Sunday 23 November 2014

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IDS sets out broad strokes of reforms to EU free movement

Posted by on 13/11/14
The Telegraph has an interesting transcript of an Iain Duncan Smith interview with LBC Radio, which outlines the Government's current thinking on EU migration and which might signal the types of reforms that David Cameron is weighing up before delivering his promised speech on immigration in the aftermath of the Rochester and Strood by-election.

Here's what the Work and Pensions Secretary said, following this week's European Court of Justice ruling on access to benefits:
"This is about people who want to enter a country and have no prospects of work and are not intending to work, so that is stopping and shutting the door to them as we have done." 
Essentially, IDS says that the ECJ's ruling runs with the grain of the domestic changes the UK has already made to restrict access to out-of-work benefits. But he is clear that he wants to go further:
"The next problem is people who come to work, and then can claim full tax credits even though they have made no contribution. And that is the point I am making... countries shouldn’t have to do that. They shouldn’t have to support people who are coming over here, who have made no contribution." 
This is very much along the lines of what our Research Director Stephen Booth and Professor Damian Chalmers proposed in their pamphlet on EU migration and national welfare systems - a re-write of EU legislation to enable national governments to restrict access to non-contributory benefits for up to three years.

And, thirdly, IDS suggests that:
"And the third area which you talked about…is that the issue around freedom of movement isn’t that you don’t want to stop freedom of movement, but what you want to be able to say is: ‘sometimes there are limits that communities can absorb people and the pressure on public services and housing and stuff like that’." 
"European rules need to take recognition of the pressure that puts on local communities, and that’s really part of the negotiation."
This last point is perhaps the most interesting as it suggests that the option of some form of 'emergency brake' on EU migration is still under consideration.

As we have said before, there are many ways in which such a mechanism could operate, and it might just be negotiable, although this would be a much taller ask than reforming the rules around access to welfare.

Message from Brussels – How to prepare my child for life?

Posted by on 13/11/14
Living and working in the EU Brussels bubble, I am regularly asked to express my views about the career of young professionals or even for a presentation of opportunities to find a job in the capital of Europe. I am not referring to the academic courses that I teach in Brussels, Bucharest and Cluj, or [...]

Juncker responds to Luxleaks tax scandal

Posted by on 12/11/14
By Open Europe European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has made an impromptu appearance at the midday press briefing to make a statement on the leaked documents showing the significant number of favourable tax deals given to corporations by the Luxembourg government during his tenure as prime minister and/or finance minister (1989 - 2013). The key points...

Higher petrol excise taxes are more efficient than road toll systems

Posted by on 12/11/14

About two thirds of the EU member states are using toll systems for financing the construction and maintenance of highways. National governments monitor the rates being charged; and this functions quite satisfactorily.

There is no reason for the EU to intervene, except insisting on strict non-discrimination between road users from different member states. This seems never to have been an issue, until two weeks ago Germany also announced its intention to introduce highway tolls from which German citizens would, however, be exempted for the equivalent of the vehicle taxes. Such a construction would be a discrimination and therefore an infringement of basic EU rules.

Toll systems are an expensive way of charging users for road construction and maintenance. Gasoline and diesel excise taxation is a far more effective instrument for charging cars simultaneously for using the roads and polluting the environment.

The EU applies minimum tax rates for gasoline and diesel. But the present rate of € 359 per 100 litre gasoline and diesel are too low to encourage citizens to buy fuel-efficient vehicles and help neutralising the external costs. The EU should therefore double the minimum rate to € 700/100 litre. Adding the 20 per cent VAT, taxation would account for roughly two thirds of the gasoline/diesel price which is in line with excise taxes on tobacco or alcohol.

A doubling of the excise tax on diesel and gasoline would have four positive effects. It would:

  • raise member states` fiscal revenue to finance the construction and maintenance of roads;
  • charge road users according to the level of their C02 emissions;
  • make it easier to attain the 2050 EU objective of reducing C02 emissions from road traffic by 60 per cent;
  • make further road toll systems superfluous.

    Eberhard Rhein, Brussels, 12/11/2014

    View from the right: Too few houses? Loosen the green belt

    Posted by on 12/11/14

    In a new ‘view from the right’, Political Consultant Ben Rochelle argues it’s time to loosen the greenbelt.

    To read Ben’s article, please click here.

    The Whitehouse Consultancy is one of Europe’s leading public affairs and communications agencies.

    Rosetta: rendez-vous with a comet

    Posted by on 12/11/14

    ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft arrived at Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko on 6 August after a ten-year journey through the Solar System. The landing site, currently known as Site J and located on the smaller of the comet’s two ‘lobes’, was selected just six weeks after Rosetta arrived at the comet.

    The mission’s lander, Philae, will be deployed on 12 November at 08:35 GMT/09:35 CET from a distance of 22.5 km from the centre of the comet. It will land about seven hours later, with confirmation expected to arrive at Earth at around 16:00 GMT/17:00 CET.

    Three control centres are involved in the landing: the Rosetta Mission Operations Centre at ESA’s Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt, Germany; the Lander Control Centre at DLR in Cologne, Germany; and the Lander Science Operations and Navigation Centre at CNES in Toulouse, France. The activities at each control centre will be closely linked and will be featured in a combined English-language ESA TV programme broadcast from ESOC, with live updates transmitted from all three control centres.

    Three main media events will be organised. The international media event will take place at ESA’s Rosetta Mission Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt. National media events will be organised by CNES at the Cité des Sciences in Paris, and by DLR at the Philae Lander Control Centre in Cologne, Germany.

    ODS is webcasting the event today, 12th of November.

    Fondation EurActiv PoliTech is leading the communication & dissemination of Open Discovery Space.

    The counterproductive policies of the Israeli right and the Swedish green-left

    Posted by on 11/11/14

    The peace process in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is suspended until further notice because both sides are obstructing it. The Israeli government, pressed by the settlement lobby, is continuing announcing new construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. The Palestinian authority, afraid of its own extremists, refuses to continue the peace talks until a mutual acceptable agreement has been reached.

    No wonder that the outside word becomes exasperated by the deadlock in the conflict and thinks that it can promote the restart of the peace process by recognizing the state of Palestine. It started with the new Swedish government, a minority coalition made up by the social democratic party and the green environment party, that recently recognized Palestine in the hope that it would send a signal to the moderate forces among the Palestinians and level the playing field in future negotiations.

    The Swedish government also hoped that its recognition of Palestine would be followed by other EU member states but until now no other states have followed in its steps, not even other Scandinavian countries. The British parliament has adopted a non-binding resolution in favor of recognition. As EurActiv reported last week, the socialist group in the French parliament has drafted its own non-binding proposal for recognition.

    This hardly indicates any momentum in Europe for the recognition of Palestine. After all the official EU position is that recognition today of Palestine would be premature. The European Council has often declared that EU will only recognize those borders that have been agreed by the parties to the conflict as the result of direct peace negotiations. To recognize Palestine today would mean to recognize an entity that doesn’t control its territory and part of which still is bent on war.

    The Swedish government has been claiming that already more than 130 countries around the world have recognized Palestine, among them some EU member states. It forgot however to mention that many of these countries haven’t recognized Israel, including several of the 56 members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. The EU member states that have recognized Palestine did it before they joined EU and before there was any common EU foreign policy.

    There is nothing in international law that prohibits the Palestinian authority to unilaterally declare independence but to the outside world it’s a political issue that needs careful consideration. There are so many issues that remain unresolved. The future state’s borders, security arrangements, the status of Jerusalem, water – all are difficult questions that require mutually acceptable and agreed solutions.

    Fortunately, there are already good ideas on how these issues could be solved, for example, in the so-called Geneva Accords of 2003. The parties have also already come quite far in previous negotiations and been close to a peace settlement.

    However, there is one remaining stumbling block and this is the Palestinian refugee problem. It would be unreasonable and dangerous to recognize a Palestinian state that would not end the conflict but continue to pursue the issue of the refugees’ right to return to Israel. A premature and unconditional recognition of Palestine could therefore have an adverse impact on the prospects for a lasting settlement of the conflict.

    While I can understand the rational for the Swedish recognition of Palestine, I’m also afraid that it has been influenced by domestic political concerns. Sweden has a tradition of carefully examining new political initiatives but in this case the new government decided to act at once on its own. The recognition issue also diverted the attention from burning problems in Swedish society and the need to achieve consensus in riksdagen (the Swedish parliament) on the new state budget.

