Friday 19 September 2014

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France and the EU: there is no “exception française”

Posted by on 18/09/14
By Ernst Stetter In a speech earlier this week, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said, “it is France and France alone that decides what the country has to do”, stipulating that there should be a serious talk with Germany, which has to assume its responsibilities for Europe. Helpful? Not so much...

Scotland votes, Catalonia waits: Will there soon be another independence referendum in Europe?

Posted by on 18/09/14
FC Barcelona supporters waving Scottish flags at Camp Nou
The world is watching Scotland today, and the Catalans will watch closer than most.

Spanish news sites are featuring pictures of FC Barcelona supporters waving Scottish flags during their team's Champions League game yesterday, and it is widely reported that delegations from the Catalan (and Basque) nationalist parties have travelled to Scotland to follow the latest developments on the ground.

This is because the debate around Catalonia's independence referendum is approaching its own moment of truth:
  • Catalonia's ruling parties agreed long ago that the independence referendum (carefully described as la consulta, the consultation) would take place on 9 November. However, the Catalan government has yet to officially call such a referendum. 
  • The Spanish government maintains the referendum is unconstitutional (and as we explained here, the Spanish Constitution is actually on Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's side).
  • The Catalan government will tomorrow try to get around the legal obstacles by asking the Catalan parliament to adopt a new law on 'non-referendum consultations' (consultas no referendarias). Catalan President Artur Mas is then expected to convene one of these consultations for 9 November. However, the legal status of the result of such a consultation is unclear at the moment.     
  • Reports in the Spanish press suggest the Spanish government has everything ready to launch a legal challenge against la consulta at the Spanish Constitutional Court, as soon as it is officially announced.
  • If the Spanish Constitutional Court were to strike down the referendum (which is what Rajoy expects), the 'Plan B' of Artur Mas would be to resign and call early regional elections - and then present the election results as a referendum on Catalonia's future. Recent polls suggest the strongly pro-independence Catalan Republican Left (Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya, ERC) would come out as the largest party, albeit short of an absolute majority. For Rajoy, having to deal with ERC instead of Mas would be like jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire.
Are the Scottish and the Catalan cases similar?

There are similarities between Catalonia and Scotland. Both are proud regions with long histories of independence movements, and both have also been embedded in decentralised systems. Also with respect to the consequences of leaving there are similarities, not least the prospect of joining the EU and the difficulties that could potentially arise.

However, there are at least two fundamental differences:
  • The Spanish government has never considered accepting the outcome of an independence referendum in Catalonia. On the contrary, it is determined to use all the legal instruments at its disposal to stop the referendum taking place. Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo has not even ruled out making use of Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution - which gives the central government the power to "adopt the necessary measures" to force a regional government to comply with its constitutional obligations. In practice, despite the planned date for the referendum being less than two months away, the Catalans still don't know whether - and in what form - it will actually happen.
  • Constitutional reform and greater devolution of powers to Spanish regions as an alternative to independence has so far not been discussed properly, mainly because the Spanish and Catalan governments have never really engaged in negotiations. 
Will there be a 'contagion effect'?

Pro-independence Catalans would no doubt get a boost in case of a 'Yes' victory in the Scottish referendum, whilst, naturally, Madrid would love to see the 'No' camp win. Irrespective of the outcome in Scotland, the status quo doesn't seem to be an option anymore for Catalonia. Just think of the 500,000 to 1.8 million people, depending on the estimates, who took to the streets last week to celebrate La Diada, Catalonia's National Day.
    Sooner rather than later, the Spanish and Catalan governments will need to give up posturing and start talking to each other. At that point, reforming the Spanish Constitution to give regions greater power to set and collect taxes may well appear as a valid alternative. The Scottish episode, whichever way the referendum goes, may ultimately serve to accelerate further devolution in Spain.

    Scotland teaches Britain to think federal

    Posted by on 18/09/14

    One positive result of the referendum about the independence of Scotland can be seen already now: the central government in London starts finally to think about a more “federated” United Kingdom, but nobody of the political class is using this term “federal’, because this word was misused as “centralization” in the context of transferring national competences and powers to the European level.

    Especially the British media, and, Mr. Cameroun, now have a problem to explain that the proposals of “decentralization and regionalization” and the promisses to give more competencies to the Scotish government constitute finally a “federative approach”, which shall keep a more autonomous Scotland within a “Federated Kingdom” with the Queen and the Pound as common framework.

