Posts Tagged ‘Azerbaijan’


Perceptions of trust – The EU and EaP nations

July 28, 2013

With the Vilnius Summit for the EU’s EaP nations four months away,  this little infographic (again from my virtual friends at EEAP) is an interesting assessment of just how well – or not – the EU and national governments are portraying the relevance of the EU to those specific nations.

We can perhaps rightly ask  who is responsible for shifting and framing public opinion when it comes to the EU and the benefits – or not – it would have for any particular nation.  Is it the role of the national government?  Is it the role of the EU?  Is it something both should be doing?  If one is obviously failing to promote the issues, should the other take the lead?

As most Ukrainian political parties appear (publicly at least) to have taken up the baton with regard to any positives outweighing negatives as far as the EU is concerned, I have to say that Delegation of the EU to Ukraine in my view is failing spectacularly when it comes to assisting in the framing of views of the Ukrainian public – as the above infographic ably illustrates.

Sitting in Kyiv having the occasional meeting, occasional press conference and reproducing related EU articles on a website is simply not reaching out effectively to those whose minds they need to change.

For a start, demographically, Ukrainians between the ages of 20 and 40 probably “get it” when it comes to the EU.  Those in central and western Ukraine also probably “get it” far more than those in the south or east.  Therefore sitting in Kyiv doing what they currently do is not the target audience they should be aiming for.

Entries such as “Do you have a meeting at the EU Delegation? Then take your bike”- (with accompanying photograph) explaining how the delegation has invested in a “bike rack” in Kyiv

EU delegation ukraine

is not in any way going to help sway public opinion in favour of the EU in the areas where delegation efforts are required to re-frame and re-orientate perceptions.

Why is there no EU “roadshow” visiting places like Donetsk, Luhansk, Kharkiv, Crimea – open to local journalists and local people?  Kyiv is not the centre of the Ukrainian universe whose news people in Yalta, Melitopol or Ismail read, or watch on TV.

Given the inaction of the EU delegation to not only reach out – but actually go out – to these regions and try to re-frame opinion – allowing for some coordination, does it fall to the embassies and consulates of the individual EU nations to do what the EU Delegation should be doing instead?

If so, given national interests and budgetary restraints of such institutions, whichever diplomat manages to coordinate that effort would deserve accolade indeed.  An ambitious alternative but maybe a little too much to hope for.

Further, Ukrainian public perception is hardly as hostile to the EU as that of Azerbaijan would appear to be – albeit not as welcoming as in Armenia either according to the previously linked infographic when it comes to public perceptions.

As an aside, on the subject of Azerbaijan, it’s quite interesting to note that a nation classed as a consolidated authoritarian regime in many global democratic indexes, has the highest level of government trust amongst its people and also an incredibly low public perception of corruption – not that democracies are necessarily always going to be better governed (democracy can be rather messy) – or less corrupt, than every authoritarian regime on the planet.  There will always be exceptions.  And public perceptions are just that – perceptions – and thus may be quite wrong when compared to fact.

Anyway, with most major Ukrainian political parties vocally supporting greater ties with the EU and the signing of documents at Vilnius in November – public opinion is obviously lagging behind.

Public opinion lagging behind policy decisions is not unusual anywhere, but there seems to be very little effort by the EU, and its institutions, at directly engaging with the Ukrainian population – and direct engagement is the only way to re-frame opinion when there is so little trust in government, civil society and the media in Ukraine.

So, will a public “town hall” styled EU delegation roadshow be arriving in Odessa any time soon?  Of course not – there are more pressing matters, such as why after investing in a bike rack – there is only one bike in it!


The death of Nabucco – But can the Tap help Ukraine?

June 28, 2013

The EU’s long standing energy white elephant, the gas pipeline called Nabucco that was supposed to route gas directly from the Caspian Sea to the EU avoiding Russia looks finally to be put to the sword at some time today by Azerbaijan.

It seems an alternative pipeline named Tap will get the nod to supply gas to the EU avoiding Russia instead – with a 10 bcm annual capacity.

Naturally Nabucco, Tap or the Russian South Stream pipeline all avoid Ukraine so it is a matter of which does less damage – or alternatively, given the recent Ukrainian importation of Russian gas via the EU at far cheaper prices than those agreed by Tymoshenko that come direct from Russia, the question to be asked is will/can Tap further de-leverage Ukraine from Russian gas dependency.

Can and will Azerbaijani gas be pumped into Ukraine via the EU via the Tap pipeline that is to be given the nod by the Azerbaijani government some time today?

The route for the Tap pipeline is from Azerbaijan. through Turkey and Greece under the Adriatic Sea and arrive in the EU via Italy – a far distance from Ukraine if there is an interest from Ukraine to have Caspian Sea gas pumped into the nation.


The losing Nabucco pipeline would have run via Turkey into Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and end in Austria – with obvious existing Soviet gas infrastructure between Ukraine and the other ex-Communist States that would have meant pumping  Azerbaijani gas into Ukraine a fairly simple matter.

Can Ukraine tap the Caspian Tap – at a cost cheaper than Russian gas?  That is the question.


