Go to the Wider Europe Programme's page
No, it is not Eurovision but energy in South Eastern Europe I am talking about. There is a reason why a statue of the late leader Heydar Aliev adorns a square in downtown Belgrade. Balkan governments are all busy courting Baku eager to fuel their crisis-ridden economies with Azeri gas. On average, local energy firms pay more for Gazprom deliveries than their counterparts in the West, with Macedonia reportedly holding the European record.
But quite understandably for Baku, fast-growing Turkey, whose energy needs are rising, remains a top priority in the wider region, and not the tiny and struggling Western Balkan economies. Earlier this week, SOCAR, Azerbaijan’s state-owned oil and gas company, closed a deal for building a $4.3bn refinery close to Izmir, Turkeys’ third largest city. SOCAR Turkey (the local subsidiary set up in 2008) says that once constructed the STAR refinery
1 commentsRead more…
There is some symbolic value in the fact that Russia’s deputy Prime Minister Vladislav Surkov resigned one year and one day after the start of President Putin’s third term. It does not matter what exactly lay behind his resignation: his conflicts with the Investigative Committee; contacts with the opposition; or the failure of Medvedev's government to perform in the way the president would have liked it - these are all technicalities. In a way, Surkov simply had to leave, because his era – the era of “managed democracy”, when the powers could manipulate the elections with the consent of the electorate – ended in late 2011. Putin is still in office, but the way his regime operates has changed, and Surkov has no place in the new order of things.
Surkov had an amazing career that created and exposed many paradoxes in Russian politics. For example it is noteworthy that the front pages
The EU’s neighbourhood policy has been around for a decade – but why are there so few success stories? One explanation might be that the EU has never really been an actor with a set of strategic interests in the Eastern Partnership region. Instead, the EU has often behaved like IKEA, offering things that look nice but without providing all the necessary tools to make them work in reality.
In the beginning the EU's neighbourhood policy was mainly about Ukraine: it was hoped the country would be the prime example of the EU’s transformative power – and a showcase of the effectiveness of Europe’s policies towards the east. But the “orange” leadership showed more interest in fighting each other than fighting for the much-needed reforms. Today, their successors in government are doing their best to prove that the elites are simply not interested in fulfilling Ukraine’s enormous economic
On my train home last night I listened to an audio podcast from the Economist that pretty much wrapped up all the big issues in Russian-EU relations in eight and a half chunky minutes. It was with Arkady Ostrovsky, the Economist's Moscow correspondent. Here's the audio, and here are the main subjects:
* Merkel ambushing Putin by criticising his crackdown on NGOs, and what it means for relations between Russia and the EU.
* The nexus between Russia, power and money.
* German business scepticism about investing in Russia.
* Why Cyprus shows how much Russia has been disregarded.
* Why it all goes back to US shale gas and how this has loosened Russia's energy grip on Europe.
* Is Berlusconi Putin's only remaining friend?
* Navalny and Pussy Riot.
Anyway, have a listen - 8'34" isn't enough for great depth, but Arkady does a great job of joining the dots between these
An island on the edge of Europe with an outsize banking sector, lots of offshore investors flocking in, and an external economic shock leading to a financial crash of dramatic proportions: it’s not like we have never been there. But this time around it’s Cyprus, not Ireland or Iceland. This is yet more proof that no country is an island spared amidst the pan-European storm which is unlikely to go away. The restructuring of Greek debt and the ‘haircut” imposed on institutional investors has taken toll on the banks in next-door Cyprus (the Bank of Cyprus alone took losses worth €1.3 billion a year ago). The situation is pretty dire: the two largest banks – the Bank of Cyprus and Laiki (Popular) Bank are practically bankrupt. And Cyprus, with bank assets eight times its GDP and deposits four times, outdoes both Ireland in 2010 and Iceland in 2008. But nonetheless the déjà vu
A diplomatic strategy for the conflict in Syria
Europeans are losing faith in the EU
Europe can rescue the two-state solution
27 countries in search of a proper security strategy
How Europe can help Egypt
Understanding the influence of the Gulf States
A new era for EU-Georgia relations?
What next for Egypt, Tunisia and Libya?
What does China think about the island dispute?
A comprehensive evaluation of European foreign policy
How the euro crisis has affected politics in 14 EU member states