INTERVIEW: “The weekend’s protests were the Russian people's, not the opposition’s” – Maxim Reznik
Western Balkans citizens legally resident in EU equal to 14% of region’s population
International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) has stripped Belarus of the right to hold the World Championship this year
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Russian industry falls by 2.9% y/y in 2020.
ING: Russian corporates are back to foreign debt redemption in 2020
Russia's NorNickel adopts blockchain for supply chain management
Ukraine’s industrial output jumped 4.8% y/y in December
State-owned Ukrgasbank signs off on convertible €30mn IFC loan ahead of its privatisation
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Estonia's two big parties agree on grand coalition
VISEGRAD BLOG: Central Europe's populists need a new strategy for Biden
LONG READ: The oligarch problem
OUTLOOK 2021 Lithuania
Czech billionaire Kellner´s PPF makes another bid for Moneta Money Bank
Czech MPs pass protectionist food law in violation of EU rules
M&A in Central and Eastern Europe fell 16% in value in 2020, says CMS report
Hungarian vehicle makers hit by supply chain shortage
COVID-19 and Trump’s indifference helped human rights abusers in 2020
Polish industrial production continues boom in December
OUTLOOK 2021 Poland
OUTLOOK 2021 Slovakia
BRICKS & MORTAR: Rosier future beckons for CEE retailers after year of change and disruption
FDI inflows to CEE down 58% in 1H20 but rebound expected
BALKAN BLOG: Only better waste management can clean rivers of trash
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BALKAN BLOG: Superstition and resentment surround vaccination plans
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Bulgaria’s latest nuclear u-turn
Retailers and restaurant owners threaten protests in Bulgaria if reopening is delayed
Bulgaria's Biodit first company to IPO on new BEAM market
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ING: Growth in the Balkans: from zero to hero again?
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Kosovo’s biggest opposition party risks being unable to run in general election
OUTLOOK 2021 Moldova
Storming parliaments: New Europe's greatest hits
World Bank revises projection for Moldova’s 2020 GDP decline to 7.2%
Montenegro’s special prosecution probes finance minister over €750mn Eurobond issue
North Macedonia plans to cut personal income tax in IT sector to zero in 2023
Romania government to pursue “ambitious” timetable for justice reforms
Private finance mobilised by development banks up 9% to $175bn in 2019
OUTLOOK 2021 Romania
Slovenian crypto payment system enters Thai market
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Slovenia lost €10bn by neglecting wood industry for decades
OUTLOOK 2021 Slovenia
D’S Damat franchise deals ‘show Turkey’s hard-pressed mall operators becoming their own tenants’
Turkey’s benchmark rate held as concerns over faltering recovery come to fore
Turkish lira breaches HSBC’s stop-loss, Turkey ETF signalling outflows
CAUCASUS BLOG : What can Biden offer the Caucasus and Stans, all but forgotten about by Trump?
Armenia ‘to extend life of its 1970s Metsamor nuclear power plant after 2026’
OUTLOOK 2021 Armenia
OUTLOOK 2021 Azerbaijan
OUTLOOK 2021 Georgia
Iran’s President Khamenei menaces private citizen Trump
Iran’s technology minister indicted for failing to properly implement internet censorship
No US move to rejoin Iran nuclear deal imminent, say Biden national security nominees
TEHRAN BLOG: Will Biden bet on a quick return to the Iran nuclear deal?
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COMMENT: Mongolia is an island of democracy
OUTLOOK 2021 Mongolia
Mongolia's PM quits amid protests over treatment of mother with coronavirus and newborn baby
Mongolia's winter dzud set to be one of most extreme on record says Red Cross
Tajikistan: Writing for the president is on the wall (and then scrubbed off)
OUTLOOK 2021 Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan: How the Grinch stole New Year
COMMENT: Uzbekistan is being transformed, but where are the democratic reforms?
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Germany’s northern state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern aims to establish a foundation to support the completion of Russia’s Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, amid the looming threat of further US sanctions against the project.
The state’s parliament gave the green light on January 7 to the initiative, which would set up a foundation that could buy needed materials for pipeline construction, thereby circumventing Washington’s sanctions. Lawmakers approved €200,000 ($245,000) of public money for the fund, while the Gazprom-owned Nord Stream 2 operating company has pledged a further €20mn. The foundation will be headed by ex-state premier Erwin Sellering, former European Parliament member Werner Kuhn and an entrepreneur called Katja Enderlein.
“We believe that it is right to build the pipeline,” State Premier Manuela Schwesig told reporters.
Germany stands to make significant economic gains from Nord Stream 2’s completion, in terms of lower gas prices, transit revenues and increased energy security. At peak capacity the pipeline will flow up to 55bn cubic metres per year of Siberian gas to northern Germany.
Construction ground to a halt in December 2019 after Swiss contractor Allseas was forced to withdraw when the US slapped sanctions on the project, leaving just 6% of its offshore section left to complete. Work resumed in German waters last month and is due to re-commence in Danish waters on January 15, with Russia using its own pipelaying vessels.
Washington’s current sanctions only target those companies providing pipelaying vessels for Nord Stream 2. But a proposed second round will extend penalties to those providing technical certification and insurance for the work, as well as additional pipelaying activities such as surveying, trenching and rock placement.
The legislation was part of a broader defence bill that cleared US Congress but was vetoed by US President Donald Trump. The House of Representatives then voted to override that veto and the Senate followed suit on January 1, meaning the sanctions could come into law in the next few weeks.
The US maintains that Nord Stream 2 will give Russia too much leverage over Europe, and has promoted US LNG as a better alternative. But the pipeline enjoys strong support from the current German government, led by German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU). And that support has only solidified because of US actions. Yet the pipeline is still divisive in Germany, with opposition politicians warning it will lock the country into fossil fuel dependence for longer.
Creating a state-backed foundation will make it harder for the US to thwart Nord Stream 2 by taking steps such as freezing funds, as the foundation will have no commercial activities beyond the pipeline.
For its part, Russia says it is confident that additional US sanctions will be too little too late. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak told state Russian television in late December that the pipeline would be finished because it is in Europe’s commercial interests. “It’s a commercial project, which is, in the first place, in the interests of our foreign partners,” he said.
Still, companies are taking the sanctions threat seriously. Norway-based quality assurance firm DNV GL said in early January it would no longer provide pipeline integrity verification services for Nord Stream 2 because of Washington’s punitive measures.
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