Energy will be a key part of the Agenda. Blinken commented that this deepens the alliance between the two countries. On another positive note for regional cooperation in the energy sector, Cyprus and Egypt signed on October 16 a memorandum of understanding to build an electricity interconnector between the two countries, with onward extension to Greece. It provides for the acquisition of three defense and intervention frigates for the Hellenic Navy for €2.9 billion, with an option for a fourth, as well as 24 Rafale fighter jets. A cartoon in the Economist last year aptly describes the challenges. On October 14, Greece’s Foreign Minister, Nikos Dendias and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken signed the updated US-Greece Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreement. This is what the Borrell plan envisaged, endorsed by EU leaders in March this year. Tensions resurfaced again more recently with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan repeatedly stating that Turkey will carry on exploring for gas in the East Med. It uses this to create fait-accompli situations, from which it then offers to ‘negotiate’. In addition, face-to-face negotiations have not gone anywhere and it is becoming apparent to Greece that relying on Turkey’s willingness to negotiate in good faith, may be a risky proposition, especially if Greece does not hold any other serious cards to play. These “should be addressed through dialogue under international law, including the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, and if no solution is found, this issue should be referred to the International Court of Justice in The Hague.” Clearly, it has not progressed and, if anything, it has regressed. Mitsotakis recognizes this. With this in mind, Greece, Cyprus and Egypt plan to hold the 9th trilateral summit between the three countries at Kavalla in Greece on October 19. Charles Ellinas
Senior Fellow, Global Energy Center, Atlantic Council

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The Greeks have finally come to the realization that despite a period of relative calmness Turkey is not about to abandon its assertive behavior in the East Med. Turkey appears to have its own unique interpretation of international law, tailored to its own demands. It requires mutual respect between all key players, peaceful means of resolving disputes, and constructive dialogue in good faith. Greece’s prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, said “The defense of European interests in the Mediterranean now acquires new substance…If attacked, our country will have at its side the most powerful military on the continent, the sole European nuclear power.”
For France this was an important win after the debacle of its submarine deal with Australia. He told the 76th UN General Assembly “I have a vision for the Eastern Mediterranean. This brings memories of the belligerent actions by the Turkish navy in February 2018 when it stopped ENI’s drilling rig by force from reaching block 3 in Cyprus EEZ
Turkey is also threatening to repeat its own surveys in Cyprus EEZ if ExxonMobil proceeds with its planned appraisal drilling in block 10 by the end of the year. End of September the Turkish navy chased away the Italian-operated survey vessel Nautical Geo that was surveying the EastMed gas pipeline route – a project funded by the European Commission – in international waters between Crete and Cyprus. This was preceded in late September by an unprecedented strategic defense agreement between Greece and France that cements their evolving close relationship. The plan was also clear on EEZ and continental shelf delimitation. Instead of fighting last century’s battles over hydrocarbons, a fading commodity, we have to join forces to cooperate against new common enemies – the climate crisis which affects both our countries equally, but also the threat of illegal migration.”
The way forward in the East Med remains fraught. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Defense pacts and energy in the Eastern Mediterranean

By Dr. Turkey claimed that the area is part of its continental shelf under its maritime memorandum with Libya, even though this is not recognized by anybody else. What is needed is a solution to problems through negotiation. In particular, the plan required Turkey to refrain from further unilateral actions in violation of international law. In an era of transiting to clean energy, this is an important development that will eventually facilitate the wider deployment of renewables in the region. It recognized that Turkish actions in the East Med challenge directly the rights of Cyprus to its EEZ and the maritime rights of Greece in the region and provided for de-escalation of tension in the East Med through the cessation of illegal drilling activities by Turkey and the resumption of bilateral talks between Greece and Turkey. It is these types of actions by Turkey that have led Greece to reconsider its defense capabilities, at a time when the two countries are supposed to be negotiating a solution to their problems. The two countries almost came to war on a number of occasions, particularly during the second half of last year over continental shelf delimitation in the East Med, in an area perceived to hold hydrocarbon deposits. Greece, through these defense pacts and its expanding arms program, is strengthening its ability to counter Turkish threats, but these are not substitutes for negotiation and political solutions. For the first time, such an agreement joins two NATO members to support one another from an attack on the territory of either, even if originating inside the alliance. France and Greece see this agreement as the beginnings of an independent European defense and foreign policy. Dendias did not mince his words when he said that Greece is facing the “threat of war”, even in exercising its sovereign rights.

“We want to continue leveraging renewable energy sectors’ European momentum and provide further capital for sustainable and resilient infrastructures. For his part, Villacampa hailed the completion of these projects, noting that his company is among the first to contribute to the development of the wind sector in Poland within the framework of the governmental support for renewable energies launched in 2018. We need to work alongside investors to enable them to play their part in the fight against climate change,” he said. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Akuo and Mirova activate 3 wind power plants in Poland

By New Europe Online/KG

As of end 2020, Akuo had invested more than 2.6 billion for a current total capacity of €1.2 GW in operation or under construction and had over 5 GW of projects under development. AKUO

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Paris-based Akuo, an independent global renewable energy power producer and developer, announced on October 13 the activation of three wind power plants in Poland, in partnership with Mirova, an investment management company 100% devoted to sustainable investment and an affiliate of Natixis Investment Managers, to mark the inauguration of the Wielowieś power plant. Billet said the project is a perfect illustration of the implementation of the energy transition to which Poland is committed. “The completion of these projects represents a major step and a first for Akuo in Poland, the success of which would not have been possible without the cross-business and multicultural teamwork shown between the Akuo teams in Paris and our local teams in Poland!” Lukas said. With an aggregate capacity of 132 MW, these three wind power plants will help the Polish government to reach its targets in terms of reducing the share of coal in the country’s electricity production. The three plants’ production will cover the electricity needs of almost 200,000 homes while cutting CO2 emissions by some 300,000 metric tons per year, Akuo said. “I would also like to thank our financial partners, and in particular Mirova, who have put their trust in us and enabled us to achieve this milestone. The inauguration took place in the presence of France’s ambassador to Poland Frederic Billet, Wielowies Mayor Ginter Skowronek, Akuo CEO Patrice Lucas and Mirova Investment Director Fabien Villacampa. They will also contribute to its goal of increasing the share of renewables in its energy mix to 27% by 2040, as required by EU law. “Akuo, who invited us today, is developing many other projects in Poland that will diversify the country’s energy mix – and I have no doubt that they will offer the best of their solutions here in Poland, to meet the challenges of regions in transition,” he said. These new plants thus take the Akuo Group’s installed electricity capacity in the Central-Eastern Europe region to over 300 MW. We are proud to be helping the Polish State with its transition towards a green and local energy supply,” he added.

Von der Leyen was perceived as a routine. She promised that the path towards a common future would be outlined at the Ljubljana summit with the leaders of the European Union together with their peers from the Balkans. Maybe the government does not care that society is losing professionals and the middle class, but this may even have been calculated for its electoral advantage. This means that Albania’s biggest and most tangible EU achievement of the last decade, namely visa-free travel to Europe, is being seriously jeopardized. For years I have been arguing that an objective assessment and a rigorous, but correct and fair attitude would help a European Albania (and a European Balkans) more in terms of the Copenhagen Criteria as the basic values – freedom, rule of law, democracy and human rights. This continued like this even when the numbers of Albanian emigrants exceeded, in absolute and relative terms, every other country from the Baltics to Bulgaria. But later he justified emigration from Albania as an irresistible social need; even in the face of reprimands from Europe. At that time, the then-Interior Minister (and current defendant in a drug dealing case), Saimir Tahiri, and Prime Minister Edi Rama “explained” to us in the parliament that it was the Albanian emigrants who have been settled in Greece for years, and who after the financial crisis there, started the second exile. All of these issues will continue to be discussed in the coming months and years regardless of whether an intergovernmental conference manages to be held before Christmas. The rest is more objective in assessment and more rigorous in attitude. He is also an ex-Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Education; Telecoms

Western European countries have complained about overstay and other breaches by Albanian nationals and are seeking the suspension of visa liberalization, which means that Albania’s biggest and most tangible achievement this decade, visa-free travel to Europe, is being seriously jeopardized

