NATO’s Defence Chiefs discuss Ukraine.


Political pression mounts in run-up to Ukrainian presidential vote

171st NATO Chiefs of Defence meetings -- Military Committee in Chiefs of Staff Session (MC/CS)

© photocredit

Suriye ve Ukrayna krizi Rusya ve Türkiye’yi yakınlaştırıyor

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Letter from President Barroso to President Putin

Mr. President,

I refer to your letter of 14 May 2014 to several Member States of the European Union, to which I am replying on behalf of the European Union and its 28 Member States.

In my previous letter to you of 16 April, I indicated that Commissioner Oettinger would immediately start trilateral discussions with Minister Novak and Minister Prodan, which the European Union had previously suggested, in order to ensure the stabilisation of gas supplies into Ukraine and gas deliveries via Ukraine into the European Union. At the first constructive and substantive ministerial meeting held in Warsaw on 2 May, it was agreed to follow-up with technical discussions, which started on 12 May, as well as with further bilateral meetings between Commissioner Oettinger and his two counterparts from the Russian Federation and Ukraine.

The discussions held have in particular covered the issue of the price for gas supplies to Ukraine and have established the willingness of the Government of Ukraine to pay the agreed upon arrears. It is imperative that all sides continue to engage in this process constructively and also agree on a future price that reflects market conditions. As long as the trilateral talks are on-going, gas flows should not be interrupted. I count on the Russian Federation to maintain this commitment. It therefore continues to be Gazprom’s responsibility to ensure the deliveries of the required volumes as agreed in the supply contracts with European companies. I also recall that the European Union expects the Russian Federation to activate the early warning system well in advance if ever the need arises.

At the same time, a structural solution requires that all parties commit to ensure transparency and market opening in the Ukrainian gas sector, and transparent conditions for gas storage in, and gas transit via, Ukraine, for example by means of cooperation among all the Transmission System Operators involved and construction of the necessary gas metering stations at the Russian-Ukrainian border.

In this regard, the European Union is prepared to provide actual data on the incoming gas flow from Ukraine. I count on both the Russian Federation and Ukraine to also commit in the short term to provide actual data on gas inflow and transit through Ukraine.

It is the European Union’s clear expectation that all sides will remain reliable and responsible supply and transit partners, which is also very much in their own interest. The European Union and other international donors have already provided significant support to Ukraine and will remain committed. I also expect a constructive approach from the Russian Federation to solve the issues at hand.

In conclusion, I would like to reiterate the readiness of the European Union to continue the substantive trilateral discussions, and to help find a rapid and sustainable solution acceptable to all parties.

Yours faithfully,
José Manuel BARROSO Source.

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    Paving the way for European energy security

    Completing the internal energy market, saving energy, increasing domestic energy production as well as diversifying sources, routes and counterparties of energy imports: these are ways to reduce the EU’s energy dependence. Energy leaders discuss the crucial issue today in Brussels at the high-level conference “Paving the way for a European Energy Security Strategy”, organised by the European Commission. European Commission President José Manuel Barroso will provide orientations on a “European Energy Security Strategy”, which the European Commission intends to present ahead of the European Council of 26 and 27 of June. EU Energy Commissioner Günther H. Oettinger will focus on how to strengthen Europe’s security of supply and Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk will present his proposal for an Energy Union for Europe.

    Representatives from Member States and third countries as well as energy companies, regulators, business and consumer associations, think-tanks gather today in Brussels to discuss ways to reduce the EU’s energy dependence. In the morning participants will focus on energy demand and production, energy efficiency, integrating the internal energy market, diversifying energy sources and routes and the role of the EU’s external energy policy. In the afternoon European Commission President Barroso, Energy Commissioner Oettinger and Poland’s Prime Minister Tusk will further discuss how to strengthen Europe’s security of supply.

    European Commission President Barroso said: “The Ukraine crisis once again confirms that it is in our own interest to choose a path towards a low carbon, competitive and energy secure European Union. Increasing our security of supply has been an overarching goal of European energy and climate policies for years – now it is time to take it one step further. It is vital for our prosperity, for our strength and our credibility. So we have to prove that European cooperation and integration is the right way – the only way – to overcome such challenges. The Commission will make very clear proposals to the June European Council. It is then for our Member States to run with that ball.”

    EU Energy Commissioner Oettinger added: “The Commission is intensively working on a new European Energy Security Strategy. As there is no miracle solution for increasing energy security, we have to address the issue from different angles. We need to diversify our supplier countries, especially in the field of gas. The development of the Southern Corridor, which will enable gas deliveries from Azerbaijan as from the end of 2019 is crucial in this respect. In addition, we need to intensify our efforts in the area of energy efficiency. A key element for increasing energy security is of course the completion of the internal energy market and upgrading the gas and electricity infrastructure in the EU. The first call for proposals under the Connecting Europe Facility that helps to finance important projects is now open. In the first round €750 million – out of a total of 5.85 billion until 2020 – will be made available”.