    Just to remember: Why the British and Americans had been keen after the Second World War to create the “Federal Republic of Germany”? – Not to create a centralized German republic, but to promote political decision making “from the bottom up”, from the local and regional political entities. The Scotish Referendum reminds the British to think about the original meaning of the word “Federal”.

    Federal means “democracy in diversity”, multi-level governance (subsidiarity) and solidarity; in particular, taking decision as near as possible to the citizen, a famous phrase in the Treaty of Maastricht creating the European Union. This also includes fiscal solidarity between rich and poor municipalities, rich and poor Region, Cantons or Districts, as well as at the national and European level, even in the international context.

    It does not matter so much whether this time the referendum about Scotish autonomy already will succeed, but the discussion has shown, that the centralized political structures of the United Kingdom need a “regional refreshment”.

    In any case, if this time the referendum would not result in autonomy, the Scots will have a second and even better chance to become a Member Country of the EU, as the “federal question” will come up for the British at least in 2017, when “all subjects of the Queen” might been confronted with the choice either to remain in a federally organized European Union, or, to see how finally Scotland will stay as “last part” of the United Kingdom in the European Union. The reason is simple; if in a regionally organized referendum a majority in Scotland votes for staying in the EU, this would mean an easy and “automatic entrance ticket” for the remaining part of the still existent membership of the United Kingdom in the European Union.

    Perhaps the discussion and the rethinking of the British about Scotland and about the question: What does federal finally mean? guides us, in the end, to an alternative approach of organizing the EU, in the direction of a Federation of States, countries and Regions, in short, a “Europe of countries and regions.”

    18.09.2014 Michael Cwik

    Words of praise and criticism to Poland

    Posted by on 18/09/14

    First a few words of credit to Poland. During my work with evaluation and auditing in DG Enlargement, I visited Poland a few times before its accession to EU. Later on, after turning to public administration reform, I had the opportunity to attend a EUPAN conference in Krakow during the Polish presidency. It was always a pleasure to discuss EU issues with our colleagues from Poland.

    Another credit I want to give to Poland is inspired by my heritage trip last August. I visited Krakow, Lublin and Zamosc. Overall it was impressing to witness how Poland is preserving Jewish synagogues and cemeteries who were destroyed by Nazi-Germany during the Holocaust.

    In the past it might have been Jews abroad who initiated and funded such restorations. Now very often the initiative comes locally, from town and villages where no Jews are left, and with funding from EU, other international aid programs, and national co-financing. The sites are visited by Polish tourist groups and visitors from other countries. This work can stand as a model for other EU member states.

    The way how Poland is restoring or even recreating and reliving, Jewish sites – take e.g. the former Jewish quarter Kazimierz in Krakow – pays tribute to its effort to overcome past prejudices. It also contributes to a historic reconciliation between two nations who were living side by side for hundreds of years.

    So why complain? Today’s article in EurActiv (18.9) on the use of EU funds for energy renewal in Poland seems to require a response by both Poland and the European Commission. According to the reports quoted by EurActiv, Poland is using billions of euros from EU carbon credits and emission allowances on coal plants and the budget deficit.

    The intention was of course to support Poland in diversifying its energy mix, increase its use of renewable energy sources and reduce its carbon emission. How is this possible? Obviously because of Poland’s current reliance on coal fueled power plants and its reluctance to change course.

    But it was perhaps made possible by the lenient rules in the relevant regulations and agreements which according to EurActiv are not legally binding or written in the form of recommendations.

    EurActiv also writes that “the decision to bolster Poland’s dominant coal industry at the expense of other energy sources and to cut the country’s deficit budget rather than invest in cleaner energy was made under Tusk’s watch.”

    The Polish prime minister was recently elected to next president of the European Council. In his first press conference (EurActiv 3/9), he referred to other sources of energy: “This is a very important moment because I’m convinced that my legacy, my personal experience and our European dreams can become an important source of energy.”

    True but don’t forget the energy sources which are fuelling our power plants, warming our buildings and driving our transport means. The challenges of climate change are enormous.

    Turkish Coffee Briefings: Public Private Partnerships & Innovation Economy?

