to the Belgrade office’s list of projects and responsibilities, but high-level interest from Greek officials in the DFC’s work, most likely a result of information provided by the US Embassy in Athens, was enough to add Greece to the list.  
Never allowing a signal of a “wavering US commitment” in the Greek media to go unchallenged, a senior level phone call was arranged on February 24 between the new DFC CEO and the Greek Minister of Development for damage limitation purposes. DFC issued the following statement:    
“U.S.  
Ironically, most of the Washington groups engaged in the defense of the DFC Belgrade office initiative have little or nothing invested in the success of the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue. DFC into the Balkan fray
There is a strong Trump legacy that explains the DFC’s moves to open its first overseas office anywhere in the world in Belgrade. Some EU sources claimed in September that the Trump Kosovo-Serbia negotiating team was working so fast to get documents ready for a Trump signature that it agreed to finance projects the EU was already planning to handle. Marchick and Minister Georgiadis discussed new opportunities to expand DFC’s work in Greece under the Biden administration. In Washington, there was strong bipartisan support for the policy changes Trump proposed. The DFC was to be authorized to provide up to $60 billion in insurance, loans, and loan guarantees for projects mainly in developing countries, with the focus on infrastructure; but that massive funding stream has not materialized. However, it is completely normal in the Washington context for such ethnic lobby groups to take issue with US government staffing decisions, although usually, the focus is on the provision of consular services (visas and passport services) for groups of Americans abroad and not economic policy. Boehler visited Greece as well and developed a good rapport with senior officials there, even though the DFC’s primary mandate is supposed to be targeted towards projects in low income and developing countries where Chinese project financing is often provided on a “take it or leave it” basis with no other options available.   Much of the funding will come from the fees DFC charges for services provided. DFC is strongly committed to advancing strategic investments and supporting development and economic growth in the Aegean, especially reinforcing energy independence and sustainability in Greece while the region faces increasing geopolitical competition.” International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) Chief Operating Officer David Marchick today spoke by phone with Greek Minister for Development and Investment Adonis Georgiadis. The DFC is new in name only
Another unusual aspect of the developing debate is the relative lack of knowledge shown by many of the participants, who appear to believe that the DFC is some new federal agency with an all-new set of financial tools and capabilities and not just a re-imagination of its predecessor organization, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), which is the case of the DFC. In the DFC case, they rebroadcast it to Greece as evidence that the US commitment to Greece was somehow faltering, with local Greek correspondents quickly bombarding the DFC’s Washington media office with questions and on Twitter. Mr. Trump signed the legislation authorizing the reorganization of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation into the DFC in October 2018.

In the meanwhile, the Biden administration is considering a stronger response against Erdogan. But Turkey is determined to continue an aggressive policy of what it considers to be its rights in the East Med. On a positive note, the East Med Gas Forum (EMGF) comes into force on 1 March. In fact they said that Turkey appears to be orchestrating an ‘incident’ to portray Greece – to the US and the EU – as the instigator of tension, before the forthcoming crucial meetings in March. I am sure the key players will work behind the scenes to calm the situation down and allow these to take place. Turkey will be expected to abide by accepted international law, and not just its own, ‘unique’, interpretation of it. Greek Prime Minister Mitsotakis on 10 August 2020 called a meeting with Greek military chiefs following a Turkish announcement that the Oruc Reis has set sails to a disputed area near Greek island of Kastellorizo. But as the FT pointed out “this outbreak of reasonableness could be little more than precautionary atmospherics.” Turkey still sees maintaining tension as a means to enforce its demands – Erdogan probably perceives backing-off as a weakness. Elsewhere in the East Med
Egypt’s Petroleum Minister, Tareq El Molla, in a first visit to Israel on February 21, agreed with his Israeli counterpart, Yuval Steinitz, to work together toward an inter-governmental agreement on the construction of an offshore gas pipeline from the Leviathan gas-field to Egypt’s liquefaction facilities. The timing of sending Cesme in the Aegean is at best regrettable. This, and low prices, make it difficult to see how Israel and Egypt expect to be able to proceed with plans to export LNG to Europe. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Turkey starts exploration in the Aegean

By Dr. They specifically referred to increasing “gas exports to Europe through the liquefaction facilities in Egypt, in light of the growing demand in Europe for natural gas.” But this runs contrary to developments currently taking place in Europe about the future of natural gas in the EU’s future energy mix, in view of the commitments for a 55% cut in emissions by 2030 and net-zero by 2050. It could be related to the fact that the Biden administration and the EU are considering a tougher line with the country. Even though the debate is still raging, the EU’s own projections show European gas consumption declining by 25%-30% by 2030. EPA-EFE//TOLGA BOZOGLU