    I was also concerned when the new Swedish foreign minister entered into a “word war” with her Israeli counterpart as to whether achieving a peace agreement is as easy as assembling pieces of IKEA furniture. No, it isn’t. Solving the conflict is complicated – if it weren’t we would already have peace. Assembling IKEA furniture doesn’t require ”partners” but can be done by a single person who can read the instructions.

    Premature recognition of Palestine might make the Palestinian government believe that it can achieve statehood without having to negotiate with Israel. In his speech some time ago in the UN general assembly, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas seems to have lost all faith in bilateral peace talks with Israel. While he during the first days of the Gaza war seemed to criticize Hamas for inflicting civilian casualties, he now accused Israel for war crimes and even genocide in Gaza.

    The current Israeli government, on the other hand, seems to do everything to play into the hands of the Palestinians and to antagonize the outside world with its pro-settlement policy. Naftali Bennet, the minister of economy, recently wrote an article where he argued that the two-state solution isn’t feasible (INYT, 6 November). We already knew that this was his position but the article enables us to understand the flaws.

    He makes an issue of that previous Israeli withdrawals from occupied territories haven’t resulted in peace but in terror attacks against Israel. Maybe it was because they were unilateral without any agreement with the other side?

    He also outlines a plan for a “bottom-up approach” with focus on economic cooperation. It makes some sense. Economic cooperation is necessary and will serve as “bridges of peace” – as is the case in the EU. But it’s more than naïve to believe that the Palestinians would accept unilateral Israeli annexation of a big part of the West Bank – without even any land swaps – as Bennet proposes in his article.

    The risk is that it may become a self-fulfilling prophesy if construction in the West Bank is allowed. It will not only obstruct the restart of the peace process but might also result in more people settling in the West Bank and voting for Bennet’s party and other pro-settlement parties who don’t care that the status quo is unsustainable. In such a situation the whole of Israel would be held hostage by a minority of its inhabitants and their vested interests groups.

    To conclude: Both the Swedish and Israeli policies as described above are counterproductive. Unfortunately they also have a tendency to nourish each-other.

    La composizione dei gabinetti dei nuovi Commissari

    Posted by on 11/11/14

    Le restrizioni nel bilancio della Commissione europea, che dovrà ridurre il suo staff del cinque percento, hanno avuto conseguenze sulla struttura della nuova Commissione e dello staff dei Commissari.

    La principale novità consiste nell’impossibilità dei Commissari di avere il portavoce: il servizio sarà centralizzato nelle mani della Presidenza della Commissione e ridotto a una quindicina di persone. Il Presidente della Commissione Jean-Claude Juncker vuole infatti che i Commissari parlino direttamente ai giornalisti. In ogni caso, ogni Commissario avrà un consigliere responsabile della comunicazione.

    Rimane invece la regola che uno tra il Capo di Gabinetto e il Capo di Gabinetto aggiunto deve essere di nazionalità diversa da quella del Commissionario.

    I membri del Gabinetto saranno al massimo sei per i Commissari, sette per i Vice-presidenti, otto per il Primo Vice-presidente (Frans Timmermans), undici per l’Alto rappresentante della politica estera (Federica Mogherini) e dodici per il Presidente della Commissione Jean-Claude Juncker.

    Attualmente siamo in una fase in cui non tutti i gabinetti sono al completo, ma una lista è già disponibile.

    Per chi fosse interessato, la lista dei Commissari è trovabile al sito:

    Per chi fosse interessato a conoscere i nomi dei componenti degli staff, li può trovare qui di seguito:

    Jean-Claude Juncker

    (Presidente della Commissione Europea)

    Capo di Gabinetto: Martin Selmayr, tedesco di 44 anni, dottore in Legge, ha lavorato alla Banca Centrale Europea (BCE) e al Fondo Monetario Internazionale. Nel 2004 è diventato portavoce per la società dell’informazione e media alla Commissione europea. Nel 2010 è diventato Capo di Gabinetto della Commissaria Viviane Reding e nella primavera del 2014 era il direttore della campagna elettorale di Juncker.

    Capo di Gabinetto aggiunto: Clara Martinez-Alberola, spagnola di 51 anni, laureata in Legge, ha lavorato come funzionario della Commissione europea dal 1991 al 2005. Nel febbraio del 2005 è diventata membro dell’ufficio di Barroso.

    Direttore del coordinamento e amministrazione: Sandra Kramer, olandese, ha una lunga esperienza da funzionaria nelle Istituzioni europee.

    Membri: Luc Tholoniat, Richard Szotak, Léon Delvaux, Telmo Baltazar, Antoine Kasel, Carlo Zadra, Pauline Rouch, Paulina Dejmek-Hack, Anabelle Arki e Roland Fleig. Tutta la squadra è specializzata in economia e finanza.

    Frans Timmermans

    (Primo Vice-presidente, Qualità della legislazione, relazioni interistituzionali, Stato di diritto e Carta dei diritti fondamentali)

    Capo di Gabinetto: Ben Smulders, olandese di 54 anni, lavora in Commissione dal 1991 ed è stato membro di gabinetto di Hans van den Broek (1995-1999), Frits Bolkenstein (1999-2000), Romano Prodi (2001-2004) e Neelie Kroes (2004-2008). Da marzo 2008 è direttore della sezione Istituzioni del servizio giuridico.

    Capo di Gabinetto aggiunto: Michelle Sutton, inglese di 40 anni, lavora in Commissione dal 1999 ed è stata membro di gabinetto di Neelie Kroes (2004-2008) e di José Manuel Barroso (2010-2014).

    Membri: Bern Martenczuk, Alice Richard, Liene Balta, Riccardo Maggi, Saar Van Bueren.

    Consigliere della Comunicazione: Antoine Colombiani.

    Federica Mogherini

    (Alta Rappresentante, Alta rappresentanza dell’Unione per gli Affari esteri e la politica di sicurezza e vicepresidente della Commissione)

    Capo di Gabinetto: Stefano Manservisi, italiano, è stato capo di gabinetto di Romano Prodi (1999-2004) e di Mario Monti (1995-2000).

    Capo di Gabinetto aggiunto: Oliver Rentschler è stato il capo di gabinetto aggiunto con la precedente Alta Rappresentate, Catherine Ashton.

    Membri: Peteris Ustubs; Arianna Vannini; Felix Fernandez-Shaw; Fabrizia Panzetti; Micheal Curtis; Iwona Pirko Bermig; Anna Vezyroglou.

    Consigliere della Comunicazione: Enrico Petrocelli.

    Assistente personale: Simona Nalin.

    Vytenis Andriukaitis

    (Salute e Sicurezza alimentare)

    Capo di Gabinetto: Arunas Vinciunas, lituano, dal 2009 era capo aggiunto della rappresentanza permanente dell’Unione Europea della Lituania e rappresentante lituano al Comitato dei rappresentanti permanenti COREPER I a Bruxelles.

    Capo di Gabinetto aggiunto: Nathalie Chaze, avvocato specializzato in diritto europeo, ha lavorato per quindici anni alla Direzione Generale (DG) Commercio prima di passare nel 2008 alla DG Salute e consumatori (SANCO), dove era responsabile delle direttive sulla salute transfrontaliera.

    Membri: Arunas Ribokas Annika Nowak.

    Consigliere della Comunicazione: Marco Valletta.

    Esperto: Paula Duarte Gaspar.

    Andrus Ansip

    (Mercato unico digitale)

    Capo di Gabinetto: Juhan Lepassaar, estone, laureato in Scienze politiche e Architettura, è stato capo consigliere di Andrus Ansip su questioni europee per cinque anni prima di diventare membro di gabinetto del Commissario Siim Kallas nel luglio 2013.

    Capo di Gabinetto aggiunto: Kamila Kloc, polacca, avvocato con un dottorato in Economia, viene dalla DG Energia, dove ha seguito argomento legati ai mercati all’ingrosso del gas e dell’elettricità.

    Membri: Aare Jarvan, Laure Chapuis-Kombos, Stig Jörgen Gren, Jeremy Smith.

    Consigliere della Comunicazione: Maximilian Strotmann.

    Assistente personale: Hanna Hinrikus.

    Dimitris Avramopoulos

    (Migrazione, affari interni e cittadinanza)

    Capo di Gabinetto: Diane Schmitt, era capo unità dell’ufficio immigrazione e integrazione della DG Affari interni.

    Capo di Gabinetto aggiunto: Polykarpos Adamidis, era il direttore generale della Direzione Generale sulla politica Difesa nazionale e Relazioni Internazionali del Ministero della Difesa greco.