    Posted by on 18/09/14
    How Can Public Private Partnerships Stimulate Innovation Economy? What Can be the Role of the Industry?   Guest speaker Sinan Tumer : Senior Director SAP Co-Innovation Lab Sinan Tumer is the Senior Director of SAP Co-Innovation Lab in the East Coast region of USA. He is responsible for establishing an open innovation process by harnessing SAP’s partner ecosystem [...]

    The pharmaceutical industry against patients, doctors and pharmacists

    Posted by on 18/09/14

    Joint letters with like-minded organisations are never easy to write, even among friends. Each organisation wants to add its own nuance.Different organisations may have different rules for sign-off on final drafts, and amendments can ping-pong from one to the other. I’ve been there.

    Sometimes, however, an issue is so important and clear that a joint position is agreed and action taken in a very short time – as in the case of the 30 health-care organisations that have written to Mr Juncker to oppose the proposal to transfer responsibility for medicines, medical devices and health technology from DG Sanco to DG Enterprise.

    And not just any organisations: the signatories include the European representative associations of national organisations of doctors, pharmacists, hospital physicians, hospital pharmacists, health mutuals and health insurance funds, hospital associations, social security funds, cancer leagues, heart foundations, medical bulletins, patients, the elderly, consumers and many others. Offhand, I cannot think of any major European healthcare representative voice that has not signed up – well, the pharmaceutical industry, perhaps, but they have their own agenda.

    The editor-in-chief of the British Medical Journal, Fiona Godlee, has also written a joint letter with the review Prescrire, in the same sense.

    I don’t think I have ever seen such a wide and immediate agreement between such a diverse range of professionals, patients and consumers on one issue. This is the united voice of the European healthcare sector. Will Mr Juncker listen?

    The decision to make the transfer from health to the industry DG seems to have been at the demand of the European pharmaceutical industry. According to an article in Scrip on 12th September:
    EFPIA said that commission president-elect Jean-Claude Juncker had “taken on our views and put together all units that are relevant for our business in Europe”. These, it said, were previously spread over three directorates general, SANCO (health), MARKT (internal market) and ENTR.

    So now we know. We have the industry on one side on this issue and on the other side the entire health care sector – doctors, pharmacists, patients, hospitals, mutualities, sickness and social security funds, consumers etc. The industry claims to play an important role in healthcare and indeed it does but that role is not always positive. END

    Help a friend in need

    Posted by on 18/09/14
    Guest blogpost by Emil Valdelin, Policy Manager of Facebook Brussels, on the occasion of the World Suicide Prevention Day. Making the Internet a safer place takes many different shapes and forms. With young people at the forefront of the technological revolution, spending increasing amounts o f time online, their digital behavior is crucial to foresee [...]

    Not the best start for the new French government

    Posted by on 17/09/14
    The new French government, led by Prime Minister Manuel Valls, yesterday won its first vote of confidence in the National Assembly. That was expected, but the big news is that Valls and his government have fallen well short of winning an absolute majority.

    269 MPs voted in favour, 244 against, and 53 abstained. The absolute majority is set at 289 votes.

    Most importantly, the voting records reveal that 31 MPs from the Prime Minister's Socialist Party chose to abstain. Back in April, when Valls sought the confidence for his first government, he got 306 votes in favour. Hence, yesterday marked a substantial step backwards.

    The outcome of the confidence vote seems to confirm that the 'left wing' of the French Socialist Party remains opposed to the economic policies being pursued by Valls - which in substance means remaining critical of the approach defended by the European Commission, Germany and other northern eurozone countries.

    Incidentally, these divergences forced a cabinet reshuffle at the end of August - which saw the ousting of the three most left-leaning ministers, notably including Economy Minister Arnaud Montebourg.

    French history shows that it is possible to govern without an absolute majority in parliament. Another Socialist Prime Minister, Michel Rocard (widely seen as one of the political mentors of Valls), did it between 1988 and 1991.

    However, it remains to be seen to what extent Valls will be able to push through the wide-reaching reforms and sizeable spending cuts demanded by the EU if he fails to win back the full support of his own party. As an alternative, he may try and strike deals with the smaller centrist parties in parliament - but the success of such a move would be far from guaranteed.

    Indeed, this is hardly great news at a time when the French economic situation is not encouraging, making it essential to move forward quickly with the necessary measures.
     
    The road to recovery may have just become longer and bumpier for France.

    Association Agreements benefits the EU and Eastern Partners, but will Russia allow it?