    Background

    Following the March European Council the European Commission is conducting an in-depth study of EU energy security and will present a Strategy to reduce Europe’s energy dependence ahead of the European Council of 26 and 27 of June. This plan will include a strategy to turn the current international situation into an opportunity to rethink the EU’s energy security.

    Today, the EU imports 53% of the energy it consumes. Energy dependence relates to crude oil (almost 90%), to natural gas (66%), and to a lesser extent to solid fuels (42%) as well as nuclear fuel (40%). The value of imports is more than 1 billion Euros per day. In 2013 energy supplies from Russia accounted for 42% of EU natural gas imports and 33% of oil imports.

    The share of renewables is constantly increasing, and in 2012 it reached 14.1% of final energy consumption. Today, more than 50% of electricity production is CO2 free (including both renewable and nuclear energy). Looking at the future, reaching the target of 20% of energy efficiency in 2020 would mean 371 Mtoe of energy savings. Event website:

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    EU Requests WTO Consultations with Russia concerning Anti-Dumping Duties on Light Commercial Vehicles

    The European Union today requested consultations with the Russian Federation in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) concerning anti-dumping duties imposed on imports of light commercial vehicles (LCVs) from Germany and Italy.

    The EU believes the anti-dumping duties are incompatible with WTO law, both on procedural and on substantive grounds. WTO consultations will give the EU and Russia the opportunity to find a negotiated solution. If the consultations are not successful, after 60 days the EU can ask the WTO to establish a panel to rule on the case.

    The duties of 23% to 29.6% imposed on European LCVs are significantly hampering access to the Russian market. The trade restrictions are incompatible with WTO law and mean that exports of LCVs from Germany and Italy have not benefitted from the concessions made by Russia in relation to its WTO accession in 2012. In 2012 EU LCVs exports to Russia were worth more than €100 million, but exports have been decreasing since Russia imposed a so-called ‘recycling fee’ in September 2012 on cars, trucks, buses and other motor vehicles just days after joining the WTO. The anti-dumping measures subject of today’s panel request are further choking off EU exports of LCVs.

    Background

    The Eurasian Economic Commission imposed anti-dumping duties on 14 May last year on imports of light commercial vehicles from Germany, Italy and Turkey. Its decision (No. 113) covers the territory of the Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia. As Belarus and Kazakhstan are not WTO Members, the request for consultations was addressed to Russia only.

    The product concerned is light commercial vehicles of gross vehicle weight from 2.8 tonnes to 3.5 tonnes, van-type bodies and diesel engines with a cylinder capacity not exceeding 3.000cm3, designed for the transport of cargo of up to two tonnes or for the combined transport of cargo and passengers (HS code ex 8704 21 310 0 and HS code ex 8704 21 910 0). The anti-dumping duties are 29.6% for imports from Germany, 23% for imports from Italy and 11.1% for imports from Turkey. Dispute Settlement and the World Trade Organisation

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    Ukraine: First tranche of EU Macro-Financial Assistance disbursed

    Ukraine: décaissement de la première tranche de l’assistance macrofinancière de l’UE

    Ukraine: Erste Tranche der EU-Makrofinanzhilfe ausgezahlt

    Today (20 May 2014 ), the European Commission, on behalf of the EU, disbursed a first loan tranche of €100 million to Ukraine. It was made available from the EU Macro-Financial Assistance (MFA) programme for Ukraine, which is worth €1.61 billion in total. A further €500 million is expected to follow in the coming weeks, once the necessary legal procedures in Ukraine have been finalised, notably the ratification of the Memorandum of Understanding and of the Loan Agreement by the Ukrainian Parliament, the Verkhovna Rada.

    In conjunction with this loan disbursement, Commission Vice-President Siim Kallas is visiting Kiev today for a series of meetings with the Ukrainian authorities, including the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister. Discussions are due to focus on the MFA programme and related economic reforms.

    The objective of the MFA programme is to assist Ukraine economically and financially in the current critical stage of its development. It is part of the package to support Ukraine announced by the European Commission on 5 March and endorsed by the European Council on 6 March.

    Vice-President Siim Kallas said: “The European Union is fully committed to helping Ukraine address its major economic challenges. This first disbursement marks an important step towards turning that commitment into reality. This assistance, which will soon be followed by a further €500 million, provides much-needed support to Ukraine’s efforts to cover its external financing needs.”

