Balkans, Black Sea region

Pridnestrovie in Context of Ukraine

Transdniestria flag

Prologue

Transnistrian claim for independence is being met with a certain degree of sympathy and understanding by some of the western experts. As an example, a Finnish political analyst and blogger Ari Rusila can be named; he usually presents the Transnistrian de facto statehood in quite a positive light, admitting, in particular, that “Transnistria called my attention first because of its quite ready statehood elements without outside recognition, second because of changed circumstances in respect for international law after Kosovo unilateral declaration of independence and thirdly because I predicted that Trandnistria could be the next tinderbox of separatism between Georgian conflict and coming troubles in Ukraine”. He believes that Transnistria, if compared with Kosovo, has had in fact much more reasons to be recognised internationally.


The quote above is from a paper Transnistrian Conflict: State of Affairs and Prospects of Settlement  prepared for the International conference “Frozen Conflicts” in Europe (1st September 2012, Bled, Slovenia) by Natalia Belitser and the sitation is based on my articles published in 2008.
Transdniestria
Pridnestrovie as next Crimea?


As the crisis in Ukraine continues to simmer, tensions in the country’s western neighbor Moldova are beginning to rise. Seeking to capitalize on President Putin’s eagerness to use the protection of Russian speaking populations in the region as a pretext to expand his territorial claims, members of two separate enclaves in Moldova are looking toward Moscow for protection.


Now after uprising and coup in Ukraine and annexing Crimea into Russia, tensions have grown to encompass Ukraine’s neighbor Moldova, which like Ukraine has been making efforts to integrate further with the West. Moldova has signed the EU association and free trade agreements at the November 2013 Vilnius summit, during which former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich rejected the deals. The Moldovan government has also supported the Western-backed uprising in Ukraine. Western experts worry that the next “Crimea” could be the breakaway region of Pridnestrovie. Many locals there don’t share that fear, and if the last referendum holds, a large majority would welcome a Russian annexation.


Pridnestrovie aka Transdniestria – also known as Transnistria aka  Pridnestrovskaia Moldavskaia Respublica (PMR/TMR) – is a new and emerging country in South Eastern Europe, sandwiched between Moldova and Ukraine. The official language of Transdniestria is Russian, not Moldovan, while the vast Majority of schools teach the Cyrillic alphabet instead of the Roman alphabet used in the rest of the country. Recently  Pridnestrovie adopted Russian legislation, a clear signal of the region’s preference for joining Moscow’s customs union.

Most recently, Russian military exercises held March 25 in Moldova’s breakaway territory of Pridnestrovie have stoked these tensions. From its side the parliament (called Supreme Soviet) of Pridnestrovie has sent a proposal to the State Duma asking for in Russian legislation to join the breakaway Republic in Russia. The document originated in the DG as feedback on refering new draft law in Russia on the simplified order of joining the Russian federation new actors on the basis of a referendum, no international treaty, if in a foreign country has no effective legitimate authority “. (Source: Forum Pridnestrovie )


Now Moldova’s Pridnestrovie region is seeking to follow Crimea and join Russia and this is not causing concern only in Moldova but in neighbouring Romania, Ukraine as well in EU and Nato too.
Transdniestria – and Gagauzia – are joining to the same club with Abkhazia and South Ossetia as de facto states, namely political entities that have achieved enduring ‘internal sovereignty’ – but lack ‘external sovereignty’ in the international system. As Crimea is annexed to Russia and these other “states” can follow to join Russia or continue as de facto state, this development is creating a Northern Black Sea corridor, frontline or buffer zone.

North Black Sea buffer zone

Photo credit: The Telegraph

Good Moldavia-Pridnestrovie cooperation since 2009 and 2011 elections


New prospects for conflict settlement have appeared after parliamentary elections of 2009 in the Republic of Moldova. The new pro-Western team – the Alliance for European Integration (AEI) – that substituted the Communist Party ruling the country from 2001, proved much more pragmatic and willing to deal with its breakaway region than their predecessors pursuing rather an isolationist policy. In 2011 presidential elections President Igor Smirnov, who had been in power since Pridnestrovie declared independence in 1990, failed to be re-elected, and was replaced by opposition MP, younger leader of the ‘Revival’ movement and former speaker of the Supreme Council Yevgeny Shevchuk. These political changes engendered hopes for the settlement process to acquire a positive momentum.


The power changes in Pridnestrovie give positive boost to peace process: the official negotiation process re-started after six years interruption in November 2011 in Vilnius, Lithuania, to be followed by a meeting on February 2012 in Dublin, Ireland and on April 2012. Finally the Document of principles and procedures and agenda of negotiations were agreed in Vienna, whereas on July 2012 this Document was signed. It included such issues as freedom of movement of passengers and cargo, traffic of trains, education issues,etc. Also a new approach (joint initiative of Russia and Germany, Meseburg, 2010) by the EU and Russia to resolve the conflict was the setting up of a joint Political and Security Committee (EU-R-PSC) at minister level. Related to security issues it was stated that the EU and Russia will cooperate in particular towards a resolution of the Transdniestria conflict with a view to achieve tangible progress within the established 5 + 2 format (Russia, Ukraine, Moldova,Pridnestrovie , OSCE, EU, US). This cooperation could include a joint EU-Russia engagement, which would guarantee a smooth transition of the present situation to a final stage.


The main approach of the resumed negotiations and to the settlement process in general focuses on Confidence Building Measures (CBMs). This means that political aspects of the settlement, for example a mutually accepted status of Pridnestrovie, are not yet touched. Instead status there has been attempts to make concrete steps of issues that both sides of the conflict are interested in. These kind of initiatives have already been following:

  • Engaging the sides into direct dialogue;
  • Establishing joint Working/Expert Groups on confidence building measures;
  • Conducting meetings at a higher level (for example, between Prime-minister of the RM Vlad Filat and leader of Pridnestrovie Yevgeny Shevchuk, also between the heads of foreign ministries Eugen Carpov and Nina Stanski);
  • Elaborating and implementing national and international social and economic development projects etc.

The direct dialogue at a higher level has been clear contrast to previous lack of any kind of dialogue lasting for years. There has been a dozen WGs e.g. on economy, agriculture and environment, transport, railways, civil status acts, social and humanitarian aid, health, education, combating organised crimes and emergencies, telecommunications, and customs, whereas the WG on demilitarisation and security is not yet operating.
Growing dispute between parties started by unilateral actions by both parties during Spring 2013. First Moldova established migration control of citizens in six checkpoints, second  Pridnestroviestarted to mark border in in the sc Security Zone or line of demarcation after the Transdniestrian war (1992).
More about negotiation history in my article Transnistrian number game and in conference paper Transnistrian Conflict: State of Affairs and Prospects of Settlement  by Natalya Belitser )

Tools against Pridnestrovie by Chisinau and Kiev

Arsenal of tools, on that, with the support of Western “ideological-political sponsors” can count in Chisinau and the Kiev could be as following:

  • further tightening of border crossing for the residents of Pridnestrovieh, the introduction of a total ban on border crossings by social groups and citizens (It is noteworthy in this regard that, that the admission of foreign citizens on the territory of Moldova is liberalized; Ukrainian officials should examine stats for financial gains and losses of the Moldovan side of Ukrainian companies, eg, air carriers);
  • blocking of export-import operations of the Pridnestrovie side, transit of Pridnestrovie goods, that is well within the common “European” subjects as a way to European integration, with a demand for the full functioning of the Pridnestrovie Moldovan business rules;
  • ban on border crossings by vehicles with Pridnestrovie number;
  • refusal to issue permits for the Pridnestrovie passenger transport;
  • Moldovan law on the placement of the Ukrainian checkpoints with full access to all databases and law carry out administrative functions, etc..

Russia ready if needed

Nato warns that a pro-Russian enclave of Moldova could be Moscow’s next target after Crimea. Nato’s top military Commander Europe Philip Breedlove said on 23rd March 2014 that Russia has a large force on Ukraine’s eastern border and is worried it could pose a threat to Moldova’s separatist Pridnestrovie region.Russia launched a new military exercise, involving 8,500 artillery men, near Ukraine’s border 10 days ago. Breedlove said the Russian tactic should lead the 28-nation Western military alliance to rethink the positioning and readiness of its forces in eastern Europe so that they were ready to counter Moscow’s moves.(The Telegraph)


How the Russian forces would get there. Pridnestrovie is landlocked and to go there by land would require Russian troops to travel through much of western Ukraine. However, Russian forces based in the Eastern side of the Black Sea and Crimea could conceivably stage an airlift. Since it fought a brief separatist war to breakaway from Moldova in 1991, Pridnestrovie has been home to “peacekeeping” garrison of around 1,000 Russian troops. One option is also that Russia includes Odessa in a “security belt” that would presumably stretch from Crimea to Transdniestria.


The speaker of Pridnestrovie’s separatist parliament urged Russia middle of March 2014 to incorporate the region and the republic’s parliament, called the Supreme Soviet, sent an official request to Moscow asking if Transdniestria could be allowed to join the Russian Federation. The talks within the 5+2 format (Russia, Moldova, Pridnestrovie, Ukraine, the OSCE and observers from the EU and the US) are scheduled for 10-11 April 2014.


In Moldova the appetite for European integration among Moldova’s 3.5 million people had weakened even before the crisis in Ukraine and a parliamentary election later this year may bring a return of the pro-Russian Communist Party That was forced from power in 2009. Moldova falls under the EU’s Neighborhood Policy, which contains no explicit similar promise of membership like the countries of the Western Balkans .

Gagauzia had referendum too

Gagauzia Moldova map

Transnistria (orange) and Gagauzia (red) are pro-Russian regions in Moldova (photo courtesy of Stratfor)

Following a 1991 declaration of independence, Comrat (Gagauzia’s capital) agreed to remain a part of Moldova, after Chisinau agreed to grant the region the legal status of a “special autonomous zone“. Chisinau’s control was challenged in February 2014 when Gagauzia held a referendum to join the Russia-led Eurasian Customs Union. The referendum followed Chisinau’s decision to enter a Free Trade Agreement with the European Union in November 2013–the same agreement former Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovich snubbed when he opted for the customs union with Moscow. Gagauzia has a population of about 155,000 people, mostly ethnically Gagauz, Turkic-speaking Orthodox Christians. Many locals fear that Chisinau’s EU-integration agenda masks an intention to unite Moldova with neighboring Romania.


An overwhelming majority of voters in a referendum – with turnout more than 70 % – held in the autonomous Moldovan region of Gagauzia have voted for integration with a Russia-led customs union: 98.4 percent of voters chose closer relations with the CIS Customs Union. In a separate question, 97.2 percent were against closer EU integration. In addition, 98.9 percent of voters supported Gagauzia’s right to declare independence should Moldova lose or surrender its own independence. Moldova’s government claims that referendum in Gagauzia is unconstitutional and had no legal legitimacy.


Although the security situation in Gagauzia remains calm, on 26 March, the executive committee in Comrat announced its decision to establish independent police stations in Comrat, as well as in its northern and southern cities of Briceni and Cahul. Moscow has demonstrated support for Gagauzia following the referendum. The regions governor, Mihail Formuzal visited Moscow in March 2014 and got impression that Russia was prepared to expand partnerships with Gagauzia and “provide the necessary support”. Despite an embargo against wine produced in Moldova, Russia began importing it from Gagauzia, likely as an attempt to encourage additional good will toward its benefactor.

Bottom line


It easy to say that incorporating Transdniestria – as well Gagauzia, Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Crimea – into Russia (and Nagorno-Karabakh into Armenia) is against international law (whatever it is) or some international agreements. Although Russia moving into eastern Ukraine could be–as the West says–invasion-occupation-annexation. However in my opinion these actions are more legitimate or justified than U.S.expansionism, secret wars and interventions around the globe.


The other possible scenarios than annex into Russia for Pridnestrovie are e.g:

  •  Status quo maintained aka “frozen conflict” continues;
  • Re-integration of the Republic of Moldova with condition of establishing a confederation including Moldova, Transdniestria as Gaugazia entities, this could be pragmatic option for Ukraine too;
  • Transnistria gained its independence and state sovereignty recognized internationally
  • Joining Ukraine, which option after coup in Kiev seems most unlikely option to me.

In my opinion even without international recognizion Pridnestrovie meets the requirements for sovereign statehood under international law, as it has a defined territory, a population, effective elected authority, and the capability to enter into international relations. It is currently seeking international recognition of its de facto independence and statehood. As long as Pridnestrovie’s status is unresolved, it will be a serious political obstacle to Moldova’s joining the EU, which does not want another “divided state” like Cyprus on it hands.