    Posted by on 17/09/14
    Guest blogpost by Simonas Klimanskis, Eastern Europe Studies Centre in Vilnius. The European Union (EU) signed Association Agreements with Georgia, Moldova and the Free trade Agreement, which is an essential part of the Association Agreement, with Ukraine on 27 June. If these countries were previously able to balance between the East and the West, they [...]

    #Media4EU 2|4 0f 20 media groups to ‘go European’: most failed, not all

    Posted by on 17/09/14
    I count around 30 attempts to develop ‘European media’ since the EU was set-up in 1958  (no, I was not there). Including nearly 20 by what can be called ‘media groups’. Depending on how you count, nearly 10 of these media still exist, but I think not all will make it to 2020. The list [...]

    Which MEPs voted against EU-Ukraine association?

    Posted by on 17/09/14
    By Georgi Gotev It were mostly extreme-left and extreme-right MEPs who voted against the ratification of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement yesterday, according to the monitoring by VoteWatch Europe. Have a look at the list.

    From longform renaissance to Big Internet disenchantment (#B2B4ME part 2)

    Posted by on 16/09/14
    As I mentioned in my previous post, the past couple of years have seen a lot of innovation in online content strategy, coupled with growing disenchantment with “Big Internet”. These trends triggered my return to blogging, so I thought I’d start with an overview.  The Rise of Longform Across the pond, the past few years [...]

    German fingerprints on Juncker’s Digital Agenda?

    Posted by on 16/09/14
    The 'digital agenda' was a key plank of Jean-Claude Juncker's 'campaign' to become European Commission President and will be one of the top priorities for the next five years. Indeed, his new look Commission has its own dedicated 'digital single market' cluster, which incorporates a large number of the Commission departments:


    The Vice-President overseeing all this is Estonia's Andrus Ansip, a former Prime Minister of the country which styles itself as a 'digital society', with e-elections and online tax returns completed in five minutes. Former Energy Commissioner, Germany's Günther Oettinger, will take on a new role as Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, which much of the German press saw as an embarrassment, particularly given the high-profile roles secured by France and the UK.

    However, with online privacy and data protection such big issues in Germany, particularly following the NSA scandal, his appointment could be significant - not least because he is likely to have very different priorities to Ansip. Oettinger, along with the Czech Justice Commissioner Vĕra Jourová, will be responsible for ensuring passage of new data protection regulations and a revamp of the EU's e-Privacy Directive. He will also work on copyright. In turn, many of these issues will be integral to the US-EU free trade (TTIP) talks currently under way, another area of intense debate in Germany.

    It has been noted by some that the CEO of Axel Springer, the owner of German tabloid Bild, publicly backed Juncker's candidacy (heaping pressure on Chancellor Merkel to do the same) and has a long-running beef with US internet giant Google. Whether this was a purely altruistic move we will leave up to you to decide...although we would note that one of Oettinger's first moves after the announcement of his appointment was to warn Google over its market power - a stark change in tone and approach from the previous administration, whatever the motivation.

    In short, while Oettinger's appointment may not have been greeted by spontaneous cheers on the streets of Berlin, those in the corridors of power are likely to be quietly pleased. How 'German' the European Commission will be in this area will be interesting to watch.

    Interview with Mr Abdullayev, President of SOCAR

    Posted by on 16/09/14

    The President of the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR), Mr Rovnag Ibrahim Abdullayev, discussed with Dimitris Rapidis, Director and Project Coordinator at  Bridging Europe, on a string of issues ranging from energy supply and production, regional cooperation, ongoing and forthcoming projects and partnerships, to the risks of climate change, corporate social responsibility, and the special relationship with Greece as the linking corridor towards the expansion of the company in the Western Mediterranean Basin and the European Union.

    *The interview was first published by Bridging Europe. It is republished here.

    What is the positioning of SOCAR in the global energy run in terms of production and supply?

    Let me first share the vision of SOCAR with you. SOCAR aims to become a vertically integrated international energy company resting upon advanced experience on operation efficiency, social and environmental responsibility, and so far has undertaken major steps to  strengthen its international presence both in terms of energy production and supply.

    SOCAR positions itself as a reliable energy partner of Europe. We truly believe that diversification of energy supply is one of the most important topics of today’s energy policy of the European Union, and SOCAR is here to support its European partners.

