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TAPI natural gas pipeline project: Boosting trade and remedying instability?

25-11-2016

Turkmenistan, which has the fourth largest natural gas reserves in the world, is opening up to new countries in a quest for more gas exports. Since Russia first reduced and later halted altogether its gas imports from Turkmenistan, China has become the main destination for Turkmen exports, and these are likely to increase further when the fourth line of the Central Asia-China Pipeline becomes operational. Turkmenistan is also spearheading the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline ...

Turkmenistan, which has the fourth largest natural gas reserves in the world, is opening up to new countries in a quest for more gas exports. Since Russia first reduced and later halted altogether its gas imports from Turkmenistan, China has become the main destination for Turkmen exports, and these are likely to increase further when the fourth line of the Central Asia-China Pipeline becomes operational. Turkmenistan is also spearheading the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline project, a key step towards export diversification and also regional integration. After long years of inaction, the ground-breaking ceremony for the TAPI gas pipeline took place on 13 December 2015. TAPI is expected to be in operation by December 2019 and to cost around US$10 billion. The pipeline will run across Herat and Kandahar in war-torn Afghanistan, and Quetta and Multan in Pakistan, before reaching India. With the pipeline transiting restive areas that are not fully under government control, security risks threaten the viability of the project. However, according to its supporters, the project's potential benefits outweigh the concerns. The pipeline offers a win-win scenario for all participating states: Turkmenistan will diversify its exports – a particularly pressing issue given Gazprom's decision to halt gas imports from Turkmenistan and the country's increasing export dependence on China; Afghanistan will benefit from increased investment and employment, as well as from transit fees; and India and Pakistan will benefit from a new supply route enabling them to meet growing demand for energy. At regional level, TAPI will bring greater integration, both economic and political. The pipeline also fits in with the EU's strategic objective of stability and security for Central Asia.

Post-Karimov Uzbekistan: Business as usual

16-11-2016

The death of Uzbekistan's long-standing president, Islam Karimov, on 2 September 2016 threatened to trigger national instability. Despite initial fears of a conflict between the country's rival clans over his successor, the issue was speedily resolved with the appointment of Prime Minister Shavkat Mirziyoyev as interim president. Presidential elections are scheduled for 4 December 2016.

The death of Uzbekistan's long-standing president, Islam Karimov, on 2 September 2016 threatened to trigger national instability. Despite initial fears of a conflict between the country's rival clans over his successor, the issue was speedily resolved with the appointment of Prime Minister Shavkat Mirziyoyev as interim president. Presidential elections are scheduled for 4 December 2016.

The quest for natural gas pipelines - EU and Eastern Partner energy policies: Security versus transit benefits

14-07-2016

The European Union has been increasing efforts to maintain gas supply security especially vis-à-vis its main gas supplier, Russia. In that context, Eastern Partnership (EaP) countries, serving either as gas suppliers (Azerbaijan) or transit/corridor countries (all the others except Armenia), have an undeniable role for the EU. Security of gas supply depends on close EU cooperation with its EaP partners and interconnections between them. There have been some welcome developments, such as the Southern ...

The European Union has been increasing efforts to maintain gas supply security especially vis-à-vis its main gas supplier, Russia. In that context, Eastern Partnership (EaP) countries, serving either as gas suppliers (Azerbaijan) or transit/corridor countries (all the others except Armenia), have an undeniable role for the EU. Security of gas supply depends on close EU cooperation with its EaP partners and interconnections between them. There have been some welcome developments, such as the Southern Gas Corridor that transports Caspian gas to the EU, which reflects the importance of the EaP partners and also contributes to EU energy security and the ambitious Energy Union project. On the other hand, a project aimed at doubling the capacity of the Nord Stream gas pipeline directly connecting Germany and Russia under the Baltic Sea has raised some criticism.

Turkmenistan reforms need to go further

21-06-2016

The Turkmen government has introduced various reforms since 2008 and has expressed an interest in closer cooperation with the EU. Yet, the May 2016 debate in the European Parliament's Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET) on the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) with Turkmenistan highlighted Parliament's dissatisfaction with the reforms. On the grounds of severe human rights concerns, AFET suspended its approval of the PCA until the country makes satisfactory progress.

The Turkmen government has introduced various reforms since 2008 and has expressed an interest in closer cooperation with the EU. Yet, the May 2016 debate in the European Parliament's Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET) on the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) with Turkmenistan highlighted Parliament's dissatisfaction with the reforms. On the grounds of severe human rights concerns, AFET suspended its approval of the PCA until the country makes satisfactory progress.

Free trade agreements between EFTA and third countries: An overview

18-04-2016

The biggest trading partner of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) is the EU, but third countries have made up an increasing share of EFTA's trade since it began exploring new markets through free trade agreements (FTAs) following the end of the Cold War. Since international trade accounts for a significant share of EFTA countries' national economies, boosting trade with new markets is a priority for the association. Trade between the EU and three of the four EFTA states (the EEA EFTA states ...