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Last week, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen visited Albania and other Western Balkan countries. The proposal was rejected because the Dutch were the only EU members who had proposed such a measure. The lavish approach erects propaganda facades, the problems remain unresolved and certainly reappear later even more aggravated, as has happened in post-Slobodan Milosevic Serbia, which has regressed especially in these seven years of negotiations with Brussels. Western European countries have also complained about visa overstays and other violations by Albanian nationals. Perhaps Rama was invested in a genuine human trafficking scheme with  “businessmen” around him who were willing to make quick money. The visit by Austra’s Minister of Interior Karl Nehammer to Tirana simultaneously with Ms. This was most likely because they headed for rich Europe. By Genc Pollo
Albanian MP and former Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on European Integration. In any case, it is a failure of the “working Bangladeshis” initiative, which is one more problem that Europe gets from our government, as well as a risk that Albanians will start queuing for visas like the Kosovars are currently doing. In parallel with these statements, the new agency Reuters reported that the EU had not agreed to guarantee to the Western Balkan countries the prospect of membership at the Ljubljana summit. Meanwhile, there is local evidence that those Arabs or Asians who legally set foot here and were initially employed, disappeared after a few months. Two years ago, Rama claimed that he would solve the lack of a labor force in the country with hard-working “Bangladeshis”. Some of them bring concerns about public safety, crime and terrorism. In April 2019, the Netherlands demanded that the visa-free travel regimen needed to be cancelled for Albania. Today, however, this is now being demanded by a considerable number of Europe’s core members. No word on EU enlargement, the future membership of our countries. For years, we have seen from the European Commission, part of the European Parliament and a part of the EU’s 27 members, a positive, but essentially lavish and embellished, assessment of the criteria of democracy and the rule of law.   In 2014, four years after the visa liberalization, mass emigration from Albania to Germany, France and across the began. According to the Austrian police investigating their cell phone data, they reappear illegally in Austria. The latter of which have forgotten what it was like before 2010. As a result, they are looking at suspending the visa liberalization program. Rama has never apologized for this sordid lie. It was about cooperation in the fight against crime and illegal immigration, especially from the Middle East and Central Asia. According to Germany’s own reporting to EU authorities, the problem – with the scale ranging from 1 to 10, with 1 being the worst and 10 as the least bad – was that Albania and Serbia ranked 2 and 7. Meanwhile, for Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa (Slovenia currently holds the six-month presidency of the European Union), EU enlargement in the Balkans was the first and only objective of this summit, which was initiated by him. It is likely that the Rama government does not have the will to create hope for a good future through good governance. Perhaps Rama did this after being influenced by the globalist ideas of his mentor in New York, who fights for a world without borders and migration without obstacles. The two-page letter of invitation to the summit, signed by European Council President Charles Michel in the last paragraphs said that on the second day, October 6, there will talk about the Balkans, the need to stabilize the region, the current social-economic developments after the pandemic, strategic cooperation, etc. But the Austrian media revealed another interesting detail – the problem in Albania is that masses of people from these areas come legally into Albania as they don’t need a visa. The Albanian public, which is not widely familiar with the institutional architecture and decision-making powers within the EU, has been seeing only confusion in the attitudes of European politicians for several years. Regarding Tirana and Skopje, she said that she was personally determined that the EU intergovernmental conference for the opening of accession negotiations should be convened as soon as possible, preferably within this year. In addition to the news of EU enlargement in the Balkans, another piece of news drew attention – a large number of EU members, including those that are traditionally pro-enlargement, have raised concerns about the abuse of free movement by Balkan citizens. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Integration or isolation for the EU? In fact, the EU approved the abolition of visas only on guarantees that there wouldn’t be an avalanche of Albanian migrants, but that for those coming into Europe, they would still legally satisfy the needs of the local labor markets. But maybe Albanians also need a shake to react to this devastating hemorrhaging of people. The latest from Ljubljana is, in the end, the word ‘enlargement made it to the summit declaration. Her main political message was that the future of our countries is within the European Union. But even the Albanian government, which is supposed to be well informed about these things, became ridiculous when in June 2018 it celebrated the opening of negotiations with and champagne and medals for its own officials.

Military Academy at West Point, notes that for Russia, Ukraine carries “deep symbolic meaning” as well as strategic importance due to the Russian naval base in Sevastopol, Crimea. In the years since the start of the war in Ukraine in 2014, the American foreign policy establishment adopted the position that Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its support for the rebellion in eastern Ukraine was only the beginning: they believed that Putin had his sights set on bigger things like seeking control of Eastern Europe and the Baltic states. foreign policy elites in 2014 (and beyond), that Putin was on an expansionary mission “seems to have little substance.” Indeed, according to Mueller, Putin’s Ukrainian adventure seems more like “a one-off—a unique, opportunistic, and probably under-considered escapade that proved to be unexpectedly costly to the perpetrators.”
Mueller observes that Russia, like China, “does not seek to impose its own model on the world.” In that sense, both countries follow a mainly Westphalian foreign policy of noninterference in the affairs of other countries—and in the instances in which Putin has veered from that vision, including the at-times farcical effort to influence the 2016 American presidential election, Russia has paid an unenviable price. But by contrast, Russia has “long recognized that the Baltics are culturally and historically different from Russia.”
To Mueller, the idea, so vigorously promoted by U.S. By James W. As an example, Mueller points to the 2018 Commission on the National Defense Strategy for the United States, which proclaimed that the “security and wellbeing of the United States are at greater risk than at any time in decades.” The congressionally appointed 12-member commission included a mix of neoconservative and liberal interventionists including former CIA Director Michael Morell, former US Ambassador Eric Edelman and think tank fixture Kathleen Hicks, who now serves as the US deputy secretary of defense. As Mueller shows, at every turn, a bipartisan cast of serial alarmists proclaims that the United States faces a global threat environment that is unprecedented. On no subject is the bipartisan consensus more unshakable than on the Russian threat

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In his latest book, The Stupidity of War: American Foreign Policy and the Case for Complacency, American political scientist John Mueller demonstrates that since the end of World War II, American policymakers have developed a kind of addiction to threat inflation by “routinely elevating the problematic to the dire… focused on problems, or monsters, that essentially didn’t exist.” And with regard to the American foreign policy establishment’s current twin obsessions, Russia and China, Mueller, ever the iconoclast, counsels complacency. But was that really the case? No matter how much the US may disagree with one or another of Russia and China’s domestic policies, Mueller believes that both countries are more interested in getting rich and receiving the recognition they believe is their due as world powers than in military conquest. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>What kind of a threat Is Russia? And on no subject is the bipartisan consensus more unshakable than on Russia. Mueller writes that “neither state seems to harbor Hitler-like dreams of extensive expansion by military means, and to a considerable degree it seems sensible for other countries, including the United States, to accept, and even service, such vaporous, cosmetic, and substantially meaningless goals.”
Yet among the legacies of the Cold War was the creation of a self-anointed caste of foreign policy alarmists in Washington who, according to Mueller, specialize in inferring “desperate intent from apparent capacity.” Well, plus ça change… US policy toward Putin’s Russia remains driven by threat inflation, emotion and the duplicitous lobbying of various foreign interest groups on Capitol Hill, rather than a level-headed assessment of American national security interests. Carden
Former adviser to the State Department and a frequent contributor to The American Conservative and The Quincy Institute’s Responsible Statecraft. Mueller, citing the work of Robert Person, an associate professor at the U.S.

“The EU will continue to develop an efficient energy system with high share of renewable energy. The Communication includes a “toolbox” that the EU and its Member States can use to address the immediate impact of current prices increases, and further strengthen resilience against future shocks, the Commission said, adding that short-term national measures include emergency income support to households, state aid for companies, and targeted tax reductions. “The Commission has issued strong, consumer-centric recommendations. “There is general consensus that the current marginal pricing model is the most efficient one, but further analysis is warranted. While cheaper renewables play an increasing role in supplying the electricity grid and setting the price, other energy sources, including gas, are still required in times of higher demand. There is no better way to do that than to accelerate the shift to renewables,” Goyens said, adding that policy-makers should accelerate this shift. These measures should be easily adjustable in the Spring, when the situation is expected to stabilise. They will also contribute to an affordable, just and sustainable energy transition for Europe, and greater energy independence. The Commission stressed that the current price spike requires a rapid and coordinated response. The Commission will also support investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency; examine possible measures on energy storage and purchasing of gas reserves; and assess the current electricity market design. The current situation is exceptional, and the internal energy market has served us well for the past 20 years. “Rising global energy prices are a serious concern for the EU,” Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson said presenting the toolbox. Our long-term transition and investments in cleaner energy sources should not be disrupted,” the Commission said in a press release. Under the current market design gas still sets the overall electricity price when it is deployed as all producers receive the same price for the same product when it enters the grid – electricity, the Commission said. “At the same time, we identify other medium-term measures to ensure that our energy system is more resilient and more flexible to withstand any future volatility throughout the transition. Simson will present the Communication and toolbox to Members of the European Parliament on October 14 and to Energy Ministers on October 26. The Commission also called for medium-term measures for a decarbonised and resilient energy system. Looking ahead, we need to depart from our energy dependency on fossil fuels and the volatile global markets that expose consumers to price spikes. European Leaders are then due to discuss energy prices at the upcoming European Council on October 21-22. Now we need to see urgent action from national governments to follow through on this ambition, implement these measures and protect consumers from these rapid price rises. The Commission said it adopted a Communication on Energy Prices, to tackle the exceptional rise in global energy prices, which is projected to last through the winter, and help Europe’s people and businesses. “We’ve seen staggering increases in energy prices recently,” BEUC Director General Monique Goyens said. The clean energy transition is the best insurance against price shocks like this in the in the future, and needs to be accelerated, also for the sake of the climate. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>EU Commission toolbox of measures to tackle high energy prices

By New Europe Online/KG

Kadri Simson, Mairead McGuinness

EU Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson and Financial Stability, Financial Services and the Capital Markets Union Commissioner Mairead McGuinness at the European Commission headquarters in Berlaymont, Brussels, October 13, 2021