    From historical perspective, the Caspian region always has been and is again re-shaping itself as a hub for global energy supply. SOCAR is currently working on development of a number of upstream and midstream projects together with 25 global companies, which are involved in oil and gas projects in the Caspian region.

    Being one of the major players in the industry in the region SOCAR is seeking to raise its own gas production from new fields it is exploring in the Caspian Sea. SOCAR hopes to see its gas production soar in the coming years as production capacity is expanded at existing fields and new ones are discovered and brought into production. Most of the gas produced is likely to be exported to consumers in Europe via forthcoming TANAP and TAP pipelines.

    The formation of export routes was crucial for exporting our hydrocarbon potential to the global markets, with the large-scale production of oil and gas only possible once the BTC oil pipeline and SCP gas pipeline had been commissioned. The pace of the next phase of SOCAR’s output growth is to be set by the construction of export routes, especially TANAP and TAP pipelines that will carry the gas produced from Shah Deniz 2.

    Which are SOCAR’s existing and forthcoming projects?

    Today, SOCAR is actively involved in several significant projects both in a regional and in an international context. In these projects we closely cooperate with well-known global companies and highly experienced teams. Currently OGPC (Oil and Gas Processing Complex) is considered as the largest downstream project of SOCAR in Azerbaijan, which is of strategic importance. The construction of the Complex includes an Oil Refinery with around 9 m. tons, a Gas Refinery with 12 billion bcm capacities and a Petrochemical Plant. The Complex is planned to be fully operated in 2020.

    The President Aliyev signed a decree in February establishing a closed joint-stock company (CJSC) for effective management of projects within the second phase of Shah Deniz gas and condensate field’s development, expansion of the South Caucasus Pipeline, Trans-Anatolian Gas Pipeline (TANAP) and Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP). The gas which will be produced at the second stage of Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz field development will be the main source of the Southern Gas Corridor, which envisages the transportation of the Caspian gas to European markets.

    In addition to the main projects developed by SOCAR, there is a number of projects and business activities run by our daughter companies in Europe as well as in UAE and Singapore. Fuel retail networks in Georgia, Ukraine, Romania and Switzerland together with the infrastructure projects in UAE, Turkey and Georgia are amongst the most notable ones.

    As an example of the diverse nature of projects run by SOCAR’s foreign subsidiaries we can mention “PETKIM Value-Site 2023 Refinery-Petrochemicals-Energy-Logistics Integration” project in Turkey. The project implies construction of a brand new Star refinery, new petrochemical plant facilities, STEP energy plant and Petkim Container Port in Turkey.

    Another significant project is the recent acquisition of Greek Natural Gas Transmission system Operator (DESFA). This is work in progress at the moment as this asset provides an excellent diversification opportunity for SOCAR’s investment portfolio.

    What is the goal of SOCAR’s Summer School

    As part of talent acquisition strategy to develop and attract young professionals to oil and gas sector each year SOCAR purposefully launches sets of diversified projects. Summer School Project initiated by SOCAR since 2010, is one of the decisive activities respectively serving the mission of attracting young, potential and competent students, and retaining young professionals already working at different divisions of SOCAR, through creating deep understanding of SOCAR’s culture and activities both in domestic and international markets. As was clearly mentioned, the program has been launched since 2010, and year by year, every possible development is implemented to make program more comprehensive and useful for the participants. The project is based upon prearranged program, which covers all the chains of energy sector, starting from geology and geophysics of oil and gas wells, and continuing with drilling, production, transportation, refining of produced oil and gas.

    The last but not the least, during the program the participants gain deep information on the sales and marketing of produced oil and gas products. It is worth noting that the program is not restricted only to lectures, but also excursions to different production units of SOCAR are organized in accordance with the topic of the day. Overall, the project has substantial positive outcomes in staff development and recruitment strategies of SOCAR.

    Baku High Oil School

    On 29th of November 2014, the Baku High Oil School was established under the aegis of SOCAR. The Baku High Oil School signed a cooperation agreement with Heriot-Vatt University of the United Kingdom with the purpose of specialists training under a Bachelor Degree Program in the fields of oil and gas engineering and chemical engineering. Since its establishment Baku High Oil School has managed to create modern infrastructure, to form professional administrative and academic personnel.