    The EU’s MFA will complement the resources made available by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other donors in the context of the stabilisation and reform programme recently prepared by the Ukrainian authorities with the help of the IMF. The assistance aims to reduce the economy’s short-term balance of payments and fiscal vulnerabilities.

    Beyond today’s €100 million disbursement and the €500 million disbursement currently being prepared, subsequent payments will be conditional on the implementation of specific economic policy actions. These are outlined in two Memoranda of Understanding – which were signed in 2013 and 2014 respectively – as well as in the Stand-By Arrangement approved by the IMF Executive Board on 30 April. The MFA, besides supporting Ukraine in its immediate external financing needs, also aims to underpin economic reforms which have been demanded by the Ukrainian people themselves. The conditionality linked to this programme focuses on public finance management and anti-corruption, trade and taxation, the energy sector (including provisions for increased social subsidies for the most vulnerable households) and financial sector reforms.

    Background

    Macro-Financial Assistance is an exceptional EU crisis-response instrument available to the EU’s neighbouring partner countries experiencing severe balance of payments problems. It is complementary to the assistance provided by the IMF. MFA loans are financed through EU borrowings on capital markets. The funds are then on-lent with similar financial terms to the beneficiary countries.

    The funding for the €100 million tranche disbursed today was raised on the financial markets on 13 May by the European Commission on behalf of the European Union. Information on past MFA operations

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    171st NATO Chiefs of Defence meeting – 21-22 May 2014

    Aujourd’hui, en pleine crise Russie-Ukraine, avant deux réunions ministérielles organisées au mois de juin, à moins de quatre mois du Sommet de l’OTAN, et seulement sept mois avant la fin de la mission de la Force Internationale d’Assistance et de Sécurité (FIAS) en Afghanistan, les Chefs d’état-major de la défense sont réunis ici pour aborder un ensemble unique de défis convergents auxquels l’Alliance est actuellement confrontée.

    Dans ce contexte particulier, notre objectif est d’établir un avis militaire robuste et fondé sur un consensus au profit de nos ministres et de nos chefs d’état et de gouvernement, et de définir des orientations pour les commandants stratégiques.

    Durant les deux prochains jours, nos discussions seront à l’évidence empruntes d’un sens accru de l’urgence, à la mesure des enjeux du moment.
    One of the most pressing issues which the Chiefs of Defence will consider is the implications of Russia’s actions in and around Ukraine. Russia’s annexation of territory, in a sovereign nation, on NATO’s borders has to cast a shadow of insecurity across the Alliance’s Eastern Flank and has potentially serious implications for the region and beyond.

    NATO will continue to support de-escalation and resolution of the current Russia-Ukraine crisis through a political solution. However, the Alliance will also be resolute in its deterrence and commitment to collective defence. The recent deployments of additional Allied aircraft to the NATO Baltic Air Policing Missions and of a NATO Standing Naval Maritime Group in the Baltic Sea alongside the use of NATO AWACs aircraft over Romania and Poland underline this commitment. Chairman of the Military Committee, General Knud Bartels – Full Speech.

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    NATO after Ukraine

    by Bogdan Klich – NATO must answer four key questions. First, how committed is the US to Europe? Although US President Barack Obama has shifted his focus toward the Asia-Pacific, reducing US forces in Europe, this needn’t weaken the Alliance’s capabilities or response times. But Europeans must nonetheless continue to advocate for the overriding importance of NATO’s transatlantic bond.

    Second, how committed is Europe to NATO? The 2008 financial crisis led to severe defense cuts, a dangerous policy that must be reversed as soon as possible. This is not just a question of money; Europe must also develop military specializations and joint capabilities that enhance the Alliance as a whole. If Europe’s own commitment is lacking, what hope is there for continuing US engagement?

    Third, how should NATO redefine its relations with Russia? In the wake of events in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, Russia’s privileged partnership with NATO is evidently outdated. This does not mean that the NATO-Russia Council should be disbanded. But NATO’s approach to Russia must change if it is to contain Russia’s destabilizing aggression in Eastern Europe, the South Caucasus, and Central Asia. This is why the Alliance needs to develop a new smart containment policy toward Russia that relies on political, diplomatic, financial, and military tools. Full analysis.