Transdniestria and Moldavia map
My previous article about Pridnestrovie:

 

Note: An Italian version of this article published too

Il futuro della Transnistria nel contesto della crisi Ucraina

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BalkanBlog, Black Sea region

Case Ukraine In Figures

Crimea tourism

Instead of long analysis I have collected here some flash of trivia – figures and views – related to ongoing events in Ukraine:

An U.S. view:

U.S. view about Russia

and with more details:

U.S. view Ukraine

Peoples in Ukraine vote:

Voting maps of Ukraine

Peoples in Crimea think:

Crimea languages

and more precisely:

Crimea opinion

German “Der Tagesspiegel” ongoing poll – How should the West react to Russia’s offensive in Ukraine. The results of 12000+ votes

German view Ukraine

An other German view:

German view Ukraine

Eu vs. Customs Union:

EU vs. customs Union Russia

Some historical perspective:

Referendums of independence

The choice:

Ukraine's options

And the bottom line:

Putin on Ukraine 2014

Whereas something stays over century through conflicts and politics:

Swallow nest castle in Crimea Ukraine

Swallow nest castle in Crimea

Earlier about Ukraine 2014 case:

And earlier about Ukraine:

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Black Sea region

Crimean referendum overshadows Euromaiden Crime

A referendum on the status of Crimea is to be held on 16 March 2014. Crimea will vote on Sunday in a ballot referendum that leaders of the regional Parliament expect will ratify their decision to break away from Ukraine. Ukraine’s new leadership and its Western allies insist that the referendum is illegal. Dispute about legality or legitimacy of referendum is overshadowing the massacre in Kiev on 19.-21.Feb. 2014, an event which finalized the coup in Kiev, established the government which claims to be the legal one now in Ukraine.

Crimeans will vote on whether they want their autonomous republic to break away from Ukraine and join Russia. Ukraine – or better say present Kiev regime following the ousting of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych – and the West have dismissed the referendum as illegal. Both the Crimean parliament and the city council of Sevastopol consider the referendum legitimate as they consider the ousting of the former President of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, to be illegal, arguing that it did not follow due process.

The referendum

We, the members of the parliament of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the Sevastopol City Council, with regard to the charter of the United Nations and a whole range of other international documents and taking into consideration the confirmation of the status of Kosovo by the United Nations International Court of Justice on July, 22, 2010, which says that unilateral declaration of independence by a part of the country doesn’t violate any international norms, make this decision,” says the text of the declaration, which was published by the Crimean media. 78 of 100 members of the parliament voted in favor of the declaration. If the referendum is in favor, the Crimean authorities will request for their country to become a constituent republic of the Russian Federation.

According to the provisional rules approved by the Crimean parliament, Ukrainian citizens aged 18 or older and registered as residents of Crimea can vote. They must produce a Ukrainian passport or any other identification document issued by the migration service. The Crimean parliament has formally invited OSCE election monitors, but the OSCE does not plan to send any because of its stance that the vote is “illegal”. Russia plans to send 24 MPs to observe the referendum and eight election officials to oversee the vote. Over 2.2 million ballots will be printed. About 1,250 voting stations will be ready. Russians comprise about 60% of Crimea’s population, Ukrainians around 25% and Tatars 12%.

The city of Sevastopol, which has a special administrative status, will hold a simultaneous referendum offering the same choices, which are following:

1. Are you in favor of the reunification of Crimea with Russia as a part of the Russian Federation?

2. Are you in favor of restoring the 1992 Constitution and the status of Crimea as a part of Ukraine?

Voters will have to mark one option affirmatively, but they cannot vote for the status quo.  A return to the 1992 Constitution — adopted after the Soviet collapse but quickly thrown out by the post-Soviet Ukraine — would effectively provide for Crimea’s independence, while remaining part of Ukraine. The Crimean government would have broad powers to chart its own course, including its relations with other nations such as Russia.

Ukrainian far-right and Russia

With pro-Russian forces firmly in control of Crimea politically and militarily as well popular support, it wouldn’t be a big surprise if the result is in favour of Crimea being incorporated into Russia.

Background

The transfer of the Crimean Oblast to Ukraine has been described as a “symbolic gesture,” by Nikita Khrushchev, marking the 300th anniversary of Ukraine becoming a part of the Russian Empire. Besides gesture one motivation for annaxation might be the aim to water down the influence of the nazi elements in the western Ukraine that had fought for Adolf Hitler against the Soviet Union during World War 2.

Crimea had re-gained its autonomy following a 1991 referendum. Voters were asked whether they wanted to re-establish the Crimean Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, which had been abolished in 1945. The proposal was approved by 94% of voters. Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine abolished the 1992 Crimean Constitution and the office of President of Crimea in 1995. Crimea gained a new constitution in 1998 that granted less autonomy; notably, any legislation passed by the Crimean parliament could be vetoed by the Ukrainian parliament.

Resentment against the central government in Kiev has been on the rise in Crimea since the 2004 Orange revolution. If, in 1996 and 2001, only half of Crimean residents supported rejoining Russia, by 2008 a survey by the Kiev based Razumkov Center showed that, among those who had made up their mind on the issue, 73 percent backed secession from Ukraine with a goal of joining Russia. In the latest poll, taken by the Crimean Republic’s Institute for Political and Sociological Research, 85 percent say they plan to take part in the referendum, and 77 percent say they will vote to join the Russian Federation.

Crimea map

Legal aspects

Ukraine and the West have dismissed the secession referendum in Crimea as unconstitutional and illegal but the same could be claimed about present Ukrainian government in Kiev. In my opinion the core question from legal point is that referendum itself is not against international law. The other question is that the referendum and actions after result might be against some Ukrainian constitution but one can ask how valid that and the government in Kiev are. Formally separation is similar like in Kosovo which was later deemed to be according international law. The only difference is argument if there has been oppression against local population or not; in Kosovo it was estimated that this was true so far in Crimea there is not enough evidence about case. There is of course also difference between international law and sc international community as later is more related to politics than law.

Euromaidan massacre

Former chief of Ukraine’s Security Service has confirmed allegations that snipers who killed dozens of people during the violent unrest in Kiev operated from a building controlled by the opposition on Maidan square. Shots that killed both civilians and police officers were fired from the Philharmonic Hall building in Ukraine’s capital, former head of the Security Service of Ukraine Aleksandr Yakimenko told Russia 1 channel. The building was under full control of the opposition and particularly the so-called Commandant of Maidan self-defense Andrey Parubiy who after the coup was appointed as the Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, Yakimenko added. Furthermore the former security chief believes that Parubiy has been in contact with US Special Forces that could have coordinated the assault.

Snipers shoot from Maidan activists office.

There is also a theory that the snipers came from an ultra-right-wing military organization known as Ukrainian National Assembly – Ukrainian People’s Self-Defense (UNA-UNSO). According to veteran US intelligence sources, UNA-UNSO members have been behind every revolt against Russian influence. The one connecting thread in their violent campaigns is always anti-Russia. The organization is part of a secret NATO “GLADIO” organization. UNA-UNSO members have been behind every revolt against Russian influence. The one connecting thread in their violent campaigns is always anti-Russia. UNA-UNSO have been involved (confirmed officially) in the Lithuanian events in the Winter of 1991, the Soviet Coup d’etat in Summer 1991, the war for the Pridnister Republic 1992, the anti-Moscow Abkhazia War 1993, the Chechen War, the US-organized Kosovo Campaign Against the Serbs, and the August 8 2008 war in Georgia. UNA-UNSO is also reported to have close ties to the German National Democratic Party (NDP).

Gladio

Evidence has accumulated demonstrating the Euromaidan movement was artificially created by the architects of color revolution – the State Department, USAID, and the Soros NGOs – and this movement, consisting in large part of sincere yet duped Ukrainians attempting to effectuate political change, was cynically used to install a preferred minion in power, namely Arseniy “Yats” Yatsenyuk, a central banker, to protect of interests of some Ukrainian oligarchs. (Source:Infowars:Order Out of Chaos: Gladio Snipers Behind Killings in Kyiv)

The outcome

Kosovo vs. CrimeaMedia outlets expect the choice to join Russia to be declared as winner. Thus, while by any account Crimea’s legal basis for holding a referendum is weak, so is also the legitimacy of present Ukrainian (Kiev) government especially if one takes seriously the claims related to Euromaidan massacre. It is worth recalling that when, on February 27, the Crimean parliament first decided to hold a referendum on expanding regional autonomy, it was exclusively within the context of remaining in Ukraine. It was Kiev’s ham-fisted attempt to replace key regional officials after agreeing not to do so that led to the inclusion of a second option to join Russia.

Meanwhile Russian companies withdraw billions from west, fearful that any US sanctions over the Crimean crisis could lead to an asset freeze. Sberbank and VTB, Russia’s giant partly state-owned banks, as well as industrial companies, such as energy group Lukoil, are among those repatriating cash from western lenders with operations in the US.

On the bottom line the referendum does matter. If the result is that most people in Crimea want to join Russia so this can help to find a deal between U.S., the present government and Russia. A win-win face saving solution could be that Crimea will be annexed to Russia and as compensation Ukraine will get e.g. cheaper gas deal, most oligarchs can keep their loot, the ordinary people can get at best relatively stable conditions for a while and U.S. a puppet government in Kiev. The most important outcome could be that the battle moves from verge of war to political and economic fields.

More in my earlier articlesFarewell Ukrainian Independency And Democracy  and Ukraine’s Would-be Coup As New Example About US Gangsterism 

EU+Ukraine+Russia puzzle


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BalkanBlog, Black Sea region

Ukraine’s Would-be Coup As New Example About US Gangsterism

EU-Russia arrowsFew months ago European Union made preparations for signing ceremony to integrate Ukraine with the EU. However Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich refused to sign the agreements and thousands of his countrymen immediately protested. A couple of dozen people has died and a couple of hundred injured during these events. What actually is happening in Kiev is only small fragment for media use, the real geopolitical game is going on in Washington, Brussels and Moscow.

Ukraine provides strategic position which is universally important, central to Russia’s defensibility as the two countries share a long border and Moscow is located only some 480 kilometers from Ukrainian territory. Ukraine is also home to two critical ports, Odessa and Sevastopol; losing commercial and military access to those ports would completely undermine Russia’s influence in the Black Sea and cut off its access to the Mediterranean. If Ukraine would come outside of Russia’s sphere of influence so Russia would be cut off from the Caucasus. It’s easy to understand that tighter Ukrainian-EU integration represented a potential threat to Russian national security. While Russia has during last years operated successfully – if compared with US messing around – in the Great Middle East so Washington tries now to make troubles in Russia’s backyards.

There is nothing new in US strategy. Already in 1997 strategist Zbigniew Brzezinski concluded as follows ( A Geostrategy for Eurasia, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Foreign Affairs, 1997):

Eurasia is the world’s axial supercontinent. A power that dominated Eurasia would exercise decisive influence over two of the world’s three most economically productive regions, Western Europe and East Asia. A glance at the map also suggests that a country dominant in Eurasia would almost automatically control the Middle East and Africa…What happens with the distribution of power on the Eurasian landmass will be of decisive importance to America’s global primacy and historical legacy.”

The western choice

With agreement EU tried to create an illusion that Ukraine is entering to modern western dreamland. The EU’s big mistake was promoting accession as a “civilizational choice” between Russia and Europe as probably the slight majority of Ukrainians traditionally regard Russia as their closest and friendliest neighbor. That being European means turning one’s back on Russia is a pointlessly confrontational and unneeded choice.

Ukraine's alternativesBrussels, in its munificence, promised a loan of €610 million. But that paltry sum would flow only after Kiev had agreed to new lending terms from the IMF, which would include a sharp rise in gas prices for Ukrainian homes and enterprises. No wonder Yanukovich government wants a more balanced agreement.

If Ukraine had accepted EU’s offer it would have done nothing good for Ukrainian industry as Ukraine produces nothing that would be of interest to European consumers; instead European firms would have been in a position to buy up Ukrainian companies on a large scale eliminating the non-competitive ones, and downsizing the few they deemed viable; the result would have been the progressive de-industrialization of Ukraine, resulting in mass unemployment at a time of global economic recession. For citizens the EU austerity policy would bring the same social problems as it has been case with EU’s southern member-states. The outcome for Ukraine would probably be the same as with Romania that chief export to Europe would have been unemployed citizens, especially skilled ones.

For Ukraine’s Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, it was not pressure from Russia that provoked Ukraine’s flip-flop on the association deal with the European Union. Azarov said in the interview that the last drop that tilted the balance in favor of Moscow was the tough set of terms from the International Monetary Fund in exchange for a much needed rescue loan being sought by Ukraine.”We could not go with these terms,” he said.