    This higher education institution continues to successfully expand its international ties and attract advanced educational programs and technologies widely applied in Western countries. In the short run, it is expected that the Baku High Oil School will be able to train highly educated in-house specialists who will make their valuable impact in country’s dynamically developing industry and contribute to effective implementation of SOCAR projects both inside and outside of our country.

    Baku French Lyceum

    The Baku French Lyceum (“BFL”) was established in accordance with an agreement on establishment and activity of the Baku French Lyceum signed between the governments of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Republic of France on 07.10.2011. BFL commenced its activity on 15.09.2013. Currently 120 children attend kindergarten and school functioning under the lyceum. A supreme governing body of BFL is a Management Committee. The Management Committee consists of 4 persons representing the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the Embassy of the Republic of France in Azerbaijan and SOCAR, by one representative from each organization. The Principal of the school and main teachers are citizens of France. Lessons are held in accordance with curriculum of international french schools with observance of requirements of the Law on Education of the Republic of Azerbaijan.

    What do you expect from the 2nd SOCAR Oil and Gas Processing and Petrochemical Complex Forum (OGPC) held in November 2014?

    SOCAR OGPC Forum is designed to provide a detailed presentation of the new Oil and Gas Processing and Petrochemical Complex (OGPC) to be constructed by SOCAR. In April 2012, we organized the first forum devoted to SOCAR’s Oil-Gas Processing and Petrochemical Complex Project. During that Forum, the extensive discussions and productive meetings   have greatly benefited to both SOCAR and other participants of the event. Over two years after the first Forum, the OGPC activities have advanced considerably. Now, we are completing the FEED for the Gas Processing Plant and passing to EPC tendering. The works on the Petrochemical Plant will run in parallel. We have also completed the OGPC constructability study and other site surveys. At the same time, the FEED for utilities and off-sites and conceptual design for off-plot facilities has been carried out. As you see, the Project is now passing to a more significant phase. We are receiving more and more requests from various companies to organize another forum, which would help companies to obtain sufficient information about current stage of the Project and discuss the possibilities of further cooperation. That is why we decided to organize the second OGPC Forum, which we hope will help to establish close connections and promote cooperation and discussions on Project related issues at one single platform between potential stakeholders such as engineering companies, EPC contractors, licensors, manufacturers, vendors, service providers etc. We believe this event will play a crucial role in the future sustainable development of the Project.

    In November 2014, the 2nd SOCAR OGPC Forum will be organized in Fairmont Hotel located in Flame Towers complex in Baku. Let me use this opportunity to invite our Greek colleagues to visit us in Baku in November!

    How are you dealing with the climate change problem and environmental advocacy?

    First of all, I would like to note that the dealing with climate change is an ethical issue for us and SOCAR has been taking regular actions to deal with climate changes. Moreover, we actively work with a variety of international institutions on climate change.

    After Azerbaijan Republic ratified UN “Framework Convention on Climate Changes” and SOCAR enhanced its financial capabilities, it has started to pay more attention to enforcement of global ecological conventions and ecological issues in all company premises.

    In 2008 SOCAR approved its Ecological Policy and actions were taken in the same year to enforce Framework Convention on Climate Changes.

    It has been 7 years since SOCAR has been taking inventory of greenhouse gas (GHG). After inventorying process, steps were taken to conceive and implement new projects’ ideas regarding minimization of potential GHG emissions having adverse climatic effects. So accumulation and supply to consumers of associated gas produced with oil, substitution of old power-consuming equipment with modern power-saving equipment may be brought as examples. During these years to enforce these processes successful cooperation affairs have been established with the World Bank, GGFR, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Asian Bank of Development, companies from Germany, Norway, Japan and other countries. In frame of these cooperation activities such documents as “Plan on minimization of flue-gas emissions”, “Strategy for minimization of adverse effects of climatic changes” were developed.

    Concurrently with the foregoing SOCAR also takes focus-oriented steps in other directions regarding environmental protection. Thus, in order to ensure ecological security, regular ecological monitorings are conducted at SOCAR in all offshore and onshore activities, including also oil-gas, petrochemical operations. Currently Environmental and Social impacts of SOCAR projects are assessed and preventive measures are being identified to minimize them. Mining sites traditionally polluted by oil and oil products are reclaimed and recovered to the natural-landscape design. Provisions were made to control in a closed system of produced waters extracted during the production on SOCAR oil-gas operation sites. Besides,  maintenance was provided on biological purification plants of all production facilities.