    Consigliere della Comunicazione: Kostas Sasmatzoglou.

    Esperto: Sofia Asteriadi.

    Elżbieta Bieńkowska

    (Mercato interno, industria, imprenditoria e PMI)

    Capo di Gabinetto: Tomasz Husak, polacco, è un diplomatico, nonché uno dei più giovani capi di gabinetto nella storia della Commissione europea.

    Capo di Gabinetto aggiunto: Kristian Hedberg, avrà la responsabilità di coordinare il pacchetto investimenti e il TTIP.

    Membri: Agnieska Drzewoska, Justyna Morek, Fabrice Comptour.

    Consigliere della Comunicazione: Jakub Cebula.

    Esperto: Carsten Bermig.

    Assistente personale: Karolina Kierońska-Milewska.

    Violeta Bulc


    Capo di Gabinetto: Marjeta Jager, slovena, è entrata nella Commissione europeo nel 2002, dopo aver lavorato nella Rappresentanza permanente slovena nell’Unione europea. Prima di entrare nel gabinetto era direttrice nella DG Mobilità e Trasporti (MOVE), responsabile della politica di coordinamento e sicurezza.

    Capo di Gabinetto aggiunto: Désirée Oen, belga, era capo di gabinetto aggiunto del precedente Commissario ai Trasporti Siim Kallas.

    Membri: Jocelyn Fajardo, Matej Zakonjsek, Nicolaos Von Peter.

    Consigliere della Comunicazione: Damjana Pondelek.

    Assistente personale: Natasa Vidovic.

    Miguel Arias Cañete

    (Azione per il clima ed energia)

    Capo di Gabinetto: Cristina Lobillo Borrero, spagnola, è stata assistente parlamentare di Arias Cañete quando lui era un eurodeputato (1987-1999). Successivamente è entrata nella Commissione europea, dove ha lavorato in DG Commercio.

    Capo di Gabinetto aggiunto: Pierre Schellekens, belga, è stato capo unità per le politiche marittime (Mare Baltico e del Nord) per poi diventare rappresentante dell’UE in Svezia da marzo 2009 a maggio 2014. Da giugno 2014 era capo unità DG Agricoltura.

    Membri: Silvia Bartolini, Isaac Valero Ladron.

    Consigliere della Comunicazione: Gonzalo de Mendoza Asensi.

    Assistente personale: Joachim Balke.

    Corina Cretu

    (Politica regionale)

    Capo di Gabinetto: Mikel Landabaso Alvarez, spagnolo, era capo unità nella DG Politica regionale.

    Capo di Gabinetto aggiunto: Gabriel Onaca, rumeno, era segretario di stato al Ministero per i fondi europei.

    Membri: Oanna Rus, Jan Dzieciolowski, Tomas Nejdl.

    Consigliere della Comunicazione: Dragos Bucurenci.

    Assistente personale: Ioannis Latoudis.

    Valdis Dombrovskis

    (Vicepresidente, Euro e dialogo sociale)

    Capo di Gabinetto: Taneli Lahti, precedentemente un membro del gabinetto di Jyrki Katainen.

    Capo di Gabinetto aggiunto: Massimo Suardi, italiano, era capo unità nel Joint Research Centre.

    Membri: Elina Melngaile, Jan Ceyssens, Karolina Leib e Gints Freimanis.

    Consigliere della Comunicazione: Zaneta Vergnere.

    Assistente personale: Raquel Lucas.

    Kristalina Georgieva

    (Vicepresidente, Bilancio e risorse umane)

    Capo di Gabinetto: Mariana Hristcheva era capo di gabinetto nel precedente gabinetto della Georgieva.

    Capo di Gabinetto aggiunto: Andreas Schwarz era un membro del gabinetto del precedente Commissario al Bilancio, Jacek Dominik.

    Membri: Dimo Iliev, Sophie Alexandrova.

    Consigliere della Comunicazione: Michael Jennings.

    Esperto: Elisabeth Werner.

    Assistente personale: Daniel Giorev.

    Johannes Hahn

    (Politica europea di vicinato e negoziati di allargamento)

    Capo di Gabinetto: Michael Karnitschnig era capo unità alla DG Allargamento.

    Capo di Gabinetto aggiunto: Emma Udwin era consigliere nel precedente gabinetto di Johannes Hahn.

    Membri: Christine Grau, Colin Scicluna, David Mueller.

    Esperto: Hanna Jahns.

    Assistente personale: Kyriacos Charalambous.

    Jonathan Hill

    (Stabilità finanziaria, servizi finanziari e Unione dei mercati dei capitali)

    Capo di Gabinetto: Matthew Baldwin, era direttore generale aggiunto alla DG Commercio

    Capo di Gabinetto aggiunto: Nathalie De Basaldua, è in Commissione sin dal 1986. È stata capo dell’Unità di Audit nella DG Mercato interno e servizi.

    Membri: Lee James Foulger, Sebastian Kuck, Mette Grolleman.

    Consigliere della Comunicazione: Chantal Hughes.

    Assistente personale: Denzil Davidson.

    Phil Hogan

    (Agricoltura e sviluppo rurale)

    Capo di Gabinetto: Peter Power, inglese, ha iniziato lavorando nel team dell’eurodeputato TJ Maher, membro della Commissione agricoltura nel Parlamento europeo. Era nel gabinetto di Chris Patten, dove era responsabile delle relazioni con il Parlamento europeo, per poi diventare il Portavoce della Commissione europea sul Commercio sotto il Commissario Peter Mandelson nel periodo in cui l’agricoltura era l’argomento chiave nei negoziati del WTO. Quando Mandelson divenne Primo Segretario di Stato con responsabilità sul Business, Innovazione e Competenze, Peter Power è stato posto come capo dell’ufficio stampa del governo. Ritornato a Bruxelles dopo il 2010, è diventato un membro del gabinetto del precedente vicepresidente Neelie Kroes che era responsabile dell’economia digitale. Nell’ultimo anno, era a capo dell’ufficio stampa della Rappresentanza della Commissione europea a Dublino.

    Capo di Gabinetto aggiunto: Dermot Ryan, irlandese, ha lavorato nella Rappresentanza permanente irlandese nell’UE.

    Membri: Carl Buhr. Shane Sutherland.

    Consigliere della Comunicazione: Cristina Rueda Catry.

    Assistente personale: Tom Tynan.

    Vĕra Jourová

    (Giustizia, consumatori e parità di genere)

    Capo di Gabinetto: Renate Nikolay era capo unità alla DG Giustizia.

    Capo di Gabinetto aggiunto: Daniel Braun, ceco, lavorava nell’ufficio del Viceministro responsabile dei fondi strutturali dell’Unione Europea nel Ministero dello Sviluppo regionale ceco.

    Membri: Isabelle Perignon, Eduard Hulicius.

    Consigliere della Comunicazione: Kevin O’Connell.

    Assistente personale: Simona Constantin.

    Jyrki Katainen

    (Occupazione, crescita, investimenti e competitività)

    Capo di Gabinetto: Juho Romakkaniemi, finlandese, era membro del gabinetto del Commissario Olli Rehn.

    Capo di Gabinetto aggiunto: Hilde Hardeman lavora in Commissione europea dal 2005. Dal 2011 era capo dell’unità Briefing del Presidente, Segretariato generale della Commissione.

    Membri: Miguel Gil Tertre, Valérie Herzberg, Grzegorz Radziejewski.

    Esperto: Edward Bannerman.

    Assistente personale: Heidi Jern.

    Cecilia Malmström


    Capo di Gabinetto: Maria Åsenius ha occupato lo stesso ruolo nel precedente gabinetto della Malmström.

    Capo di Gabinetto aggiunto: Miguel Ceballos Baron era membro del gabinetto dell’Alta Rappresentante dell’Unione per gli Affari esteri e la politica di sicurezza, Catherine Ashton.

    Membri: Christian Burgsmueller.

    Consigliere della Comunicazione: Joakim Larsson.

    Esperto: Nele Eichhorn, Cécile Billaux, Jon Nyman.

    Neven Mimica

    (Cooperazione internazionale e sviluppo)

    Capo di Gabinetto: Nils Behrndt Åsenius ha occupato lo stesso ruolo nel precedente gabinetto di Mimica.

    Capo di Gabinetto aggiunto: Irena Andrassy ha occupato lo stesso ruolo nel precedente gabinetto di Mimica.