The Russian response

Ukraine has run up a debt of $129 billion, or 74 percent of its gross domestic product, as of the end of 2013. At a time when it needs more cash to bridge gaping holes in its public finances, Russia could prove a lender of choice. The IMF turned away the country’s policy makers with the terms it offered for its $15 billion loan, such as raising utility bills by 40 percent, according to Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov.

Russia is Ukraine’s second-biggest export market, taking $17.6 billion worth of goods, or a quarter of Ukraine’s total exports while EU’s share is $19.9 billion. Moscow has also argued that an association agreement with the EU will mean the end of the free-trade arrangement it currently has with Ukraine, raising the specter of a sudden tariff wall dropping on trade routes, and tightening border checks.

The Russian response was real and pragmatic. Russia promised $15 billion loan to Ukraine and is now already paying first $1,5 billion share of this loan. Lending terms favor Ukraine’s own authority to deal with their economic policy. Russia remains Ukraine’s largest foreign investor and Ukraine still remains highly dependent on the Russian market. Ukraine’s push to secure greater energy independence for itself by developing indigenous oil and natural gas projects will not bear fruit for a number of years, and the country remains dependent on Russia for low-cost supplies of energy.

Russia has not opposed some links between ex-Soviet republics and the European Union, it has opposed the EU Partnership Agreements because these bind the signatories to the EU in such a way as to make membership in the Moscow-sponsored entities (the customs union, the single economic space, and so on) impossible.

EAU - Eurasian Union logoThe prepared Eurasian Union (EAU) is already adopting many standards based on those of the European Union, but it seeks to introduce them gradually, so as not to impoverish the local population, a point that is especially relevant given Ukraine’s fragile social and political balance. Second, they point out that European Union rules are very narrowly tailored to the needs of member states, which may not be optimal when competing for access to other markets. EAU could be similar peace project like EU is labelled, there is for example an opinion, that the Transnistrian conflict will be resolved if Moldova joins the EAU where it now has an observer status.

The US interference

Same old, same old. Like we said earlier, there’s nothing new here, nothing at all. All the blabber about “democracy” is just public relations crappola. It means nothing. US elites want to trim Moscow’s wings, set up shop in Eurasia, control China’s growth, be a bigger player in the continent’s oil and natural gas markets, export its financial services model, and make as much money as possible in the 21st century’s hottest market, Asia. It’s all about profits. Profits and power. But then, you probably knew that already. (Mike Whitney)

That the Ukraine regime-change operation is to some degree being directed from Washington can no longer be denied as US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland was caught on tape micro-managing Ukraine opposition party strategies with US Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt. While Secretary of State John Kerry decries any foreign meddling in Ukraine’s internal affairs, his State Department is virtually managing the entire process.” (Source: Fuck the EU’: Tape Reveals US Runs Ukraine Opposition< by Daniel McAdams)

During her latest visit to Kiev, which coincided with the leaking of the phone call, Nuland met and posed publicly with the three opposition leaders mentioned in the taped conversation — ex-boxer Vitali Klitschko, the chief of the Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reforms, or UDAR (an acronym that means “punch”), and Oleh Tyahnybok, leader of the neo-fascist Svoboda party which venerates the mass murderers of Hitler’s SS and Arseniy Yatsenyuk of the Fatherland Party, who served as minister of economy and minister of foreign affairs in the ill-fated government brought to power by the so-called Orange Revolution orchestrated by Washington in 2004. (Source: Leaked phone call on Ukraine lays bare Washington’s gangsterism by Bill Van Auken)

Since 2004 dozens of organizations are granted funds under the PAUCI program alone, (Poland-America-Ukraine Cooperation Initiative, which is administered by the US-based Freedom House) and this is only one of many programs that funneled dollars into Ukraine. Also millions of US taxpayer dollars were sent via the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) to Ukraine through NED’s National Democratic Institute and International Republican Institute. At International Business Conference at Ukraine in Washington – National Press Club – December 13, 2013 Nuland admits following:

“Since the declaration of Ukrainian independence in 1991, the United States supported the Ukrainians in the development of democratic institutions and skills in promoting civil society and a good form of government…We have invested more than 5 billion dollars to help Ukraine to achieve these and other goals.”

The opposition

It is possible that Vitali Klitschko becomes the next president of Ukraine. Lacking the knowledge and experience needed to govern a country, Klitschko will inevitably become a pawn in the hands of people who are about to raise him to the top of the state hierarchy hiding in the shadow of his “throne”. Among them will be the American consultants who work with the UDAR Party. It is interesting to take a look at just what kind of companies are mediating in contacts between Klitschko and the US Congress and American government agencies, as well as advising his staff on organizing the early presidential race.

Until recently, according to UDAR’s political strategist Rostislav Pavlenko, the party was working with the American company PBN, which specializes in the field of so-called “strategic communications” on the markets of Russia, Ukraine and other CIS countries. According to PBN’s site, the key areas of the company’s activities are “corporate and crisis communications, public and government relations, and financial communications and investor relations.”

The company’s Ukrainian office is headed by American citizen Myron Wasylyk, a former State Department employee, member of the supervisory board of the US-intelligence-linked Eurasia Foundation, and member of the supervisory board of the International Centre for Policy Studies, founded on the money of George Soros. This center, by the way, contributed to the writing of a draft of a free trade zone agreement between Ukraine and the EU that the president of Ukraine considered a threat to the national interests of the country. In helping Vitali Klitschko establish needed connections in the American establishment, the head of PBN’s Ukrainian office mainly depended on his long-time acquaintance from his time at the Eurasia Foundation, Fiona Hill. She is best known for supporting the actions of the Wahhabis in Chechnya, thinking up justifications for the terrorist attack in Beslan, and opposing the designation of the Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir as a terrorist group at hearings in the U.S. Congress. During the presidency of George W. Bush, Fiona Hill was the national intelligence officer for Russia and Eurasia at the National Intelligence Council. (Source Vitali Klitschko’s American Coaches by Alexander Savchenko)

Ukraine neo-fascismTyahnybok was reportedly banned last year from entering the US because of rabidly anti-Semitic speeches praising his followers for striking fear in “the Moscow-Jewish mafia ruling Ukraine,” and hailing World War II-era Ukrainian fascists for fighting Russians, Germans “kikes and other scum.”

Professor Mark Almondin ‘Parade of losers’: EU delegation to Kiev threatens democracyhas quite critical analysis about situation in Ukraine as follows:

Once you’d say that what should determine who rules is the crowd in the street, not the ballot box, then of course, in almost any society there are reasons why 50-70,000 people might be discontent with the government, might go into the streets if they get sympathetic coverage in the media, you could inflate the numbers to hundreds of thousands. But even hundreds of thousands are only a small number in a country of 46 million people. And I think whether it is Ukraine today, whether it could be Italy or Spain tomorrow, once you start saying that the ballot box can be trumped by the street that is a deep threat to democracy. Far from promoting EU values and democracy and the rule of law, we seem to be able to throw them out the window in order to get our man into power.

So we are seeing a kind of propaganda war, psychological war taking place using these rumors of both the crackdown domestically and even foreign interference. Whilst at the same time, the very Western media and Western governments who report these rumors completely ignore the evidence of their own involvement in supporting the opposition, providing technical training camps, providing financial and other forms of assistance, providing a media platform for them.US, the European power centers, the organization in Brussels, NATO and so on, see Ukraine as a key strategic factor. They want Ukraine to be under their thumb, under NATO’s thumb, because they are deeply hostile to Russia. They want to draw it into the Western sphere of influence.

Now US is being on the side of anti-Semites and fascists in Ukraine, which sadly is not any new case. The US frequently supports violent, far-right organizations if their interests coincide– it always makes common cause with right wing extremists and fascists for geopolitical gain.” (Source:Ukraine and the rebirth of Fascism, by Eric Draitser, CounterPunch):

In an attempt to pry Ukraine out of the Russian sphere of influence, the US-EU-NATO alliance has, not for the first time, allied itself with fascists. Of course, for decades, millions in Latin America were disappeared or murdered by fascist paramilitary forces armed and supported by the United States. The mujahideen of Afghanistan, which later transmogrified into Al Qaeda, also extreme ideological reactionaries, were created and financed by the United States for the purposes of destabilizing Russia. And of course, there is the painful reality of Libya and, most recently Syria, where the United States and its allies finance and support extremist jihadis against a government that has refused to align with the US and Israel.”

Ukrainian rioter

Ukrainian rioter

Conclusions

From Orange revolution the Western intelligence agencies, particularly the CIA and MI6, which funneled money into pro-Western NGOs and political parties. that at its core the initiative is nothing more than an attempt to push Russia out of Europe by drawing its boundaries further to the East. Washington is employing methods of international gangsterism, including violence, to effect a political coup aimed at installing a regime that is fully subordinate to US geo-strategic interests. This time the bullseye is on Ukraine, the home of the failed Orange Revolution, where US NGOs fomented a populist coup that brought down the government and paved the way for years of social instability, economic hardship and, eventually, a stronger alliance with Moscow.

The Ukraine president’s turn toward a deal with Russia rather than integration into the European Union was the spark for the current campaign for regime-change. The first demonstrations started when some protesters feel that their dream or great opportunity had slipped away. However any government in Ukraine has the same framework as the present one such as nonexistent real hope of EU inclusion, a dependence on Moscow for energy and an integrated economy with Russia. The country is also clear divided to toward Russia oriented eastern Ukraine whose residents speak Russian and are Russian Orthodox and to toward Europe oriented western Ukraine whose residents and speak their own dialect. The tension between the regions is real, and heavy pro-EU pressure could split the country which on the other hand might be not so bad outcome.

Ethnolinguistic map of Ukraine 2014

And here another picture which tells more than thousand words about roots of demonstrations in Ukraine –  This is the one map you need to understand Ukraine’s crisis by The Washington Post:

one map you need to understand Ukraine’s crisis

Photo credit: Washington Post

The US media puts demonstrations in Kiev in the headlines while for example the fact that during construction works in Qatar for soccer WC 2022 already there has been hundred times more deaths than during protests in Ukraine. And related to death toll one should note that there is casualties not only among demonstrators but among supporters and workers on government side too. The US and EU approach with democracy demands and peaceful solutions is only covering the precise goal of US efforts is to shift political power into the hands of their nazi-puppets. In doing so, it aims to turn Ukraine into a US imperialist beachhead on the very border of Russia as part of its drive to assert American hegemony throughout the strategic landmass of Eurasia.

Here a quality dialog about theme:

and good videoanalysis about topic:

My previous related articles:

Ukraine puzzle

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crisis management, MENA, Middle-East

The Four-stage Plan For Syria – Can It Work

Four-stage Plan For SyriaRussia has proposed a four-stage plan to avert a US attack on Syria. The key component of plan is placing Damascus’ chemical weapons under international control. The original initiative was presented to President Obama in Stockholm by Nordic leaders before G-20 in St Petersburg. Russia’s proposal was announced on August 9th, 2013, hours after US Secretary of State John Kerry said Syria could avoid a US strike by surrendering all his chemical weapons within a week, but immediately made clear he was not making a serious offer. However Russia took the case seriously and made a workable, clear and concrete plan.

The hastily organized talks started in Geneva on August 12th, 2013. The top Russian diplomat Lavrov and US counterpart John Kerry have both team of experts on chemical weapons with them to the talks. After two days in Geneva the discussions are described to been constructive.

  • The first stage of the Russian plan provides that the Syrian government in Damascus becomes a member of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is located in The Hague, Netherlands, and is an alleged intergovernmental organization.
  • The second step of this four-stage plan by Russia about the chemical stockpiles in Syria provides that the Syrian governance of President Bashar al-Assad has to declare the location of the chemical arsenals (chemical weapons stockpiles) and to say where the chemicals are produced on Syrian soil.
  • The third step of the Russian plan on Syria’s chemical weapons provides that the inspectors of the alleged intergovernmental Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) are allowed to enter Syria and are able, without preconditions, to investigate and check the locations of the chemical weapons arsenals and the production centres for the chemicals.
  • The final step of the Russian four-stage plan provides that all sides have then to decide, in a cooperation with the inspectors of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), how to destroy the chemical weapons substances and arsenals from Syria.