    The discharges from vehicles globally along with other areas of industry also cause one of the most serious ecological problems.  Ecological impacts are crucial due to the growing number of vehicles in our country. In this regard, SOCAR Ecological Measuring Center conducts ecological diagnosis of vehicles.

    One of the priority issues in SOCAR’s environmental protection activity is waste management. Work in this area is organized according to requirements of a Waste Management Plan approved by SOCAR. All types of industrial wastes generated at SOCAR facilities are taken over in Waste Management Center (WMC) being a part of a valid waste management system.

    Expansion of plantation sites is one of the major directions of ecological policy in our Republic. SOCAR also contributes to planting activities implemented on a national scale. One of the essential environmental projects implemented by SOCAR was designing and constructing the Ecological Park. The main objective of laying out this Park was to create a contemporary form of society-environment relations, and to show that environmental propaganda, environmental upbringing and protection of the environment is a first priority duty of every citizen. It has been 3 years since SOCAR launched the project titled Eco-Park. As a result of the works performed in this scope, 574434 different types of trees-bushes and flowers were planted in an area of 400 ha. Ecological awareness and enlightening activities are implemented  in conformance with the SOCAR’s “Action Plan on Ecological Awareness”. In the frame of the plan, ecological days are celebrated at SOCAR enterprises and facilities, and cooperation with international ecology-oriented organizations is continuously broadening. In order to enhance environmental protection, to develop “approach to the environment with care” traditions and to educate the youth in the spirit of sensitive approach to the environment SOCAR expands its ecological awareness activity from year to year.

    What are the major fields of involvement when addressing to corporate social responsibility (CSR)?

    There are several key fields of the CSR in our day-to-day work and we think of corporate social responsibility across SOCAR in a strategic way.

    Mainly, it is the idea of implementation of sustainable solutions in all areas of our operation. This implies working on strategy to improve working conditions, to integrate labour standards into our business practice, to monitor our facilities, and to collaborate with our partners in order to drive industry-wide change.

    The next level concentrates on our employees and on making SOCAR a place where people can build their careers in a positive work environment. Particularly on this point, SOCAR has been a pioneer in developing various activities on employees’ health and labour safety in accordance with the requirements of Single management system for labour protection in the Azerbaijani oil industry.

    Another key field in corporate social responsibility for us is the environment. For instance, SOCAR developed its own “Waste Management Plan” in order to ensure that the systems designed to manage waste, generated at our facilities work efficiently and that collection, sorting out, transportation, utilization of waste is conducted in line with the industry practice. Also, Environmental Department regularly carries out the quantitative and qualitative monitoring of harmful wastes in gaseous, liquid and solid forms emitted to the atmosphere as a result of natural and anthropogenic impacts at enterprises and companies subordinated to SOCAR.

    Our CSR policy does not stop here of course, there are number of other projects that SOCAR is involved in, however I am afraid that we will need to have another interview to discuss them all.

    What is SOCAR’s involvement in Greece? Do you perceive the country as a strategic partner for your company’s expansion in the West?

    As you may be aware, SOCAR has been selected as the preferred bidder in the DESFA privatisation process that is still in progress and that is expected to be finalised within the course of coming months. DESFA is SOCAR’s first project of this scale in the European Union and we are very happy to collaborate with our Greek partners towards the success of it. Furthermore, Greece is one of the “TAP countries” and it certainly plays a central role in realisation of the TAP project.

    As a result of our increasing activity in Greece, it was decided to open the country office in Athens so that we have our permanent presence in the country as well as in the region. Now, when SOCAR Energy Greece S.A. has been fully established it shall be much easier for us to manage our relationship with our existing counterparts and look at further business opportunities in Greece.

    Indeed, Greece is a good friend and a reliable strategic partner of Azerbaijan. Perhaps, one of the most significant indicators of the friendship between our countries is the fact that our collaboration is not limited to the oil and gas industry and that it had constantly evolved during the past years. I believe that the relationship and the economic cooperation between our countries will grow even stronger in the future. I think that numerous official meetings of the Azerbaijani and Greek leadership and the recent official visit of the President Aliyev to Athens only support my point of view.

    What is the company’s project plan for energy supply in the EU?