    Membri: Denis Cajo, Paolo Berizzi, Maria-Myrto Kanellopoulou.

    Consigliere della Comunicazione: Maud Arnould.

    Assistente personale: Ivan Prusina.

    Carlos Moedas

    (Ricerca, scienza e innovazione)

    Capo di Gabinetto: António Luís Vicente era  capo di gabinetto di Modeas quando il politico portoghese era segretario di stato in caricato del programma di aggiustamento economico portoghese.

    Capo di Gabinetto aggiunto: Giulia Del Brenna, italiana, ha lavorato in Commissione per vent’anni. È stata a capo di due unità nella DG Imprese e Industria (Industria alimentare e biotecnologia, Competitività dell’industria farmaceutica e biotecnologia) prima d’iniziare a lavorare nel Gruppo di Lavoro della Commissione sulla Grecia nel 2011.

    Membri: Vygandas Jankunas.

    Consigliere della Comunicazione: Alfredo Sousa de Jesus.

    Esperto: Maria Carvalho.

    Pierre Moscovici

    (Affari economici e finanziari, fiscalità e dogane)

    Capo di Gabinetto: Olivier Bailly, he era Portavoce in Commissione e precedentemente lavorava al Segretariato generale.

    Capo di Gabinetto aggiunto: Reinhard Felke, tedesco, lavora in Commissione dal 2000. Ha lavorato nella Commissione europea, DG Economia e Finanza, capo unità per l’economia della zona euro e l’analisi dell’Unione Monetaria Europea sull’economia dell’Eurozona e i suoi sviluppi sull’amministrazione economica.

    Membri: Lucie Mattera, Fabien Dell.

    Consigliere della Comunicazione: Simon O’Connor.

    Esperto: Maria-Elena Scoppio.

    Capo analista economico: Philipp Rother.

    Assistente personale: Malgorzata Iskra.

    Tibor Navracsics

    (Istruzione, cultura, giovani e sport)

    Capo di Gabinetto: Jonathan Michael Hill, era capo di gabinetto aggiunto nel precedente gabinetto di Educazione e Cultura con la Commissaria Androulla Vassiliou.

    Capo di Gabinetto aggiunto: Adrienn Kiraly è stato membro dei gabinetti delle Commissarie Viviane Reding e Martine Reicherts e ha assistito l’attuale Commissario Tibor Navracsics nella preparazione delle audizioni nel Parlamento europeo.

    Membri: Patricia Reilly, Szabolcs Horvath, Krzystof Kania.

    Consigliere della Comunicazione: Christine Mai.

    Assistente personale: Luca Jasko.

    Günther Oettinger

    (Economia e società digitale)

    Capo di Gabinetto: Michael Hager è stato il capo di gabinetto del Commissario Oettinger nel precedente mandato. Precedentemente era stato membro del gabinetto di Margot Wallström dal 2008 al 2010. Ha iniziato a lavorare in Commissione nel 2004, dove è stato anche l’assistente del direttore generale della DG Mercato interno. Dal 1999 al 2004 è stato assistente parlamentare dell’eurodeputato tedesco Brigitte Langenhagen.

    Capo di Gabinetto aggiunto: Eric Mamer, francese, è stato il capo di gabinetto aggiunto del Commissario Oettinger nel precedente mandato. È entrato in Commissione nel 1994 e ha lavorato in varie posizioni prima di diventare Portavoce del Vicepresidente per le riforme amministrative, Neil Kinnock, e del Commissario del Bilancio, Michaele Schreyer, durante la Commissione di Prodi.

    Membri: Bodo Lehman, Paolo Pinho e Markus Schulte.

    Consigliere della Comunicazione: Marlene Holzner.

    Assistente personale: Jasmin Battista.

    Maroš Šefčovič

    (Unione dell’energia)

    Capo di Gabinetto: Juraj Nociar ha già avuto la stessa posizione nel precedente staff del Commissario.

    Capo di Gabinetto aggiunto: Bernd Bievert, tedesco, era il capo unità “SMEs in Horizon 2020″ nella DG Imprese e Industria.

    Membri: Christian Linder, Manuel Szapiro, Gabriela Keckesova.

    Consigliere della Comunicazione: Lubomira Hromkova.

    Assistente personale: Dagmara Koska.

    Christos Stylianides

    (Aiuti umanitari e gestione della crisi)

    Capo di Gabinetto: Themis Christophidou, greco, era capo gabinetto di Maria Damanaki, Commissaria su affari marittimi e pesca.

    Capo di Gabinetto aggiunto: Kim Eling era il capo di gabinetto aggiunto di Kristalina Georgieva quando era Commissaria su Cooperazione internazionale, aiuti umanitari e risposta alle crisi.

    Membri: Zacharias Giakoumis, Mathieu Briens, Myrto Zambaria, Davinia Wood.

    Assistente personale: Sohail Luka.

    Marianne Thyssen

    (Occupazione, affari sociali, competenze e mobilità dei lavoratori)

    Capo di Gabinetto: Stefaan Hermans è stato capo unità nella DG Ricerca e Innovazione della Commissione e ha lavorato anche in DG Impiego e affari sociali.

    Capo di Gabinetto aggiunto: Ruth Paserman, italiana, ha lavorato in DG Concorrenza, DG Impiego e nel gabinetto del Commissario per l’impresa Antonio Tajani.

    Membri: Inge Bernaerts, Julie Anne Fionda, Vasiliki Kokkori, Raf De Backer.

    Esperto: Baudouin Baudru.

    Karmenu Vella

    (Ambiente, affari marittimi e pesca)

    Capo di Gabinetto: Patrick Costello, irlandese, lavora nelle Istituzioni dell’UE fin dal 1996 e ha una profonda esperienza nelle Relazioni internazionali. Era vicepresidente del Comitato politico e di sicurezza nel Servizio di azione esterna dell’Unione europea dal 2011. Precedentemente è stato capo di gabinetto aggiunto nel gabinetto di Margot Walstrom (2007-2009) e capo della divisione aggiunta alla DG Relazioni esterne (2009-2011).

    Capo di Gabinetto aggiunto: Gabriella Pace.

    Consigliere della Comunicazione: Brian Synnot.

    Esperto: Jürgen Mueller, Andras Inotai, Aurore Maillet.

    Margrethe Vestager


    Capo di Gabinetto: Ditte Juul-Jorgensen, danese, avvocato, ha un’esperienza ventennale negli Affari europei. Era un direttore della politica di commercio multilaterale in DG Commercio (dal 2012).

    Capo di Gabinetto aggiunto: Lindsay McCallum, avvocato specializzato in concorrenza, ha lavorato come funzionario in Commissione per vent’anni. Era il direttore dell’ufficio Tecnologie d’informazione e media alla DG Concorrenza. È conosciuto per aver gestito i casi Motorola, Samsung e Google.

    Membri: Astrid Cousin, Claes Bengtsson, Friedrich Bulst

    Consigliere della Comunicazione: Christina Holm Eiberg

    Esperto: Soren Schonberg.

    Cameron’s flawed understanding of a ‘vast’ amount

    Posted by on 11/11/14
    By Kevin Hannon Mr Cameron is appalled at the 'vast' amount as he called it being asked of the UK as its extra contribution to the EU. Putting the £1.67 billion EU contribution into perspective and context to show the real scale of the economic issue makes clear that our Prime Minister, Mr Cameron, has a strange notion of what is 'vast'.

    ¥uan and Waterloo of Petro$ (Part 2/2)

    Posted by on 11/11/14

    yuan logoU.S. sanctions due the conflict in Ukraine launched Russia’s counter-offensive with bypassing the U.S. dollar system as its spear-head. My previous article ¥uan and Waterloo of Petro$(Part ½) describes this monetary war. The gas contract, signed between Russia and China in May 2014, and a new wave of the EU sanctions in September 2014 are paving the road towards the revival of traditional (neo)realist balance of power.

    Besides monetary war the emergencing cooperation on different pro-Russian fields and energy policy are linked to ongoing geopolitical turmoil.The wider picture includes the Sino-Russian cooperation, the BRICS, the SCO, the EEU, the energy war and other bilateral operations.


    The Sino-Russian cooperation

    The Russia-China strategic partnership will keep evolving very fast – with Beijing in symbiosis with Moscow’s immense natural and military-technological resources. Not to mention the strategic benefits. Faced with an increasingly hostile West, Russia is visibly turning East. In particular, China and Russia have become closer, signing a historic gas deal, conducting joint naval exercises, and increasing trade.