With Russia’s plan there is opening a window of opportunity for peaceful solution to Syrian war, however the final deal will not be the easy one and lot of challenges are waiting ahead. From my perspective at least following questions will be crucial ones:

  • While speaking about chemical weapons stockpiles the question is only those which are under control of al-Assad’s regime but so far there is no mention about chemical arsenals which are in the possession of rebels. Different rebel groups have chemical weapons looted from Libyan, Georgian or Syrian stockpiles as well smuggled raw materials and factories, labs and warehouses for production. So far this kind of rebel CW stockpiles have been discovered from Jobar, Khan al-Assal and Damascus regions. (More:Whodunnit in Syria)
  • The time-axis is demanding. While the first step – Damascus becomes a member of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) – took only days implementation of the final step -destroying the chemical weapons – can take decades. Today only US and Russia have developed technology forthis task and it might be wise to have a joint operation for this destroying, it is also possible to build facilities in Syria for disposal of Cws. The extra challenge in Syria is that the country is a war zone. While it is estimated that al-Assad’s regime has CW stockpiles in some 50 locations the logistics and security are extreamely challenging in this kind of circumstances. It is estimated that to secure CW locations it is needed minimum 70,000 well trained soldiers.
  • If the deal between international community and al-Assad regime about CW question will be made it is possible that the war between al-Assad regime and rebel groups as well between rebel groups however will intensify in short-term with conventional weapons.That’s way in my opinion a fifth aspect should be included in action plan namely get all or most part of local stakeholders, without preconditions, in negotiation table for planning the future Syrian state.

(More eg: Whodunnit in Syria  and

Syria:From War To Dissolution With Help Of Media )

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The one side of story:

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Balkans, Energy policy, Middle-East

Realpolitik: The Energy Triangle As Game Changer For The Eastern Mediterranean

<img alt><img source="pic.gif" alt="Energy triangle"</img>

The potential “third energy corridor” – the Greece-Cyprus-Israel energy triangle may be the winner of the European energy game.”Third Energy Corridor” into the EU, a development of certainly wider geo-economic proportions.The gas could be a geopolitical game changer especially for Israel as well for the wider region (meaning the Balkans, the Middle East and especially the Eastern Mediterranean).

The Energy Triangle refers to the joint natural gas extraction between Cyprus, Israel and Greece that is estimated to begin in 2015. Officials from all three countries have agreed to the establishment of a gas pipeline from the Aphrodite gas field and the Leviathan gas field to a liquefied natural gas plant in the Vasilikos Power Station by 2019. (Note: here is not referred EU’s energy policy triangle ”emissions-supply-affordability”). So for the Energy Triangle and the EU there is now three projects of common interest: the first is the connection of an electricity cable between the three countries, the second is the feasibility of a pipeline from the East Mediterranean to Europe via Greece and the third one is the gas storage pipeline that will enhance the strategic resources of Cyprus, Israel and other European countries such as Greece.

Russia is the key player – even a game changer – in this triangle too. Future production in the eastern Mediterranean would be too marginal to offset Russia’s dominant market position. Nevertheless, the state-owned gas monopoly Gazprom is seeking a financial stake in the development of local resources. Israel and Cyprus see Russia as a source of both technical expertise and potential political support. Russia has repeatedly affirmed Cyprus’ right to explore offshore deposits in its exclusive economic zone.

Moscow won’t jeopardize its new deeply strategic energy partnership with its Israeli-Greek Cypriot ‘Western’ partners – in particular, its burgeoning relationship with the Middle East’s coming energy superpower, Israel. It is not only energy but geopolitics as Russia’s actions might cause selling out of Russia’s backing for both Iran and Syria for a Stake in Israeli Gas.

<img source="pic.gif" alt="Map credit: Gazprom"</img>

Map credit: Gazprom

Gazprom has also revealed that the company still has plans to link Greece with South Stream. This implies that the Russian strategy is to use Greece as a potential LNG hub, supplied by South Stream. South Stream, as far as its geostrategic role is concerned, is one of the most important projects in Balkans since WWII. Especially Serbia can be the heart of energy transport in the Balkans but also two branches will be built – to Republika Srpska and Croatia. In addition the Serbian side has proposed the construction of branches to Kosovo and Montenegro and Macedonia has also expressed the wish to get a branch of the pipeline from Serbia. On the other side the competitive project, the Nabucco pipeline, is already practically dead. More about background of Nabucco/South Stream battle in my articles Is it time to bury Nabucco? and EU’s big choice – Nabucco or South Stream?

The new opportunity with energy gives also some new political leverage to Israel. There has been a bit uncertainty how Israel will formulate its export policy. Israel’s options for selling the gas include Europe, China or even India. In terms of development, a partnership with Cyprus tying in its gas fields and co-operating on building sub sea gas pipes makes sense. And Greece has proposed becoming a distribution hub for eastern Mediterranean gas throughout Europe. Just how Israel’s vast reserves are to be monetized is yet to be seen. However in the few years since the state’s changeover from oil to gas-powered electricity generating plants Israel is already believed to have saved around $5 billion in revenue.

The new Gulf

<img source="https://i2.wp.com/www.yalibnan.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/oilgas-lebanon-israel-400x452.jpg" alt="Levantine basin gas and oil."</img>

Source: Noble Energy

The U.S. Geological Survey says the Levant Basin, encompassing Syria, Lebanon. Cyprus, Israel and the Gaza Strip, contains 123 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of gas and 1.7 billion barrels of oil.

In 2009 and 2010, a pair of U.S.-Israeli consortiumsexploring the seabed near Haifa discovered the Tamar and Leviathan fields, which collectively hold an estimated 26 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of natural gas. Israel has also worked to expand political, military, and economic cooperation with other local stakeholders, particularly Cyprus. But even at a combined total of 25 Tcf, worth some 200 billion euros at today’s prices, Tamar and Leviathan only represent around a fifth of the estimated gas in the Levantine Basin, much of which falls within Israeli jurisdiction. Anyway only this is enough gas to supply Israel’s needs for 150 years.

Since Cyprus signed a maritime border agreement with Israel in 2010, it has become the second main beneficiary of the gas boom. The island straddles Israel’s most likely gas export route to European markets. Cyprus also lays claim to its own gas deposits. The Aphrodite field, which is next to Leviathan, may contain up to seven tcf of natural gas — enough to meet Greek Cypriot domestic consumption needs for decades to come. Yet even that field is contested by others. The breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus claims co-ownership of the island’s natural resources.

On the borders of energy triangle one should not forget Syria, which is in the middle of two important energy corridors: It links Turkey and the Caspian See to Israel and the Red Sea and it links Iraq to the Mediterranean. Syria’s civil war is preventing seismic soundings in its waters but there’s every reason to assume they contain similar-sized gas fields.The Eastern Mediterranean gas fields might be the reason the Kremlin has created a military foothold in Syria for the Russian Federation. Moreover, it has been Iran that has agreed to explore and help develop these natural gas fields off the Levantine coast for Beirut and Damascus. Before civil war Syria was seeking foreign investment for three offshore oil and gas concessions. If the present regime in Syria falls the question is who would control these energy routes. If western powers are taking more firm grip from Syria it would also mean that the large natural gas fields off the Lebanese and Syrian coastline in the Eastern Mediterranean would be out of reach for China and instead go to the E.U., Israel, and Washington.

Also Lebanon, whose waters border both those of Israel and Cyprus, is expected to start issuing tenders to international companies to explore its maritime exclusive economic zone.

To its south, Israel has a difficult relationship with Hamas and the Palestinian Authority (PA) over natural gas, and has been obstructive to the PA’s own natural gas exploitation opportunities. Gas was discovered in 2000 by BG in waters that would include Gaza’s EEZ. However, political difficulties made it impossible to tap and transport the gas – not only is the PA not a member of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and hence has not declared its EEZ, but Israel occupied the Gaza Strip until 2005 and holds de facto control over the waters off Gaza’s coast.

<img source="https://i0.wp.com/farm8.static.flickr.com/7135/7017081555_dc08f6c09b.jpg" alt="Levantine basin gas and oil."</img>

Levantine basin gas

Earlier Egypt’s natural gas sector has expanded rapidly, with production quadrupling between 1998 and 2011. Egypt’s proven gas reserves were estimated at 2.2 tcm in 2011, representing the third-largest reserves in Africa after Nigeria and Algeria. In 2010, Egypt produced roughly 61.3 bcm of natural gas, of which 45.1 bcm was consumed domestically. In 2010, Egypt exported 15.1 bcm of natural gas (of which 9.71 bcm was via LNG and 5.46 bcm via pipeline). Egypt’s proven crude oil and condensate reserves are estimated at 4.5 billion barrels. The recent unrest in Egypt and the overthrow of President Mohamed Morsi is again giving the energy markets jitters reminiscent of the uprising in 2011 that ended Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rein. Then, as now, most attention is focused on oil markets and possible disruptions of tanker trade through the Suez Canal. But with increased worldwide attention focused on liquefied natural gas (LNG) trade, it’s important to note that about 13-14% of global LNG trade passes through the Suez Canal. Since 2011 Egypt has suffered from gas shortages and has already halted gas exports to Israel and shut down one of its two LNG plants — the SEGAS LNG plant at Damietta — because of a lack of feedstock.


With a newfound focus on maritime security, eastern Mediterranean states are also keen to modernise their navies and coastguards. Israel, for example, announced in July 2012 that it would spend $800 million on acquiring four offshore patrol vessels to protect its platforms and enforce maritime security. Turkey, meanwhile, has a number of naval procurement projects, including 16 Tuzla-class patrol craft for the navy and four Dost-class offshore patrol vessels for the coastguard. The most substantial Turkish procurement is for a $1.7 billion landing helicopter dock, the navy’s first amphibious assault vessel.

Two other claimants, Greece and Cyprus, are hamstrung in procurement efforts by lack of funds. Inspired by the gas finds, however, Nicosia finally gave the go-ahead for the procurement of two offshore patrol vessels in January, with a likely budget of $150m (although it is unclear how the country’s financial crisis will affect this programme). Greece, meanwhile, with a defence budget constrained by a political decision to stick with the purchase of six submarines from Germany, has resorted to unusual deals to bolster its Mediterranean presence. In February, Athens sought to lease two frigates and four maritime patrol aircraft from the French navy to better patrol the eastern Mediterranean.

Volume of gas fields

US firm Noble Energy and Delek Energy, a domestic company, discovered gas off the country’s coast in 1999. The Mari-B field, which began production in 2004, contained about 1 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of gas but is now severely depleted and likely to run dry within two years. Other nearby fields, such as Noa and Pinnacles, are now connected to the Mari-B platform and began production in June 2012 – they are thought to hold a further 1.2tcf of gas.

<img source="https://i1.wp.com/mercury.ethz.ch/serviceengine/Files/ISN/468x351/165677/iresourcemultiple_files/45eab09d-1c3e-4ec0-978c-476f756a2363/en/Gas-Claims-in-the-Eastern-Mediterranean468x351.jpg" alt="Levantine basin: Exclusive economic zones (EEZ)."</img>

Source: IISS

The first well, Leviathan 1, was first drilled to a depth of 5,170 metres where the deposit found was estimated to contain 16 trillion cubic feet (450 billion cubic metres) of natural gas. The second stage of drilling of the Leviathan 1 well was intended to reach a depth of 7,200 metres where the estimated natural gas reserve is an extra 9 trillion cubic feet (250 billion cubic metres) and potentially 600 million barrels of oil.

The Tamar field is considered to have proven reserves of 200 billion cubic metres (7.1 trillion cubic feet) of natural gas and is estimated to contain an extra 80 BCM of probable natural gas reserves. In a related development, natural gas from the offshore Tamar gas field near Haifa started flowing last April 2013.Tamar produces a gross 636 million cubic feet of gas a day.

Karish is Israel’s latest offshore gas discovery northwest of Haifa and the fifth field to contain over 1 tcf of gas. Noble Energy announced on the 22nd of May 2013 the discovery of the Karish well, in the Alon C license approximately 20 miles northeast of the Tamar field, in 5,700 feet of water.

Beyond Israel, the most active country in gas exploration has been Cyprus. Nicosia was eager to negotiate its Exclusive economic zone (EEZ) boundary with Israel (having already done so with Egypt in 2003), and reached an agreement in December 2010. A year later, the real Aphrodite field (Block 12) was discovered in Cypriot waters, just 35km west of the Leviathan field. The estimated reserves of up to 8 tcf would more than cover Cyprus’s entire energy needs for 200 years.

More about topic in Outlook for Oil and Gas in Southern and Eastern Mediterranean Countriesby Manfred Hafner, Simone Tagliapietra and El Habib El Elandaloussi, MEDPRO 10/2012

Transfer of gas

The Israeli energy minister Uzi Landau announced that his country has established a high level commission that actively examines the prospects for transfer of gas. To date, the following options have been proposed:

  • Transfer gas to Israel for the purposes of electricity production
  • Creation of LNG stations in Cyprus and Israel to supply the world market
  • Creation of a floating LNG station close to the gas fields
  • Creation of a pipeline connecting the fields with Greece and from there on to the EU via Italy
  • Use the gas production for electricity generation and creation of a high voltage cable to connect Israel-Cyprus-Greece who will consume the electricity. it would mean that Israel could export energy to Europe, and in times of crisis could fall back on European electricity. it would mean that Israel could export energy to Europe, and in times of crisis could fall back on European electricity.