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The Global Consequences of Ukraine

Europe’s response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine poses a major challenge to EU unity, according to a new series of reports on the global consequences of the Ukraine crisis. The analysis, published today by the European Council on Foreign Relations, warns that Europe faces tough choices about how to deal with an aggressive, revisionist Russia. The publications examine five principal dimensions to the crisis:
· Putin’s challenge to the post-Cold War European security order
· The threat to Europe’s interests in the Middle East
· The effect of the crisis on the authority of international institutions
· The ability of EU member states to deal with the political challenges posed by Ukraine
· How China benefits economically from the crisis as it improves relations with Russia

Written by the ECFR’s team of top foreign policy analysts, this ambitious new series brings fresh insights into the Ukraine crisis from around Europe as well as Russia and the post-soviet space. The publications will be followed by a series of public and private events and podcasts in the seven capitals where the ECFR has offices.
Commenting on today’s launch of the “Global Consequences of Ukraine” series ECFR Director, Mark Leonard, noted that European leaders now face the biggest dilemma of their generation: “on the one hand the danger of inaction in the face of territorial aggression in their own neighbourhood; on the other hand the danger that – by casting Russia out of the international institutions they have spent 20 years trying to bind it into – they will help dismantle an international system on which Europe’s prosperity depends.”

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Russian counter-offensive on the Eastern front

The tactic of the United States to economically isolate Russia to prevent it from coming to the aid of the Ukrainian population has had the opposite effect to what was intended: it is pushing Moscow in the arms of Beijing, so that, in the long run, the Eastern European-Asian block which is gaining steam will surpass the power of Western countries. Full opinion.

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    Crises in Ukraine, top agenda at meeting between Ban and Russia’s Putin

    20 May 2014 – With Ukrainians preparing to elect a new president on Sunday, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today sat down with Russian President Vladimir Putin, with whom he also discussed a long-overdue political solution in Syria and other challenges to international peace and security.

    The two officials met on the sidelines of the Fourth Summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA). The two-day conference, which is attended by many of the regional leaders, is themed around increasing dialogue, mutual trust and collaboration to build a new Asia.
    “The Secretary-General and President Putin agreed that the crisis [over Ukraine] can only be resolved politically and through an inclusive political dialogue,” said a UN spokesperson in New York, updating reporters on Mr. Ban’s activities as he continues a week-long visit to China.

    A presidential election is scheduled to be held in Ukraine on 25 May despite waves of violence in the eastern and southern portions of the country. The UN chief today voiced his support for the polls, saying they are “an opportunity to move forward towards long-term peace and stability” in Ukraine.
    Among other topics on the agenda of their meeting in Shanghai, Mr. Ban and Mr. Putin discussed opportunities for a political solution in Syria and the urgent need to alleviate the humanitarian situation there with more than 9.3 million people urgently in need of aid. The conflict, which began in March 2011, has led to well over 100,000 deaths, and more than 680,000 people injured.

    The Secretary-General also used the meeting as an opportunity to reiterate his invitation to Mr. Putin and other world leaders to attend his climate summit this September in New York. The summit is meant to create momentum for a legal agreement on climate change by the end of next year.
    Mr. Putin met with the UN chief in the midst of a deadly train collision back in Moscow. Mr. Ban has offered his condolences and wished those injured in today’s incident a speedy recovery.
    Among the other dignitaries attending the CICA is President Mamnoon Hussain of Pakistan, with whom Mr. Ban spoke earlier in the day. They discussed “the security and human rights situation in Pakistan, as well as the country’s relations with Afghanistan,” according to a UN spokesperson.

    During the meeting, the UN chief praised Pakistan’s contribution to peacekeeping operations. Pakistan is in the top three countries contributing troops and police to the missions.
    Also today, Mr. Ban met with Hi Huai Bang, President of the China Development Bank. Both of those meetings focused on the potential of investment to spur action on climate change and sustainable development, according to a spokesperson.

    The UN chief began his day in Beijing, where he visited the headquarters of Xinhua News Agency. He later held talks with Ding Xuedong, chairman of the China Investment Corporation, the country’s sovereign wealth fund.
    While in Beijing, Mr. Ban met last night with Prime Minister Li Keqiang to whom he commended China’s “active, growing and crucial role” in addressing sustainable development and other global challenges. Source.

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    A Tale of Two Elections: Syria, Ukraine, and the West’s Double Take on Democracy

    By Andrew KORYBKO – Wed, May 21, 2014/ Ukraine and Syria are both going to the polls in less than two weeks, but the election that is legitimate (Syria) is painted as a fraud by the West, and the actual fraudulent election (Ukraine) is promoted as legitimate. Comparing both of these cases back-to-back most strongly illustrates the hypocrisy behind the West’s position. By keeping in mind that it is the West that supports the Ukrainian junta and Russia and China (the leaders of ‘the Rest’) that support the legitimate Syrian government, the dichotomy over democratic practice becomes more acute, and not surprisingly, this illustrates the growing moral and normative authority that the Rest has over the West.

    There are three main categorical comparisons, and the juxtaposition of the Ukrainian and Syrian scenarios will demonstrate the lack of democracy in the former and the vibrance of it in the latter. Full analysis.

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