    Gazprom signed a thirty-year gas contract worth $400 billion. The deal’s importance can be compared with a similar accord concluded in the 1960s that brought Russian gas to West Germany for the first time. Moscow and Beijing vow to more than double their bilateral trade to $200 billion by 2020, that is, roughly half of their current turnover with the EU.

    It is clear that Moscow seeks an acceleration of its business ties with China. On Nov. 09, 2014 President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping signed a memorandum of understanding on the so-called “western” gas supplies route to China. Russia’s so-called “western” or “Altay” route would supply 30 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas a year to China. The new supply line comes in addition to the “eastern” route, through the “Power of Siberia” pipeline, which will annually deliver 38 bcm of gas to China. Work on that pipeline route has already begun after a $400 billion deal was clinched in May. Among the business issues discussed by Putin and Xi at their fifth meeting this year was the possibility of payment in Chinese yuan, including for defense deals military, Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov was cited as saying by RIA Novosti. (Source: RT )

    China-Russia gas deal

    In addition China and Russia have agreed to jointly build a seaport on the coast of the sea of Japan, which are projected to become one of the largest on the coast in North-East Asia. The facility will be located in our territory and will serve up to 60 million tons of cargo per year.

    Also, China has decided to invest 400 billion rubles in the construction of high-speed highway Moscow-Kazan, which is part of transport corridor Moscow-Beijing.

    Russia and China are determined to reduce U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) presence in Central Asia to what it was before the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan. The SCO has consistently rebuffed U.S. requests for observer status, and has pressured countries in the region to end U.S. basing rights. The United States was forced out of Karshi-Khanabad in Uzbekistan in 2005, and from Manas in Kyrgyzstan in 2014.

    “At present, the SCO has started to counterbalance NATO’s role in Asia,” says Aleksey Maslov, chair of the Department of Asian Studies of the Higher School of Economics in Moscow. And the new members, he says, want in to safeguard their interests. (Source: VoR)

    China overtook Germany as Russia’s largest trading partner in 2011, Last year, China acquired 12.5 percent of Russia’s Uralkali (URKA:RM), the biggest producer of potash in the world, and China National Petroleum agreed to prepay Rosneft (ROSN:RM), run by Putin associate Igor Sechin, about $70 billion as part of a $270 billion, 25-year supply deal. That was followed by Rosneft’s $85 billion, 10-year accord with China Sinopec and China National Petroleum’s purchase of 20 percent of an Arctic gas project from Novatek for an undisclosed sum. (Source: Bloomberg Businessweek )

    The BRICS

    The BRICS met 2013 in Durban, South Africa, to, among other steps, create their own credit rating agency, sidelining the “biased agendas” of the Moody’s/Standard & Poor’s variety. They endorsed plans to create a joint foreign exchange reserves pool. Initially it will include US$100 billion. It’s called a self-managed contingent reserve arrangement (CRA). brics cra

    During the July (2014) BRICS Summit in Brazil the five members agreed to directly confront the West’s institutional economic dominance. The BRICS agreed to establish the New Development Bank (NDB) based in Shanghai , pushed especially by India and Brazil, a concrete alternative to the Western-dominated World Bank and the Bretton Woods system. With initial authorized capital of $100 billion, including $50 billion of equally shared initial subscribed capital, it will become one of the largest multilateral financial development institutions. Importantly, it will be open for other countries to join.

    In addition creation of the Contingent Reserve Arrangement, or currency reserve pool, initially sized at $100 billion, will help protect the BRICS countries against short-term liquidity pressures and international financial shocks. Together with the NDB these new instruments will contribute to further co-operation on macroeconomic policies. According Conn Hallinan – in his article Move Over, NATO and IMF: Eurasia Is Coming – The BRICS’ construction of a Contingent Reserve Arrangement will give its members emergency access to foreign currency, which might eventually dethrone the dollar as the world’s reserve currency. The creation of a development bank will make it possible to bypass the IMF for balance-of-payment loans, thus avoiding the organization’s onerous austerity requirements.

    Also it was agreed MoU’s among BRICS Export Credit and Guarantees Agencies, as well as the Cooperation Agreement on Innovation within the BRICS Interbank Cooperation Mechanism, which will offer new channels of support for trade and financial ties between the five countries.

    So in near future BRICS will be trading in their own currencies, including a globally convertible yuan, further away from the US dollar and the petrodollar. All these actions are strenghtening financial stability of BRICS – a some kind of safety net precaution, an extra line of defense.

    Emerging economic powers such as China, India and Brazil have long been demanding greater share of votes in multilateral development institutions like the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and the Asian Development Bank (ADP) to reflect their recent phenomenal growth. China’s economy is expected to grow to $10 trillion this year, yet its share of votes in the Bretton Woods institutions is only 3.72 percent, compared with 17.4 percent for the United States. The signing ceremony of the Memorandum of Understanding on Establishing Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) took place in Beijing, Oct. 24, 2014 According to ADB, in the 10 years up to 2020, the region requires investments of $8 trillion in terms of national infrastructure, or $800 billion a year. The ADB currently lends out only about 1.5 percent of this amount. The AIIB is expected to have an initial capital base of $100 billion. The AIIB, to begin with, will serve at least five objectives for China. First, it could help China invest part of its foreign exchange reserves of $3.9 trillion on commercial terms. Second, it will play a vital role in the internationalization of the yuan. And fifth, the AIIB will boost China’s global influence and enhance its soft power.

    BRICS could be expanded to include the MINT countries (MINT is an acronym referring to the economies of Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria, and Turkey.), thus furthering the organization’s scope and creating opportunities for a long-term strategic ‘flip’ of those states from their largely Western orientations.

    Being in the same organization does not automatically translate into having the same politics on international questions. The BRICS and the recent Gaza conflict are a good example. China called for negotiations; Russia was generally neutral, but slightly friendly toward Israel; India was silent (Israel is New Delhi’s number-one source of arms); South Africa was critical of Israel, and Brazil withdrew its ambassador.

    As Russia is taking over the position of the BRICS Chair, the next summit will be held in the city of Ufa in the Republic of Bashkortostan, in July 2015.

    The SCO

    The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is the cradle in which the Russian-Chinese strategic partnership (RCSP) was born and raised. Originally founded as the Shanghai Five in 1996, it was reformed as the SCO in 2001 with the inclusion of Uzbekistan. Less than a month after the BRICS’ declaration of independence from the current strictures of world finance, the SCO—which includes China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan—approved India, Pakistan, Iran, and Mongolia for membership in the organization. Also SCO has received applications for the status of observers from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belarus, Nepal and Sri Lanka.

    SCO map

    It was the single largest expansion of the economic cooperation and security-minded group in its history, and it could end up diluting the impact of sanctions currently plaguing Moscow over the Ukraine crisis and Tehran over its nuclear program. These countries directly fall into the immediate sphere of the RCSP, where either Russia or China can exert some degree or another of important influence to varying degrees. Also, the SCO sets out the foundations of the RCSP, listing the fight against “terrorism, separatism, and extremism in all their manifestations” (thus including Color Revolutions) as their foremost foe. It just so happens that the U.S. engages in all of these activities in its Eurasian-wide campaign of chaos and control, thereby placing it at existential odds with Russia and China, as well as the other official members. Even before the recent additions, SCO represented three-fifths of Eurasia and 25 percent of the world’s population.

    For Iran, SCO membership may serve as a way to bypass the sanctions currently pounding the Iranian economy. Russia and Iran signed a memorandum in August (2014) to exchange Russian energy technology and food for Iranian oil, a move that would violate U.S. sanctions. One particular constraint is Russia’s important relationship with Israel, which Moscow will not give up unless Jerusalem drops its neutral stance and joins the U.S.-led condemnation of Russia.

    Chinese President Xi Jinping has also promoted new regional security initiatives. In addition to the already existing Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a Chinese-led security institution that includes Russia and four Central Asian states, Xi wants to build a new Asia-Pacific security structure that would exclude the United States.

    As for India and Pakistan energy is a major concern the membership in the oil- and gas-rich SCO is quite reasonable. Whether that will lead to a reduction of tensions between New Delhi and Islamabad over Kashmir remains to see, but at least the two traditional enemies will be in same organization to talk about economic cooperation and regional security on a regular basis.