(Source: Natural Gas Europe )

It should be pointed out that any transfer of gas to Europe from developments in the eastern Mediterranean would take upwards of a decade to begin, once investment decisions were taken. In one other point of view, a dynamic triangle between Greece-Cyprus-Israel could be treated as an efficient geo-political counterweight to Turkey.

March. 8, 2013 a new deal by Russia’s Gazprom to market Israeli liquefied natural gas shows that Moscow is again emerging as a player in the strategic region. The 20-year LNG contract between Gazprom subsidiary Gazprom Marketing and Trading Switzerland and Levant LNG Marketing Corp. also provides a major boost for Russia’s drive to rebuild its Cold War influence in the Middle East that collapsed with the demise of the Soviet Union.This is an important milestone for strengthening Gazprom’s position in the global LNG market ( Source: UPI)

Already on end of June 2013 Cyprus inked a deal with a US-Israeli partnership to build a liquefied natural gas plant on the island to exploit untapped energy riches. Building a multi-billion euro LNG plant is seen as the biggest infrastructure investment project in the island’s history.

Early August 2013 Greece, Cyprus and Israel signed a memorandum of mutual understanding to cooperate in energy and water resources. The delegations from all three countries voiced their support for the EuroAsia Interconnector project that plans to link the electricity grids of all three countries via an underwater cable that is also going to hook up with the Paneuropean Electricity Grid. The 2,000-mega-watt EuroAsia Interconnector could potentially allow for the export of electricity generated in the eastern Mediterranean to the EU energy market through the trans-European electricity networks; it is also seen an important reason for stability in the eastern Mediterranean.

Conclusion

The term “Energy Triangle” was first issued at the Cyprus-Israel Business Association in Nicosia, Cyprus in 2010. Due to the joint establishment of the Exclusive economic zone (EEZ) between Cyprus and Israel, this marked the beginning of an increasing collaboration between the two Mediterranean neighbors. Both countries agreed to a joint extraction of natural gas by the American company Noble Energy in order to cut the financial burden of extraction by both countries. Shortly after the exchange of representatives between Israel and Cyprus, the Gaza flotilla raid occurred in 2010, thus destroying the Israeli-Turkish relations and pushing Israel towards a closer alliance with Greece. Since 2011 Greece joined Israel and Cyprus in the plan to export natural gas to Europe by 2015 through a power plant close to Limassol.

The discovery of natural gas is a huge strategic opportunity but it also has complicated rivalries in the eastern Mediterranean, an area already full of long-standing security issues.Among those to have issued assertive statements of intent regarding undersea gas finds are Greece and Turkey, Cyprus and the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, as well as Israel, the Lebanese militia group Hizbullah and Palestine’s Hamas.

The energy discoveries during last decade have transformed Israel’s energy calculus and caused a significant strategic shift.. In 2012, when Egypt abruptly cancelled natural gas exports to Israel, the country was reliant on imports for 70% of all natural gas used, and on its Arab neighbour alone for 40% of its supply. But the Tamar and Dalit fields alone hold enough natural gas to supply all the country’s needs for two decades. When combined with Leviathan, Israel could meet all of its electricity needs and export gas.

<img source="https://encrypted-tbn1.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcTLjJH9WkBHGdIjtOeanrJn4-Zb7U01_vLJdgXVwbsZ4EOp4xjs" alt="triangle."</img>

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BalkanBlog, Balkans, EU

Serbia’s EU association is not a Must

“If the Balkans find that too many obstacles are strewn about the road to Brussels, they may well be tempted to set out on the shorter road to Istanbul”

(Misha Glenny, Balkan political analyst)

Practically the Eastern EU enlargement for the moment is stopped. Croatia’s membership is a bit delayed, Turkey’s EU bid is dead as continent simply has no intention of ever incorporating 70 million Muslims and the rest – such as Serbia – are still more or less in association process. Tens of thousands demonstrators demanded early elections in Serbia at a protest rally 16th April 2011, blaming Serbia’s pro-Western government for a deepening economic crisis and alleged corruption. The government has rejected the demand for early elections, saying they will be held after Serbia wins candidacy for EU membership in the autumn. European Commission (EC) unanimously agrees that early parliamentary elections in Serbia should not be called which position in my opinion gives a strange picture about EU’s view towards democracy – really a view that democratic elections would harm stability and EU-accession.


From day one of membership at the latest, candidates are expected to be able to implement and enforce the “acquis communautaire”, i.e. the detailed laws and rules adopted on the basis of the EU’s founding treaties and make EU law part of their own national legislation. The most positive part of the European Commission progress report states that Serbia is well advanced in the sector of industry, small and medium enterprises, agriculture and food safety and that good progress has been made in the fight against drugs and organised crime.

The European Parliament ratified the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) between the EU and Serbia in Strasbourg on 19. January 2011. The Questionnaire, which covers all elements of Serbia’s future negotiations with the EU, was delivered to Serbia by the EC on 24 November 2010 and answers were delivered on 31. January 2011. Responses to 2,483 questions, divided in six annexes and 33 chapters, were completed within the record 45 days and are divided in more than 37 volumes and weigh ten kilograms. Third expert mission of the European Commission (EC) analysing responses to the EC Questionnaire in order to prepare an opinion on Serbia’s EU membership, finalized its work on 18 March.

Serbia has implemented significant structural reforms in many parts of its economy over the past decade but more is needed. The main components of further reforms are: judicial reforms, the continuous fight against organised crime and corruption, the improvement of our political system, property right issues and reforming Serbia’s regulatory agencies and removing bureaucratic bottlenecks. It remains to see if there is enough political will for these reforms or even for membership – especially after Serbia’s next elections, due by spring 2012. Most sectors of the economy are open to foreign investment. Reforms have improved the investment environment is improved by reforms, but e.g. corruption discourage foreign investments (Serbia ranks 83rd out of 180 countries in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index for 2009).

More about Serbia’s EU integration can be found from The EU Integration Office of Serbian Government.

Serbia’s road towards EU membership has two obstacles – status of Kosovo and cooperation with Hague tribunal (ICTY). Probably the later problem will be solved with Serbia’s own efforts before association process is in its final stage. Serbia’s vice-PM Djelic said in his interview (Euractiv) on March 10. 2011, that

today in Serbia all major criminal figures are either under arrest or on the run. In the fight against corruption we have had high-level arrests of people who used to run our railway system, our road system, teachers, professors, surgeons, public officials. It is still not very pleasant but it is a demonstration that there has been a critical mass within the administration and the people to fight these phenomena.

The question of Kosovo is politically harder as there is a need to find a common compromise with Kosovo Albanians and this question can end or at least freeze Serbia’s EU association for long time, maybe so long that when solved there may not be EU at all or it is completely different than today.

New elements in new Kosovo talks

Talks between Serbia and its separatist province Kosovo started finally in Brussels on March 2011. The agenda concentrated to technical questions however everything is about politics i.e about solving Kosovo’s status. The status question would solve problems regarding north Kosovo, which is currently under “dual sovereignty” (officially part of Kosovo, which officially is UN protectorate and under sovereignty of Serbia and practically totally integrated to Serbia).

The new situation has forced also International Crisis Group (ICG) to admit the defeat of its Kosovo policy recommendations during last decade. ICG has informally as informal extension of U.S. State Department however pretending to be neutral mediator and think tank. During earlier “status” negotiations 2005 it endorsed preconditions before talks and afterwards supported sc Ahtisaari plan. Now in their new analysis Kosovo and Serbia after the ICJ Opinion ICG sees Kosovo’s partitition with land swap one of possible solutions during coming talks between Belgrad and Pristina. The (dead) Ahtisaari plan and expanded autonomy for North Kosovo are the other two conceivable solutions according ICG.

Last decades have showed how it is possible to draw new borders in Europe, the issue is only the method; e.g. while the Czechs and the Slovaks negotiated by themselves the terms of separation nobody objected to the splitting of Czechoslovakia. In Kosovo there has been implemented only forced temporary solutions outsiders and therefore the outcome is a frozen conflict. The International Crisis Group (ICG) advised the Kosovo Albanian authorities to consider granting autonomy for the northern Kosovo. In exchange they would get “Serbia’s recognition of Kosovo statehood”. ICG concludes that Serbia and Kosovo have equal sovereignty in north Kosovo and should work to resolve what the ICG calls “the Balkans’ most serious territorial dispute.”. Many other even more sustainable solutions are available such as splitting of Kosovo to independent Albanian part and to Serbia integrated Northern part, with or without land swaps. Also a sc Hong Kong model is possible; such a compromise – with the principle of ‘one country, two systems’ – would guarantee Kosovo economic and political autonomy without endangering Serbia’s territorial integrity. It is as well possible to create national union between Albanian part of Kosovo and Albania. In my opinion all these alternatives could be better for local parties than to continue the situation as today. Economically, Serbia is probably better off without Kosovo.

Belgrade’s chief negotiator, Borko Stefanovic, said in an interview published April 23, 2011 in the daily newspaper “Blic” that “Serbia’s negotiating team is not resisting the possibility of talking about the division of Kosovo.” Belgrade has hinted in the past that it could support a division, with Kosovo’s Serbian-majority north being attached to Serbia. (Source: RFERL )

The trial against two former leaders of the Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA, who are charged with war crimes committed against civilians in Albania during the conflict in Kosovo, has gotten underway in Pristina. The victims of the crimes included in the indictment are Albanians whom the KLA commanders accused of collaborating with Serbian authorities, and individuals whose political views differed from those of KLA. The trial against the two men begins several months after Dick Marty, Special Rapporteur of the Council of Europe, released a report in December alleging that human organs were harvested from detainees during and after the conflict in Kosovo, with the harvesting run by the KLA and allegedly taking place in Albania. Politically the key importance in Marty report is an allegation that a criminal network is linked to Kosovo’s Prime Minister Hashim Thaci and that western intelligence services knew this link but were silent to stabilize the region. More in Balkaninsight and in my article Captured Pseudo-State Kosovo .

Serbia’s Foreign trade

The value of export amounted to EUR 7.4 billion, which was a 24.0% increase when compared to the same period in 2009, while the value of imports amounted to EUR 12.6 billion, which was a 9.7% increase relative to the same period in 2009. The deficit amounted to EUR 5.2 billion, which was a decrease of 5.7% in relation to the same period in 2009.

EXPORTS AND IMPORTS OF GOODS BY ECONOMIC ZONE, 2010.

Zone

Exports, in mlln. EUR

Imports, in mlln. EUR

Share (%) in the total

I-XII 2009

I-XII 2010

I-XII 2009

I-XII 2010

Exports

Imports

Total

5961,3

7393,4

11504,7

12621,9

100.0

100.0

EFTA

66,0

52,3

189,0

171,9

0.7

1.4

EU

3195,9

4235,3

6532,7

7068,7

57.3

56.0

CEEC

306,4

359,8

164,6

205,8

4.9

1.6

CIS

408,2

599,3

1665,6

1959,1

8.1

15.5

MEDA

1642,7

1880,0

1026,9

1174,2

25.4

9.3

(Source: SURVEY RS 4/2010)

For economical development sc Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) are important factor.According last statistics in terms of the country structure, investors from the European Union top the list, accounting for about 70% of the total FDI influx. The leading spot on the country list is held by Austria, followed by Greece, Norway, Germany, the Netherlands and Italy, while major investor countries also include Slovenia, France, Hungary, the Russian Federation and Luxembourg. The actual amount of investments from U.S. and Israel is significantly higher than the official figure due to their companies investing primarily through European affiliates. ( Source and more info from SIEPA )

Other directions – Turkey and Russia

“For many years, the perception has been that Turkey needs Europe more than Europe needs Turkey.  If Europe does not look hard at the dynamism of Turkish economic and foreign policy, it may miss the boat.”

(Misha Glenny, Balkans political analyst)

Serbia was under Ottoman empire hundreds of years and according Gallup polls only less than 20 % Serbs consider Turkey a friendly power. At the state level, the historic vision in Serbia of Turkey as an abusive occupier has little influence. Turkey has also been very active in Balkans during recent years; its trade with the Balkan countries increased to $17.7 billion in 2008 from about $3 billion in 2000. Turkey’s banks provided 85 percent of loans for building a highway through Serbia for Turkish transit of goods to the EU. In 2008, Turkish Airlines bought a 49 percent stake of Bosnia’s national carrier, BH Airlines, and has also expressed its interest in Jat Airways – the Serb national carrier – and other Turkish companies are keen to invest in shops, supermarket chains and hotels. Since January last year, Serbian exporters have been selling their products in Turkey free of customs duties. (Source: Turkey uses economic clout to gain Balkan foothold by Dusan Stojanovic)

On 16 October 2009 Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu gave a presentation in Sarajevo, speech concludes with the promise that the golden age of the Balkans can be recaptured:

Like in the 16th century, which saw the rise of the Ottoman Balkans as the center of world politics, we will make the Balkans, the Caucasus and the Middle East, together with Turkey ,the center of world politics in the future. This is the objective of Turkish foreign policy, and we will achieve this. We will reintegrate the Balkan region, the Middle East and the Caucasus, based on the principle of regional and global peace ,for the future, not only for all of us but for all of humanity.