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Following the issue of an advisory note (Navtex) blocking an area in the Aegean between the Greek islands Limnos, Skyros and Lesbos from February 18 to March 2, the Turkish oceanographic vessel Cesme started surveys on February 18. On February 23 the Turkish state news agency Anadolu, citing sources in the Turkish Ministry of Defense, said that “four Greek fighter jets harassed Cesme while conducting surveys in the Aegean.” The Greeks strongly denied this. The two sides agreed to a follow-up meeting in Athens. The EU’s taxonomy regulation on the establishment of a framework to facilitate sustainable investment has left natural gas completely out. Lowering tensions in the East Med is key to resolving problems and to future stability in the region. It is not something that could not wait until later. Alarmed, Turkey may be trying to present itself as the victim, rather than the aggressor, in the area. The Biden administration is increasingly questioning the state of the ‘strategic partnership’ with Turkey. EPA-EFE/TOLGA BOZOGLU

Turkey's exploration vessel Oruc Reis sails through the Bosphorus. Charles Ellinas
Senior Fellow, Global Energy Center, Atlantic Council

epa08595715 (FILE) – National seismic exploration vessel Oruc Reis sails on the Bosphorus in Istanbul, Turkey, 21 November 2018 (re-issued 10 August 2020). Not much is known about it, but it is estimated to have been caused by about 1000 tonnes of tar leaking into the sea, which has now spread over about 190km of coastline. In a sign of hope for the future, the exploratory talks between Turkey and Greece that resumed at the end of January were constructive. Let’s hope that the recent events do not derail this. Linking Turkey with China must be of great concern to Erdogan, who hopes for a closer relationship with the US, especially as it now looks likely that the US will side with the EU over Turkey’s aggressive pursuit of its maritime claims in the East Med. The dangers to the Mediterranean’s fragile environment are obvious. A Greek government spokesman called it “an unnecessary move which does not help positive sentiment.”
Sending Cesme to the Aegean followed a meeting of Turkey’s National Security Council end of January, chaired by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, that declared that the country is “determined to protect its rights, relevance and interests in the East Med, the Aegean and Cyprus.” Erdogan appears to be determined to maintain a position of strength come-what-may. Turkey’s maritime claims and actions in the East Med is one of the concerns shared by the EU and the US. Whatever lies behind these developments, it is very unfortunate. The deployment of Cesme in the Aegean is indicative of Turkey’s determination to maintain the ante, even at a time when Erdogan has embarked on a charm offensive towards Europe and the US. And as a reminder of the environmental dangers that lurk in a closed sea like the Mediterranean, in early February there was an oil spill off the coast of Israel that has now spread all the way to Lebanon. How effective they will be I wouldn’t know, but then I do not have great expectations that there will be any breakthroughs. This was confirmed following a telephone discussion end January, between US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and Bjoern Seibert, head of the European Commission cabinet, that identified Turkey, along with China, as issues of “mutual concern.” Coming so soon after US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken accused Turkey – at his Senate confirmation hearing – of not acting like an ally, it adds to the pressure on the country. If so, it will be surprising if this works. For LNG to be delivered in April the price in Japan has dropped to $6.25/mmbtu and in western Europe down to $5.37/mmbtu. After a spike in January, spot prices have returned to low levels. This could eventually become a catalyst in the development of regional energy markets, especially local natural gas resources to facilitate renewable energy integration. The forthcoming exploratory meetings between Greece and Turkey, the European Council summit in March and the meeting on the Cyprus problem are important to all. Greece suggested this takes place in early March.

Permitting rules and procedures are too complex. Cefic Director General Marco Mensink noted that renewable electricity including wind power is a cornerstone in the decarbonization of the Chemical industry in Europe. Steel and chemicals are two energy-intensive sectors that both want more wind farms, to help electrify their processes or to power them with renewable hydrogen. Many decommissioned wind farms are being repowered but not enough of them. More encouragingly, Poland built a significant amount of new onshore wind and has committed now to a major build-out of offshore wind. The sheer volume needed by different industries, who all will increase electrification at the same time and increase demand requires targeted action,” he said, adding that specific focus on electrification in industry, sectoral roadmaps to inform and strengthen the Commission’s Industrial Ecosystems model, greater policy coherence across the board and adaptive state aid and competition law frameworks to enable the new models of cross-sector cooperation which Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has called for are all needed. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Europe builds 14.7 GW of new wind farms in 2020, 19% less due to COVID

By New Europe Online/KG

epa07148412 A general view of a Gamesa wind turbine on hills near the village of Ardales in Andalusia, southern province of Spain, 21 October 2018. “Wind energy and steel already today form a critical ecosystem in Europe and will so even more on Europe’s way to carbon neutrality and circularity. Otherwise the Green Deal is at risk,” he added. “Permitting rules and procedures are too complex, and government at all levels are not employing enough people to process permit applications. “Wind is now 16% of Europe’s electricity,” WindEurope CEO Giles Dickson said. But this is well below the pace needed to deliver the Green Deal and climate neutrality. The EU27 accounted for 10.3 GW of the new capacity. According to the statistics, 80% of the new capacity was onshore wind. Governments have to address this. Permitting has been the main problem, but the number of new wind farm permits actually increased last year. There are not enough people working in the permitting authorities to process permit applications. The Netherlands built the most (2 GW, mostly offshore) followed by Germany, Norway, Spain and France. It was 27% in Germany and the UK, 22% in Spain – and 48% in Denmark. According to WindEurope, the main problem is permitting. EPA-EFE/MAURITZ ANTIN