    As joint forum the SCO can ease tensions in Central Asia e.g. between SCO members Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan over borders, and both countries, plus Tajikistan, over water rights. Most SCO members are concerned about security, particularly given the imminent departure of the United States and NATO from Afghanistan. That country might well descend into civil war, one that could have a destabilizing effect on its neighbors. From August 24 -29, SCO members China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan took part in “Peace Mission 2014,” an anti-terrorist exercise to “subdue” a hypothetical Central Asian city that had become a center for terrorist activity.

    The BRICS and the SCO are the two largest independent international organizations to develop over the past decade. There is also other developments to reduce old U.S. global dominance. The newly minted Union of South American Nations (USAN) includes every country in South America, including Cuba, and has largely replaced the Organization of American States (OAS), a Cold War relic that excluded Havana. While the United States and Canada are part of the OAS, they were not invited to join USAN.

    Eurasian Economic Union (EEU)

    Eurasian integration has moved to a higher level, to replace the EurAsEC came a new form of closer Association of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) also known as the Eurasian Union (EAU). To him by the old member States (Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus) was joined by Armenia, the next candidate in the list on the accession of Kyrgyzstan, and later, his desire to join the EAEC expressed and Vietnam. Also the accession of Turkey and Syria are on the way.

    EEU mapMoscow began building a Russian-led community in Eurasia that would give Russia certain economic benefits and, no less important, better bargaining positions with regard to the country’s big continental neighbors—the EU to the west and China to the east.

    Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia have been offered by both the European Union and the Eurasian Economic Union to join their integration unions. All three countries opted for the European Union by signing association agreements on March 21, 2014. However break-away regions of Moldova (Transnistria), Ukraine (Republic of Donetsk) and Georgia (South Ossetia and Abkhazia) have expressed a desire to join the Eurasian Customs Union and integrate into the Eurasian Economic Union.

    Putin is scheduled to visit Japan later in 2014 in an effort to keep Russia’s technology and investment channel to the country open. And Moscow is expected to reinvigorate ties with India, particularly in the defense technology sphere, under the leadership of newly elected Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

    The Eurasian union may become an add-on to, or even an extension of, China’s Silk Road project – a common space for economic and humanitarian cooperation stretching all the way from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean


    Treaties and development stages of Eurasian Economic Union/Structural evolution

    1991 1996 2000 1995- 2007 2007 & 2011 2014
    Eurasian Economic Union (EEU)
    Eurasian Economic Space
    Eurasian Customs Union (ECU)
    Eurasian Economic Community (EurAsEC)
    Increased Integration in the Economic and Humanitarian Fields
    Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS)

    Other bilateral development

    Russia is in the process of politically and economically integrating with Kazakhstan and soon Kyrgyzstan under the auspices of the Eurasian Union, and it has mutual security commitments with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan under the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). China, on the other hand, is more of a soft leader in Central Asia, having established lucrative business contacts in recent years and struck extremely strategic energy deals with most of the region’s members, first and foremost Turkmenistan.

    A Russian-Iranian strategic partnership would extend beyond Caspian and nuclear energy issues and see implicit cooperation between the two in the Mideast, especially in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. It can even carry over into Afghanistan after the NATO drawdown by year’s end. This can help to build an alternative non-Western-centric trade network that can bolster Russia’s complex economic interdependence with other states. This would give it the opportunity to expand mutual relations beyond the economic sphere and perhaps eventually associate these states into the multilateral webs of BRICS and the SCO.

    Russia is also pursuing bilateral relations with Iran with fewer constraints. This refers to nuclear energy, oil and gas, and arms deals, all based on pragmatic considerations: a Russo-Persian alliance is unlikely in view of many differences between Moscow and Tehran and thick layers of mutual suspicion. For Iran, SCO membership may serve as a way to bypass the sanctions currently pounding the Iranian economy. Russia and Iran signed a memorandum in August (2014) to exchange Russian energy technology and food for Iranian oil, a move that would violate U.S. sanctions.

    At the recent summit of the SCO in Dushanbe (11-12 Sep. 2014 )the cooperation with SCO-applicant Iran went wider. Some of the projects were following:

    • The well-known “Uralvagonzavod”, began talks with Iran on the supply of freight cars 40 billion annually.
    • Interestingly, Iran is not on the camera, discussing terms of oil supplies in exchange for electricity, in which Russia plans to build in Iran, the network of hydro – and thermal power plants.
    • Iran and Russia have made progress towards an oil-for-goods deal sources said would be worth up to $20 billion, which would enable Tehran to boost vital energy exports in defiance of Western sanctions. In January Reuters reported Moscow and Tehran were discussing a barter deal that would see Moscow buy up to 500,000 barrels a day of Iranian oil in exchange for Russian equipment and goods.

    (Source: )

    One particular constraint is Russia’s important relationship with Israel, which Moscow will not give up unless Jerusalem drops its neutral stance and joins the U.S.-led condemnation of Russia.

    Putin is scheduled to visit Japan later in 2014 in an effort to keep Russia’s technology and investment channel to the country open. Russia is interested in restarting talks to build a natural gas pipeline between its Sakhalin Island and Japan’s far northern island of Hokkaido, Russia already supplies 9.8 percent of Japan’s LNG imports. The proposed pipeline would deliver 20 billion cubic meters of natural gas every year, which at full capacity would supply 17 percent of Japan’s total natural gas imports. As an additional bonus, using a pipeline does not require the building of expensive regasification plants and natural gas from Russia would probably still be relatively cheap. This is also part of Moscow’s attempt to balance its interests and expand its energy influence eastward.

    Also Moscow is expected to reinvigorate ties with India, particularly in the defense technology sphere, under the leadership of newly elected Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

    South stream serbiaRussia also hopes that Russian-Serbian trade will reach 2 billion dollars this year. He said that a free trade regime existing between the two countries was contributing to steady development of Russian-Serbian economic ties. “Our reciprocal trade turnover grew by 15% to reach 1.97 billion dollars in 2013. It grew by another 16.5% to reach 1.2 billion dollars in the first half of 2014. We hope to reach the figure of 2 billion dollars this year” Putin stressed. Positive dynamics can be seen in the sphere of investments. The total volume of Russian capital investments in Serbia has exceeded 3 billion dollars, the bulk of which was channeled into the strategically important energy sector.

    While Russia is consolidating its influence over the former Soviet sphere with states which it already has cultivated deep relations with, China is moving in due its strategic interest in Central Asia. For China a top priority is to be able to diversify its natural resource import routes in order to avoid the U.S. dominated Straits of Malacca.

    The growing influence of China in Southeast and East Asia and the Indian Ocean is explained with “string of pearls” concept (strategic points such as Hainan Island, the Woody Islands/close to Vietnam, Chittagong/Bangladesh, Sittue and the Coco Islands/Myanmar, Hambantota/Sri Lanka etc.). The “string of pearls” strategy is aimed at protecting China’s oil flows, affirming the country as a global naval power with diverse interests throughout the world, and overcoming attempts by the USA to cut off access to or from China via the world’s oceans. Furthermore, an important task lay in minimizing potential threats in the most complex and vulnerable choke point at the junction of two oceans, named the “Malacca Dilemma”. (Source and more in Second Wind for China’s String of Pearls Strategy by Nina Lebedeva ).

    Tehran is reaching out to Beijing as well. Iran and China have negotiated a deal to trade Iran’s oil for China’s manufactured goods. Beijing is currently Iran’s number-one customer for oil. In late September, two Chinese warships paid a first-ever visit to Iran, and the two countries’ navies carried out joint anti-piracy and rescue maneuvers.

    Importing more gas from Russia helps Beijing to gradually escape its Malacca and Hormuz dilemma and industrialize the immense, highly populated and heavily dependent on agriculture interior provinces.

    The Northern East-West Freight Corridor (Eurasian Landbridge) is an idea to link the Far East and Europe by rail takes its origin with the construction of the Trans Siberian railway linking Moscow to Vladivostok, completed in 1916. With a length of 9,200 km it is the longest rail segment in the world. It was initially used solely as an inland rail link, but in the 1960s the Soviet Union started offering a landbridge service from Vladivostok using the Trans Siberian to reach Western Europe.

    east-west freight corridor

    Energy war

    U.S. ally inside OPEC, the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, has been flooding the market with deep discounted oil, triggering a price war within OPEC, with Iran following suit and panic selling short in oil futures markets. The Saudis are targeting sales to Asia for the discounts and in particular, its major Asian customer, China where it is reportedly offering its crude for a mere $50 to $60 a barrel rather than the earlier price of around $100. When combined with the financial losses of Russian state natural gas sales to Ukraine and prospects of a US-instigated cutoff of the transit of Russian gas to the huge EU market this winter as EU stockpiles become low, the pressure on oil prices hits Moscow doubly. More than 50% of Russian state revenue comes from its export sales of oil and gas. The US-Saudi oil price manipulation is aimed at destabilizing several strong opponents of U.S. globalist policies. Targets include Iran and Syria, both allies of Russia in opposing a US sole Superpower. In fact the oil weapon is accelerating recent Russian moves to focus its economic power on national interests and lessen dependence on the Dollar system. If the dollar ceases being the currency of world trade, especially oil trade, the US Treasury faces financial catastrophe.