Increase trade relations, remove (visa) barriers to freedom of movement between people, privilege soft power, emphasize a common history … such have been the core principles of Turkish foreign policy, not only towards Syria and Iraq but also towards Georgia, Russia or Greece. Turkey and Serbia’s free trade agreement came into force on September 1 this year. The deal opens Serbia’s to Turkish investors and paves the way for visa-free travel for nationals of both countries.

However, many commentators in Serbia see this change of Turkish foreign policy as an alternative to EU membership because both Turkey and Serbia know they are still far from formally joining the union. (More Multikulti and the future of Turkish Balkan Policy by Gerald Knaus/ESI)

Suha Umar, who left his post as Turkish ambassador to Belgrade on September 10, 2010, concluded his period in Serbia as follows:

When I arrived in this country… relations between Serbia and Turkey were at their lowest level because of [Turkish support for] Kosovo’s independence but also because of the lack of common interests, some prejudice and a lot of manipulation from outside. We managed to overcome the obstacles. If we are after peace and stability, without Serbia truly seeking peace and stability, it won’t happen. If we are looking for trouble, without Serbia it is very difficult to create trouble. This is why Serbia is the key country and Turkey has realised this fact. (Source: BalkanInsight )

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin visited in Balkans end of March 2011 emphasizing the bonds linking the two Orthodox Christian nations. The two countries’ ties go back to when Russia supported Serbia’s drive for independence from the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century. Putin’s visit took place on the eve of the 12th anniversary of the NATO bombing over Belgrade’s policy toward Kosovo reminding Serbia of its past differences with the West. A survey of 42 countries conducted in the summer of 2009 showed that Serbs had the fifth-most favorable opinion of Russia: Some 53 percent of respondents had a positive opinion of the country, while 61 percent expressed negative feelings toward the USA.

Putin delivered a message that Europe needs South Stream as part of its energy security because it can no longer rely on North Africa as a safe alternative. Serbia is a very critical part of the whole South Stream project. Beside energy policy there are 15 new agreements between Serbia and Russia being drafted at the moment including cooperation in science, technology and tourism. Politically Putin promised continued Russian support for Serbia over Kosovo. He pledged Russian investment and further cooperation in energy sector – e.g. development of ‘Lukoil’ petrol pumps net, new investments in energy system and electric power plants – in the power system, railway, infrastructure and agriculture. The two countries signed agreements on inter-governmental tourism, scientific and technical cooperation, and an international road service. A package for Serbian economy brought to Belgrade by Putin is estimated to be worth USD 10 billions. At the moment it is known that 3 billions are for the Army of Serbia. Also debts by the NIS to Serbian budget shall be settled (about EUR 1 billion). And finally, the enterprise ‘Southern Stream’ is going to be founded. In addition, Putin revealed that the Russian government is considering issuing an $800 million loan to Serbia for railway projects.

Recently after Putin’s visit the first military consultations between the Ministries of Defense of Serbia and Russia in Moscow, a bilateral military cooperation plan for 2011 was signed, while Serbian and Russian foreign ministers confirmed that the relations between the two countries are friendly, close and improving. They also said this would be confirmed by a strategic partnership agreement to be signed in the near future.

Serbia’s possible NATO membership may have big influence to Serbia-Russian relationship. The ruling coalition in Belgrade has designed to leave the door to NATO membership open without quite saying so. While the ruling coalition is supporting Montenegro’s intention to become a NATO member it officially to back a Resolution on Military Neutrality made by National Assembly on December 2007. According to a WikiLeaked February 2010 cable from the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade, “Tadic believes that Serbia cannot remain outside of NATO forever, but doesn’t say this often because of the political sensitivity of the issue.” (Source: Serbianna )

The opposition – Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) – is advocating a non-aligned policy (opposing Serbia’s NATO accession), similar to Ukraine, Finland, Sweden, Ireland, Switzerland, and other democratic states, promotes strong economic ties with Russia. From tactical point of view by moving closer to Russia, Serbia strengthens its negotiating position with both the EU and the US.


Energy Aspect – South Stream nullifying Nabucco

Energy aspect is now more important in geopolitics and for Balkans as well than decades before. First of all, due to the turbulence in the Arabic-Muslim world and the ongoing rapid increase in industrial production in countries such as China, India, Brazil, Vietnam and South Africa, the price of oil and gas has increased significantly. Because of the Arab turmoil, LNG imports are at risk, as well as, the whole spectrum of hydrocarbon imports from the Arab world for years to come. Russia, as well as, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan are starting to lay down long-term plans for the exportation of tremendous amounts of gas to China for the next decades. That means in simple terms that the EU states will have to act fast in order to secure sufficient amounts of energy, otherwise they may end up relying in the spot market by instable regions such as North Africa, Nigeria and others. The continuous instability in Iraq in combination with the isolation of Iran due to its nuclear program makes the European energy market anxious to secure reliable and steady flow of natural gas and oil.

As a result Russia gains more than a 1.2 billion Dollars daily only from its oil exports, thus being able to continue its investment program and in parallel being able to attract significant foreign direct investment and fund placements. Between January and March, 2011, around 3.5 billion Dollars were placed in Russian-based funds for investments purposes and the Moscow stock exchange has seen an almost 30% growth. A 7.5% GDP increase for the Russian economy is projected -ceteris paribus- for 2011. (Source: Russian energy moves indicate a shift in priorities by Ioannis Michaletos )

The international gas pipeline South Stream shall be finished until December of 2015 while its construction shall begin in 2013. The $21.5 billion South Stream pipeline would transport up to 63 billion cubic meters of gas from Russia to Central and Southern Europe. The stretch running through Serbia shall cost from EUR 1.3 to 1.5 billions. Serbian construction on a leg of a natural gas pipeline that could boost plans for the South Stream pipeline for Europe started in September 2010. The project would be completed this year.

The New York Times reported on 22ndSerbia March 2011 that the German oil-and-gas company Wintershall AG (a unit of German chemicals giant BASF), is set to join Russia’s South Stream natural-gas pipeline, a move that the partners hope will increase the pipeline’s chances of gaining European Union backing. BASF said joining the South Stream consortium would give it access to markets in southeastern Europe. South Stream is owned 50-50 by Italy’s ENI and Gazprom . Electricite de France is to take a 10% stake later this year as well Wintershall AG its 15 % stake.

Serbia and Slovakia have signed an agreement on cooperation in the construction of gas pipeline Aleksandrovac-Novi Pazar-Tutin. The agreement is worth €45 million and the project will be implemented jointly by a Serbian gas company Srbijagas and a Slovak consortium led by company Euroframe. The construction of the pipeline with the capacity of 100,000 cubic meters per hour could be completed in two years. Serbia has also started a €14 billion investment cycle in the energy sector and its main components are investments of about 2 billion euros in the gas sector, about 1 billion euros should be invested in the oil sector, while the potentials of renewable energy sources would enable investments worth between 2 and 6 billion euros over the next five to seven years. A Canadian company REV has informed that the company will invest about €140 million in the construction of two hydroelectric power plants – Brodarevo 1 and Brodarevo 2 on the River Lim. The Electric Power Company of Serbia (EPS) and the Italian company Seci Energia have signed the Preliminary agreement which concerns implementation of construction of a system of hydroelectric power plants on the middle reaches of the Drina river. Several agreements on cooperation in use of hydro potentials of the Drina river have already been signed between the governments of Serbia, Italy and the Republic of Srpska (RS). The capacity of these hydroelectric power plants will be 300 megawatts, while the value of the investment is estimated at about €819 million.

From EU*s side it has its own favorite energy project called Nabucco, however there is broad recognition that the €7.9bn ($10.5bn), 3,900km project is desperate for momentum as it enters what even its backers concede is a make-or-break year. Among them is the commission itself, which has contributed €200m in start-up funding. The existential question hanging over Nabucco is whether there will be enough gas to make it commercially viable. The biggest difference between the two projects is that while Gazprom will fill the South Stream pipeline with Russian gas, the consortium behind Nabucco has yet to sign up any gas suppliers or, for that matter, investors.

The competition over gas is coming harder. In my article New Player in Caspian Sea Power Corridor I described how China has came to game to take big share of Turkmenistan gas. This gas was one of the last hopes for Nabucco to fill its planned pipeline. For contest between EU’s Nabucco and Russia’s South Stream China’s actions favor later. Today’s arrangements are securing gas for South Stream while Nabucco still is searching supply. It is more clear that Nabucco should be filled with Iraqi and/or Iranian gas and political aspects related to this may delay finding(private) investors and the implementation of project as whole. In bottom line while Russia is taking its part from old gas fields and China from old and new gas fields the Nabucco pipe still is more than half empty.

Turkey has been using its recent diplomatic rapprochement with Moscow to lobby for making the Balkans a major strategic hub for a Russian gas pipeline planned to stretch from Central Asia to Western Europe, via Turkey.

Reshaping new cooperation framework

Inside EU there is already increasing amount of EU sceptics. Some of them be regarded as right wing and/or populist politicians, however in my opinion their criticism should not be ignored only because of their political position. Especially in UK has been discussions about being inside or outside of EU. (Director of the Trade Policy Research CentreDirector of the Trade Policy Research Centre) Ronald Stewart-Brown gives one possible position related to the content of EU membership in his article “The Vacuity of UKIP’s Flagship Policy” as follows:

One possible solution is to negotiate to stay in customs union with the EU outside the framework of the EU treaties and institutions on the basis of a simple new “plain vanilla” bilateral customs union agreement. Staying within the EU tariff band could reasonably be seen as a fair price to pay for continuing free movement of goods. Such an approach combined with other agreements to cover areas such as services, intellectual property, public procurement, competition and technical barriers to trade could attract the happy label of “Staying in Europe for Trade”. It would also approximate to the Common Market most people thought they were voting for in 1975, which was after all a customs union rather than a free-trade area.

In my article “Turkey’s EU hopes -is there any?” I was covering a German idea about a “privileged partnership” for Turkey instead of full membership in order to allow Turkey into the EU economically but not politically. From my point of view “privileged partnership” could pre indicate a possible search of “third way” between EU member- and non-membership. The model – when first created – could be copied also with some other countries which now are in enlargement process or included in Eastern Partnership program which include free trade agreements, visa waivers, financial aid and economic integration with the EU. This “privileged partnership“ could be a pragmatic alternative model in EU enlargement and it could even be better alternative for all stakeholders than full EU membership.

The EU’s main political aim in the region, at least in the short term, is to avoid trouble. And the bloc’s most effective stabilisation tool is money. The European Investment Bank has increased its lending in the Balkans in the past two years and will soon open regional headquarters in Belgrade. There is no concern about “enlargement fatigue”. The bloc’s financial institution aims to “help member states and future member states achieve their objectives”.

My Perspective

“There is no enlargement fatigue, what I see is enlargement apathy on the part of governments in the Western Balkans” (Stefan Füle, European Commissioner for Enlargement)

EU does not have a fixed timeframe for Serbia’s EU integration, and that it will make the decisions only once it estimates that Serbia is ready. The late reaction to the democratic revolts in the Arab world only further underlined that Brussels lacks a vision of how to steer a common EU policy agenda. Democratic deficit, enlargement fatigue and ever more rescue funds. Is there still a future for a common Europe? Is the EU the real sick man of Europe?

The European Union seems to be ready to welcome Serbia as a candidate member in spite of enlargement fatigue and economic crisis. In the meantime people in Serbia show signs of scepticism about EU membership. Support for EU accession has dropped to a meagre 57%, the lowest level of support since 2002 (when the Serbia EU Integration Office started these surveys), while a third of the respondents fears that the EU will stop the enlargement process altogether in the near future or may even fall apart.

The Balkans still aspire to EU membership, but Turkey allows them privileged access to a huge and rapidly growing domestic market of 74 million people, compared to about 55 million in the entire Balkan region. A Free Trade Agreement between Turkey and Serbia entered into force 1st of September 2010 and will give Serbian exporters opportunity to sell their products duty free to the large Turkish market, in addition to the already existing free trade agreements with the EU, CEFTA, Russia, Belarus and Ukraine.