Odessa – Poland oil pipeline extension threatened?

May 31, 2013

Could Azerbaijani inaction prevent the proposed 325 kilometer (Ukraine 125, Poland 270 kilometers respectively) Odessa-Brody-Plock oil pipeline extension?

It seems quite likely!


Death of an EU white elephant a risk to Ukraine – Nabucco

November 19, 2011

Well the death of the Nabucco pipeline seems to have finally arrived as I (and many others) have predicted years ago.  It was, of course, doomed to failure from the outset, not because of the idea or reasoning behind it both of which are sound, but because of the parties involved and the geopolitics.

Unsurprisingly, the Nordstream gas pipeline is now open and supplying gas directly from Russia to Germany removing at least some German/EU and Russian dependence on Ukraine as a transit route.

So why has Nabucco died?  Well for a start Azerbaijan and Turkey have eventually signed an agreement on any transit line through Turkish waters which you would think would be a step in the right direction rather than its death, but you would be wrong.

The death of Nabucco relates to putting enough gas into the pipeline at the Azerbaijani end of the pipe. Nobody was ever quite sure where the 30 billion cubic meters of gas to be pumped through Nabucco was going to come from.  The existing Shah Deniz field doesn’t produce that much gas in a year, there were and are additional risks by asking Turkmenistan to make up the difference by pumping into the same pipeline, and the latest Azerbaijani discovery, the Absheron field is some way from being developed.

None of this took into account the shares holders in the existing and highlighted Shah Deniz field which is not solely run by the government in Baku.  As in most cases there such ventures are joint ventures and the Shah Deniz field has several major stakeholders.  Stakeholders begin to worry about risk when other suppliers are needed to connect to the artery they push their product through as it allows external influences and actions that were never in the risk assessment model.

It is of course typical EU grandiose thinking to decide on a 30 billion cubic meter per year pipeline (not to mention 20 billion Euro price tag) ahead of knowing exactly where all that gas will come from.  It shows the awareness and risk analysis similar to creating a common currency without any common fiscal directives to run along side it, and we are all aware how that has turned out.

Anyway, BP, a major stakeholder in the Shah Deniz field has effectively pulled out of Nabacco and offered up its own, smaller 10 billion cubic meter per year alternative.  Thus, Nabucco is no more as there is no supplier of gas.

Good news for Ukraine you would think.  There is now only Nordstream and Ukraine as routes for Russian gas to the EU and no route from the Caspian Sea at all.

Alas, whilst Nabucco remained a pipe dream, Ukraine remained fairly secure as a gas transit route.  Nabucco was never going to work, everybody new it except those in ivory towers, but so long as the Nabucco pipe dream continued no other Caspian alternatives would be considered before this EU flagship pipe line.

The simple fact that Nabucco was as ill-fated from the onset as the Mary Rose, a similarly grand flag ship that barely made out of Portsmouth harbour, is all rather irrelevant to the planners within the EU.

Now however, whilst the Russian/EU South Stream pipeline plans may be on the back burner, to the point EU institutions are making promises of funds to upgrade the Ukrainian gas transport system with Russia and Ukraine, the Caspian Sea issue becomes a very real threat as far as Ukraine is concerned.

With Azerbaijan and Turkey in agreement over undersea routes, BP whilst pulling the plug on Nabucco has submitted a plan called the South East Europe Pipeline (SEEP).  Also submitted some time ago, but largely ignored was the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) amongst others.

All these smaller proposals envisage 10 billion cubic meters per annum delivery from Azerbaijan.  All these smaller proposals have quietly continued to jump through the geopolitical and sub-sea survey hoops.  Statoil and partners E.On, Ruhrgas and EGL would seem to have stolen a march with the TAP pipeline when it comes to the bureaucratic requirements and are probably ahead of other smaller project submissions in this regard.

BP and SEEP are some way behind.

It is also worth mentioning that Statoil and BP are equal partners in the Azerbaijani Shah Deniz field which could make things quite interesting as far as that partnership goes.

Regardless, the demise of Nabucco is not a blessing for Ukraine as it was a threat that was never likely to happen.  The alternatives, however, are very real threats with the undoubted finances behind them to make it a reality now that Turkey and Azerbaijan have signed their transit agreements.

The Azerbaijani government in Baku now has to decide which project to go with and the threat becomes a reality.

The saving grace, if there is one, is that neither the Russian/Germanic Nordstream or any 10 billion cubic meter pipeline from the Caspian Sea combined, will completely remove the need for gas transited across Ukraine.  Yet.

However things change.

On the up side for Ukraine, is that the exploration of the Black Sea shelf and tapping its own hydrocarbon reserves looks ever more likely with China, RD Shell, BP and Petrobas all signing or in the process of signing on dotted lines with Ukraine.  Ukraine could well end up being a net exporter in the decades ahead.  What is not sent to China or used internally could very well head towards the EU if the existing GTS system is saved from falling into further disrepair.

Unfortunately for Ukraine, given its complete inefficiency and bureaucratic nature, there is more chance of the Caspian TAP, SEEP and others being in existence before Ukraine gets its act together with its partners.

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