    The shale gas revolution and a greater availability of LNG technologies, EU regulatory initiatives and implementation of the Third Energy Package provisions play a key role in transformations of gas markets.

    ME pipelinesNow there might be a global oil war underway pitting the United States and Saudi Arabia on one side against Russia and Iran on the other.

    In July 2011, the governments of Syria, Iran and Iraq signed an historic gas pipeline energy agreement which went largely unnoticed in the midst of the NATO-Saudi-Qatari war to remove Assad. The pipeline, envisioned to cost $10 billion and take three years to complete, would run from the Iranian Port Assalouyeh near the South Pars gas field in the Persian Gulf, to Damascus in Syria via Iraq territory. The agreement would make Syria the center of assembly and production in conjunction with the reserves of Lebanon. This is a geopolitically strategic space that geographically opens for the first time, extending from Iran to Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. As Asia Times correspondent Pepe Escobar put it, “The Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline – if it’s ever built – would solidify a predominantly Shi’ite axis through an economic, steel umbilical cord.”

    In ongoing oil war the U.S. shale oil producers will suffer most. According to experts’ estimates, the cost of production is around 80-90 dollars a barrel, 4-5 times more than the traditional oil. It means that the current price – 85 dollars a barrel as of October 17 – makes the companies operate in the red. Some producers will have to suspend operations facing mass bankruptcy in case the oil price falls lower than 80 dollars as shareholders start getting rid of zero profit bonds. The shale oil «soap bubble» will blow like the housing construction industry «bubble» blew in 2008. Of course, as time goes by oil prices will go up but it’ll be a different world with some US oil producers non-existent anymore…

    Russia insists the South Stream project should be exempt from the effect of the Third Energy Package because it signed bilateral inter-governmental agreements with the EU countries participating in the construction of the gas pipeline on their territory before the EU’s new energy legislation came into force. Therefore, Russia says that the European Commission’s requirement to adapt these documents to the Third Energy Package contradicts the basic law principle that legislation cannot have retroactive force. The Third Energy Package requires, in particular, that a half of the capacities of the pipeline built with Russian money must be reserved for independent suppliers, i.e. for cheap and free transit of Caspian gas to Europe independently from Russia. Therefore, Russia does not recognize the legitimacy of applying the Third Energy Package to the South Stream gas pipeline project.

    Bottom line

    Russia has accelerated its building of the Eurasian Bridge: Russia has the geostrategic opportunity of being an air, land, and sea bridge between Europe and East Asia. In line with China’s Silk Road and New Eurasian Land Bridge projects, the concept of the Northern Sea Route, and international air routes traversing Siberia, Russia can use its geographic position to reap the resultant dividends of East-West trade and thereby increasing its middleman importance.

    The geopolitical situation is now transforming from traditional Sino-U.S. relations to U.S.-China-Russia triangle in which China, rather than the United States, will be the central player.

    In addition the EU is worried that Russia will turn east and Europe will lose much of its Russian market share. At a time when the euro area threatens to collapse, where an acute economic crisis has led the U.S. into a debt of up to 14 940 billion, and where their influence is dwindling in the face of the emerging BRICS powers, it becomes clear that the key to economic success and political domination lies mainly in the control of the energy source of the century: gas.

    With China signing the natural gas deal with Russia and the president of China publicly stating that it’s time to create a new security model for the Asian nations that includes Russia and Iran, it’s clear China has chosen Russia over the U.S. Today the US-backed wars in Ukraine and in Syria are but two fronts in the same strategic war to cripple Russia and China and to rupture any Eurasian counter-pole to a U.S.-controlled regions. In each, control of energy pipelines, this time primarily of natural gas pipelines—from Russia to the EU via Ukraine and from Iran and Syria to the EU via Syria—is the strategic goal.

    So far U.S. has bullied its way around smaller nations for too long now. It seems to me that finally there is coming to be a coalition of new axis with Eurasia and China. Russia and China are leading of developing a network of “parallel structures” to existing international organizations and institutions. The end goal is create an alternative reality for international engagement, so that China can expand its own influence while escaping the restrictions of the current U.S.-dominated system.

    eurasia revolution

    25 years later

    Posted by on 11/11/14
    The photo of Chancellor Helmut Kohl in front of the Brandenburg Gate is incredible. But how will it be viewed in 25 more years? Chancellor Helmut Kohl in front of the Brandenburg Gate, 25 years after the launch a process that led to the reunification of much more than Germany (@bild). Of course it’s supposed [...]

    Good performance is welcome but will not change the condition of refineries

    Posted by on 11/11/14

    The performance of oil companies in Q3 2014 was strongly affected by an increase in refining margins, which was primarily attributable to a surprising decline in crude oil prices. How will oil prices and margins change in the future? Not long ago, I explored the reasons behind the dip in crude oil prices. Now, I would like to take a closer look at refining margins.

    The financial performance of companies operating in the petrochemical industry – which transform one commodity, such as crude oil, into another commodity, such as diesel fuel, gasoline and heavy fuel oil – is strongly dependent of the difference between the market price of petroleum products and the price of the crude consumed to produce them. The difference is what we call a margin.

    When talking about individual products we use the term ‘crack spread’ (price of diesel oil minus price of crude, price of gasoline minus price of crude, etc.). In reference to a refinery’s entire product output, however, the term ‘refining margin’ is used. As product composition of output is adjusted according to demand structure and product prices, which are not fixed, as well as depending on product yield from individual crude types, refineries calculate model refining margins, which are based on constant product shares, average in past periods.

    It should be noted that short-term margin fluctuations are something to be expected as fuel prices are strongly affected by the seasonality of consumer demand, which has no bearing on the crude oil market. Temporary / seasonal production stoppages at refineries (maintenance shutdowns) also affect fuel prices by reducing fuel supply and oil consumption. In consequence, fuel prices are out of phase with oil prices when it comes to short-term fluctuations, often changing in opposition to each other, which may result in margin ups and downs.

    Let’s look at PKN Orlen’s model refining margin in 2014. Initially negative in January (USD -0.10/b), the margin grew to USD 4.3/b in April, then shrank to USD 1.5/b in May, and remained at that level in June, but only to rise again in September (to USD 5.5/b). When we relate these fluctuations to changes in crude prices, we will see that the rising crude prices were accompanied by falling margins, and vice verse – when oil prices fell, margins went up. Knowing that crude prices reduce margins, this is no surprise.

    However, margins behave like this (i.e. react strongly to changing crude oil prices) only in very specific circumstances:

    • when crude oil prices change abruptly, increasing in reaction to actual or anticipated supply disruptions (fear premium) or decreasing as a result of production growth, which is considerably less common, and
    • over the short term, when product prices have not yet adapted to new crude prices.

    In some respects, crude oil is a financial asset, and its price is affected, through financial markets, by unexpected changes more strongly and rapidly than the price of fuels (products of crude processing), which typically react no sooner than when actual changes materialise.

    In situations where global GDP and liquid fuel demand projections fall down abruptly, as it is happening now (the same took place in 2012), crude oil prices react by decreasing more sharply and quickly than the prices of petroleum products, which change gradually and over longer periods of time.

    Knowing this relationship, one can expect that an actual decline in crude oil prices (if it is sustained) will likely result, within a period of several months, in lower fuel prices, which will in turn cause margins to shrink. The opposite holds true as well: if the price of crude goes up, due to geopolitical factors or other reasons, refining margins will decrease at first, and after some time fuel and petroleum product prices will follow the new oil price trend, resulting in higher margins.

    Over longer time periods, the refining margin ceases to be a simple price difference and becomes a parameter tied to technologies used in the global petroleum industry: margins are set in relation to the most expensive technologies required to meet global fuel demand. In such a situation, the petroleum industry’s cost-based fuel pricing mechanism kicks in, setting the marginal cost of processing crude oil according to the formula: crude price + technological margin (for the least efficient producer / technological process). Growing fuel demand creates room on the market for less efficient refiners, and it is them who ultimately set the market price (production must be profitable over the long term). When new, more efficient refineries enter the market, on the other hand, supply increases, margins go down and the marginal cost of producing fuel is reduced, forcing less efficient refiners out of the market. To remain on the market, refineries must produce fuels at the lowest possible cost. An unexpected increase in margins is always good news, but it must not be taken as a foundation for the future.