The biggest trading partner of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) is the EU, but third countries have made up an increasing share of EFTA's trade since it began exploring new markets through free trade agreements (FTAs) following the end of the Cold War. Since international trade accounts for a significant share of EFTA countries' national economies, boosting trade with new markets is a priority for the association. Trade between the EU and three of the four EFTA states (the EEA EFTA states) is subject to the European Economic Area (EEA) Agreement, meaning these countries adopt EU legislation relevant to the Single Market. As the EU accounts for almost 70% of EFTA's total trade, EU rules and regulations play a major role in its trade relations. This has tended to restrict EFTA members' trade policies towards third countries. EFTA began to negotiate FTAs around the world in the 1990s. Today, EFTA's network of preferential trade relations consists of 25 FTAs covering 36 countries. Further negotiations and exploratory talks are ongoing with major emerging economies such as India, Indonesia, and Malaysia. Modernisation and extension of some existing (first generation) FTAs, to incorporate new areas such as trade in services and investment, is also under way. Because EFTA is a free trade area not requiring the harmonisation of member countries' external trade policies, EFTA members are free to decide their own trade policies towards third countries. They have therefore signed bilateral FTAs with a number of third countries. The Iceland-China FTA, China's first with a European country, is one noteworthy example. Norway has signed two bilateral FTAs (with the Faroe Islands and Greenland), while Switzerland, which has been in a customs union with Liechtenstein since 1923, has concluded bilateral FTAs with three countries – China, Japan, and the Faroe Islands. For the most part, EFTA has been able to speak with one voice whilst allowing its individual members to decide their own bilateral policies.

Review of the EU Strategy for Central Asia

05-04-2016

In June 2007, the EU adopted an EU Strategy for a New Partnership with Central Asia ('EU Strategy for Central Asia'), in recognition of the region's increasing importance for the Union's security, stability, governance and energy diversification. The strategy provides a framework for EU relations with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. The European Parliament is due to discuss the implementation and review of the strategy during the April plenary session.

In June 2007, the EU adopted an EU Strategy for a New Partnership with Central Asia ('EU Strategy for Central Asia'), in recognition of the region's increasing importance for the Union's security, stability, governance and energy diversification. The strategy provides a framework for EU relations with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. The European Parliament is due to discuss the implementation and review of the strategy during the April plenary session.

Kazakhstan's long-held stability threatened

08-02-2016

Russia's annexation of Crimea and the conflict in eastern Ukraine are worrying Kazakhstan, given its large Russian minority in the regions bordering Russia. Kazakhstan's proximity to Afghanistan exposes the country to threats such as religious extremism, drug trafficking and terrorism, particularly after NATO's withdrawal from Afghanistan. Russia is increasing its influence in regional security matters and pushing Kazakhstan for greater cooperation in the fight against shared threats.

Russia's annexation of Crimea and the conflict in eastern Ukraine are worrying Kazakhstan, given its large Russian minority in the regions bordering Russia. Kazakhstan's proximity to Afghanistan exposes the country to threats such as religious extremism, drug trafficking and terrorism, particularly after NATO's withdrawal from Afghanistan. Russia is increasing its influence in regional security matters and pushing Kazakhstan for greater cooperation in the fight against shared threats.

Tajikistan: New challenges to security

08-02-2016

Tajikistan is facing both internal and external security challenges mostly related to the rise of religious extremism and terrorist groups, in particular the Taliban. Terrorist attacks in September 2015, followed by a military response and closure of the Islamic Renaissance Party raised concerns about instability. The Taliban seizure of Kunduz on Tajikistan's borders further alarmed the country. Russia, the country's main security provider, is likely to increase its military presence and influence ...

Tajikistan is facing both internal and external security challenges mostly related to the rise of religious extremism and terrorist groups, in particular the Taliban. Terrorist attacks in September 2015, followed by a military response and closure of the Islamic Renaissance Party raised concerns about instability. The Taliban seizure of Kunduz on Tajikistan's borders further alarmed the country. Russia, the country's main security provider, is likely to increase its military presence and influence

Kyrgyzstan: Economic situation

02-02-2016

Political instability in Kyrgyzstan – climaxing in two uprisings which ended with governments ousted, as well as an ethnic riot in June 2010 – has worsened the already fragile economic situation, with the country highly dependent on foreign aid, exports of gold and remittances sent home by migrant workers. The newest member of the Eurasian Economic Union, Kyrgyzstan has come under further economic pressure following Russia's economic slowdown.

Political instability in Kyrgyzstan – climaxing in two uprisings which ended with governments ousted, as well as an ethnic riot in June 2010 – has worsened the already fragile economic situation, with the country highly dependent on foreign aid, exports of gold and remittances sent home by migrant workers. The newest member of the Eurasian Economic Union, Kyrgyzstan has come under further economic pressure following Russia's economic slowdown.

Kyrgyzstan: Social situation

02-02-2016

Kyrgyzstan is the second most impoverished country in Central Asia, after Tajikistan. The country has made progress in many social areas, especially the health sector, with outstanding results in reducing child mortality and under-nourishment. However, the poorly performing education sector requires further attention and resources. Inter-ethnic tensions between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks threaten the already fragile political, economic and social stability of the country.

Kyrgyzstan is the second most impoverished country in Central Asia, after Tajikistan. The country has made progress in many social areas, especially the health sector, with outstanding results in reducing child mortality and under-nourishment. However, the poorly performing education sector requires further attention and resources. Inter-ethnic tensions between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks threaten the already fragile political, economic and social stability of the country.

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