All Balkan countries have their own development paths – some countries are going to join fast to EU (Croatia), some are going to do it later (Macedonia, Albania), some are maybe looking alliances from other directions (Serbia), Kosovo will be international protectorate – a quasi-state captured by organized crime tribes – also next decade; Bosnia will totter between breakup, federation/confederation, state, protectorate depending inner politics and exterior influences.

Serbia has strategic partnership agreements with China, Italy and France, and one such agreement is expected to be signed with Russia soon. Serbia can be seen a gravitational center of the region. In my previous articles, still and now even more than before I have a view that Serbia should think if joining to EU is worth of time, money and bureaucracy it demands, could the main benefits of EU membership be achieved via “third way”. Despite this I think that at this moment it is good idea to continue EU process but not only to fulfil EU needs but especially the needs of the beneficiaries aka Serbs not EU elite in Brussels. Most of the some 32 chapters negotiated in association process can help economical and other cooperation between Serbia and EU. Also Serbia should same time develop its economical cooperation with Russia, other BRIC countries, Turkey and regional neighbours.

Related articles:

 Serbia on the road to EU

Turkey’s EU hopes -is there any?”

Captured Pseudo-State Kosovo”

Is it time to bury Nabucco?

“New Player in Caspian Sea Power Corridor”

EU’s big choice – Nabucco or South Stream?

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BalkanBlog, Balkans, Black Sea region, Caucasus

Freedom 2010 in Balkans and Eastwards

“Freedom of the press, freedom of association, the inviolability of domicile, and all the rest of the rights of man are respected so long as no one tries to use them against the privileged class. On the day they are launched against the privileged they are overthrown.” (Prince Peter Kropotkin)

diagram by David Nolan

diagram by David Nolan

Different aspects of freedom are globally fundamental value of human rights, civil liberties or human development in general. Human development has been described in UNDP as “a process of enlarging people’s choices”. This in turn requires the freedom of people to make their choices and the opportunities to realize them. Rankings or ratings are one kind of (process) benchmarking in which organizations or in this case states evaluate various aspects of their processes in relation to best practice.

In this article I make a short update about political rights and civil liberties, freedom of press and some economical aspects in mostly Balkans and Black Sea regions. As sources (described next paragraph) I have used last reports available. Besides regions mentioned I have included to table also top and worst scores, U.S. as old superpower and BRIC countries as rising superpowers.

Sources of this story:

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is is the UN’s global development network. Since 1990, annual Human Development Reports have explored challenges including poverty, gender, democracy, human rights, cultural liberty, globalization, water scarcity and climate change. The Human Development Index (HDI)Table HDR 2009 measures the average achievements in a country in three basic dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life, knowledge and a decent standard of living. More: UNDP http://hdr.undp.org/en/

Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports the expansion of freedom around the world. Freedom House supports democratic change, monitors freedom, and advocates for democracy and human rights. Founded in 1941 by prominent Americans organization’s viewpoint is mostly Anglo-American. Freedom House has been publishing its Freedom in the World reports since 1972 and it publishes also Freedom in the Press report since 1980. More: Freedom House

Founded in 1973, The Heritage Foundation is a research and educational institution—a think tank—whose mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense. Together with The Wall Street Journal they publish e.g. “Economic freedom index”. More: The Heritage Foundation.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) is an independent, international organization incorporated as a Swiss not-for-profit foundation. WEF believes that economic progress without social development is not sustainable, while social development without economic progress is not feasible. WEF aims to be: the foremost organization which builds and energizes leading global communities; the creative force shaping global, regional and industry strategies; the catalyst of choice for its communities when undertaking global initiatives to improve the state of the world. WEF defines competitiveness as the set of institutions, policies, and factors that determine the level of productivity of a country. World Economic Forum has published “The Global Competitiveness Report 2009-2010” which gives an other viewpoint to economic freedom.

Reporters Without Borders is registered in France as a non-profit organisation and has consultant status at the United Nations. Reporters Without Borders is present in all five continents through its national branches. Reporters Without Borders: defends journalists and media assistants imprisoned or persecuted for doing their job, fights against censorship, gives financial aid to journalists in difficulty and works to improve the safety of journalists, especially those reporting in war zones. Reporters Without Borders has fought for press freedom on a daily basis since it was founded in 1985.

Summary table of Freedom in Balkans, Black Sea and some comparison data

(Note: the order below is made according UNDP’s “Human development index”, in other categories order can be checked from ranks)

Human development index

(UNDP)

Freedom Status

(Freedom House) Political Rights/ Civil Liberties

Economic Freedom (WSJ/THF) & Competitiveness (WEB) Press Freedom (Reporters w. borders/Freedom House)
Rank

(↑..↓

2006)

Country ///

Name & Score

P R C L Status HF/WSJ Rank/Scr

WEB Rank/

Trend

RWB

Rank/ Score

FH Rank
1. Norway (0.971) 1 1 Free 37./69.4 14 +

1./0,00

1
13. ↓ U.S.A. (0.956) 1 1 Free 8./78.0 2 – 20./4.00 24
25. Greece (0.942) 1 2 Free 73./62.7 71 — 35./ 9,00 29
29. Slovenia (0.929) 1 1 Free 61./64.7 37 ++ 37./ 9,50 25
45. Croatia (0.871) 1 2 Free 92./59.2 72 — 78./ 17,17 85
61. ↓ Bulgaria (0.840) 2 2 Free 75./62.3 76 68./15,61 76
63. ↑ Romania (0.837) 2 2 Free 63./64.2 64 + 50./12,50 88
65. Montenegro (0.834) 3 2 Free 68./ 63.6 62 + 77./17,00 80
67. Serbia (0.826) 2 2 Free 104./56.9 93 — 62./ 15,50 78
70. Albania (0.818) 3 3 Partly Free 53./66.0 96 + 82./21,75 102
71. ↑ Russia (0.817) 6 5 Not Free 143./50.3 63 – 153./60,88 175
72. Macedonia FYR (0.817) 3 3 Partly Free 56./65.7 84 + 34./ 8,75 94
75. Brazil (0.813) 2 2 Free 113./ 55.6 56 ++ 71./15,88 88
76. Bosnia-Herzegovina (0.812) 4 3 Partly Free 110./56.2 109 – 39./ 10,50 97
79. ↓ Turkey (0.806) 3 3 Partly Free 67./63.8 61 + 122./ 38,25 106
NA Kosovo (under UN 1244) 5 4 Partly Free NA NA 75./ 16,58 108
84. ↑ Armenia (0.798) 6 4 Partly Free 38./69.2 97 111./31,13 146
85. ↓ Ukraine (0.796) 3 2 Free 162./46.4 82 — 89./ 22,00 108
86. ↑ Azerbaijan (0.787) 6 5 Not Free 96./58.8 51 + 146./53,50 172
88. ↓ Iran (0.782) 6 6 Not Free 168./43.4 NA 172./104,14 187
89. ↑ Georgia (0.778) 4 4 Partly Free 26./70.4 90 81./18,83 126
92. ↑ China (0.772) 7 6 Not Free 140./51.0 29 + 168./84,50 181
117. Moldova (0.720) 3 4 Partly Free 125./53.7 NA 114./33,75 144
134. India (0.612) 2 3 Free 124./53.8 49 + 105./29,33 72
182. Niger (0.340) 5 4 Partly Free 129./52.9 NA 139./ 48,50 151

Full reports and country analysis from each category can be found from related organizations – see sources above.

Some remarks

UNDP’s methodology includes besides data collection a serial of background seminars and regional and thematic events. Due heavy preparation process the report 2009 is based to oldest data mostly from years 2006-2008. The UNDP 2010 report will launch around the world this autumn and will have three parts. First, a systematic assessment of progress and setbacks in human development since the 1970s, in which we discuss what has been achieved, what seems to work, and what are the key gaps and constraints. The second part will revisit the concept of human development – and its measurement (including the Human Development Index) – and propose the enhancements needed to help policy-makers ensure that people are at the centre of development. In this light, the third and final part would highlight concrete implications for policy and development strategies, and outline recommendations for a new development agenda.

Freedom House’s report “Freedom in the World 2010” reflects developments that took place in the calendar year 2009. The full survey, including the individual country reports, will be available in late spring 2010. The ratings process is based on a checklist of 10 political rights questions and 15 civil liberties questions. The political rights questions are grouped into three subcategories: Electoral Process (3 questions), Political Pluralism and Participation (4), and Functioning of Government (3). The civil liberties questions are grouped into four subcategories: Freedom of Expression and Belief (4 questions), Associational and Organizational Rights (3), Rule of Law (4), and Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights (4).

Related to some disputed regions Freedom House ranks status of Abkhazia and Nagorno-Karabakh as Partly Free, but South Ossetia and Transdnistria as Not Free.

WEF defines competitiveness as the set of institutions, policies, and factors that determine the level of productivity of a country. The level of productivity, in turn, sets the sustainable level of prosperity that can be earned by an economy. In other words, more-competitive economies tend to be able to produce higher levels of income for their citizens. The productivity level also determines the rates of return obtained by investments in an economy.

Freedom House’s examination of the level of press freedom in each country currently comprises 23 methodology questions and 109 indicators divided into three broad categories: the legal environment, the political environment, and the economic environment. The 2010 report did note some changes in the region that includes Western Balkan countries. Improvements were noted in several countries, including Bulgaria and Ukraine, primarily due to fewer cases of physical attacks and harassment, as well as greater editorial and ownership diversity. Meanwhile, Armenia and Moldova both saw numerical gains as a result of reduced censorship and restrictions on news coverage. The score improvement for Serbia in 2009 reflected the fact that Kosovo was scored separately for the first time in this edition of the survey. Croatia’s score “fell from 38 to 40 due to the removal of and legal action against journalists covering war crimes, organized crime, and corruption. There was also less diversity due to rising concentration of private media ownership.”

Because freedom is so highly valued factor, there is constant debate over exactly what the word means. Disputes are often politically charged, and they are not likely ever to be completely resolved. James P.Young summarizes following:

Analysis of the idea is also complicated because it is impossible to consider freedom without taking into account related concepts such as democracy and constitutionalism, problems such as majority rule and minority rights, and the tension between liberty and equality. The American Declaration of Independence represents one of the climactic moments in the long development of the idea of freedom and arguably achieves universality, despite having grown out of the specific revolutionary situation in the colonies. Yet throughout their history, Americans have argued about how the principles found in the Declaration should be applied. For example, does the right to life rule out the death penalty?

(More e.g. in “A Short Historical Sketch on the Idea of Freedom” by James P. Young)

The bottom line

Democracy is a form of government that cannot long survive, for as soon as the people learn that they have a voice in the fiscal policies of the government, they will move to vote for themselves all the money in the treasury, and bankrupt the nation.”(Karl Marx)

While comparing different data it seems that there is some conflict between economic freedom and especially competitiveness and other political rights, civil liberties and press freedom. It remains to be seen whether present global and regional financial turmoil and environmental challenges will change the balance one way or the other.

We must plan for freedom, and not only for security, if for no other reason than only freedom can make security more secure.”(Sir Karl Popper)

Related articles:

Balkans and Failed States Index (Jan. 2009/failed state index based on social, economical and political inducators)

Competitiveness of Balkans (Oct. 2008)

Freedom in Balkans (Jan. 2009/political rights and civil liberties. Democracy, economy, poverty, movement)

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BalkanBlog, Black Sea region, Energy policy

Ukraine: End of Orange Revolution, start of Stabilisation

We can say goodbye to our democracy, our independence and our sovereignty” (outgoing President Yushchenko predicts a future with either Ms Tymoshenko or Mr Yanukovych as President)

I’m quite happy because whoever is chosen today will be hated tomorrow by the majority of the country.” (Andrey Kurkov)

Ukraine’s Russian-leaning opposition leader, Viktor Yanukovych is on course to become the country’s president, with early results indicating he had a lead of several points over his bitter rival, Yulia Tymoshenko, the prime minister. Describing yesterday’s vote as a “turning point in our country’s history”, he added that he would pursue policies that helped all Ukrainians – and would not favour one geographical area. “We don’t need to find enemies in our country. We need to unite together,” he declared. In contrast to 2004, international observers said there was no major evidence of fraud. Despite fair elections PM Tymoshenko insists that she will challenge the results of the presidential election.


With more than 97% of votes counted, Mr Yanukovych had a 2.6% lead over his rival, PM Yulia Tymoshenko. According to the results, “against all” received 4.4 percent. Preliminary estimates showed about a 69 percent turnout. Sunday’s elections had been given a “positive assessment” by the election observation mission led by the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights ODIHR) of the Organisation for Security Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). The OSCE hailed the process as “professional, transparent and honest,” saying it should “serve as a solid foundation for a peaceful transition of power. There looks to have been less interference from the US this time than happened in 2004, when a number of Washington-backed NGOs took an active part in events in Kiev.