Wind is growing too slow for EU economy to go climate-neutral

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Europe built 14.7 GW of new wind farms in 2020, which was 19% less than what was expected before COVID, statistics on wind energy in Europe in 2020 published by WindEurope on February 25 showed. Obstacles to repowering resulted in Austria ending 2020 with less wind capacity than it had at the start of the year. Dickson said it’s not just the wind industry that’s worried. Many of its wind auctions were undersubscribed. Meanwhile the number of older wind turbines reaching the end of their operational life is increasing. Our industry is eager to deliver not only 100% recyclable, perfectly circular steel to its clients, including the wind industry, but also steel that is CO2 neutral,” Eggert said, adding, “For this, we need wind energy to help providing the 400 TWh of electricity that our industry requires by 2050, an amount comparable to the electricity consumption of France”. Their competitiveness depends on adequate amounts of affordable wind energy. So are Europe’s core manufacturing industries that are looking to wind energy to support their decarbonisation goals, he said. “But Europe is not building enough new wind farms to deliver the EU’s climate and energy goals. EUROFER Director General Axel Eggert said the EU needs to speed up significantly the installation of wind capacity that provides affordable electricity for Europe’s green transition. The result is it’s taking too long to get permits for new projects, permit decisions are being challenged in courts and developers are deterred from pursuing new projects because of the risks and costs involved,” WindEurope said, calling on governments to take urgent action to address this. WindEurope’s new figures clearly reveal a problem in the future supply as simply not enough capacity is added. In the next five years 38 GW of wind farms will reach 20 years of operation and require a decision on their future: repowering, life-time extension or full decommissioning. EPA-EFE/MAURITZ ANTIN

A Gamesa wind turbine on hills near the village of Ardales in Andalusia, southern province of Spain.   The EU27 are set to build only 15 GW/a new wind over 2021-25, whereas they need to build 17 GW/a over 2021-30 to deliver the existing 2030 EU renewables target and 27 GW/a to deliver the higher target that’s now coming with the 55% climate target. Looking ahead, WindEurope said it expects Europe to build 105 GW new wind farms over the next 5 years, over 70% of which will be onshore. The main problem is permitting. France saw further steady expansion of onshore wind and will start installing its first commercial offshore wind farms in the coming years. Wind was 16% of all the electricity consumed in Europe in 2020. This suggests a recovery is ahead, but Germany remains far off from what it needs to install to meet its renewables targets. “We simply need it, we need it at a competitive price and we need more, both for direct electrification and to fulfill our central role in the hydrogen economy. Germany which has long been the engine of the wind energy in Europe only installed 1.65 GW of wind farms last year, its lowest in a decade, WindEurope said. In 2020 Europe decommissioned 388 MW of wind energy.

“The European Union is gravely concerned about the continuing pressure against the HDP and several of its members, which has materialised lately through arrests, replacing elected mayors, what seem to be politically motivated judicial proceedings and the attempt of lifting parliamentary immunities of Members of the Grand National Assembly,” the bloc’s External Action Service (EEAS) said in a statement issued on Tuesday. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that Turkey will hold the snap election on 24 June 2018. Turkey: 🇪🇺gravely concerned about continuing pressure against @HDPenglish members w/arrest,politicised judicial actions & attempt 2lift parliamentary immunities. The presidential and parliamentary elections were scheduled to be held in November 2019, but government has decided to change the date following the recommendation of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahceli. PKK has been classified as a terrorist organisation by the US and Western countries, as well as by the European Parliament. As @coe member & EU candidate country 🇹🇷 must respect human rights, rule of law & freedoms https://t.co/gsLbUps9bg
— Peter Stano (@ExtSpoxEU) February 23, 2021

Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is accusing HDP of having ties to Kurdish militants, meaning to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). EPA-EFE/TURKISH PRESIDENTAL PRESS OFFICE HANDOUT HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES

A handout photo made available by the Turkish Presidential Press Office shows Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrives to speak during a press conference at at the Presidential Palace in Ankara, Turkey, 18 April 2018. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>EU voices concerns over Turkey’s continuing pressure against HDP

By Zoe Didili
Journalist, New Europe

epa06677137 A handout photo made available by the Turkish Presidential Press Office shows Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrives to speak during a press conference at at the Presidential Palace in Ankara, Turkey, 18 April 2018. “As a CoE member and an EU candidate country, Turkey must respect human rights, rule of law and freedoms,” the Commission’s spokesperson, Peter Stano tweeted, referring to the former HDP Co-Chair Selahattin Demirtas, who has not yet been released despite a European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) judgement asking Turkish authorities to do so. EPA-EFE/TURKISH PRESIDENTAL PRESS OFFICE HANDOUT HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES

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The European Union has voiced its concerns over Ankara’s increasing pressure against the People’s Democratic Party (HDP), urging the country to safeguard its democratic system. Accusations were further stepped up after Turkish captives were executed in northern Iraq earlier this month, with the government arguing they were killed by PKK rebels, also announcing the detention of more than 700 people over alleged links to group.