    At the times when Europe needs reliable suppliers, supply from SOCAR and Azerbaijan is viewed as a part of Europe’s strategic goals. The challenges to security of supply could be political, technical or even due to extreme weather and demand. I would like to stress that SOCAR met its supply demands during the harsh winter of 2012 due to its storage facilities and strong commitment to meet its contractual obligations. Recently, SOCAR has engaged in expansion of its storage facilities in order to continue to be a reliable supplier.

    Instead of selling to regional markets, SOCAR decided to embark on a chain of mega project to export gas to Europe: a chain that crosses 7 countries, deals with six regulatory systems, involves 12 investing companies, includes 12 gas buyers and requires 45 billion USD of investments. By the way, this chain of projects is called the Southern Gas Corridor, or shortly SGC. The mega project will be able to facilitate the transportation of gas not only from Azerbaijan but also from Central Asia and Middle-East countries. The pipeline is being built with the potential to double the capacity and can be scaled up to 30 bcm/a. This is the first project in decades to introduce new gas supplies into Europe rather than simply re-routing existing supplies, thus diversifying sources.

    As we plan, the first gas explored from the second stage of the Shah Deniz field will be delivered to Turkey through TANAP in 2018 and then to Europe through TAP in 2019. Today successful execution of these projects is of top priority for SOCAR. The Southern Gas Corridor will be a strong catalyst for interconnectors across Southern Europe, while the TAP section will be able to connect Caspian gas to multiple European markets. In addition, there are signs of strong commercial interests in adding a component of the project into the Balkans.

    ESSNA to host seminar on sports nutrition regulation

    Posted by on 16/09/14

    The European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance (ESSNA) has announced that it will host a seminar focusing on sports nutrition regulation, open to all, on Tuesday 7 October. The seminar will deliver an overview of the European legislation that has the greatest effect on the sports nutrition industry, and will aim to clearly explain the different European institutions and the way in which regulation is developed and adopted at EU level.

    ESSNA, whose work focuses on campaigning in favour of proportionate EU legislation that does not adversely affect the sports nutrition sector, is the voice of the sports nutrition industry in Europe and works with regulators and policy makers across the EU.

    Non-members are welcome to attend the seminar for a fee of £100. The seminar is free to ESSNA members and will take place from 15:00 on 7 October at Greycoat Place in Central London.

    Dr Adam Carey, Chair of ESSNA, said “The aim of this seminar is to give our members, as well as the rest of the industry, a better understanding of European legislation that affects the sports nutrition sector and how we work to feed into the development of this legislation to ensure the voice of sports nutrition sector is heard.

    “The world of sports nutrition legislation is extremely complicated and we believe it is essential that industry leaders understand all its ins and outs.”

    He continued, “In our work ‘policing’ the industry for rogue traders, we’ve written to a number of companies who have then hastened to remove any non-compliant products. More often than not, we’ve found that it comes down to a lack of information as opposed to intentionally breaching the law for commercial gain. Therefore, more education of and to the industry is crucial, and we encourage everyone in our sector to attend this seminar.”

    The European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance is an alliance of European sports nutrition companies that was formed in December 2003.

    Members of the Alliance include Adams Food Ingredients, Aminolabs, Body Temple UK, CLF Distribution, First Milk, Future Nutrition, Iovate Health Sciences, Kinetica, Mass Nutrition Kostexperten, Maxinutrition, myprotein.co.uk, Natrol, NSF, Prometeus, Sci-MX Nutrition, Sports Supplements, Tropicana Health and Fitness, US Nutrition, USN UK, Volac, Weider Germany, NBTY Europe, BodyBuilding.com, Glanbia Performance Nutrition, PhD Nutrition, CytoSport UK, Future Nutrition, Arla Foods Ingredients, Athlete King Sports Nutrition, BULK POWDERS, Grenade, Vitamin Center, High5, DCC Health and Beauty, Healthspark, MP Bio Science, General Nutrition Corporation, Herbs in a Bottle, Scitec Nutrition, Protein World and Kerry.

    Associate members of the Alliance include HFMA (The UK Health Food Manufacturers’ Association), Weider Publishing, Fitnessboutique, LGC, Cambridge Commodities, Healthy Inspirations and Nutraveris.

    The Whitehouse Consultancy, one of Europe’s leading communications agencies, provides the secretariat, public relations, and political strategy for ESSNA.

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