EUROPEAN UNION, 2021/SOURCE: EC – AUDIOVISUAL SERVICE/JENNIFER JACQUEMART

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The European Commission proposed on October 13 a package of measures to help shield European consumers from the storm of rising energy prices. Simson noted that the Commission is helping Member States to take immediate measures to reduce the impact on households and businesses this winter. The EU currently has storage capacity for more than 20% of its annual gas use, but not all Member States have storage facilities and their use and obligations to maintain them vary,” it added. “As we head into winter and start to spend more on heating our homes, it’s consumers who are in the eye of the storm, having to pick up the bill for market forces totally beyond their control. “Priority should be given to targeted measures that can rapidly mitigate the impact of price rises for vulnerable consumers and small businesses. Member states should step up investments in renewables, renovations and energy efficiency and speed up renewables auctions and permitting processes, develop energy storage capacity, to support the evolving renewables share, including batteries and hydrogen, ask European energy regulators (ACER) to study the benefits and drawbacks of the existing electricity market design and propose recommendations to the Commission where relevant, consider revising the security of supply regulation to ensure a better use and functioning of gas storage in Europe, explore the potential benefits of voluntary joint procurement by Member States of gas stocks, set up new cross-border regional gas risk groups to analyse risks and advise Member States on the design of their national preventive and emergency action plans, boost the role of consumers in the energy market, by empowering them to choose and change suppliers, generate their own electricity, and join energy communities. Investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency will not only reduce dependence on imported fossil fuels, but also provide more affordable wholesale energy prices that are more resilient to global supply constraints. This comes on the back of the COVID-19 crisis which has caused financial difficulties for many consumers and when 10% of people in the EU are already in energy poverty,” she said, adding that the European Commission has heard consumer groups’ concerns and has come forward with some ambitious proposals.   The existing legal framework enables the EU and its Member States to take action to address the immediate impacts on consumers and businesses, it said. The crisis has also drawn attention to the importance of storage for the functioning of the EU gas market. Only this will guarantee both affordable energy to European consumers and reductions in carbon emissions. It said member states should provide emergency income support for energy-poor consumers, for example through vouchers or partial bill payments, which can be supported with EU ETS revenues, authorise temporary deferrals of bill payments,
Put in place safeguards to avoid disconnections from the grid, provide temporary, targeted reductions in taxation rates for vulnerable households, provide aid to companies or industries, in line with EU state aid rules, enhance international energy outreach to ensure the transparency, liquidity and flexibility of international markets, investigate possible anti-competitive behaviour in the energy market and ask the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) to further enhance monitoring of developments in the carbon market, and facilitate a wider access to renewable power purchase agreements and support them via flanking measures
According to the Commission, the clean energy transition is the best insurance against price shocks in the future and needs to be accelerated. But we need to be sure that it continues to do so in the future, delivering on the European Green Deal, boosting our energy independence and meeting our climate goals,” she said. BEUC, the European Consumer Organisation, welcomed the Commission’s toolbox of measures to tackle the impact of high energy prices. “As we emerge from the pandemic and begin our economic recovery, it is important to protect vulnerable consumers and support European companies,” she added. The Commission noted that immediate measures are needed to protect consumers and businesses. The measures set out in the toolbox will help to provide a timely response to the current energy price spikes, which are the consequence of an exceptional global situation.

This is because an element of class discrimination lingers against those individuals from the lower classes who left the country in difficult times, and often these Greeks of the Diaspora have little understanding of day-to-day life in Greece. Tsunis has reportedly donated significant amounts to both and coordinated much larger fundraising campaigns that benefited the party. Tsunis is the son of Greek immigrants and is said to speak fluent Greek, but that particular heritage does not guarantee his acceptance among key elements of Greek society. There is also concern that a career diplomat’s experience in working with the US military and its intricate chain of command, a skill which almost all senior diplomats have honed throughout their careers, is essential for an effective posting in Athens with the Greek-Turkish Aegean dispute almost always on “low boil.”  And although Tsunis comes from a business background, he will literally be left out in the cold when it comes to the complex nexus of energy diplomacy swirling around Greece. A lifelong Republican and skilled party operative, Sotirhos had the misfortune of being in place when the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia dissolved into constituent pieces, with resulting intense pressure on US-Greece relations over Greek ties with Serbia and the Macedonia name dispute. Career diplomats needed in Athens
Tsunis would be arriving as the replacement for career Foreign Service Officer Geoffrey Pyatt, long overdue for transfer since he arrived in Athens in late 2016. Only a few former US diplomats have commented on the record so far regarding the Tsunis nomination, with two former US Ambassadors and a former US Senator issuing highly negative opinions about Tsunis competence, as well as his preparation for the ambassadorial hearings he botched in 2014. Politics over diplomacy? Many in Athens feel this is clearly the underlying message and are concluding that with Tsunis’ arrival that the US Embassy will simply become a preferred meeting point for Greek American visitors as well as key Democratic congresspeople, but not the focal point the Greek government can reach out to in a crisis period, as it is when managed by a senior career diplomat. This is also the case in many European countries where complicated diaspora politics could fill several books, but the core issue is simple – the children of poor immigrants who somehow found success abroad are not seen as qualified to advise today’s elected leaders about current Greek political life and foreign relations, which is what American ambassadors are routinely accused of in any event. Ankara is watching every move
Ultimately the question comes down to a few simple data points. The State Department had actually designated a replacement for Pyatt by late 2019, an appropriate time for rotation, but we have no clear information as to why that particular career diplomat’s name did not move forward to a formal nomination during the Trump administration. He was nominated by President Obama as his envoy to Norway in 2013 but during his disastrous 2014 confirmation hearing he incorrectly referred to Norway’s leader as “president” instead of “prime minister,” along with referring to a parliamentary coalition party as a “fringe group,” mistakes which American proponents of sending career diplomats to ambassadorial posts will never forget and is now so deeply linked with Tsunis’ political career that it may be the sole fact most observers currently remember about the candidate. Ambassador Michael Sotirhos was the first Greek American ambassadorial nominee to Greece in US history, serving under President George H.W. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Athens rocked by Biden’s nomination of political operative

By Alec Mally
Director for Global Economic Affairs at IPEDIS

US Embassy Athens Greece – View of Ambassador's office (Top corner, left of official seal)

U.S. Embassy Athens, Greece

A non-career ambassadorial nominee for Greece is seen as a nightmare by America-watchers in Greece and elsewhere

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After an extended period of uncertainty over who would be tapped, on October 8 US President Joe Biden announced his intention to nominate influential Democratic fundraiser George Tsunis to be his envoy to Greece. Tsunis had a previous ambassadorial nomination fall apart in a particularly public venue during the Obama Administration. With the Senate under such tenuous democratic control, a successful confirmation vote for Tsunis could be disrupted by a minimal number of vote-switchers who might be swayed by the rising chorus of foreign policy experts arguing the case for a career diplomat in Athens. What makes the case even more interesting is that Mr. Ankara should in fact be searching for potential new bridges of cooperation, not probing for signs of weakness, but this is what the Biden administration is proposing. Reuters quoted Chas Freeman, former Ambassador to Saudi Arabia as stating, “our embassy in Athens should not be treated as a sinecure to be purchased in return for campaign contributions or as a training ground for novice diplomats, still less incompetent amateurs.”
Senatorial support said to be the key 
Tsunis deficient performance in 2014 leaves the impression that he did not deserve a second chance to dabble in diplomacy. The Tsunis case is controversial for several reasons and has triggered an intense reaction in the Washington foreign policy community where the dispatch of a non-career Foreign Service Officer to a potential hotspot in a strategic location for NATO and the EU may become a major Biden Administration blunder, coming at a time when the Afghanistan fiasco is fresh in everyone’s minds. Will American’s competitors in the region as well as Greece’s natural antagonist, Turkey, see in the Tsunis nomination that Washington is somehow downgrading its relationship with Greece? New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has been reported to be Tsunis’ major supporter for the nomination, along with Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer of New York. Although very dynamic in his approach to Greece and the Greeks, Sotirhos also suffered an internal scandal at his Athens embassy when an American communications technician was caught sharing classified information with Greek intelligence, motivated in part by friction over the collapse of the former Yugoslavia and US policy. None will be more focused on the Tsunis confirmation hearings than the Turkish Embassy in Washington, looking for any signs that Tsunis’ knowledge of Greece is less than advertised and also hoping to discern whether this New Yorker would actually be allowed by his superiors in Washington to manage a potential crisis in the Aegean such as a new Imia/Kardak crisis or in the wider region. Many in the Washington foreign policy community continue to argue that Greece is still too sensitive a posting for another political appointee, based on the track record of the previous assignment of that type, which was seen by many as a disaster.   
After that fiasco, the Norwegian American community-based in Minnesota was particularly energetic in demanding his nomination be cancelled, eventually causing Tsunis to withdraw. Bush in Athens from 1989-93.

What is not addressed is the much more fundamental task of ensuring the availability of food and feed crops required for agriculture and farming. Exports to China have ballooned in recent years and, alongside potential land grabs in Europe’s so-called “breadbasket”, threaten to cause a food crisis in the EU instigated by losing one of its most important sources of crops. Based on 2019 figures, the EU was “strategically dependent on China for 659 of the over 5,600 product categories defined by the United Nation’s Comtrade database”, ranging from items as mundane as mobile phones to high-tech products. Corn – a microcosm of Chinese encroachment 
A look at the EU’s policies relating to food security is sobering: food security is treated as a question of food quality, designed to ensure that food consumed in the EU is safe to eat. With such policy myopia it is no surprise that Brussels routinely overlooks the fact the EU is highly vulnerable to Chinese incursion into its main supply of certain crops, through its monopolization of Ukrainian corn. However, those in Brussels must be careful not to take their eye off the agricultural ball while pursuing other avenues of research, development and manufacturing capability. Breton’s shopping tour for a semiconductor alliance testifies to the growing awareness in Brussels about this vulnerability and it is to be commended. As far back as 2013, there were reports that a Ukrainian firm had agreed to lease 5% of the country’s landmass (or 9% of its arable land) to a Chinese company in order to farm it for up to 30 years. As such, the bloc must remain aware of Chinese interests making inroads along its periphery, as well as stay cognizant of Ukraine’s importance to Europe’s overall well-being. The visits come in the wake of the announcement of the European Chips Act last month, as the bloc attempts to wean itself off dependence on Chinese products for its critical infrastructure. As part of the deal, China would send seeds, machinery, a fertilizer plant and a crop protection plant to Ukraine to aid in the cultivation of the crops, then buy back the yields produced from the arrangement. By Nicholas Waller
Managing Editor

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The EU’s internal market commissioner Thierry Breton conducted a tour of Japan and South Korea last week, in a bid to strike up partnerships for the development of a European microchips and semiconductor industry. Meanwhile, a 10% drop-off in Chinese yields has precipitated significant domestic shortfall. Breton’s move is long overdue, given that that the EU has neglected its supply chain security for years. There’s no denying that the newly announced European Chips Act and the attempts at forming global partnerships are a step in the right direction towards shoring up its access to the semiconductors, and the fact that some 20% of the bloc’s €750 billion Covid-19 recovery fund is being diverted towards digital projects is also positive. Though 10% may not sound like a huge amount, China is the second-largest producer of corn in the world (behind the US), which means that it must now fill a deficiency of 30 million metric tons (MMT). Food crisis on the horizon? Current global bottlenecks and supply shortages for a multitude of products in the wake of the Covid-19 lockdowns are driving home how long-lasting the knock-on effects of disruptions in China can be – and expose how this over-reliance on Beijing could be exploited by the Chinese government for political purposes as well. In 2011/12, it comprised almost 100% of Chinese corn imports, but that figure had plummeted to just 10% by 2017/18. China’s surfeit is Europe’s shortage
China’s all-out assault on Ukrainian corn comes at the EU’s expense – and it predates the trade war with America by some distance. For context, it has not imported more than 7MMT annually in the last three decades. At the same time, however, Brussels would do well to look beyond the issue of its over-reliance in technical sectors to adopt a more holistic approach that also keeps an eye on an issue that European policymakers consider obsolete: food security. The reasons for this change in circumstances are twofold. However, with the requirements for ecologically sustainable agriculture or agricultural imports set to undergo a tightening in the near future, the attractiveness of the European market to Ukrainian exports will diminish even further. All this adds to a potentially perfect storm for the EU’s supply of food for its 447 million people. This was exemplified by a 2020 statement from Environment Commissioner Virginijus Sinkeviciusthat that “Food security is no longer a major concern for the European Union”. On the one hand, the Sino-American trade war has seen the US drastically fall away as a supplier to the People’s Republic of China. Attempts to avoid a semiconductor supply crisis are certainly sensible, but they should not come at the cost of instigating a similar predicament with regards to the EU’s food supply. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Is the EU ready to protect its food supply chains? The Chinese stranglehold on Ukrainian corn is a stark example of how Europe is letting one of its biggest producers of staple grains slip from its grasp. What’s more, the EU has far stricter directives and regulations in place surrounding the use of genetically-modified (GM) crops than Ukraine, which means that only one GM plant event (MON810) is authorized for use in the bloc – and even that is banned in many member states. Over the last nine years, Ukrainian corn exports to China have risen exponentially: from the first shipment in 2012, trading volumes rose sharply to make the Eastern European country Beijing’s biggest supplier by 2015, when 90% of its imports came from Kyiv. Although it should be noted that the Ukrainian company denied the reports at the time, the steep upturn in agricultural trading volumes between the two countries in the intervening years cannot be ignored. To solve the problem, it is currently importing so much corn that its ports can’t handle the influx of tankers, which in some cases are forced to wait weeks before docking.

Pipelines import Russian oil and natural gas, the latter supplementing existing coal gas supplies.  
“A decline in all three meant that the Czech economy contracted by a projected 5.6% in 2020 (6.6% according to the Czech government), but this was a slower decline than the EU average (7.4% according to EU forecasts).” 
A positive GDP is expected in 2021, and 2022, but growth is not expected to be back to pre-COVID levels until 2023. Vehicles and spare parts are also among major imports, second only to telecommunication devices. As noted, the automobile industry is the backbone of trade, both for imports and exports; car and spare part manufacturing accounting for nearly 20% of Czech exports. A high proportion of the bituminous coal is of coking quality. The completion in the late 1990s of an oil pipeline that transports oil from the port of Trieste, Italy, allowed the Czech Republic to be less reliant on Russian oil sources. The healthcare system responded as well as any country to the COVID pandemic. Czech Republic’s exposure to global trade dynamics weighed on its exports, which were projected to decline by 12.4% in 2020, at a faster rate than imports but also neighboring countries. However, for all practical purposes, this effort has been met with limited success. There is a burgeoning sector of the economy that has yet to make a significant statistical mark, and that is the start-up and outsourced tech industry. Small quantities of petroleum and natural gas are produced near Hodonín on the Slovak border. Growth that had been sustained through to 2020, suffered a loss of fundamentals in domestic demand, tax revenues, and exports. Becoming a member of the EU has allowed the Czech Republic to enter the Common Market and solidify its position as a low-cost production base. Services contribute to 56.2% of the GDP and employ nearly 60% of the active population. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>The Czech Republic’s economy in 2021

By Reno Domenico
President and CEO of Sterling Business School in Kyiv, Ukraine

epa05796317 People walk across the Charles Bridge during smog in Prague, Czech Republic, 16 February 2017. Germany is Czech Republic’s major trading partner, receiving 31.8% of its exports and supplying 24.6% of its imports. The high level of integration of the global supply chain in the Czech economy meant that the automotive sector was especially sensitive to disruption. Skoda, of course, is still king of the hill with its main plant in Mladá Boleslav, accounting for around 10% of all exports, and is a source of national pride. Moravia is the wine-producing region, although vineyards are found elsewhere. Prague, obviously a beautiful city, with a great historical center, is one of the premier tourist attractions in Europe. Nevertheless, industry accounts for 32% of GDP and 37% of the labor force, with the automobile industry the largest part of that sector. Foreign Trade
Trade accounted for 144.9% of the GDP in 2019. The country has had a structurally positive trade balance since entering the EU, a trend that is expected to continue. Pigs, cattle, sheep, and poultry are the dominant livestock. Economic Overview
Like all world economies, the Czech economy suffered as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. There have been significant efforts to spread the tourist wealth out past Prague and into the countryside, as there is an internal argument that all tourist development is targeted to Prague. Exports benefit from the good performance of the German economy, growing exports of motor vehicles and parts, computers and electrical equipment, and by a smaller deficit in oil and gas trading (lower energy commodity prices). Wheat, sugar beets, barley, rye, oats, and potatoes are the most important crops. However, it should be noted that the economic experience of the Czech Republic, similar to that of the former East Germany (GDR), was that their economies were closer to western standards of living as a result of the proximity of geography, and traditional domestic cultural development. Nevertheless, there was a significant adjustment to a full market economy. The tourist money is still essentially in Prague. It can be said that for each job leaving the automotive sector, a new one, yet to be counted, is being produced in the tech sector. Machinery is another major source of Czech exports. Bohemia is the center of beer producing agricultural products, principally high-quality hops. Producers, principally Skoda had been looking for lower labor costs in other parts of the “new” European states throughout the last decade. Agriculture remains the smallest portion of the economic sectors. It also tends to be a youth-driven development and more internationally diverse. Most of the bituminous coal is derived from the Ostrava-Karviná coalfield in the northeast, although it is also mined near Kladno in the Plzeň basin, as well as near Trutnov and Brno. Nuclear power plants located in Dukovany and Temelín, as well as nuclear power from Slovakia, have reduced the country’s dependence on coal only slightly; about three-fourths of the Czech Republic’s electricity is derived from fossil fuels. The healthcare system recovered quickly from the pre ‘90’s system and was privatized successfully in the mid-1990s. China was the second-largest supplier of goods and services to the Czech Republic after Germany and followed by Poland, Slovakia and Italy. This new economic activity is centered in Prague, but not exclusively. EPA/MARTIN DIVISEK

Residents walk across Prague's famed Charles Bridge. The main areas of brown-coal mining are in the extreme west around Chomutov, Most, Teplice, and Sokolov. Measuring stations in the city, and in the east parts of Czech Republic, noted an exceeded level of harmful dust PM10, which is the main component of smog. Czech cars (trucks, buses, tractors, motorcycles etc.) are the backbone of exports, and together the sector accounts for 80% of all exports. Change was also accelerated with the partition of Czechoslovakia into two separate, sovereign states in January 1993. The country now accounts for 80% of its trade with OECD countries (80% of which with the EU). Source – Britannica
Other Questions
One sobering fact is that the population of the Czech Republic is aging rapidly, with increased demands on the state pension system, and it projects implications for the demographics of the workforce. Additionally, the automotive industry was already experiencing stress, as domestic production of cars had been in decline before COVID. Interestingly, although the Czech Republic is best known for its classic Pilsner beers, and beer in general, there is a fairly robust wine industry, primarily white wines grown outside the Prague tourist bubble. Agriculture was the sector most affected by the transition to a market economy, and to this day still represents less than 2% of the nation’s GDP. EPA-EFE//MARTIN DIVISEK

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As everyone knows, the Czech Republic has undergone serious economic and political changes since the breakup of the Soviet Union and the collapse of the Warsaw Pact. It can be said that as a generalization, the Czech Republic is Prague, and then the rest of the country. In recent years even Toyota and PSA (Peugeot Citroën) have started to produce cars in the Czech Republic. Slovakia is the second top destination for Czech exports, followed by Poland, France and the United Kingdom. Czech trade surplus grew in 2019 as imports fell faster than exports. The tourism sector maintains its pace of sustained growth, with the number of guests accommodated in collective accommodation establishments reaching almost 22.0 million in 2019 (+3.5% year-on-year)
Tourism is the number one employer in the Czech Republic. One of the most affected sectors of the economy was automotive industry exports, which is the largest sector of exports in the country. Prague is still the principal source of economic activity. Brown coal is used in thermal power stations, as fuel in the home, and as raw material in the chemical industry. Resources and Power
Although reserves are limited, the Czech Republic produces significant quantities of bituminous, anthracite, and brown coal.

“We have sought to develop clusters and deepen gas processing. A further agreement was signed at the economic forum, between Uzbekneftegaz JSC and the New York-headquartered, international law firm White & Case LLP – which has many years of successful advisory experience in Uzbekistan on investment projects and project financing. UNOD

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Growing integration of national energy systems across the five nations of Central Asia is helping to ease congestion and power outages arising from peak power usage, Uzbekistan’s First Deputy Energy Minister Azim Ahmedkhadzhayev said. The process began with the formation of the Ministry of Energy and the restructuring of Uzbekenergo, the state-owned energy provider from which a series of stand-alone specialist enterprises have been created. “Today’s announcement is yet another example of high-quality, international investment capital being allocated to Uzbekistan to help finance our exciting energy reforms,” Uzbekistan’s Energy Minister Alisher Sultanov said on September 30. The First Deputy Minister, appointed recently after serving as Deputy Governor of the Jizzakh Region, also discussed major efforts to expand the pool of energy industry specialists in Uzbekistan, through expanded educational programs. As the Shurtan GCC Upgrade Project is being financed on an export finance principle, with no state guarantees, the participation of prestigious European banks is a significant endorsement of Uzbekistan’s attractiveness as an investment. He listed investments by ACWA Power of Saudi Arabia and Air Products and Chemicals, Inc. A significant factor was existing infrastructure linking Uzbekistan with all its neighbours, he said, pointing out that the energy systems of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan have long been guided by a control centre located in Tashkent, even since the breakup of the Soviet Union. The cooperation agreements relate to €1.1 billion of capital to finance the expansion of the Shurtan Gas Chemical Complex’s production capacity, Uzbekistan’s Energy Ministry said, adding that the agreements were signed with Deutsche Bank – for €500 million; Landesbank Baden-Wuerttemberg – for €300 million; and Landesbank Hessen-Thüringen Girozentrale (Helaba) – also for €300 million. It is a proud day for Uzbekistan, and we thank our new European partners for their considerable support.”
Uzbekneftegaz Chairman Mehriddin Abdullaev said the expansion of production capacity at the Shurtan Gas Chemical Complex, which is the country’s flagship of Uzbekistan’s gas chemical industry and a key polymer producer in the region, is another step towards achieving Uzbekistan’s goal of increasing volumes of deep processing of hydrocarbon raw materials to produce petrochemical products with high added value. “We are hugely grateful for the financial support and confidence shown by some of the most renowned banks in Europe. The expansion in production capacity at Shurtan GCC will annually contribute 280,000 additional tons of bimodal polyethylene, 100,000 tons of polypropylene and 50,000 tons of pyrolysis distillate, the Uzbek Energy Ministry said, adding that the raw material base for the projected expansion facilities at Shurtan is synthetic naphtha, which will be produced from Uzbekistan GTL Plant. Ahmedkhadzhayev outlined the steps Uzbekistan has been taking to achieve energy security and expand production, including reforms intended to double power generation by 2030, with 25% to be derived from renewable sources. The funds will be raised under the insurance coverage of Euler Hermes (Germany), SACE (Italy), Atradius (Netherlands)  and other European export credit agencies. A good example would be the GTL (gas-to-liquids) project, which has already been completed and will be launched at full capacity in the near future. He listed a series of laws, decrees and presidential resolutions which have introduced market principles into the system, allowing private companies, including several international firms, to enter the market, Uzbekistan’s Energy Ministry said in a press release. In related news, Uzbekneftegaz, the state-owned holding company of Uzbekistan’s oil and gas industry, supervised by Ministry of Energy announced that at the economic forum event “Uzbekistan: Achievements of Economic Reforms and Their Prospects” held recently in Tashkent, significant financial cooperation agreements were signed with three of Europe’s leading banks. “We have set ambitious energy targets, and activated strategies at great speed to achieve those targets, but attracting substantial international capital is one of the best measures of our progress. It is a significant endorsement of Uzbekistan’s progress and Uzbekneftegaz’s role within that,” Abdullaev said. He noted that Uzbekistan’s geography, at the centre of both Eurasia and Central Asia, made it a convenient location as a strategic and geopolitical hub. “The Republic of Uzbekistan in all sectors is moving from the export of raw materials to the export of finished products,” he said. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Uzbekistan seeks energy hub role for Central Asia

By New Europe Online/KG

A general view of Uzbekistan's capital of Tashkent. “Regional integration in the field of energy will allow the development and implementation of investment projects that will serve not only the good of the host country through energy generation, but will also benefit neighbouring countries by covering peak overloads as a result of coordination and interconnections of energy systems,” he said. According to the Uzbek Energy Ministry, the new generation of home-grown specialists educated to international standards is expected to bring enthusiasm and expertise required for implementation of new vision in the field of exploitation of the country’s natural resources. The total cost of the project is $1.8 billion, of which $1.2 billion will be contributed by a consortium of foreign banks and financial institutions, and $600 million from Uzbekneftegaz. We have also committed ourselves to developing the MTO (methanol to olefins) cluster in the Bukhara region. According to Uzbekistan’s Energy Ministry, Ahmedkhadzhayev addressed the Tashkent Economic Forum on September 30 where he noted that increased regional cooperation over the past five years was making joint investment projects possible. He cited as an example Uzbekistan’s continuing construction of high-voltage power lines linking its power grid to those of its neighbours. of the United States into a special curriculum and training program at Shirin Power College, a specialist institution located near the Syrdarya Thermal Power Plant and Farkhad hydroelectric station, and a Memorandum of Agreement signed recently between Germany’s Siemens and Tashkent State Technical University.

“My sense is that the Group is now content to see the price settle at this level through the winter rather than continue to climb. According to Weafer, Russia is in a very comfortable position this year and looking into next year. Weafer noted that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and its oil-producing allies led by Russia, a group known as OPEC+, is adding the extra oil carefully and while watching closely what is happening in the world’s major economies against the still dangerous threat of a further Covid-19 disruption. The country’s balance sheet has been so good. Also, with the spike in gas prices this year, it really is a boom time for the Russian budget. It will balance its budget at approximately $60 per barrel and has reported a budget surplus for the past six straight months. There is also reluctance to add more oil than this as that risks bringing back more US Shale. ROSNEFT/FILE PICTURE

Look for price tipping point during pandemic

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At the OPEC+ meeting, which came against a backdrop with Brent trading just under $80 per barrel, oil ministers decided on October 4 to support the existing deal, which will see a total 400,000 barrels per day added each month, satisfied with the oil market performance. That would risk more US competition and have a negative global economic impact. “That is even with the increased pensions and social and infrastructure spending the government announced in the summer. “It is a lot like a version of the children’s game Kerplunk; only in the oil version OPEC+ holds its breath every month it adds extra volume and hopes it does not trigger a price collapse,” he said. However, pressures to increase production are growing as world energy markets are facing shortages. “OPEC+ is very satisfied with the way the oil market has performed this year in that the price has risen steadily while absorbing the volume increases from the group,” Chris Weafer, co-founder of Macro-Advisory in Moscow, told New Europe on October 7. “But Ministers know very well that this is a balancing act, especially against a still far from safe global economic backdrop,” he added. Already a hike in natural gas prices, which is an important fuel for generating electric power, threatens to affect oil prices. If the price does climb higher, to the mid $80s or better, then we should see more production agreed at the next meeting,” Weafer said. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Satisfied OPEC+ keeps oil supply status quo

By Kostis Geropoulos
Energy & Russian Affairs Editor, New Europe

Russian production in Sakhalin-1 in the Arctic. At the same time, most of the producers need at least $80 oil to balance their budgets and this is a price target which has been mentioned on several occasions. OPEC+ is fearful that a high oil price may persuade US shale producers to increase spending and start to recover more of the near 2 million barrels the sector cut last year, Weafer explained, adding that none of the major OPEC+ countries want to see US oil return in bigger volumes. (Russian) President (Vladimir) Putin must be well pleased he agreed to participate in OPEC+,” Weafer said.

But that kind of label misses the key issue. The regional leaders can still point to the Brdo declaration’s promise of eventual admission (sometime after 2030), but it will be hard to hold the line against hard-liners and go-it-alone nationalists with that alone: “the EU reaffirms its unequivocal support for the European perspective of the Western Balkans.”  As any diplomat can tell you, as a compromise text, it is certainly better than nothing. We are one European family” she declared. The two countries seen as major losers from this engagement were Albania and North Macedonia, who had been banking on the Slovenian EU presidency and support from many within the European Commission to get their accession applications out of the quagmire of the last three years and onto some kind – actually any kind – of process that would deliver Tirana and Skopje concrete dates for the start of negotiations and not just the same old restated promises of the last years. We want them in the European Union.  
The primary source of disappointment was the failure of the Brdo declaration to mention Albania and North Macedonia by name or to include any concrete information about the so-called “intergovernmental conferences” that the EU organizes to launch accession negotiations. The Brdo document even states “We also recall the importance that the EU can maintain and deepen its own development, ensuring its capacity to integrate new members.”  Accordingly, it is not up to leaders in Tirana or Skopje, or their advocates, to make demands of EU members, but it is absolutely fair and intellectually honest to quietly wonder about the political fates of the moderate Atlantic-oriented leaders in both countries and also to ask about non-EU countries’ (read China) economic penetration of the region if Brussels is seen as preoccupied elsewhere. The issue now will be to monitor and manage the reactions in the Western Balkans, where disappointment will clearly jolt the political status quo. Family picture. To put it diplomatically, it does not appear that Enlargement is currently a burning issue for the populace outside of the candidate countries and a small number of their advocates. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Enlargement: EU’s turgid Brdo Declaration seen as a “fail”

By Alec Mally
Director for Global Economic Affairs at IPEDIS

The EU-Western Balkans summit in Brdo pri Kranju, Slovenia, 6 October 2021. Stoic reactions for now
For the moment, no local political crisis has emerged in the Western Balkans in the short period since the Brdo Declaration was released. See the full Brdo declaration here: https://www.consilium.europa.eu/media/52280/brdo-declaration-6-october-2021-en.pdf
Do not act surprised, but does it matter? www.consilium.europa.eu

While not unexpected, the Brdo outcome was a major disappointment to hopeful candidate countries

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The two EU candidate countries hoping for a major jump-start to their long-delayed EU accession procedures suffered a major setback on October 6 at Brdo, Slovenia, where the EU and Western Balkan leaders met to map out the next phase of the EU’s Enlargement process. North Macedonian leaders of course understand with crystal clarity that until their dispute with Bulgaria over language and identity is resolved, their accession application can not be moved onto a fast track. Member states make the rules
The timing of the next phase of EU Enlargement requires an agreed member state consensus and quite a few believe other EU-wide and global issues are more important at the moment. Nor has the US State Department seen fit to weigh in as it frequently does on the question of EU Enlargement, even though its opinion is never requested. Some Enlargement boosters will argue that Brdo represents the “low point” in EU relations with the Western Balkans as the Slovenian Presidency was unable even to get 2030 agreed as an admission target date, a step back from the 2025 target some optimists had held up. It is a question now however as to when Albania and North Macedonia will agree to take the dreaded step of “decoupling” their applications so that Albania can move ahead and some kind of Enlargement momentum within the EU is generated. Whether the average EU citizen will pay much attention, being far more worried about soaring energy prices and the COVID-19 pandemic or even uncontrolled migration, remains an open question and there is even talk of an anti-Enlargement backlash heard in some member states based on lessons learned from bringing Romania and Bulgaria into the EU too quickly, as well as the role that uncontrolled legal migration into the UK ultimately played in triggering Brexit. It is clear that Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s Slovenian promises, while soothing, are simply not going to be enough for Tirana or Skopje. “The message is that the Western Balkans belong to the European Union. Without encouragement from Brussels that painful reforms undertaken in recent years will help to open the path to EU accession in their lifetimes the pro-Western leaders’ careers could be short-lived. Discussions on the sidelines at Brdo revealed that both sides are at least talking about a solution, but Bulgaria, under intense pressure from some of its EU partners to make concessions, is not backing off on its core demand that North Macedonia stop the “subtle erasure” of the Bulgarian identity inside North Macedonia. These leaks had the effect of mobilizing the pro-Enlargement NGOs, lobbyists, and some think tanks into generating a steady flow of angry denouncements of the outcome, some even before the declaration was released, and the torrent of similar missives and passionate op-eds about “lost opportunities” in the Western Balkans will clearly increase now. Media reporting from Brussels over the previous week had revealed EU member states could not agree on the forward-leaning declaration language the Commission and candidate countries themselves wanted.

Distinguished legal professionals who signed the appeal included the former Chief Prosecutor of the UN International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, a former Special Prosecutor at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, and the first President of the UN Special Court for Sierra Leone. The international community is partly to blame for the rise of such impunity. Instead, the European External Action Service (EEAS) should use its Magnitsky Act powers to impose stringent sanctions against perpetrators of the 1988 massacre in Iran. Survivors of the 1988 massacre put the number of victims at above 30,000. He is listed by major human rights groups as a key perpetrator of the massacre of thousands of political prisoners in 1988. The perpetrators have never been held accountable. Take our relationship with Iran, for example. It’s time for Europe to end ‘business as usual’ with the regime of mass murderers running Iran. In September 2020, seven UN Special Rapporteurs announced that the failure of UN bodies to act over the 1988 massacre had “emboldened” the Iranian authorities to commit further human rights abuses. Rehman said his office was ready to share gathered testimonies and evidence if the UN Human Rights Council or another body sets up an impartial investigation. epa07858383 Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) chief commander Hossein Salami (R) attends a ceremony at the Tehran’s defense museum, in Tehran, Iran, 21 September 2019. The EU must finally show it’s prepared to fight for human rights. It’s time for the other 26 members of the European Union to seek a UN Commission of Inquiry into the 1988 extrajudicial executions and enforced disappearances (In Iran). To the contrary, many have been promoted to senior posts. Slovenia shouldn’t be the sole EU voice supporting the UN experts’ call for accountability. Raisi and other Death Commission members were tasked with determining which prisoners were still resolute. Last July, Janez Jansa, the Prime Minister of Slovenia, whose country holds the EU’s rotating presidency, announced his country’s support for a UN Commission of Inquiry. Before becoming President, Raisi was Iran’s Judiciary Chief. Signatories included a former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, a former UN Deputy Secretary-General, 28 former UN Special Rapporteurs on human rights, and the chairs of previous UN Commissions of Inquiry into human rights abuses in Eritrea and North Korea. The onus is now on the world’s leading democracies, including the EU and US, to challenge the impunity enjoyed by Iranian officials. Kennedy
Founder of The Kennedy Forum, is a former Democratic member of the United States House of Representatives from Rhode Island. More recently, on August 4, the UN Working Group on Enforced Disappearances in a report to the Human Rights Council called for an “international investigation” into the 1988 massacre. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>The West needs to unite to fight for human rights

By Patrick J. While the world’s dictatorships always seem to have each other’s backs, the world’s democracies are failing to do the same when it comes to standing up for their own core values such as human rights and the rule of law. EPA-EFE/ABEDIN TAHERKENAREH

Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) chief commander Hossein Salami (R) attends a ceremony at Tehran's defense museum. That’s because the world’s democracies are not fighting for it. That shameful retraction was music to the mullahs’ ears. Too often we forgo our moral, and at times legal, responsibilities for the sake of pragmatism, and sometimes out of sheer greed for petrodollars. EPA-EFE/ABEDIN TAHERKENAREH

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Human rights seem nonexistent in today’s world. At the time, Raisi was Tehran Deputy Prosecutor, when he was tasked by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini with serving on a Death Commission that sent prisoners to the gallows after mock trials that lasted just minutes. By Alejo Vidal-Quadras
A former Vice President of the European Parliament from Spain. In an attempt to challenge this impunity, some 152 former UN officials and renowned international human rights and legal experts in May 2021 wrote to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, calling for a Commission of Inquiry into the 1988 massacre. Under his reign, the judiciary and security forces launched a brutal crackdown on peaceful protesters in November 2019, killing an estimated 1500 anti-government demonstrators and dissidents and detaining and torturing thousands more with total impunity. Meanwhile, Amnesty International in a statement on June 19 reiterated that Raisi had a key role in the 1988 massacre and should be “investigated for his involvement in past and ongoing crimes under international law, including by states that exercise universal jurisdiction.”
On June 29, 2021, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Iran, Javaid Rehman, added his voice to the fray, calling for an independent inquiry into the 1988 state-ordered executions and the role played by Raisi as Tehran deputy prosecutor. Sadly though, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell quickly distanced the 27-nation bloc from that position, stating that Brussels pursues a ‘balanced’ Iran policy. They were buried in mass graves in what amounted to crimes against humanity and, according to some legal experts, genocide. This summer, ultra-hardline cleric Ebrahim Raisi took office as President. In a decree, Khomeini ordered the elimination of all political prisoners affiliated to the main opposition People’s Mujahedin (PMOI or MEK) who remained committed to the group, which was declared to be ‘Mohareb’, or waging war against God. It sends a signal to Iran, and to the wider world, that for all its talk of human rights, the EU is prepared to look the other way when regimes murder their own citizens.

The restoration of bomb shelters. Among them are a new airfield complex, the creation of a pedestrian zone in Odessa city center, the creation of new parks, and a large-scale renovation of the richest historical and architectural heritage of our city. On behalf of all residents of Odessa, I would like to congratulate all of the Greeks of the world on the 200th anniversary of independence and wish for further well-being, development and prosperity for Greece. Gennady Trukhanov (GT): I am really proud that Odessans have already entrusted me with the management of the city three times, especially in 2014, during one of the most difficult periods that Ukraine has experienced since gaining independence. To date, in Odessa, purified wastewater is classified as being for technical purposes. If we talk about economic and household issues, we inherited the stewardship of a city that was in a very neglected state. Today the world community is trying to reduce human influence on the climate; Odessa is no exception. GT: Odessa and Greece are linked, not only by warm and friendly relations, but also by a common history. If we do not act today, then the entire watery part of the planet will soon turn into an ocean of garbage. GT: When it comes to freight transportations, for the most part, it’s okay. NE: This year, Greece is celebrating the 200th anniversary of the Greek War of Independence that overthrew 400-years of occupation by the Ottoman Turks. There was an atmosphere of anxiety and misunderstanding in the city. NE: Odesa is the gateway to the Black Sea and has a unique geopolitical position. We are also modernizing the city’s green economy system with the adaptation of green spaces to the changing climatic conditions. Thus, within the framework of the Covenant of Mayors, the city has fulfilled all its obligations. Vessels are calling, the port is working at a profit, but the number of passenger transportations is practically reduced to zero. Odessa also pays special attention to wastewater treatment. Every day I met with different radical groups. A vivid example of our friendship is the Greek Park, which was gifted to us by the Greek diaspora. These are, indeed, the strengths that have been inherent in our city since its foundation. After all, after biological treatment stations, the water flows into the Black Sea. An overhead view of part of Odessa’s port. Another particularly acute issue for the city is the modernization of coast protection structures, an integral part of which includes Odessa’s many beaches. Odessa’s famed national opera house. NE: Coastal cities will face increased residual effects due to climate change. Today we are actively searching for sources of funding. And, of course, to move forward both in terms of the development of the city and the country and further participation in global world processes. We just focused the investor’s attention on them and helped determine the most profitable areas of investment in the city. Almost every week explosions occurred, and because of them we urgently had to look for resources to help people repair windows and flats. It was in Odessa that the Greek Revolution (against the Turks) started. What are your expectations from this program? For this purpose, specialists from the Austrian company VTA AUSTRIA GmbH (BTA Austria), a world leader in the field of wastewater treatment, were invited. As a result, we were able to preserve the main thing in the city – peace. And also for the generous support provided to Odesa by the Honorary Director of the European Commission, George Kremlis. We understand that considering the circumstances the world faces today, it is not in our power to influence the situation in any way. Built in 1810, the current neo-Baroque structure dates from the 1870s and is regarded as one of the finest facilities for classical music in the world. But in case of the resumption of active calls of cruise ships, we are ready to provide informational support to tourists on the shore to make their journey even more enjoyable. What is your motto about the present and future of your historic city? Odessa accepted more than 30,000 internal migrants and refugees. The city actually became their second home
What did we have to work with at that time? New Europe (NE): You were re-elected as mayor of the city after successfully completing your previous mandate. Nevertheless, over these seven and a half years, we have managed to move from pothole patching to implementing large infrastructure projects. We are still trying to deal with the negative consequences of decisions that were handed down by previous authorities. Without a doubt, before that, not a single mayor had worked in the type of conditions that I had to face. What problems do you face? This is a beautiful place, which from the moment of its opening, has been a major attraction for both Odessans and foreign guests to the city. We will complete projects that are already being implemented, one of which is the creation of the “Zone of Priority Development in Odessa” industrial park. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>INTERVIEW with Odessa mayor Gennady Trukhanov

By Nicholas Waller
Managing Editor

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Having secured his re-election to a third term in November 2020, Gennady Trukhanov spoke to New Europe about what he hopes to achieve for Odessa, one of Ukraine’s most important economic and cultural centers, during his new mandate. What are your comments about this? This was achieved through the development of an urban electric transport system, the optimization of urban road infrastructure, modernization of lighting, the adoption of energy-efficient measures in houses and buildings, a transition to alternative energy sources, etc. And also for the generous support provided to Odessa. I consider this to be a very urgent initiative, especially since waste is now considered a resource. GT: Like any coastal city, we will be among the first to experience the impact of the climate crisis, which will be accompanied by threats from rising sea levels, coastal erosion, increased rainfall, increasingly frequent storm surges, and higher average air temperatures. Today, a large Greek diaspora lives in our city, and I am very pleased that we, the contemporary population of Odessa, support and develop those relations that were previously established by our ancestors. The change of state policy, a difficult economic situation … and, most importantly, military action in eastern Ukraine. For our part, we are ready to take all the necessary measures that are needed to carry out the work. Odessa played a very important role in this historical event. This project is large-scale and expensive. We have identified five focus areas – tourism, transport, trade, technology and trust. In the future, after the completion of the tests, we will be able to use it for the economic needs of the city, as in Europe, for washing the streets, watering lawns, parks, squares. In August 2021, industrial testing of the latest developments began in the city. I was negotiating with them and we were looking for a joint solution, which we eventually found in the end. We saw this just the other day when the first cruise ship with passengers from the US and Canada entered Odessa since the beginning of the (COVID-19) pandemic. What lessons can be learned from the conference held this year? How do you prepare a city for climate resilience? We do not plan to stop at what has already been achieved. This year, the investment forum was attended by over 650 participants from Ukraine and 17 countries of the world. NE: The annual 5T conference was recently held in Odessa. We participate in international conferences, attract experts, implement educational projects, join global initiatives and adhere to all recommendations. GT: The International Investment Forum “Odessa 5T” is a product of the city’s development strategy. NE: Odessa, together with four other cities, participates in the “Black Sea Interreg” program for the circular economy. GT: This project has an important mission – the management of waste and marine litter in the countries of the Black Sea basin, as well as the prevention of the appearance of new garbage. In turn, the Greeks played an important role in the construction and development of Odessa. This, perhaps, is the motto: ‘peace, development, preservation of our interculturalism and traditions’. I am grateful for this opportunity to work on the problem together, uniting the efforts of 5 countries of the Black Sea region – Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey, Georgia and Ukraine. It is a pioneering urban development initiative. In my opinion, in addition to its main task, the forum also became a platform for working out a national and international strategy for the development of society – the transition to a circular economy;  development of a grant culture; urban studies as a science that focuses on the development of urban systems and communities, and much more. In fact, it’s far beyond the resources of the city’s budget. As of 2020, we have reduced the consumption of various types of energy by 20%, thus contributing to the reduction of emissions of carbon dioxide and other pollutants into the atmosphere.

The broader opium economy also supports thousands involved in the domestic trade (opium traders, heroin producers, domestic dealers), those working as service providers in the trade (packers, transporters), and individuals who are internationally connected and are working in the international opium trade. “This is a country where 90 percent of the population lives in poverty. In the meantime, the farmers are planting the seeds for next year’s crop right now. At the same time, the State Department reported that resistance elements took up opium production and trafficking ‘to provide staples for [the] population under their control and to fund weapons purchases … As the mujahideen guerrillas gained ground against the Soviet occupation and began to create liberated zones inside Afghanistan in the early 1980s, the resistance helped fund its operations by collecting taxes from peasants who grew the lucrative opium poppies, particularly in the fertile Helmand valley. “There is no unity in the international community on how to deal with Afghanistan,” Felbab-Brown said. Outside of legalization of the trade, which does not appear even remotely likely, the only alternative for suppressing opium production is to cajole farmers to grow other crops in a bid to wean them off the poppy, but even those sorts of programs are now in question. “From now on, nobody’s going to get involved (in the heroin trade), nobody can be involved in drug smuggling.”
But, as with the Taliban’s other plans for the country, there is reason to be skeptical about this claim; the notion of a ban on opium production runs afoul of economic and political realities on the ground. The opium harvest “provided the equivalent of up to 119,000 full-time jobs” in 2019. And now, as the West withdraws both troops and many billions of dollars of foreign economic aid to Afghanistan, and with the key role opium plays in the country’s economy, the Taliban is going to ban it? My expectation is that we are going to see the same bargaining with the international community, but as I said, if the Taliban does try to do a ban, they will struggle to enforce it.”
The Taliban also face a possible loss of the opioid market share if they enact a ban and then change their mind because of adverse circumstances, Felbab-Brown said. Will they risk that again? And now, opium looms ever larger because the major pillar of the Afghan economy was foreign financial assistance—accounting for 40 percent of GDP—which has now vanished, as the West tries to figure out how to deal with the Taliban, which “led a deadly insurgency against the U.S.-backed government” before seizing power. “What the Taliban want is international recognition. One reason local warlords didn’t fight the Taliban this summer was that the Taliban was promising them access to the local economy, and in many places, that means opium.”
Even in the best of circumstances, replacing a lucrative illicit economy with legal alternatives is a long-term project, and the present circumstances in Afghanistan are not the best, to say the least. Opium is also a job creator in a country where opportunities are scarce. He has been a drug policy journalist for more than two decades. “The Afghan economy is more or less tanking,” Felbab-Brown said. The gross income generated from opiates was “also worth between 24 and 44 percent of the value of the licit agricultural sector of the country” in 2018-2019. Opium “is an ideal crop in a war-torn country since it requires little capital investment, is fast growing and is easily transported and traded,” the State Department reported in 1986. To impose a ban would require the Taliban to maintain a high level of aggression, which would create political fissures and fractures and would play into the hands of other actors. At its first press conference in Kabul on August 17, after entering the city just two days earlier and solidifying their control over the country, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid vowed that their new government would not let Afghanistan become a “full-fledged narco-state.” “We are assuring our countrymen and women and the international community that we will not have any narcotics produced,” Mujahid said. It will be part of the bargaining over a whole set of policies, including women’s rights and human rights.”
Uncertainty abounds over what the Taliban’s opium policy will actually look like. Even if they had a well-designed program, you are looking at decades to suppress [the opium trade],” she said. The challenge is that the opium crop is a key component of the Afghan economy, accounting for somewhere between 7 percent and 11 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, and bringing in as much as $2 billion in 2019, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. I suspect the… [talk about the ban] is mainly to satisfy the Russians. “The Taliban can risk a ban, but it would be politically costly in ways that are more complex than [they were] in 2000 [when they also banned opium], and it could lead to tremendous destabilization,” she told Drug Reporter in a phone interview. But we should not be pushing the ban; that would be catastrophic in terms of humanitarian consequences.”
Efforts by both the Afghan government and the West to suppress the opium trade proved futile throughout the Western occupation, and now the likelihood of any sort of robust international campaign to suppress Afghan poppies appears next to nil. “The Chinese and Iranians are warming up to the Taliban, and the Russians will be urging the Taliban to go for a ban. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Why the Taliban’s promise to stop the opium trade rings hollow

By Philip Smith
A writing fellow and the editor and chief correspondent of Drug Reporter, a project of the Independent Media Institute. McCoy, author of the groundbreaking book The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade, noted in 2018:
“As relentless warfare between CIA and Soviet surrogates took its toll, Afghan farmers began to turn to opium ‘in desperation,’ since it produced ‘high profits’ that could cover rising food prices. It’s also a situation where many mid-level Taliban commanders are dependent on opium for their income and livelihoods for their fighters. “When it comes to banning opium, we are looking at a possible replay of the 1990s,” said Felbab-Brown. Historian Alfred W. The opium economy is especially strong in areas that have key Taliban support, such as Helmand province in the south of Afghanistan. In the 1990s, they kept promising they would ban poppies in return for international recognition, but then said they could not do it because they could not starve their people, until in 2000, [when] they did it. Afghanistan accounts for “80 percent of global illicit opium production,” a pattern that began, ironically enough, in the 1980s, when the CIA waged a secret war against the Soviet occupation of the country and enlisted both Islamic radicals and those involved in the opium trade in this battle. “Should the international community be working with the Taliban to try to implement alternative livelihoods?” asked Felbab-Brown. Facebook

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One of the first announcements the Taliban made after seizing power in Afghanistan in August was that they were going to “ban the production and sale of drugs.” But, as with other promises of change made by the Taliban, from women’s rights to press freedoms, there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical about its claim to ban drugs. A Taliban fighter in Kabul shortly after the city was captured by the radical militant group in August. “If the Taliban move to ban [opium] and then decide it is too difficult to sustain [this move] politically or financially, it might not find it easy to just return to the same markets; the European markets, for instance, could be snatched away by synthetic opioids.”
As for how the much-vaunted “international community” should approach Afghan opium production, that’s a complicated question. “A massive influx of foreign aid has been an inescapable component of the economic life of the country, and now, the Taliban does not have any way of dealing with stopping opium by delivering alternative livelihoods. “The difference now is the synthetic opioids,” she said, alluding to the production of fentanyl and its derivatives coming from Chinese and Indian chemical factories. It would be a risky move for the Taliban, said Vanda Felbab-Brown, a senior fellow for foreign policy at the Brookings Institution who has written extensively on drugs and nonstate actors, not only in Afghanistan, but also in Africa, Latin America and South Asia. An Afghan national policeman walks through a field of opium poppies near Jalalabad, a city in the east of Afghanistan. Caravans carrying CIA arms into that region for the resistance often returned to Pakistan loaded down with opium—sometimes, reported the New York Times, ‘with the assent of Pakistani or American intelligence officers who supported the resistance.’”
And nearly four decades later, Afghanistan remains the world’s number one supplier of opium and its derivative, heroin, with the latter going into the veins of habitués from Lahore to London. Still, the Taliban has done it before. “It’s a difficult question and can’t be considered in isolation.  
 
*This article was produced by Drug Reporter, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

So that’s why we agreed on the need to monitor the evolution of energy prices and to factor this into our budgetary policy-making to ensure it doesn’t compromise the recovery that is now taking hold,” he said. MEPs have accused Gazprom that it is pushing up gas prices in Europe. The November gas price at the Dutch TTF hub, a European benchmark , hit an all-time high of 97.73 euros per megawatt hour (MWh) earlier on October 1, up around 400% this year, before easing slightly. Gas prices in the EU surged to record highs on October 1 as Russian gas monopoly Gazprom has been fulfilling its sales obligations under long-term contracts but has not increased deliveries, signalling further price pressures on European consumers ahead of the winter. Simpson said the European Commission is looking into complaints by some EU countries that Russia is using its position as a major supplier to propel the soaring price of gas in Europe. “Gazprom’s decision not to book for October the full capacity available at one of the main pipelines that delivers gas to Germany poses an increased tightening risk to north-western European gas balances and, hence, further upside risk to TTF prices this winter,” Goldman Sachs said in a note. “Moscow also considers it has also made the case for Nord Stream 2 – that point could not be clearer after supply concerns caused this year’s huge gas price rise,” Chris Weafer, co-founder of Macro-Advisory, argued. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Russia puts the shivers on EU, gas supplies limited, prices spike

By Kostis Geropoulos
Energy & Russian Affairs Editor, New Europe

Gazprom produced 378.1 billion cubic meters of gas in January–September of 2021, which is 17.3% (or 55.7 billion cubic meters) more than in the same period of last year, the company said on October 1. Our exchange of views today focussed on the consequences for inflation and for budgetary policy within the euro area. “This is an issue that is indeed touching all Europeans, citizens and businesses and, small and medium-sized businesses. The European Commission will also propose, before the end of the year, to reform the gas market to make it more resilient to price hikes. “Our initial assessment suggests that Russia is fulfilling its long-term contracts,” she said in written responses to questions. “The issue of rising energy prices is broad, and it is multifaceted. Gazprom

Gazprom’s cold call weaponizes energy, MEPs fret

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With gas prices surging, Members of the European Parliament have called for an investigation into market manipulation from state and non-state actors, and into the EU carbon market speculation to measure the impact that both factors are having on prices. During the debate between the European Parliament, Commission and Council in plenary on October 6, many MEPs insisted on the need for immediate measures to protect the most vulnerable from rising bills, the EU Parliament said in a press release. France and Spain on October 4 called for a coordinated European response to the surge in global energy prices. Russia is Europe’s biggest gas supplier, contributing 43% of the EU’s gas imports last year. “We are looking into this claim, together with Executive Vice President Vestager, who is responsible for competition rules, because it is of course a very serious matter,” Simson told Reuters, referring to EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager. MEPs also confirmed their position on draft legislation aiming to update the criteria and methodology for selecting energy projects of common interest (PCIs). One of the ideas reportedly suggested by Spain was to set up a strategic European gas reserve, which would help the EU negotiate lower prices. Several MEPs called for gas storage capacity to be boosted, and for common gas purchase programs to be set up – replicating the model used for vaccines – and for the Green Deal to be used as an opportunity to improve energy security and independence. Other MEPs said that the crisis is the result of a market-based approach to energy and the action of market speculators and called for energy prices to be capped. Meanwhile on October 6, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia will exceed the contracted volume it sends via the Ukraine pipeline system to send more gas to Europe ahead of winter. Opponents say Russia has applied pressure to try to speed up the project’s approval, by not supplying extra gas to Europe as prices have surged. Following a meeting of the Finance Ministers of the euro area on October 4, Eurogroup President and Ireland’s Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said the issue of rising energy prices is a key concern for the European Union, entailing wide-ranging economic and social consequences. There are also many other viewpoints, such as energy security, which belongs to other ministers and to other Council configurations,” Donohoe said. These include projects like 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. An unnamed official has warned about Russia’s “weaponization” of energy, telling New Europe all it takes is “a Russian claim of some production problems combined with a few “predictions” of cold winter and Europeans will be scampering around like ‘frightened children’”. During the plenary debate, Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson said the EU should react in a quick and coordinated manner and highlighted the measures already at the disposal of member states to help vulnerable households and SMEs. follow on twitter @energyinsider
 
  We need to maintain and find opportunities to speed up our efforts to improve energy efficiency, develop renewables and low carbon sources of energy so as to reduce our reliance on imported energy,” the Eurogroup president said. The green transition is not the problem, it is part of the solution. “Gazprom is confident it will be able to send 5 Bcm through the new pipe before the end of the year.”
Moscow is awaiting regulatory approval for the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline from Russia to Germany to start pumping gas to Germany. “We were in full agreement today that the current situation does not undermine our ambitious climate objectives. Russian gas supplies via the Yamal-Europe pipeline fell on October 1 by almost 77% from September 30, according to data from grid operator Gascade, as Gazprom booked only a third of its available capacity for October, Reuters reported.