The outcome

Before 1st round I wrote and article “Ukraine – choosing a new Way

I described Ukraine’s challenges – created mainly the disastrous regime of outgoing President Yushchenko – and prognosticated that Ukraine is now selecting more pragmatic and balanced approach with its foreign policy. I also predicted right the 1st round outcome but bet wrong the final 2nd round. One reason can be that after 1st round President Yushchenko went really mad – changing voting regulations, naming Stepan Bandera (nazi-collaborator and chief of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, OUN) as Hero of Ukraine and proposing to vote “against all”. These actions were maybe enough to increase the support for Mr. Yanukovich and decrease the popularity of Ms. Tymoshenko.

Tensions ran high ahead of the vote, with both candidates accusing each other of planning large-scale ballot fraud and vowing to send their supporters into the streets to sway the outcome of any legal disputes over the count. The positive assessment of international monitors however gives limited background to contest the result.

Stabilisation

Mr. Yanukovych and his team may be an old-style party team, however this past can be seen also as an experience needed to bring order and stability to country. In contrast to 2004, Yanukovych’s potential presidency is no longer viewed among Western Ukrainian voters as an existential threat to Ukraine. Earlier Party of Regions even managed to came third in the local election to the city council of Ternopil in March 2009 gaining about 10% and surpassing Tymoshenko’s bloc (which called for a boycott of the election) and Yushchenko’s “Our Ukraine.” Yanukovych’s personal support in the West of Ukraine rose to the same level. At the same time, the less intense animosity to Yanukovych now and disillusionment with his main alternatives means that the West of Ukraine will grudgingly accept him as a new president just the way it accepted Kuchma in 1994. One may claim that the ongoing political confrontation between the Orange leaders has become a far greater threat to Ukraine’s statehood than any of Yanukovych’s election promises could ever be.

According to the 2001 census, 67.5 percent of the population declared Ukrainian as their native language and 29.6 percent declared Russian. Ethnic Ukrainians make up 77.8% of the population while the share of ethnic Russians is 17.3%. So it is clear that the new President has considerable support also outside predominantly Russian regions. This situation may ease tensions between different ethnic and religious groups, not only between Ukrainians and Russians but e.g. between central government and the (Trans-Carpathian) Rusins as the Crimean Tatars.


One of his first tasks is to unblock frozen IMF aid for its ailing economy. Yanukovich supports the idea of starting talks with Russia and the EU on the possible creation of a gas transportation consortium in order to increase the reliability of Russian gas transit to Europe. Improving Ukraine’s investment climate could attract foreign companies who could help Ukraine to develop its vast oil and gas reserves and strengthen its energy security.

In foreign policy the outlines of the new Yanukovych era are clear. He will improve Ukraine’s strained relations with the Kremlin tilting country back towards Russia’s sphere of influence, after the relentlessly pro-European course set under President Yushchenko. He will rule out Nato membership and extend the lease on Russia’s Crimea-based Black Sea fleet. It expires in 2017. He also believes in European integration – economically if not politically.

Energy aspect

The election may also be the final nail in the coffin of GUUAM (Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and Moldova) Group which was founded 1999 with help of US to foster favourable conditions conducive to economic growth through development of an Europe-Caucasus-Asia transport corridor. GUUAM was dominated by Anglo-American oil interests, ultimately purports to exclude Russia from oil and gas deposits in the Caspian area, as well as isolating Moscow politically. First Uzbekistan withdraws from it leaving behind a stump GUAM. Then Georgia started its aggressions with false idea of western support leading today’s situation. Moldova was aiming towards Nato and EU but after conflict in Georgia it started to look other alternatives. Political attitudes of Azerbaijan and Russia have approached each other. Now Ukraine as last fortress of GUAM is taking distance from its earlier Nato ambitions. More e.g. in article “Is GUUAM dead?

Constructing the White Stream pipeline underneath the Black Sea was supposed to be the main energy project of GUAM bloc; it was also designed as an alternative to EU’s Nabucco. The idea of White Stream is to pump natural gas from the Caspian region to Ukraine and further to Romania, from where it can be marketed to Europe. On May 28, 2008, the European Commission identified the project as a “Project of Common Interest” and furthermore accepted it as a “Priority Project.” However the last Georgian energy summit on January 14-15 2010 in Batumi to discuss the construction of pipelines bypassing Russia failed and got downgraded as no high-ranking officials who said they would attend the meeting ended up coming. White Stream has some similarities with Nabucco – both are more political project and both are missing the gas supply. With new President in Ukraine also political backing is dispelled.


Ukraine’s role of a major European gas hub is also at risk because South Stream could almost halve its transit earnings. Russian newspaper Kommersant reported on Tuesday that Viktor Yanukovich had invited Gazprom to participate in upgrading the Ukrainian gas pipeline system. Gazprom has made early comment that the pipelines needed upgrading and the company would be interested in participating, however any investment would not replace the need for Gazprom to develop the South Stream pipeline. I agree – politicians are coming and going and chancing their minds in between but pipe will stay a halve century if not more.

My Conclusions

  • The most positive result were fair and free elections. I expect that in domestic politics attitudes between regions/groups identifying more with Ukrainian nationalism and the Greek Orthodox religion, and predominantly Russian and favourable to the Soviet era will ease.

  • It appears obvious that in foreign policy one of the top priority in the political agenda of new President will become the restoring of cordial relations with Russia.

  • I hope that the EU and Ukraine will rapidly reach agreement on a new Association Agreement (including comprehensive free-trade agreement) that added to better investment climate will help modernise the Ukrainian economy and enable it to return to pre-recession growth rates.

Summa summarum

  • Free and fair elections will revise the policy both with internal and foreign affairs of Ukraine. Nato membership will be ruled out, European integration will continue economically if not politically, relationship to Russia will improve. Ethnic tensions may be reduced and more united country with new President has better possibilities match economical challenges.


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BalkanBlog, Black Sea region

Ukraine: Choosing a New Way

When we get Russian gas, the problem is not the supplier, but the fact that 80 percent of the pipeline is located in the Ukraine. We should look for independence not from Russia, but from such transit schemes,” (Gerhard Schroeder)

Just after 2004 Orange Revolution Ukraine took course towards Nato and EU, the new leadership had popular backing to fulfil fast forward hopes its policy. Instead of the fast forward progress scenarios the outcome has been a totally different crisis scenarios including possible confrontation between Ukraine and Russia in Crimea due the Black Sea Fleet, a new dispute over the supply of Russian natural gas to and via Ukraine, different ethnic tensions with minorities and of course declining economy with all social impact.

The dominant factor in Ukrainian political life has been the inability of political leaders – President Victor Yushchenko and his prime ministers – to work together to promote high-flown ideas. Now however the course is changing again in January elections. According different opinion polls President Yushchenko will lose the game already on first round and the winner of second round early February will probably have a pragmatic approach towards Russia and potential to implement more balanced policy. Ukraine is likely to pursue a more modest pace in developing its relations with NATO, a more measured tone on support for Georgia, and more moderate relations with Russia.

Ethnic tensions

Internally Ukraine has a big divide between the Russian friendly and ethnic Russian regions against the more westward looking regions. There is ethnic tensions also between central government and the (Trans-Carpathian) Rusins – an East Slavic people that is the indigenous population of the Carpathian Mountains; the Crimean Tatars and nowadays also with supporters of radical Islam. An of course there is some 9-17 million Russians in country total population of 46 million.

During Yushchenko’s presidency Ukraine has been eager towards Nato membership; same time there has been speculations what will the near future foresee after 2017 for the Russian fleet in Sevastopol? In the worst case the situation might even instigate or support an effort by Crimea to break away from Ukraine. The new president probably is ready to end these speculations.

It is also possible that despite results in election separatist movements are gaining more support and one compromise can be creation some kind of federation with strong minority rights which also can block Ukraine’s former western dreams.

From Subject to Object

From my viewpoint Ukraine has during last presidency lost its regional importance mostly due the geopolitical energy game. GUUAM (Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and Moldova) Group was founded 1999 with help of US to foster favourable conditions conducive to economic growth through development of an Europe-Caucasus-Asia transport corridor. GUUAM was dominated by Anglo-American oil interests, ultimately purports to exclude Russia from oil and gas deposits in the Caspian area, as well as isolating Moscow politically.

Now GUUAM is coming to end of its short road. Already earlier Uzbekistan withdraws from it leaving behind a stump GUAM. Then Georgia started its aggressions with false idea of western support leading today’s situation. Moldova was aiming towards Nato and EU but after conflict in Georgia it started to look other alternatives. Political attitudes of Azerbaijan and Russia have approached each other. Russia again took the initiative acting as a mediator between Armenia and Azerbaijan to solve long term conflict of Nagorno-Karabakh. The last piece of GUUAM is Ukraine and also this last fortress has degenerated to stagnation. More e.g. in article “Is GUUAM dead?

The adventure after Orange revolution in foreign policy issues finally lead to situation where Ukraine turned from a subject of politics into an object of (geo)politics.

Energy game

One of the real parts of Euro-Asian Oil Transportation Corridor is the Odessa-Brody oil pipeline from Ukraine to Poland for transportation oil from Caspian Sea region to Baltic Sea. However completed in 2001 up to Brody near the Polish border, that pipeline remained empty for three years. In 2004, Russian oil companies began to transfer oil from Brody to Odessa instead of original from East to West plan. However, Ukraine still looks to extend this pipeline so that it can carry Azerbaijani oil arriving from the Georgian port of Supsa to Odessa and then take it to the Polish refinery at Plock and potentially to the port of Gdansk. Some 500 kilometres of pipeline have to be built for that to happen. Meantime other players have been taken more and more Azerbaijan’s energy resources for other markets.

The latest gas dispute made it clear that Ukraine is not reliable transmitter of Russian gas to Europe. This boosted EU’s Nabucco –plan to new level. The same is true also with Russia’s South Stream pipe line. The both pipelines are bypassing Ukraine. When implemented – probably until 2015 – the new line(s) are invalidating the significance of Ukraine as transit route of energy. Turkey is taking this role as most important energy hub for Europe. More e.g. in article “The Nabucco-South Stream race intensifies”.

Declining economy

For a short-sighted and selfish political motivation (the weakening of Russia and its sphere of influence) of West has helped divide and devastate Ukraine. However the EU can’t afford Ukraine economically, geographically and politically, nevertheless in an attempt to weaken Russia EU attempted to lure it away form the Kremlin’s sphere of influence. The result has been economic catastrophe for Ukraine which has seen significant rises in its gas and oil bills along with other economic misfortunes.

The unsolved economic and social difficulties accompany the young state since its declaration of independence. The outbreak of the world economic crisis in 2007/08 with its financial and industrial breakdown accelerated and deepened these problems such as a general credit crunch, an enormous devaluation of the currency, a decline of production following the decline of steel-prices on the world-market and a remarkable reduction of foreign-trade which effects are reflecting from one side the integration of the country into the market economy and Ukraine’s peripheral position from the other side.

Despite the greatest media freedom Ukraine has position 155 in press freedom and is described as partly free in Freedom House survey. Threats, harassment, and attacks against the media continued as the country’s weak and politicized criminal justice system failed to protect journalists from regional politicians, businessmen, and criminal groups. Ukraine would definitely be an interesting case study in criminal justice degree courses.

One of the main tasks of the new political leadership is to provide a balanced position between Brussels and Moscow. This may be realistic when the EU same time is searching a possible “third way” between EU member- and non-membership with some innovative model of “privileged partnership” discussed especially with case of Turkey. The model – when first created – could be copied also with some other countries which now are in enlargement process or included in Eastern Partnership program like Ukraine.

Conclusions

Ukraine tried play important role in U.S. backed GUUAM to create East-West transport corridor for energy blocking Russia from Caspian Sea energy resources and isolating Moscow politaically. However Russia implemented its own initiatives making North-South energy corridors stronger and helping to transfer East-West corridor some hundreds of kilometres southwards. As a result GUUAM is nearly dead, both EU’s and Russia’s new pipelines are bypassing Ukraine, Turkey is coming the main energy hub to Europe.

I wait that during this election Ukraine will finally get rid off Mr. Yushchenko already in first round, which will be won by Mr. Yanukovich. However last round will bring victory to Mrs. Timoshenko and so the country will get both pragmatic and charismatic new leader.

The new president in Ukraine will probably have more pragmatic approach towards cooperation with Russia. Ukraine is likely to pursue a more modest pace in developing its relations with NATO, a more measured tone on support for Georgia, and more moderate relations with Russia. The outcome can very well be easing tensions not only in energy policy but with ethnic and military fields too.


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