    Pondering Russia

    Posted by on 11/11/14

    I do not know what to think about Russia. I have been writing this entry for four months, revising it again and again in my head. So, if you came here looking for answers and policy suggestions, then you have come in vain. I am going to explain why I cannot figure out this situation. I cannot even figure out where the problem lies or with whom fault lies for precipitating the conflict. Firstly, because the whole situation has striking similarities to the film adaptation of the Tom Clancy novel The Sum of All Fears, which certainly casts Putin’s actions in a more favourable light. Secondly, the situation in Ukraine extended to view all of Russia’s military actions against neighbours in the 21st century does seem an awful lot like salami tactics: a frequent communist approach to political expansion in the 20th century. The second hypothesis portrays Russian foreign policy as Machiavellian empire building by directly attacking western interests. Both scenarios have legitimate scholarly underpinning and a degree of truth.

    The first scenario is about nationalist elements within Russia empowered by the post-Soviet dissatisfaction with their fall from “superpower” status. It is a story about a Russia that was trying to fit into the liberal democratic order, but grew frustrated with the West insisting that Russia were somehow still “the enemy”. Furthermore, Russia feels that NATO broke its promise of not expanding into the former Warsaw countries in the wake of the collapse of communism. Taking into account Ukrainians having “irreversibly supported Ukraine’s course towards Europe” and of course Russia feels paranoid. Russia, a former professor used to remind me, has always sought Eastern Europe as a buffer to keep warmongering Western Europeans (like Sweden and Germany) off sacred soil, the heart of Kievan Rus. This threat to the motherland could be the source of nationalist sentiments in the Russian Federation. Nationalist sentiments that Putin has expertly harnessed in developing his cult of personality. This raises the question, if Putin disappointed the nationalists under him, if they would they retract their support of him? If the strongman falters and revealed to be mortal, would those Russians continue to worship at the alter of Vlad? If we assume hypothetically that should the strong man show weakness that his support would destabilise– a big assumption– then Russian aggression in Ukraine becomes an act of self preservation by a man trying to keep more radical members of his government and public in line. Now I don’t believe Putin is a Nemerov. I can’t believe that all of his policy decisions are just tempered to court populist support. I do believe that it is likely that domestic support is playing a role in the events. One doesn’t court popular support, if popular support is irrelevant. If it were, the resources would be better used elsewhere.

    The second scenario is that Russia is using various events to give legitimacy to their attacks against their neighbours with stronger Western times to expose Western weakness and re-establish a Russian empire around their ideology of conservative, authoritative and illiberal democracy. It knows that NATO is slow to act and pain adverse. Using these features to portray us as ineffectual, ineffective and effeminate (a term I use only to highlight the machismo with which Putin markets himself with), Putin’s Russia is discrediting us internationally. They are achieving this best by engaging in small scale military campaigns against pro-western neighbours. For the uninformed, this approach is refereed to as salami tactics; in which you pursue your objectives one slice at a time until you have the entire “salami”. This could be said to be exactly what Russia doing to achieve its foreign policy goals while keeping the West reluctant to commit armed forces to combat roles. This fear is based on the potential, at most, of starting World War III or, at least and the much more likely outcome, of devastating a potential ally by turning their country into a conventional war zone. Even if the NATO did commit military forces and achieved a short, decisive victory over Russia, a question still remains; if Putin was destabilised, who would replace him? It would be unlikely to be a liberal democrat. Putin didn’t come to power in spite of society. Those social forces keeping him in power could be reorganised under a more radical populist nationalist. Defeats do not have the tendency to make countries feel less marginalised.

    I have a personal mantra that helps remind me of something I need to keep in mind when thinking about this situation: Russians are not dumb. Putin could be using the second scenario masquerading at the first or vice versa, depending on which audience he’s playing to. The truth rarely lies in extremes however, and more likely is that the reality is a blend of both ideas. This is why I don’t know what to think about Russia. We’re staring across the board at a famously clever adversary who is renowned for their long game and there are far too many pieces in play.

    Discovering China

    Posted by on 11/11/14

    Being an avid book reader, I found the truth in this proverb only during my visit to China. China is exactly as you would imagine it after you read numerous travel guides and yet it is completely different, surpassing expectations and surprising travellers.

    Europa Media is a partner in the LinkTADs project and I travelled to Shanghai in October to represent the company at two project events – the first progress meeting and the workshop on Vaccine and Diagnostic Technology Development on Transboundary Animal Diseases and Zoonoses.

    My first impression of the city, which lingered throughout the whole trip, is the absolute need to line up for everything: catching a taxi at the airport (40 min), checking in at the hotel (50 min), buying a ticket at the train station (45 min), and checking out of the hotel (40 min). As the agenda for the project meetings was extremely busy and I was working hard (delivering 3 presentations, consulting partners on project management and planning issues, taking notes and writing reports), I would have much rather discovered more of Shanghai instead of wasting that time on queuing.

    –> Tip#1 for busy China visitors: be sure to have your destination written in Chinese, when trying to get a taxi as most taxi drivers hardly speak any English and are afraid to stop and pick up foreigners. Even though Chinese partners were surprised to hear this, but 20 taxis passed by us without stopping.

    Regardless of my intensive schedule, I made sure to see famous sights of Shanghai (time management skills are very useful in such cases). I realized that Shanghai is an eclectic, modern and rather crowded city with ancient history and traditions, breathtaking night-time skyscraper views, wide, busy boulevards with thousands of honking cars, a large selection of interestingly shaped street food, fancy shopping areas and narrow old streets with handmade goods, endless selection of souvenirs, beautiful temples alongside poor neighbourhoods, puzzling subway networks and many other things that are so different for people coming from Europe.

    Street food in China (Photo by Daniel Beltran-Alcrudo, FAO)


    –> Tip#2: Do not use outdated travel guides. Otherwise, you might, for example, end up standing in front of two skyscrapers, when looking for the Old Spice Market.

    Coming back to the professional routine, there are several things that should be pointed out. Firstly, even though I was prepared to have Google Search, Google Maps, Gmail, Facebook, and Twitter blocked, it was still difficult to check a number of websites quickly. Many pages took too long to load and some emails could not be sent out or were sent twice. Thus, it was quite challenging to search for relevant information. Secondly, an annoying case of jet lag (I was wide awake until 4 a.m.) actually saved me a lot of time as I used the opportunity to write reports.

    Participants of the 1st LinkTADs Progress Meeting

    –> Tip#3: Check the list of websites allowed through the Great Firewall of China before you leave and be prepared to use your work email address or national email accounts for correspondence. High speed Internet in China does not necessarily mean the same as in Europe. Most importantly, learn how to google without Google :)

    –> Tip#4 for those who have one day in Shanghai and would like to spend it in an unconventional way. It might be not the best idea to take the 45 minute taxi ride all the way to the airport in order to catch the fast train (which, by the way, reaches 300 km/h) to the little town of Suzhou to see the Classical Gardens (they are included in the UNESCO World Heritage list) but it’s definitely adventurous. Even though we followed tip#1 for the way back, we still ended up at the wrong train station and had to kindly ask ticket controllers to let us in with the tickets for another train (which was luckily headed for the same destination:)


    Suzhou Gardens (Photo by Daniel Beltran-Alcrudo, FAO)

    Apart from taking photos with the Bund skyline (go there there in the evening when the skyscraper lights are on) and a visit to the City God’s Temple, I recommend walking around the Sculpture Park (an example of modern urban planning hosting many contemporary sculptures). Finally, make sure to take home Chinese tea. The importance of this Chinese drink may be seen in the meeting agenda’s “tea breaks” instead of the “coffee breaks” we are used to in Europe.

    View from the Bund (Photo by Daniel Beltran-Alcrudo, FAO)

    Voices from Marvila’s Neighbourhood

    Posted by on 11/11/14

    In Marvila, a neighbourhood from the Portuguese capital, everybody has a say in what is needed in the neighbourhood!


    MyN team asked Marvila’s neighbours to share their wishes, interests and needs. We listened and took notes on people’s thoughts and would like to learn even more about their wishes for a better neighbourhood.

    Here are a sample of Marvila’s wishes and needs: