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Energy & Economics
President of the European Council, Charles MICHEL, receives the President of Azerbaijan Ilham ALIYEV

Azerbaijan's Rocky Relations with Europe: Between Political Tensions and Energy Partnerships

by Galib Bashirov

Azerbaijan was expelled from the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly over its handling of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and its many democratic shortcomings. Geopolitical concerns and the urgency of natural gas cooperation are likely to prompt reengagement and repair strained relations. In a significant turn of events on 24 January, the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) voted by 76 to 10 to expel the Azerbaijani delegation from the organisation. Anticipating the results of the vote, the Azerbaijani delegation preemptively withdrew from PACE in an attempt to save face. While the PACE report in the aftermath of the vote highlighted longstanding concerns regarding democratic processes, including issues with conducting free and fair elections, ensuring freedom of speech, and addressing human rights abuses, central to the expulsion were developments in the Nagorno-Karabakh region that angered some PACE members. Particularly, the PACE report criticized Azerbaijan’s lightning offensive in September 2023 that saw the country gain control of Khankendi (known as Stepanakert in Armenian), the capital of the region, leading to the mass exodus of all 100,000 Armenian residents to Armenia. Azerbaijan characterised this move as an “anti-terror operation,” a designation that has stirred controversy. In the lead-up to 7 February presidential elections, President Ilham Heydar oghlu Aliyev further escalated tensions with the Council of Europe by issuing threats to withdraw Azerbaijan from various European institutions, including the Council of Europe and the European Court of Human Rights. The elections, which resulted in Aliyev’s landslide victory, deepened the rift between Azerbaijan and Europe. Observers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) claimed that the elections “lacked genuine pluralism and critical voices were continuously stifled.” Garnering a staggering 92.4 percent of the votes, Aliyev’s victory was seemingly uncontested, with his opponents widely perceived as token candidates rather than serious contenders. The main opposition parties opted to boycott the elections altogether, citing an unfair political climate. Prior to the election, the Azerbaijani government intensified its crackdown on independent media outlets, exemplified by the detention of top editors from Abzasmedia, an independent news outlet, on trumped up charges. While recent events may suggest a significant downturn in Azerbaijan’s relations with Europe, they do not necessarily signify a permanent rupture in bilateral ties. For the past two decades, Azerbaijan’s relations with the EU have been characterised by tough bilateral negotiations rather than a one-sided affair dominated by EU’s agenda. Azerbaijan seeks close cooperation with the EU but on its own terms, aiming for a more balanced relationship that respects its sovereignty and interests. This stance has been facilitated by Azerbaijan’s increasing leverage on energy and geopolitical affairs, which has enabled it to push back against the EU’s unilateral policymaking. Thanks to Europe’s reliance on Azerbaijani natural gas and Azerbaijan’s secular and stable leadership, European policymakers have historically viewed it as a strategic ally in the volatile South Caucasus region. Throughout the 2000s, despite its authoritarian governance, Azerbaijan’s secular regime was considered an asset in Western geopolitical strategies, particularly in the US-led global war on terror and in managing tensions with Iran. In recent years, the relationship between the EU and Azerbaijan has taken on a somewhat conflicting character. On the one hand, there has been a noticeable trend of smooth and deepening cooperation in matters relating to energy. Azerbaijan’s strategic position as a significant energy supplier has fostered closer ties with the EU in the realm of energy security and resource diplomacy, a dynamic that has been propelled by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022. However, this cooperation stands in stark contrast to the simmering tensions and periodic conflicts over issues pertaining to democracy and human rights. Indeed, the EU’s efforts to promote democratic values and human rights have often clashed with Azerbaijan’s domestic policies, leading to friction and discord. As one scholar noted, “Azerbaijan has been a forerunner in resisting the EU’s agenda,” demonstrating a resilience that has tested the EU’s transformative power to its limits. In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine which has seen Russian exports to Europe cease entirely, and European gas prices surge to astronomical levels, the EU signed an MOU with Azerbaijan in July 2022 to double Azerbaijan’s gas exports over the next 5 years. During her visit to Azerbaijan for the occasion, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called Azerbaijan “a key partner in our efforts to move away from Russian fossil fuels,” elevating the strategic leverage of Azerbaijan vis-à-vis Europe. However, the EU’s gas situation began to stabilise by 2023 as liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports from the United States and Qatar surged, complemented by the expansion of renewable energy sources and nuclear power. This diversification strategy, coupled with efforts to enhance energy efficiency, contributed to a notable drop in gas prices to pre-war levels by February 2024. Last December, the Azerbaijani government announced that it was on track to double its gas exports to Europe by 2027. However, significant challenges persist, particularly regarding the actual commitment from European buyers to purchase the additional gas promised by Azerbaijan. As of now, the consortium overseeing gas exports from Azerbaijan has secured commitments for only 1.2 billion cubic meters per year, a far cry from the 10 billion cubic meters needed to achieve the stated goal of doubling exports. Azerbaijan’s reliance on leveraging gas exports as a means to gain influence over Europe is not a sustainable long-term strategy. In a region where Russia and Iran assert aggressive expansionist policies, Azerbaijan requires Western partners to effectively counterbalance them. With the impending conclusion of the Russian peacekeeping mission in 2025, and Azerbaijan’s desire to see them depart, aligning with Russia at the expense of Europe would not serve Azerbaijan’s best interests. Thus, there are indications that President Aliyev’s harsh anti-European rhetoric may have been more of a temporary populist manoeuvre rather than a fundamental shift in Azerbaijan’s approach to the EU. Azerbaijan not only relies on energy cooperation with the EU but also seeks to avoid being associated with Russia and Belarus within the European community of nations. Furthermore, Azerbaijan’s comparison of itself with its smaller neighbours, Georgia and Armenia, both of which have made significant strides towards European integration, underscores the reputational risks of distancing itself from European institutions. Recognising the need for damage control, the Azerbaijani government will be inclined towards reengaging with the EU and the European Commission. President Aliyev’s statements indicate a desire for Azerbaijan to re-join the PACE. Significant democratic progress is unlikely in Aliyev’s Azerbaijan. However, the regime might entertain releasing some of the recently jailed journalists as a cosmetic change in a bid to return to PACE.

Energy & Economics
LADA Sport factory , LADA Granta Drive Active 2

Driving Towards a Brighter Past? A ‘Brezhnevisation’ of Russia’s Internal Market

by Dr. Karel Svoboda , Dr. Giangiuseppe Pili , Jack Crawford

Despite the Kremlin’s rhetoric on Russia’s economic stability and good fortune since its 2022 invasion of Ukraine, several economic indicators belie this narrative and hint at potential domestic turmoil as the country’s economy falters. The legitimacy of President Vladimir Putin’s rule rests upon two pillars: economic wellbeing (the carrot) and political and civil repression (the stick). Putin and his regime consider themselves irreplaceable, boasting a narrative of internal stability contrasted against recent economic turmoil in the West. This propaganda extends to the Russian economy, as the government appears to prefer publishing numbers that it believes reflect favourably upon Russia while concealing more unsavoury statistics from the public. Ironically, however, even some data deemed palatable for publication hints at a difficult situation for Russia’s domestic economy. According to the statistics presented by the Russian authorities, Russia’s GDP only contracted by 1.9% in 2022, following an onslaught of Western sanctions and the war. Furthermore, Russia maintains a record-low unemployment rate of 3.2% as of May 2023, which is notably lower than the EU’s 5.9% and still better than the UK’s 4%. Russia’s 2023 inflation rate is 2.76%, below Western rates like the US’s 3.2%. These numbers, however, do not provide a comprehensive view of Russia’s economic situation. Russia's prioritisation of its wartime industries, rising emigration rates and over-employment all played a role in mitigating any sharp declines in GDP. Additionally, Russia’s economy relies on the sale of raw materials, particularly oil, to withstand sanctions on sophisticated goods. This keeps the country relatively insulated from economic restrictions imposed by its Western neighbours. Maintaining a perception of stability and wealth is crucial for Putin’s domestic legitimacy, and consumer goods are important for this purpose. Putin’s strategy is reminiscent of Leonid Brezhnev’s ‘social contract’, which relied on the relative welfare of citizens in exchange for their political apathy. Any weakening of this contract undermines the system’s ‘immunity’ and increases its vulnerability during a crisis. Parallel imports and the substitution of popular foreign brands with obscure Russian versions (for example, Vkusno i Tochka for McDonald’s and Stars Coffee for Starbucks) attempt to portray an unchanged society in which the ‘special operation’ in Ukraine has not adversely altered Russian life. However, trends in Russia’s automobile industry may disrupt this carefully constructed image. Grinding Gears The automobile industry plays a crucial role in Russia’s projection of a ‘business-as-usual’ economy. For years, Russia has presented its ‘import substitution’ programme as a series of successes towards achieving technological sovereignty. Therefore, when Western automobile manufacturers began pulling out of Russia, Russia attempted to fill the void with domestic replacements, with mixed results. Western automobiles have become scarce in Russian dealerships, which are mainly selling the remaining stock after the brands left Russia. Most Western automobiles now arrive in Russia through parallel imports via third countries. The reduction in the market is reflected not only in quantity but also quality. With limited competition in the market, products tend to be more expensive and lower quality. Producers become accustomed to the prevailing conditions and have less incentive to innovate. Additionally, shortages of spare parts lead to disruptions. For instance, the underwhelming Lada Granta Classic lacks crucial components found in modern automobiles, while the Lada Niva Legend has only very basic equipment. Both automobiles are already technologically outdated, yet they accounted for 35% of the Russian market in 2022. A particularly embarrassing incident occurred at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum when the premium Lada Aura failed to start during an exhibition – a reputational failure for an automobile costing well over RUB 2 million. Lower- and middle-class Russians have been particularly hit by the departure of Western auto manufacturers as the market becomes more exclusive. The average monthly salary in Russia reached almost RUB 73,000 in April 2023, putting most new automobiles outside the price range of an average-salaried citizen. The cheapest automobiles on the market, the Lada Granta and Lada Niva, now cost around RUB 700,000 and 821,000, respectively. The currency exchange rate for the Russian rouble may contribute to a further decline in the affordability of new automobiles, creating room for the growth of the second-hand market. However, with the rouble depreciating to RUB 91 per $1, imports of new automobiles are becoming more expensive. Turning East Nonetheless, Russia continues to search elsewhere for import opportunities. Despite announcements from Iranian and Indian producers about negotiations over automobile production in Russia, the only substitutes appear to have come from Chinese companies. As of July 2023, Chinese imports accounted for 49% of Russia's automobile market – a significant increase from June 2021’s 7% share. Additionally, Russian automobile brand officials tout cooperation with ‘Eastern partners’ when proclaiming the resilience of Russia’s domestic automobile industry in the face of Western sanctions, but these ‘Russian-produced cars’ are often heavily reliant on Chinese parts. Even Chinese producers and import substitution are as yet unable to fill the production gap left by Western companies shunning Russia. Before the invasion, new automobile sales reached approximately 1.66 million automobiles annually, but in 2022, new sales and production plummeted by 60% and 67%, respectively. These numbers still likely benefit from the fact that Western producers only began leaving Russia in 2022, and significant stocks of automobiles remained with dealers. In June 2023, Russia’s Ministry of Industry and Trade claimed that the Russian automobile market grew 6% from January to May 2023 compared to the same period in 2022. Nevertheless, this relative growth is primarily due to the low base of the previous year, when monthly production fell to 3,700 automobiles in May 2022. Stopping Short While parallel imports have partially lessened the supply–demand gap, they have not resolved all problems. As evidenced above, some recent figures suggest a partial market recovery, but growth is modest compared to low sales in 2022. Domestic Russian automobile production is anticipated to continue increasing, mainly through the assembly of Chinese automobiles. AvtoVAZ, part of the Rostec complex and a producer of Lada automobiles, intends to increase production to 400,000 automobiles in 2023. However, even if this plan is achieved, the production volume would still fall short of the necessary levels. Factories assembling Chinese automobiles will also increase production, with the Moskvich factory planning to produce 50,000 automobiles in 2023. While this surpasses previous production rates, it remains below the Renault factory’s production capacity of 190,000 automobiles annually. However, increasing the production of Russian-made automobiles will pose a challenge. Moscow is currently prioritising arms production within its manufacturing industry, and Russia may struggle to close the gap in the foreseeable future due to workforce issues. As a result, the delayed consumer demand will only continue to grow. Those who have refrained from purchasing a new automobile may continue to wait for now, but they will eventually demand new models. A Troubled Road Ahead Russia’s workforce is tied to the country’s economic structure; many entrepreneurial individuals have migrated in search of better opportunities in the West, and the remaining workforce is often specialised but has limited access to higher-paying employment opportunities. Russia’s internal market workforce is sufficient to meet military and economic needs, but there are no significant incentives for comparable development in manufacturing and services to that in the West. In the face of Western sanctions, Russia will continue trying to rely on countries hostile or indifferent to the preferences of Western countries. The economic situation in Russia, as reflected in the automobile market, is unlikely to directly threaten Putin’s regime. However, it does present a significant security concern. The automobile market in Russia is showing signs of a decline reminiscent of the Brezhnev era, characterised by technological backwardness and diminishing quality. Russian automobile producers lack the necessary technologies and expertise to manufacture their own vehicles; most new automobile models introduced recently are essentially Chinese automobiles assembled in Russia. As a result, Putin’s ambitions for ‘technological sovereignty’ are unlikely to be realised soon, and tensions may rise as consumer demand becomes impossible to meet. Domestic complacency with regard to Russia’s wanton belligerence in Ukraine, and indeed, towards Putin’s regime, may be in for a bumpy ride. The views expressed in this Commentary are the author’s, and do not represent those of World and New World Journal or any other institution.

Energy & Economics
500 Euro paper money getting on fire on gas

A winter energy crunch in Europe looks a distinct possibility

by Michael Bradshaw

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine imposed a sudden energy shock on Europe 18 months ago. Faced with the prospect of much less Russian gas, there were fears that Europe’s energy infrastructure would not cope with winter 2022-23, causing economies to crumble.  Yet a mild winter and the EU’s gradual rollout of a plan to reduce its energy consumption and buy more from alternative suppliers saw it emerge shaken but not beaten on the other side. Germany, Italy and other gas-reliant nations pivoted from Russian dependency without major electricity shortages. Since then, there has been more good news. Energy prices have fallen steadily in 2023, while Europe’s gas storage levels hit 90% capacity three months ahead of the November target and could even hit 100% in September.  According to politicians like the German energy minister, Robert Habeck, the worst of the energy crisis is over. Yet, as we shall see, it’s a little early to be so confident. New vulnerabilities The share of EU piped gas imports from Russia fell from 39% to just 17% between early 2022 and early 2023. To cope with this shift, the EU has become much more reliant on shipments of liquefied natural gas (LNG) than before. LNG’s total share of EU gas imports rose from 19% in 2021 to around 39% in 2022, amid a rapid upgrade to infrastructure that aims to have grown LNG capacity by one-third between 2021 and 2024. (Indeed, 13% of LNG imports into the EU actually still come from Russia, whose shipments have also significantly increased since the invasion). This LNG increase has made European countries vulnerable to volatility in that market – particularly as 70% of these imports are bought at short notice rather than using the long-term oil indexed contracts that prevail in Asia. For example, we’ve seen Europe’s benchmark gas price ticking upwards in recent weeks due to concerns over strikes at Australian LNG plants. This shows that supplies remain tight and that there are many potential disruptions in our highly interconnected world market. To synchronise demand for LNG, the European Commission has introduced initiatives like the EU Energy Platform, an IT platform that makes it easier for supplier companies in member states to jointly buy the fuel. However, it is uncertain what level of supplies can be channelled through this instrument as it remains untested. Additionally, the industry fears this kind of state intervention could backfire and undermine the functioning of the market. As for pipeline gas, Norway has overtaken Russia to become Europe’s leading supplier, providing 46% of the requirement in early 2023 (compared to 38% a year earlier). This extra load has strained Norway’s gas infrastructure. In May and June, delayed maintenance work caused sluggish flows that drove up prices, again showing how tight the European market is at present. Extended maintenance work in Norway leading to more obstructions in future looks distinctly possible. Meanwhile, the EU is still expected to have to buy around 22 bcm (billion cubic metres) from Russia this year. That’s the equivalent of around 11% of all the pipeline gas used by the bloc in 2022. A large proportion is coming through Ukraine, and with the current Russia-Ukraine transit agreement unlikely to be renewed after it expires in 2024, this supply route is in jeopardy. As part of the pivot away from Russia, the EU managed to reduce gas consumption by 13% in 2022, according to the International Energy Agency (against a target of 15%). In the months ahead, war-weary EU states may not do so well on this front. It will not help that prices have fallen, nor that some states didn’t pull their weight last winter. Only 14 out of 27 EU members introduced mandatory energy reduction policies, while eastern states like Poland, Romania and Bulgaria did little to reduce consumption. Should there be a physical shortage of gas in continental Europe this winter, this might undermine calls for solidarity. What comes next The harsh reality is that for at least another two or three winters, Europe will have to hope for mild weather across the northern hemisphere without major interruptions to global LNG supply if it is to avoid significant gas price spikes. Even as things stand, European gas prices remain around 50% above their pre-invasion long-run average, which is hurting both households and businesses. This is particularly important for Germany, the EU’s industrial powerhouse, with its energy-intensive automotive and chemical industries. There are growing concerns that continued high energy prices could promote de-industralisaton as energy-intensive industries move elsewhere. The good news is that pressure on gas should at least subside from the mid-2020s. Significant new supplies of LNG will come online in the US and Qatar and the market will re-balance. European gas demand should also get significantly lower – down 40% by 2030, according to the energy reduction plan. There is even talk of a supply glut by the end of the decade, depending on renewable energy deployment accelerating in Europe, and a new generation of nuclear power stations coming on stream. This would significantly reduce Europe’s need to import gas for good, but will only happen if the bloc coordinates effectively. We saw what can be achieved in the months after the invasion when France supplied gas to Germany to help reduce its dependence on Russia, then Germany later supplied more electricity to French cities to help with outages caused by nuclear reactor maintenance. The challenge is to take the same approach to decarbonisation. While France tries to gather support for nuclear modernisation both at home and elsewhere in Europe, it is facing opposition from the likes of the German-led “Friends of Renewals” group, which advocates building out only renewable energy. Divisions like these may prove a serious obstacle in achieving a more rapid energy transformation away from fossil fuels. So while Europe has managed to pivot away from Russia’s pipeline gas, it will remain exposed to the volatility of global gas markets unless it reduces its gas demand significantly in the coming years.

Energy & Economics
Loading grain into holds of sea cargo vessel through an automatic line in seaport from silos of grain storage

EU-Ukraine wartime trade: Overcoming difficulties, forging a European path

by Svitlana Taran

Executive summary The EU’s unprecedented support to Ukraine has included temporary trade-liberalisation measures and the EU-Ukraine Solidarity Lanes, which have strengthened the country’s export capacities and the resilience of Ukraine’s wartime economy. In reaction to Russia’s blockade of the Black Sea, the EU set up EU-Ukraine Solidarity Lanes as an alternative way for goods to leave Ukraine by rail, road, and inland waterways. These measures have helped Ukraine maintain a slight increase in its total merchandise exports to the EU compared to the pre-invasion level. In contrast, Ukraine’s exports to other markets declined substantially. As a result, many Ukrainian producers and exporters were able to maintain their operations during wartime, receive critically needed export revenues, and deepen their integration into EU supply chains.  However, the insufficient logistics capacity and lack of adequate coordination and cooperation during the operation of Solidarity Lanes led to tensions between Ukraine and its Eastern European neighbours. Their unilateral import bans on a wide range of Ukrainian agri-food products in April 2023 violated EU Single Market legislation. As a result, Ukrainian export flows were immediately disrupted, given that Ukraine’s access to global markets remains limited. While a compromise of the European Commission and the Eastern European countries allowed the extension of temporary tradeliberalisation measures for Ukraine for a further year, resolving the immediate crisis, more is needed to ensure its smooth operation.  To prevent further crises and disruptions of transit flows, the EU should further increase investments in the transport and storage capacity of Solidarity Lanes and connectivity between EU neighbouring countries and Ukraine, enhance transparency and regular monitoring, data exchange, and coordination of transit flows, and conduct regular trilateral consultations between the European Commission, Eastern European countries, and Ukraine to avoid sudden and unjustified Solidarity Lane disruptions. Amid Russia’s new escalation and withdrawal from the Black Sea Initiative on 17 July, the international community should use all possible leverage to pressure Russia, double down on safeguarding Ukraine’s maritime export routes, and provide Ukraine with more defence capacity to protect its critical infrastructure in the Black Sea and the Danube. In addition, further trade liberalisation and Ukraine’s integration into the EU Single Market should be a priority on the EU-Ukraine agenda as soon as possible, in line with Ukraine’s accession path. Ukraine’s wartime trade losses and the need for further support The economic burden of Russia’s war on Ukraine is enormous and only continues to increase. Ukraine’s economy contracted by about a third, while exports dropped by 35.1%, meaning that Ukraine received $24 billion less in foreign currency revenue in 2022 compared to 2021 (see Figure 1). The iron and steel industry was hit the hardest, leading to the largest reduction in export supplies - 67.5% or $9.4 billion, in 2022 vs 2021. Significant cuts were also witnessed in ore exports (-56.7% or $4 billion), chemicals (-54.3% or $1.5 billion), machinery, and electronic equipment (-29% or $1.5 billion).  At the same time, the reliance of Ukraine’s economy on agricultural and food exports increased during wartime - agricultural and food products generated more than half of all critically needed export revenues (53% in 2022 vs 40% in 2021). Yet, total agricultural and food exports declined by 15.5% or $4.3 billion in 2022.  Ukraine’s ability to trade has been significantly hampered by Russia’s blockade of key Black Sea ports, disrupting the country’s main export route for grain, vegetable oils, metals, and iron ore. For example, before the full-scale invasion, about 90% of grain and oilseeds were exported from Black Sea ports. In addition, export capacities were hit by the destruction of production facilities and critical infrastructure (especially transport and energy), particularly in the South and East of Ukraine. Since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, at least 426 large and medium-sized enterprises and thousands of small enterprises have been damaged or destroyed. Disruption of internal and external supply chains, shortages of critical imports, and surging production and logistics costs have become a big challenge for Ukrainian producers, undermining their profitability and competitiveness in global markets. In agriculture, significant losses were caused by Russia’s occupation of vast swathes of territory, mining, and physical damage to agricultural land, storage facilities, livestock, and agricultural machinery.  Many Ukrainian farmers have been driven to the edge of bankruptcy due to a sharp decline in export and domestic revenues and increased production and logistics costs (export costs for Ukrainian grain rose from $30-$40 per tonne pre-war to $140-$150 upon the invasion). The devastating destruction of the Kakhovka dam in Southern Ukraine on 6 June 2023 (leaving at least 500,000 hectares of farmland without access to irrigation water) has further undermined production and export potential. The Black Sea Grain Initiative and the importance of seaport routes Securing and unblocking Ukraine’s agricultural exports is vital for global food security. Ukraine is a major world exporter of maize, wheat, barley, rapeseed, and sunflower oil, supplying over 45 million tonnes of grain to the global market each year. Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian seaports is a major threat to global food security, especially for regions heavily reliant on shipments from Ukraine - North Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia. It placed huge pressure on food prices in global markets, which reached a record high after the invasion. The UN-Türkiye backed Black Sea Grain Initiative has allowed Ukraine to resume and significantly increase the volumes of its seaport agricultural exports to global markets since August 2022. However, only three Ukrainian Black Sea ports in Odesa were unblocked, and only for grain and oilseeds. Russia constantly threatened and sabotaged the implementation and prolongation of this deal, causing long queues of ships and making seaport shipments more expensive and complicated. Furthermore, export capacity under the deal was limited and unstable (2.9 million tonnes in January, 3.9 million tonnes in March, and 1.3 million tonnes in May 2023) due to Russia delaying the inspection of vessels in the Bosphorus and their registration for participation in the grain agreement. As a result, the workload of Ukrainian ports declined to 30-35% as of April 2023, and Ukrainian farmers were left with large stocks of grain, thereby facing uncertainty about export activities, and suffering significant losses.  According to the UN, almost 33 million tonnes of agricultural produce were exported through the Black Sea Grain corridor, about 50% of all exported grain and oilseeds since its application in August 2022. The agreements helped stabilise global food markets and reduce volatility, with global food prices gradually falling as of March 2022.  The major export destinations of Ukrainian grain through seaports included China, Spain, Türkiye, Italy, the Netherlands, Egypt, and Bangladesh (57% of all shipments under the agreement went to developing countries vs. 43% to developed countries). China was the largest buyer of Ukrainian grain, importing almost a third of all shipments under the grain agreement (mainly maize). By purchasing Ukrainian grain, China was diversifying its food supplies and enhancing its food security. At the same time, Turkish companies, for example, benefitted from re-exporting Ukrainian grain (both processed and unprocessed) to global markets. The grain deal was extended several times (last time– until 18 July). However, on each occasion, Russia usually intensified its pressure on Ukraine before negotiations for its further extension – by threatening to terminate the agreement unilaterally, blocking the work of the grain corridor, and demanding the removal of some Western sanctions. In May-July 2023, the capacity and effectiveness of the grain agreement declined as Russia significantly limited the registration of ships at Ukrainian ports required “to overcome obstacles to Russian grain and fertiliser exports” (see Figure 2). As a result, Ukraine has been reducing its reliance on the sea corridor over the last few months and shifting to alternative routes. However, the seaport corridor is important for Ukraine for its proximity, developed transport and storage infrastructure, and lower logistics costs.  The grain agreement has never been as important to Russia as it is to Ukraine, but rather a tool for pressuring Kyiv and the West. In an attempt to save the grain agreement, the UN suggested some compromises, including the connection of a subsidiary of the state agricultural bank to SWIFT. However, Russia refused, demanding that all of its demands be met, and withdrew from the agreement on 17 July. The subsequent attacks on Ukraine’s Odesa and Danube port infrastructure were clearly aimed at further hampering Ukraine’s export capacity and access to global markets, depriving Kyiv of a major source of foreign currency revenues (Ukraine received about $13 billion for its grain and oilseeds in 2022 in total), as well as increasing the reliance of developing countries on Russian food supplies. The suspension of the grain agreement also increases pressure on global grain prices (according to the IMF, they could rise by 10-15%), as well as make developing countries more reliant on Russian food supplies, thereby deepening their food insecurity. Alternative export routes for Ukraine via EU-Ukraine Solidarity Lanes Initiated in May 2022, the EU-Ukraine Solidarity Lanes provide alternative routes for Ukraine’s exports via Eastern European countries using land transport (trains and trucks) and Danube River ports to ship goods to global markets and EU member states (through seaports in Romania, Poland, and other EU countries). According to the European Commission, the Solidarity Lanes allowed Ukrainian exporters to partly compensate for the loss of sea routes and to unblock about 40 million tonnes as of the end of July 2023, which is more than 50% of Ukrainian grain and oilseed exports since the start of the invasion. In addition, the Solidarity Lanes have been the only option for Ukraine’s non-agricultural exports (metals, iron ore, chemicals) and the only option for Ukraine to import all the goods. The Solidarity Lanes have also helped export over 35 million tonnes of nonagricultural products from Ukraine. The capacity of Solidarity Lanes exceeded 3.5 million tonnes of grain and oilseeds in March 2023 (see Figure 2).  The Danube River, with the ports of Izmail, Reni, and others, has become the vital export route for Ukrainian grain and other products (it shipped about 30% of Ukrainian grain and oilseed exports after the invasion, about 40% in June 2023). Its capacity has been expanded to 2-2.2 million tonnes of grain per month, with volumes increasing. To alleviate obstacles to trade and increase the cargo flow via the Danube, Ukraine has been increasing the depth of the canals leading from the Danube ports to the Black Sea and creating infrastructure for grain storage and export. In particular, Ukraine has increased the depth of its Southwestern Bystre Canal on the Danube River from 3.9 to 6.5 metres and 7 metres in some parts of the canal. Rail and road export routes have handled about 1 million and 600-700,000 tonnes of produce per month, respectively. However, import restrictions against Ukrainian grain by five Eastern European countries reduced the flow of shipments in this direction during the last few months (to about 600,000 tonnes by rail and 200,000 tonnes by road).  Rail and road routes have also faced logistical bottlenecks, such as incompatible rail gauge widths between Ukraine and the EU, the limited transport and storage capacity of Eastern European countries, including shortages of appropriate trains and trucks, slow clearance procedures, and long waiting times at border crossing points. Logistics bottlenecks limit export volumes and raise the logistics costs of alternative routes, which have been considerably higher compared to seaport routes. There have also been organisational and coordination problems in implementing the Solidarity Lanes initiative. Ukraine, the European Commission, and EU member states have been implementing several infrastructure projects to alleviate existing logistical constraints, increase the capacity of the Solidarity Lanes and improve cross-border connections between Ukraine, Moldova, and the EU. The European Commission has mobilised one billion euros to fund the infrastructure developments of the Solidarity Lanes over 2022-2023, such as increasing the number of border crossing points for trucks, road improvements, rehabilitation of railway infrastructure and multimodal logistics in Romania and Moldova to Ukraine’s borders, etc. Additional funding opportunities have become available for Ukraine after its integration into the Connecting Europe Facility programme in June 2023, enabling Ukraine to apply for EU funding for projects in the transport, energy and digital realms.  The Solidarity Lanes have helped diversify and reduce Ukraine’s dependency on a single export route. Amid continued obstruction of seaports by Russia and the suspension of the grain deal, Ukraine needs to reorient its agri-food exports further, placing a larger burden on alternative routes via the Solidarity Lanes and risking new tensions with EU neighbours. Ukraine plans to export the major part of its expected grain and oilseed exports (up to 40 - 42 million tonnes from the expected 48 million tonnes of exports) across the three routes of Solidarity Lanes during the next season. Therefore, it is essential to ensure the smooth running and further expansion of the capacity of alternative export routes – deepening river canals, extending the rail network, and building transhipment terminals. The use of new routes and EU seaports, as offered by Croatia, the Baltic states, and Greece, can also help expand the capacity of transit routes. However, they imply longer distances and higher logistics costs, and require significant investments in rail, road, and storage infrastructure. EU trade-liberalisation measures for Ukraine during wartime EU-Ukraine trade relations were already significantly liberalised under the EU-Ukraine Deep and Comprehensive Agreement (DCFTA), which has been provisionally applied since 1 January 2016. As of the beginning of 2022, most tariffs for industrial and agricultural products had already been abolished under the DCFTA. However, the EU still applied tariff measures to certain Ukrainian exports, the most restrictive of which were tariff rate quotas (TRQs).  TRQs allow for duty-free import of a product’s specified volume, while beyond-TRQ supplies are dutiable and subject to EU tariff rates for third countries. Ukrainian agri-food producers complained about the low and outdated volumes of the EU TRQs under the DCFTA that did not reflect the current level of Ukraine’s production and export capabilities and the level of EUUkraine trade relations.  Ukraine was utilising 31-32 out of 36 EU TRQs under the DCFTA during recent years, from which the following TRQs were usually fully exhausted: honey, processed tomatoes, apple and grape juices, processed cereal grains, sugar, starch, processed starch, eggs, corn, corn flour and pellets, poultry meat, etc. For many of them, Ukraine’s supplies usually exceeded TRQ volumes (e.g. total supplies of honey from Ukraine to the EU usually exceeded the volume of the relevant TRQ by 8-10 times). However, out-of-quota import tariff rates and TRQ administration costs still had a restrictive impact on Ukrainian exports. As Ukraine’s major trading partner (accounting for about 40% of Ukraine’s trade before the invasion), the EU has been supporting the resilience of Ukraine’s wartime economy by restoring Ukraine’s ability to trade and generate export revenues.  The EU has introduced temporary trade-liberalisation measures such as the Autonomous Trade Measures (ATMs) since 4 June 2022 for one year (ATM Regulation 2022/870) including the complete removal of:   ●  The remaining import duties on industrial products; ●  All tariff rate quotas on agricultural and food products; ●  Entry prices on fruit and vegetables; ●  All trade defence measures (anti-dumping duties and safeguards mostly applied to steel products).   The EU also implemented other steps to facilitate transportation and border control for Ukraine’s exports. It has temporarily liberalised the transport of freight by road between the EU and Ukraine in relation to bilateral 8 operations and transit by abolishing the need for permits (the agreement was recently extended for one year - until 30 June 2024). Besides, in October 2022, Ukraine joined the Common Transit Convention which simplified customs transit procedures between the EU and Ukraine. EU-Ukraine trade dynamics after Russia’s invasion  After a significant decline in the first months of Russia’s invasion, Ukrainian exports to the EU even slightly exceeded pre-invasion levels by the end of 2022, while exports to other trade partners substantially declined. Consequently, the role of the EU as Ukraine’s main trading partner increased to 63% in 2022 from about 40% in 2021 (of $44.2 billion in Ukraine’s total exports of goods in 2022, about $28 billion were destined for the EU market).  The driving factor behind export recovery was the fast growth of agri-food exports to the EU - by more than $5.2 billion or by almost 70% year on year in value terms (including cereals – by 141.7%; vegetable oils – by 29.4%; oilseeds - by 96.5%). This helped to compensate for the significant drop in iron and steel exports (by 48.7%), iron ore (by 21.0%), and machinery equipment (by 10.0%) to the EU.  Increased agri-food exports to the EU in 2022 can be explained by several factors, including Ukrainian exporters reorienting to closer markets because of logistics problems and high freight and insurance costs, better access to the EU market due to EU trade liberalisation measures and new export routes, greater demand for imported grain in the EU as a result of a drought affecting many regions of Europe in 2022, as well as higher prices for many agricultural products in the EU due to Russia’s invasion.  Among all temporary trade-liberalisation measures, the suspension of TRQs has been the most impactful - in facilitating Ukraine’s exports to the EU. Namely, exports of sugars, apple juice, poultry meat, eggs, milk powder, starches, processed cereal grains, and cereals, earlier subject to TRQs, saw the greatest growth (see Table 1). The suspension of the over-quota import duties gave these Ukrainian products a competitive advantage in the EU market when compared to products from other third countries, as well as lower TRQ administrative costs for Ukrainian exporters due to the simplification of export procedures. In contrast, despite trade liberalisation, there was a drop in exports of some products such as honey and processed tomatoes. However, this can be explained by other factors (e.g. loss of production capacities due to the war). Unilateral measures of neighbouring EU countries against Ukraine’s imports Poland, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, and Bulgaria - the five neighbouring Eastern European countries (EEC) in the frontline of the Solidarity Lanes - became the major markets for the export of Ukrainian goods in the EU. Their joint share in Ukraine’s exports of goods to the EU increased from 32% in 2021 to 56% in 2022. Ukraine’s exports of goods to these countries increased by 54% y/y in 2022 - to $15.7 billion, with agri-food products accounting for the significant increase.  Agri-food exports to five neighbouring countries increased by 5.2 times to a record $7.2 billion in 2022, of which $2.4 billion were generated by grains and $1.9 billion by oilseeds. Five Eastern European countries, which are also large agricultural producers, accepted about 35% of four major agri-food exports from Ukraine to the EU in 2022 vs 1% in 2021 (See Figure 3). Both transit flows and sales of agri-food products to these countries have substantially increased after Russia’a invasion. Due to logistical problems related to the Solidarity Lanes (insufficient storage and transport infrastructure and high logistics costs), substantial transit flows of grain and oilseeds to EU ports and third markets were disrupted, and much of Ukraine’s produce was sold in local markets. According to EU statistics, the physical volumes of Ukrainian wheat, maize, rapeseed and sunflower seed imports doubled in 2022 – 19.3 million tonnes in 2022 vs 9.5 million tonnes in 2021. From this, about 8 million tonnes were sold to the five Eastern European countries in 2022 vs only 176,000 tonnes in 2021.  Transit disruptions and large quantities of Ukrainian crops exhausted storage and transport capacities raised logistics costs for local farmers and put downward pressure on purchase prices of local agri-food products. Additionally, world agricultural commodity prices declined from their early-2022 peaks due to better harvests in major grain-producing countries, improved crop conditions in the EU, and the implementation of the Black Sea grain agreement. Amid these developments, local farmers in these countries responded with protests demanding that they are protected from duty-free Ukraine’s imports. These tensions also caused delays in the adoption of the new regulation on the continuation of duty-free trade with Ukraine. The Eastern European countries blamed Brussels for insufficient help to support them. The EUR 56 million in subsidies allocated by the European Commission to the affected farmers in response to their protests in early April 2023 failed to satisfy them and their national governments. They called for additional EU funding to speed up the development of transit infrastructure, as well as the introduction of automatic compensation for farmers, the possibility for the rapid introduction of trade defence measures and the re-introduction of tariffs and tariff-rate quotas on imports from Ukraine, and the purchase of grain in the EU market for humanitarian purposes.  The lack of adequate coordination and cooperation between the Eastern European countries, the European Commission, and Ukraine related to the operation of the Solidarity Lanes led to a crisis, with EEC adopting controversial unilateral restrictions. On 15 April, Poland’s government unilaterally introduced a ban on imports and transit of Ukrainian agri-food products until 30 June (the transit ban was abolished on 21 April). Hungary, Slovakia, and Bulgaria followed with import bans on certain Ukrainian products (without a transit ban), while Romania also considered taking similar steps.  As a result, Ukrainian exports were significantly restricted, becoming stuck at the Western borders for about two weeks, creating uncertainty and losses for Ukrainian exporters. Import restrictions in the EU neighbouring countries, as well as Russia’s increased pressure and sabotage of the Black Sea grain agreement, were the main factors of the decline in Ukraine’s exports of goods in April and May 2023 ($3 billion and $3.1 billion respectively) compared to March 2023 ($3.8 billion).  These national decisions raised a lot of criticism from Ukraine and the European Commission. A primary concern was their non-compliance with EU legislation, and international and bilateral commitments. Unilateral actions by member states are not allowed under EU law, given that trade policy is an exclusive EU competence. The safeguard clause of с 2022/870 on temporary trade liberalisation measures for Ukraine entitles the Commission to monitor and take necessary steps. The unilateral blocking of imports by one or several member states also undermines the principles of the EU Single Market, which provide for the freedom of movement of goods within common customs territory.  In addition, these decisions are not in line with the World Trade Organization (WTO) rules or the provisions of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement on freedom of transit and the use of import bans. Additionally, the bans were applied immediately and adopted without proper bilateral consultations with the Ukrainian side.  Another important aspect - the EEC’s decisions were not supported by solid analysis of the import dynamics of specific products and their impact on the EU market. The scope of the bans application was too wide, and the criteria for the inclusion of certain Ukrainian products into the list of banned products was unclear in many cases. For instance, the Polish list was the longest and included a wide range of agri-food products - grains, sugar, meat, fruits, vegetables, oilseeds, processed fruit and vegetable products, wines, milk and dairy products, eggs, honey and others. These products demonstrated different import dynamics after Russia’s invasion, influenced by different factors, each requiring separate detailed analysis.  While many of these products got duty-free access to the EU market following the start of Russia’s invasion under ATM Regulation 2022/870, not all witnessed a significant increase in imports to the EU in 2022 vs 2021 and 2020 (see Table 1). For example, import volumes of Ukraine’s honey and processed tomatoes to the EU even declined in 2022 (in the case of Poland, imports of honey from Ukraine dropped from 16.9 thousand tonnes in 2021 to 10.6 thousand tonnes in 2022). At the same time, some of the banned Ukrainian products, such as oilseeds, frozen fruits, and sunflower oil, were not subject to any TRQs or tariff measures in the EU before the invasion.  Moreover, although the imports of some products subject to TRQs before Russia’s invasion (e.g. milk powder, sugars, starches, poultry meat) considerably grew in 2022 as compared to the previous years, the increased volumes still did not constitute a significant part of the EU extraimports or the EU intra-trade (see Table 1). For instance, EU imports of milk powder from Ukraine (under TRQ 09.4601) grew more than five times in 2022 – from 2 000 to 11 300 tonnes. However, Ukraine’s share in the EU extra-imports of these products was about 9% in 2022, and in the EU intra-imports - less than 1%. Considerable part of these products was imported to Poland (about 45%). However Ukraine’s share in Poland’s total imports of these products was only about 3%.  In a broader context, Ukrainian agri-food imports helped ease the inflationary pressure on the EU food market amid lower grain production in the EU last year. The EEC countries expanded agri-food exports by re-exporting Ukrainian products to other EU countries and worldwide, as well as producing and selling abroad agri-food products processed from Ukrainian crops (such as sunflower oil, processed cereals, flour, meat and dairy products, etc.). For instance, Poland’s agri-food exports reached a record level of EUR 47.6 billion in 2022, and its positive agri-food trade balance amounted to EUR 15.5 billion, or 23% higher than in 2021.  The positions of national governments were also influenced by challenging domestic political contexts, especially considering the upcoming parliamentary elections in Poland and Slovakia in 2023. The Polish government’s narrative was primarily focused on local farmers, whose votes are crucial for the ruling party.46 Farm lobbies tried to use this opportunity to restrict access to their markets for a range of Ukrainian agri-food products disproportionately. It is important to recognise local farmers’ reservations about a significant increase in imports of some agricultural products from Ukraine and their rights to raise these concerns. Still, unilateral responses of these countries are seen as quite unconstructive and undermining the unity and cooperation of EU members. The immediate bans against Ukrainian products were not in line with the solidarity efforts undertaken by Poland and other EU neighbouring countries for Ukraine. This situation also exposed possible challenges the future of Ukraine’s EU accession negotiations and their support for greater EU-Ukraine trade liberalisation and Ukraine’s integration into the EU Single Market. A compromise solution between the Commission and the five EU countries By adopting unilateral measures, the EEC put pressure on the Commission to agree on an urgent compromise: introduce exceptional and temporary preventive measures under Article 4(9) of the ATM Regulation 2022/870, namely a ban on imports of four Ukrainian products (wheat, maize, rapeseed and sunflower seeds, revealing the strongest effect on local markets) to five counties between 2 May - 5 June 2023, while the EEC countries agreed to abolish all their unilateral restrictions on all Ukrainian products. At the request of five EEC countries, these safeguards were prolonged until 15 September 2023. In addition, a further EUR 100 million will be allocated to support and alleviate the pressure on affected local farmers of grains and oilseeds in these countries. This decision allowed for more targeted restrictions compared to the earlier unilateral measures and ensured the free and unlimited transit of all Ukrainian products within the EU territory and their import to all EU countries except those bordering Ukraine. It has also allowed for the adoption of the new Autonomous Trade Measures Regulation (ATM Regulation 2023/1077) on the continuation of temporary trade liberalisation for Ukraine for a further year (until 6 June 2024).  Furthermore, the text of the ATM Regulation 2023/1077 has been amended to change the safeguard clause for the expedited reintroduction of the customs duties otherwise applicable under the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement (namely tariff-rate quotas and the entry-price system) on Ukrainian imports in case they adversely affect the EU market. In particular, member states have to provide sufficient prima facie evidence of the adverse effects of Ukrainian imports on the EU market to request the European Commission to initiate such an assessment, which must be concluded within three months of its launch. These amendments shorten the timelines of the safeguard procedure and better explain the requirements for launching an assessment, which should prevent unjustified claims for import restrictions from member states. The safeguard clause implies clear procedural rules with a prior evidence-based assessment before the adoption of any restriction.  In addition, the new regulation permits the Commission to implement immediate preventive measures under exceptional circumstances, as was the case with the ban on four Ukrainian products under the previous ATM Regulation 2022/870. The ATM Regulation does not define criteria for taking immediate preventive measures, nor the time limits for their possible application. However, since these measures are taken to address a situation requiring immediate action, they should be of an exceptional and temporary nature. The reached agreement and applied measures provided a short-term solution for a crisis. However, it still undermines the integrity of the EU Single Market and creates a precedent for further violations of EU law by allowing member states to bargain with the Commission to achieve additional support measures, thus weakening the enforcement of Single Market rules across EU countries. While the EU’s decisions signal its ongoing trade support for Ukraine, there are risks of prolongation or the introduction of new import restrictions in the EU. Poland and Hungary are again threatening to close their borders unless Brussels extends temporary restrictions against Ukrainian grain and oilseeds until at least the end of 2023 and ensure that none of the products remains in these countries. In addition, the Eastern European countries may request the Commission to impose preventive measures for other sensitive agri-food products from Ukraine such as poultry meat, sugar, eggs, honey, fruits, etc, under the current ATM Regulation. These risks create additional pressure and uncertainty for Ukrainian agri-food producers. Conclusions and recommendations During the first year of Russia’s war on Ukraine, EU trade liberalisation measures and EU-Ukraine Solidarity Lanes provided Ukraine with alternative export routes. They allowed the country to reorient part of its exports to the EU market, facilitating the gradual recovery of Ukraine’s exports after the first deep shock of the war.  The European Commission, EU member states, and the Ukrainian government should further intensify their dialogue and efforts to find a solution to the current trade dispute about import bans on Ukrainian grain and oilseeds, facilitate Ukraine’s trade flows and prevent sudden trade disruptions and restrictions. This has become critically important, especially after Russia’s withdrawal from the grain agreement and attacks on Ukraine’s port and export infrastructure.  At the same time, the crisis in the Eastern European countries also highlighted the existing logistics and connectivity bottlenecks between Ukraine and the EU. Their rapid resolution should be a priority of the EU, along with international financial support for Ukraine.  In addition, the precedent created by the application of unilateral measures in violation of the EU law revealed significant challenges with the enforcement of EU law by EU member states. This does not bode well for Ukraine’s future enlargement negotiations.  To address current challenges and prevent a repetition of this year’s crisis, the following next steps should be taken:  ● Enhance the strategic alignment and connectivity between Ukraine and the EU Ensuring smooth operation and increasing the capacity of the Solidarity Lanes is critically vital for the transit of Ukraine’s agricultural and non-agricultural exports to both the global markets and EU member states during wartime. This must include urgently increasing investment in EU-Ukraine road, rail, and river connections, deepening of river canals, increasing the available transport material, enhancing EU-Ukraine border infrastructure, building transhipment terminals, increasing grain and food storage facilities in the Eastern European countries, as well as further optimising customs operations and better coordinating transit across these countries. Although alternative routes cannot fully replace the Ukrainian seaports occupied by Russia, they have helped diversify Ukraine’s export routes, lowered Kyiv’s dependence on the grain agreement and seaport routes, and reduced Russia’s leverage on shipping Ukraine’s exports. After Russia’s withdrawal from the grain agreement, the significance of the Solidarity Lanes is increasingly critical for Ukraine’s trade.  Expanding Solidarity Lanes, extending European Transport Corridors (TEN-T) to the territory of Ukraine, and developing the Ukrainian part of the TEN-T network, improving connectivity and interoperability of transport systems in Ukraine and the EU is also important in view of Ukraine’s post-war recovery and further economic integration into the EU Single Market, and the involvement of Ukraine in European value chains. This will also enhance the performance and resilience of EU food supply chains and will work to the advantage of Ukraine, the EU and global food security.  ● Ensure security guarantees and increase the capacity of seaport corridorsThe importance of the Black Sea grain agreement and seaport exports for Ukraine and the world cannot be overestimated. Ukraine cannot reach the same export levels without functioning seaports, so any possibility and mechanisms to ensure free navigation in the Black Sea should be explored.  Ukraine needs greater support from the EU and international community in maintaining shipments through Black Sea ports, resurrecting the grain agreement and opening new sea corridors, purchasing Ukrainian grain in cooperation with the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) and transporting it to developing countries.  Major stakeholders, including the largest buyers of Ukrainian agri-food produce (China, Türkiye, the countries of the Middle East, as well as many African nations), should use their leverage and increase pressure on Moscow to resurrect the deal and safeguard seaport corridors. As Russia seeks to strengthen its position in Africa, strengthening dialogue with African countries is even more crucial in terms of their possible influence on Russia’s position about the blockade of Black Sea navigation and Ukraine’s access to global food markets by sea. Many African nations expressed disappointment about Russia pulling out of the deal at the Russia-Africa Summit. ● Enhance coordination and unity between the Commission, EU member states, and UkraineEU member states should avoid a violation of EU law and unity and should engage in “sincere cooperation as a cornerstone of the EU legal order”. Unilateral drastic actions do not facilitate unity and coordination between the Commission, member states, and Ukraine and undermine potential solutions.  The European Commission should ensure the consistent enforcement of EU law and prevent a possible repetition of cases using the same political tactics with unilateral measures that violate EU law. To avoid a repetition of crisis situations, efforts from all sides should be intensified to improve the operation of Solidarity Lanes, including data exchanges, notifications of trade volumes and policy changes, monitoring and supervision of transit flows, customs operations, and trading practices in Ukraine and the EU countries. In this respect, the recently established Joint Coordination Platform led by Executive Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis should foster regular consultations and coordination between the Commission, Eastern European countries, and Ukraine to address the concerns of all sides. Strategic partners Ukraine and EU neighbouring countries should demonstrate willingness to coordinate stances and support each other in important areas. ● Avoid sudden and unjustified Solidarity Lanes disruptions The EU and its member states should avoid the application of sudden bans or other restrictions on Ukrainian imports or transit from Ukraine. Such actions are the most harmful for exporters, causing losses and uncertainty. This is particularly the case during wartime when Ukrainian producers are already suffer from production and logistics shocks.  The European Commission should ensure that all decisions are made after proper consultations with the Ukrainian side and be taken on evidence-based assessments of the impact of Ukrainian products in the EU market.  In June, the Commission extended immediate preventive measures in the form of import bans on four Ukrainian grain and oilseeds until 15 September. As immediate preventive measures are exceptional and temporary, they should be replaced by welljustified policy decisions and procedures. Considering the serious challenges faced by Ukraine and its EU neighbours due to Russian aggression, a compromise solution should be found between Ukraine and these countries. It can imply, for example, lifting import bans against Ukrainian products and, at the same time, taking commitments by Ukraine not to exceed the agreed amount of export volumes to EU neighbouring countries (based on the assessment of the market situation, storage capacities and harvest forecasts). At the same time, non-neighbouring EU members should also be prepared to absorb greater volumes of reoriented Ukraine’s agri-food flows.  To increase the transparency of this process as much as possible, the Commission should implement a comprehensive monitoring and analysis of transit flows, the state of storage and transport capacities, and prices based on evidence from all sides and stakeholders.  ● Protect critical port and export infrastructure from Russia’s attacks Russia’s attacks on the Black Sea and Danube port infrastructure and possible interruptions of this traffic may significantly undermine Ukraine’s export potential, and international grain supplies and global food security. Ukraine urgently needs more defence capacity to protect its critical infrastructure in the Black Sea and the Danube from Russia’s attacks.  ● Facilitate EU-Ukraine trade liberalisation and Ukraine’s integration into the EU Single Market  EU member states must continue to demonstrate consistent, robust solidarity with Ukraine, which has been reinforced following Ukraine receiving candidate country status. Their solidarity and support is also critically important for Ukraine’s trade and integration into the EU Single Market.  EU-Ukraine trade volumes and Ukraine’s integration into the EU supply chains are expected to increase further as Ukraine advances on its EU path. Thus, further trade liberalisation and gradual integration into the EU internal market is an inevitable part of this process. Even before the war and the temporary ATMs, further trade liberalisation was on the agenda of EUUkraine relations. In 2021, the EU and Ukraine started negotiations to further liberalise and increase duty-free bilateral trade from both sides, including revising the DCFTA TRQs (as of now, these negotiations are paused).  The possibility for further trade liberalisation is envisaged in the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement (Article 29). It is expected that after the termination of ATMs, Ukraine will initiate an overhaul of these negotiations to have EU-Ukraine trade more liberalised on a permanent basis - up to Ukraine’s accession to the EU. In this regard, Ukraine is interested in ensuring access to the EU Single Market for its processed agrifood products, increasing food processing capacities and integrating into EU food processing value chains.

Energy & Economics
French finance minister Christine Lagarde

Strengthening resilience in a changing geopolitical landscape

by Christine Lagarde

Welcome address by Christine Lagarde, President of the ECB, at the 9th ECB conference on central, eastern and south-eastern European countriesFrankfurt am Main, 17 July 2023 It is a great pleasure to open the ninth ECB conference on central, eastern and south-eastern European countries. The CESEE region – which comprises 21 different economies – can overall be considered a European success story in recent decades, having enjoyed rapid convergence towards higher-income countries. Between 2000 and 2021, the economic size of the region almost doubled to 40% of the euro area aggregate. And this strong growth has led to rising living standards, with average GDP per capita jumping from 36% to 54% of the euro area aggregate in the same period. But the world has changed dramatically since we last held this conference in 2019. A series of shocks have upended our old reality and replaced it with new uncertainties. Devastatingly, one of those shocks has been the outbreak of war in Europe – an event that we once thought consigned to the history books. Russia’s unjustified war against Ukraine and its people is a human tragedy. And it has had deep economic consequences for the CESEE region in particular. In parallel, the world is changing in ways which make the growth models of many CESEE countries more vulnerable, as these models generally involve high levels of trade openness and integration into global value chains. But as Graham Greene once wrote, a “feat of daring can alter the whole conception of what is possible.” And the challenge now facing the CESEE region is how to continue its convergence story and ensure that growth remains resilient in this new landscape. Fortunately, CESEE economies can already look back on a strong history of resilience – be it mastering the transition from central planning to market economies in the 1990s or recovering from the global financial crisis with impressive speed. I therefore have every confidence that they will be able to adapt to these new uncertainties. A changing geopolitical landscape There are two broad shifts reshaping the global economy that may have profound implications for the CESEE region: rising geopolitical tensions and weakening global trade. After a long period in which the United States was the sole superpower, the world is becoming more multipolar, with greater competition between major powers, less respect for international rules and norms and a waning influence for multilateral institutions. In this environment, even deep commercial ties may be insufficient to prevent trading relationships from becoming adversarial. This makes the global environment increasingly prone to shocks and the task of macroeconomic stabilisation for all countries much harder. Unfortunately, the CESEE economies know this all too well. Russia’s war against Ukraine triggered a massive shock to the global economy – especially to energy and food markets – and CESEE economies have been particularly exposed, given their geographic proximity to the conflict. While inflation has now started to come down, over two-thirds of economies in the CESEE region saw annual inflation hit 13% or above last year, with several countries seeing markedly higher price increases. By comparison, annual inflation in the euro area was 8.4%. Geopolitical tensions risk accelerating the second shift in the global landscape: weakening global trade. Since the global financial crisis, trade growth as a share of world GDP has plateaued. And we are also seeing rising levels of protectionism as countries reconfigure their supply chains to align with new strategic goals. Over the last decade, the number of trade restrictions in place has increased tenfold. The CESEE region, and Europe more generally, may be vulnerable to such a shift. Last year, trade as a share of GDP was higher than the euro area average for two-thirds of CESEE economies. And while other major economies, such as the United States, have seen trade as a share of GDP fall since the pandemic, in the euro area it reached a record high in 2022. A new foundation for strengthening resilience A changing geopolitical landscape means that, in the euro area and the CESEE region, we need to build a new foundation for strengthening resilience. This foundation rests on further deepening the European Union and its ties to the surrounding region. I see three key elements. The first is reinforcing openness within our region. Trade fragmentation could see the flow of goods and services increasingly being pulled towards different trade blocs, at the expense of countries outside those blocs. By leveraging our regional strength, Europe and the CESEE region can recreate some of the benefits of globalisation on a smaller scale. The euro area is already the main trading partner for most CESEE economies. And we can capitalise on this existing momentum. Between the year 2000 and last year, the share of euro area imports from the CESEE region increased from 5% to 10%. And the share of euro area exports to CESEE economies reached 11% last year, almost double that at the start of the millennium. Moreover, CESEE economies in particular can benefit from changing global trade patterns as companies seek suppliers closer to home. Survey evidence shows that firms in the CESEE region, and especially those based in the EU, are seen as highly reliable trading partners. The ECB also has a key role to play here as the guardian of the euro. Our monetary policy plays an important anchoring role for the CESEE region, as the euro is widely used in trade invoicing and financing. Euro cash also serves as an important store of value – demand for it surged in CESEE economies following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The second key element is increasing our collective security. Europe and the CESEE economies have already taken substantial steps to increase their energy security, given the dangerous historical reliance on Russian fossil fuels in their energy mix. In February 2022, the EU was importing around 36% of its natural gas from Russia. Within the space of nine months, that fell sharply to 13% as the EU reduced its gas consumption and diversified towards imports of liquified natural gas. Most, though not all, CESEE economies have also made significant progress in substituting energy imports away from Russia and in building up gas storage levels. But we cannot stop there. We need to accelerate our efforts to decarbonise and increase our energy independence. That is why initiatives that help to build renewable energy sources are so important – such as Next Generation EU and the EU’s recent energy support package for countries in the Western Balkans. The third key element is defending and spreading our common values. The attack on Ukraine was also an assault on European values – such as the respect for international law and human rights. That is why Europe has imposed unprecedented sanctions on Russia and provided substantial support to Ukraine following the invasion. To date, the EU has made available €38.3 billion in economic assistance and over €21 billion in military support. The strength of the EU’s response demonstrates not only its capacity for action, but also its appeal as a political project that others see the benefit of joining – what the West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer once described as the “Magnet Europa” effect. The push for EU enlargement has recently gathered momentum as a consequence of Russia’s war. Last year, the EU granted Ukraine, Moldova and Bosnia and Herzegovina candidate status. And it launched the process to open accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia, while also becoming open to granting Georgia the status of candidate country, conditional on reforms. Conclusion Let me conclude. A series of shocks have dramatically changed the global landscape in recent years. And today, rising geopolitical tensions and weakening global trade mean that economies in the CESEE region need to build a new foundation of resilience. But the record of past crises has already demonstrated just how resilient CESEE countries can be. Despite an exceptionally difficult 2022, the prospects for the CESEE region are encouraging. There are clear structural strengths that stand to benefit CESEE economies in the medium to long run, such as well-educated workforces and strong ties with Europe. So the task at hand is how to channel that spirit of resilience to counteract these new uncertainties. And by leveraging our regional strength and further deepening our economic and political ties, I have no doubt that Europe and the economies in the CESEE region can flourish together. Thank you – and I hope you enjoy today’s proceedings.

Energy & Economics
LNG gas pipelines

The EU can manage without Russian liquified natural gas

by Ben McWilliams , Giovanni Sgaravatti , Simone Tagliapietra , Georg Zachmann

How can the European Union achieve its target of eliminating all Russian fossil-fuel imports by 2027?Executive summary The European Union has committed to eliminate all Russian fossil-fuel imports by 2027. Progress has been made, with sanctions on oil and coal already introduced. The glaring exception is natural gas, on which the EU has so far refrained from imposing limitations, owing to greater dependence on Russia. Nevertheless, pipeline gas imports have fallen by four-fifths following Russia’s weaponisation of gas supplies. However, Russia’s exports of liquified natural gas (LNG) to the EU have increased since the invasion of Ukraine. The EU needs a coherent strategy for these LNG imports. Our analysis shows that the EU can manage without Russian LNG. Anticipated impacts are not comparable to those felt in 2022 as Russian pipeline gas dried up. The regional impact would be most significant for the Iberian Peninsula, which has the highest share of Russian LNG in total gas supply. Meanwhile, the global LNG market is tight, and we anticipate that Russia would find new buyers for cargos that no longer enter Europe. We discuss the options available to the EU. Wait-and-see implies delaying any action until 2027, while soft sanctions would discourage additional purchases but not break long-term contracts. We argue instead for an EU embargo on Russian LNG, to reduce exposure to an unreliable and adversarial entity, and to limit the extent to which EU consumers fund the Russian state. The embargo may be designed to allow purchases only if they are coordinated via the EU’s Energy Platform, with limited volumes and below market prices. This could be accompanied by the implementation of a price cap on Russian LNG cargos that use EU or G7 trans-shipment, insurance or shipping services.  1 Introduction The European Union has a target of eliminating all Russian fossil-fuel imports by 2027. Swift progress has been made, aided by Russia’s own decision to decrease natural gas pipeline exports to the EU. However, the EU’s liquefied natural gas imports from Russia have remained remarkably stable. Discussions are ongoing about adding Russian LNG to the list of products banned from import to the EU (Table 1).  Throughout 2022, Russia cut natural gas pipeline exports to the EU steadily, but did not reduce exports of LNG, which had been much smaller in volume. In the year after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, LNG exports to the EU were valued at €12 billion. Unless there is decisive change from the current situation, the EU could pay up to another €9 billion to Russia in the second year of the war (Demertzis and McWilliams,2023).   Accordingly, in March 2023, the European Union said it had started to develop a mechanism to allow member states to block Russian LNG imports. This would be done by granting permission to EU countries to block Russian companies from booking LNG import infrastructure. This is a similar approach to when Russian companies were prevented from booking gas-storage capacity in the EU that they were then intentionally leaving empty. At time of writing, this proposal is not finalised, and it is unclear how it would affect non-Russian companies that wish to book import capacity for the purpose of importing Russian-origin LNG.  In this context, we outline four different options available to the EU. In the first, ‘wait-and-see’, the EU would continue to import Russian LNG and would wait to introduce sanctions until the second half of this decade, when LNG markets are less tight. The second approach, ‘soft sanctions’, would entail a partial effort to reduce imports of Russian LNG without dramatically impacting long-term contracts that form the basis of much EU-Russia LNG trade. Under a full ‘EU embargo’ scenario, sanctions on Russian LNG would force companies to declare force majeure on long-term contracts and no Russian LNG would enter the EU. A fourth approach, ‘EU embargo with EU Energy Platform offer’, would see the bloc tear up the existing trade structure and return to the table as one entity to negotiate. This could be done through the new EU Energy Platform for joint purchasing of gas, which might make offers to purchase limited volumes of Russian LNG, which would be phased out over time, depending on the situation in Ukraine. This approach could be complemented by the introduction of a price cap on Russian LNG imports that rely on EU or G7 services, including trans-shipments, vessels and shipping insurance. To assess the options, we begin by providing an overview of the growing role LNG (including from Russia) plays in Europe’s gas mix. We assess the impacts on the EU of an end to Russian LNG imports, by evaluating quantitatively the impact on gas balances and storage, to identify whether the EU would manage without Russian LNG. In investigating the impacts on Russia, we discuss the nature of LNG exports from Russia to the EU, which are characterised by long-term contracts and the multi-nationally owned Yamal liquefication plant. Finally, we discuss the impacts of the options available to the EU on global LNG markets and Russia.  2 The growing importance of LNG Increased LNG imports, alongside domestic demand reduction, prevented the European Union from running out of natural gas during the peak of the energy crisis in 2022. Together, these measures enabled a remarkably smooth transition away from the EU’s historically largest supplier – Russia. Russian pipeline exports made up about 40 percent of the EU’s total gas supply prior to the invasion of Ukraine, but today account for less than 10 percent. In the year from 1 April 2022 to 31 March 2023, the EU imported 950 terawatt hours (TWh) less of Russian pipeline gas than in the previous 12-month period. The EU made up for the shortfall by boosting imports from other sources and reducing demand (Figure 1).   In 2022, the EU’s imports of LNG increased 66 percent year-on-year. The largest proportion of this growth came from the United States, while Russia is currently the second largest provider of LNG to the EU, though far behind the US. In the first quarter of 2023, Russian LNG exports to the EU were 51 TWh, accounting for 16 percent of LNG supply and 7 percent of total natural gas imports. The largest share of Russian LNG is imported through Spanish ports, while Belgian, Dutch and French ports account for most of the remaining volumes. We consider the Iberian Peninsula separately from the rest of the EU for our subsequent analysis because of the region’s relatively high dependence on LNG and because of the limited connections between the Peninsula and the wider European gas market. In the first quarter of 2023, the Iberian Peninsula imported 17 TWh of Russian LNG, or one quarter of total LNG supply and 20 percent of total natural gas imports to Spain and Portugal. Figure 2 plots EU LNG imports by supplier. The left panel shows the EU without Spain and Portugal and the right panel shows the Iberian Peninsula separately.   The nature of LNG imports means they pass through ports before distribution throughout the wider European gas grid. A country’s LNG imports do not necessarily remain there but may transit on to neighbouring countries. Contractual information on these flows is not publicly available, but we have estimated the relative importance of Russian LNG by country. Figure 3 shows these results for winter 2022-2023. According to our accounting basis, Russian LNG made up 18 percent of Spanish gas supply, 15 percent of French supply and 10 percent of Belgian supply.  Figure 3: Estimated shares of total gas supply to Russian LNG, winter 2022-23    3 EU gas balances without Russian LNG In the EU embargo scenario, all Russian LNG would stop flowing to the EU. This might also be the case in the EU Energy Platform offer scenario, and might happen irrespective of EU decisions if Russia chooses to block exports. We therefore assess the impact of an immediate halt to Russian LNG supplies by modelling the evolution of EU gas balances and storage, performing a separate analysis for the Iberian Peninsula and the rest of the EU (EU25). Scenarios begin with actual gas storage of 746 TWh in the EU25 and 36 TWh on the Iberian Peninsula as of 1 June 2023. We make assumptions about natural gas imports, with and without Russian LNG, based on the most recent flows (see Annex 2). In our baseline scenario, demand reduction would continue to be 15 percent below the five-year average. This is in line with the March 2023 Council of the EU agreement to maintain a 15 percent demand reduction target until March 2024, and recent observations of actual demand reductions (McWilliams and Zachmann, 2023). Figures 4 and 5 show our results.   Figure 4 shows that the EU25 will be well able to fill storage facilities over the summer months without any Russian LNG, with the only consequence being a slight postponement of the moment when storage reaches full capacity. While stored volumes will deplete at a marginally faster rate, the EU25 will also not face a substantial additional challenge to manage the winter of 2023-24.  It is notable that under both scenarios, storage would reach maximum capacity before winter months start to see draws on storage. The EU would be able to prepare better for winter 2023-24 if it had greater storage capacity. One area for exploration in this respect is the extent to which gas storage sites in western Ukraine could be used for storing excess gas that would benefit both the EU (largely eastern regions) and Ukraine.   For the Iberian Peninsula we assess three scenarios. Again, all scenarios assume that the 15 percent demand reduction target is met. In scenario A, all imports remain the same as they have in the past months (including Russian LNG), and the draining of gas storage facilities over the winter would be at typical levels, with the Peninsula comfortably managing. In scenario B, all Russian LNG flows would be halted and not replaced at all. In this scenario, storage facilities would run out by January.  We do not think scenario B is a serious possibility but include it for illustrative purposes only. In reality, Spain would replace lost Russian LNG cargos by purchasing on the global market. In scenario C, we show that this replacement rate would need to be 50 percent for the Peninsula to maintain reserves above 20 percent throughout winter, Spain should find alternative supply for one out of every two lost Russian cargos. We note also the possibility of increased pipeline imports from Algeria, although we do not include this in our scenarios because of ongoing diplomatic tensions. Therefore, while the EU25 would manage comfortably without Russian LNG, the situation on the Iberian Peninsula would depend on the ability to find alternative LNG supplies. As they are traded by sea, LNG cargos are somewhat fungible. If Russian LNG stops flowing to the EU, Russia will look to sell this LNG elsewhere at the same time as EU buyers look for alternative supply. In theory, the global market should rebalance with an additional layer of friction caused by less efficient trade routes. This would be similar to the impact of the EU’s Russian crude oil embargo (McWilliams et al, 2022). One limitation less present in the oil market is the volume of LNG, which is contracted under long-term contracts with fixed destination clauses, limiting the ability of markets to rebalance. However, the EU’s experience over the winter of 2022-23 suggests there is substantial flexibility in the market. Higher prices in Europe were well able to bring in additional cargos. The return of the Freeport liquefication terminal in the US also provides a boost. A fire in June 2022 stopped operations at the terminal, which had accounted for 20 percent of the US LNG export capacity. The plant’s capacity of 200 TWh per year matches Russia’s total 2022 LNG to the EU. In May 2022, the last month before the fire, the plant shipped over half (10 TWh per month) of its cargo to the EU. We consider that the EU is likely to be able to find cargos to replace Russian ones.  4 Russian LNG exports without the EU In any scenario in which Russian LNG stops flowing to the EU, the impacts on global markets and Russian revenues will depend on Russia’s ability to redirect cargos. If Russia is not able to redirect cargos, the extra demand from the EU in the market will have the effect of pushing up global LNG prices in a competition for a temporarily tighter supplies of global LNG. In 2022, Russian LNG exports to the EU amounted to 197 TWh, or 44 percent of Russia’s total LNG exports. Exports to China accounted for a further 20 percent, and the rest of the world 36 percent. Figure 6 shows the evolution of these shares over the past three years.   Tight LNG markets mean that there is likely to be demand for Russian LNG, especially if it can be contracted at a discount to global prices. The experience of the EU’s crude oil embargo shows that Russia was able to find new buyers without difficulty as demand from the EU and G7 was withdrawn.  One peculiarity is the trade route a Russian LNG carrier must take. Much of the European LNG demand is served by LNG plants on the Yamal peninsula on the northwest Siberian coast. In summer months’ ships travel east to Asian markets where demand may be found for cargos no longer flowing to the EU. However, during the northern hemisphere winter – when LNG demand is typically higher – passing through the Arctic Circle is typically not possible. LNG carriers would have to embark on a substantially longer route via the Suez Canal, with higher costs. This route also involves trans-shipment via terminals in the EU, most notably Zeebrugge in Belgium (Figure 7) and the French terminal Montoir-de-Bretagne. Ships departing from Yamal unload LNG at Zeebrugge into storage or directly into different ships, in which it is then transported to Asian or other global markets. This trade is critical for smoothing year-round export from Yamal to Asian markets. Total volumes are significant, accounting for 12 percent of Yamal LNG exports in March 2022, and 38 percent of exports that were destined for Asian, Middle Eastern or South American markets. The trade is governed by a long-term contract that began in December 2019, allowing for up to 110 TWh per annum. The additional cost for Russia to re-direct cargos would depend on whether these services were still feasible in a scenario in which direct Russian LNG trade with the EU ends. Russia is also developing its own abilities for trans-shipment via domestic ports, including Murmansk.   BOX 1: Status of EU-Russian LNG trade  Exports to the EU from Russia mainly depart from the Yamal LNG terminal. The terminal has an export capacity of 16.5 million tonnes LNG per annum (235 TWh). The ownership of the terminal is a joint venture between Novatek (50.1 percent), Total Energies (20 percent), China National Petroleum Cooperation (20 percent) and the Silk Road Fund (9.9 percent). Over 90 percent of the exports from the Yamal terminal are covered by long-term contracts (Table 2). To attract this foreign investment into the Yamal LNG terminal, the Russian government provided a temporary exemption for exports from export duty and mineral extraction taxes. Firms that export from the terminal do pay a 34 percent tax on profits (Corbeau, 2023).)   The terms of these contracts are not publicly available, and therefore we do not have information on the prices paid for these LNG cargos. Typically, contracts will contain a weighted lag of regional or global natural gas pricing indicators. The exact terms of the contract are relevant for assessing the impact of sanctions, as they will determine the lost export revenues when compared to the ability of Russia or Novatek to resell unwanted cargos on the spot LNG market.   5 Options for the EU The EU’s target of phasing out Russian fossil-fuel imports by 2027 implies that long-term contracts will be interrupted before their end dates. Until they are interrupted, Russian LNG cargos cannot be considered a reliable component of the EU’s security of gas supply and the EU should work under the precautionary assumption that these flows might stop at any time. In the first scenario, wait-and-see, the EU would continue to turn a blind eye to Russian LNG imports. Global natural gas markets should be better balanced in the second half of the decade as a new wave of liquefication projects come online. As the EU approaches its 2027 deadline for ending Russian fossil-fuel imports, an embargo could be discussed. This option is a cautious one and refrains from testing tight global LNG markets. However, it implies that EU consumers continue to send billions of euros to Russia for LNG. A soft sanctions scenario, meanwhile, would discourage and ultimately prevent imports of spot LNG from Russia. It would also stop the renewal of expiring contracts and the signing of any new LNG contracts with Russia. At the same time, companies do have some flexibility over the volume of gas they import under long-term contracts, and could be encouraged to keep these volumes as low as possible. However, the scenario would not break the existing long-term contracts. Consequently, the EU would continue to import significant volumes of Russian LNG, while disruptions to the global market would be limited. This scenario is closest to our interpretation of the proposal that, at time of writing, has been put forward to the European Parliament, and which would prevent Russian companies from booking LNG-import capacities. A more significant move would be for the EU to explicitly sanction the import of Russian origin LNG (our EU embargo scenario). This would force importing companies to declare force majeure and exit existing long-term contracts. Consequently, the EU would cease to import Russian LNG and our analysis shows that the bloc would manage such a disruption. There would, however, be an impact on global LNG markets. The export of Russian LNG to the EU accounted in 2022 for a little over 3 percent of the total market, which would be the maximum supply shock. Any temporary increase in global prices would be determined largely by the ability of Russia to redirect cargos eastwards. An alternative approach, EU embargo with Energy Platform offer, might be facilitated by the EU’s new Energy Platform. The platform was initiated in April 2022 as a joint purchasing mechanism for the EU. In the first tender, 63 companies submitted requests for a total volume of 120 TWh of natural gas. The platform would be suitable as an EU vehicle to coordinate purchases of Russian LNG. After terminating existing long-term contracts with Yamal LNG, the EU as a bloc could then offer to purchase Russian LNG at a lower than market price, which may be revised, depending on the evolution of the situation in Ukraine.   This coordination mechanism would provide a pathway for the termination of long-term contracts that run post-2027, while smoothing any bumps to the gas market caused by the gradual phase-out of Russian LNG. It would also allow the platform mechanism to distribute volumes to areas of greatest need. There is no guarantee that Russia would wish to engage with such a strategy, and Russia might prefer to refuse any LNG exports to the EU. Russia’s compliance with the oil price cap, following an earlier declaration that it would be ignored, does however suggest cooperation may be forthcoming. Based on economic logic alone, geographical proximity implies that Russia should be willing to accept a discount on exports to the EU market. In any case, pursuing this fourth option must only be done on the basis that the EU is ready for a full termination. Beyond imports, the EU also faces a decision on the future of Russian LNG trans-shipment via EU ports. These trans-shipments are important for Yamal LNG to reach global markets, especially during winter months. Limiting these trans-shipments would be an even more aggressive step. It would increase the difficulty for Russia to re-route LNG cargos, but likely exacerbate global LNG tensions. The EU might consider a temporary tax or price limit on cargos using such trans-shipment facilities. In recent years, construction has been underway on two new terminals to facilitate trans-shipment in Russia. While trans-shipments are already taking place at the port of Murmansk in Russia, the exact capacity of the terminals and whether they are already able to replace all the volumes passing through Zeebrugge is not clear. It is possible that technology sanctions may have had an impact by delaying projects.  Such a strategy could be expanded into a full price cap on Russian LNG traded with third countries. In similar fashion to the trade in crude oil, EU and G7 members have significant control over the ownership and insurance of the ships used to transport Russian LNG. Between January and May 2023, all ships were insured by, and over 90 percent were owned by, companies resident in the EU or G7. One complication with imposing a price cap on LNG trade is that it is typically governed by long-term contracts with prices determined by a fixed formula. The price-cap mechanism therefore may not be appropriate for all Russian LNG exports but could be applied to exports from Yamal that may be sold on the spot market in a scenario in which an EU embargo puts an end to existing long-term contracts.  At the same time, the EU is yet to introduce sanctions on Russian pipeline gas imports and continues to import Russian gas by pipeline at roughly comparable volumes to LNG. These pipeline imports could be negotiated through the Energy Platform. Such a strategy would provide a European tool for exerting pressure on Russia, in the context of the EU’s ambition to develop strategic autonomy capabilities. The strategy has a clear aim of reducing dependency on an adversary and of phase this risk out gradually over time, while approaching the situation from a position of relative strength.  6 Conclusions LNG has become a crucial element of Europe’s security of energy supply. Flows from Russia have formed an important part of this for the past 18 months. However, the EU must now seriously assess whether this trade has a future. The possibility that Russia unilaterally blocks exports of LNG to the EU remains, and the EU must be prepared for such a risk. Moreover, the EU should consider sanctioning Russian LNG. Continuing the trade implies that European consumers will continue to send money directly to Russia and will remain dependent on an unreliable entity. Our analysis has shown that the EU would manage without Russian LNG. Impacts over the summer months should be very limited, while winter months may see marginal price increases. The extent of these price increases depends on the overall tightness of the global LNG market, which determines the premium EU markets must pay to attract flexible LNG cargos. The impact of an end to Russian LNG would not be comparable to the shocks caused by the drop in Russian pipeline gas flows in 2022. Meanwhile, Russia is likely to be able to re-route a large share of its LNG cargos. In the short run, there may be frictions in finding new buyers, especially during winter months, depending on the situation regarding trans-shipments in Europe. Ultimately, new buyers will step in for LNG cargos, as shown by the shift in Russia’s oil trade. The introduction of a price cap for access to EU or G7 controlled trans-shipment facilities, vessels and shipping insurance would increase the difficulties for Russia in re-routing. Nonetheless, the volume of the trade implies that sanctions will not have the same impact as the oil embargo and price cap in terms of reduced revenues for Russia. Given that the EU will be able to manage the shock, and that a scenario of inaction or limited sanctions implies that EU consumers will continue to fund the Russian state, and by extension the Russian war effort, we argue that the EU should bring forward a full embargo on Russian LNG. An embargo would also reduce exposure to an unreliable and adversarial entity. The embargo may be designed to allow purchases only if they are coordinated via the EU Energy Platform. Dealing as a bloc with Russian LNG would maintain the EU’s strategic position, allowing it to wind down imports in line with the 2027 target. Moreover, offers could be made to purchase Russian LNG at below market prices, with the accompanying threat or actual introduction of a price cap.

Energy & Economics
Natural gas tank in the Refinery industry


by Pavel Sergeev

Annotation        The systems of aggregation of demand for natural gas and its joint purchases in the EU are considered from the point of view of the impact on contractual relations in the international trade of natural gas, an assessment of their impact on regional and global energy supply is given KeywordsEuropean Union, AggregateEU, Russia, global climate change, anti-Russian sanctions, energy-intensive industries, international law, gas supply, LNG  In the modern world, various natural disasters occur almost weekly, primarily due to the consequences of global climate change. At the same time, their negative impact on the world economy will gradually increase in the future. This objectively worsens the economic and financial situation of the States directly affected to varying degrees, and in many cases the socio-economic situation there also deteriorates. Since the modern world economy predetermines the high interdependence of states, the constant accumulation of negative factors begins to have a negative impact on all participants in international economic relations.The deterioration of the economic and social situation also leads to political instability. At the same time, political events are increasingly taking place, the appearance of which previously seemed simply incredible - for example, the intention to reunite the Orkney Islands with Norway or the solution to the problem of hunger in Africa based on the intensification of abortion.The current stage of development of regional gas markets is characterized by certain features. The specificity of the situation in the gas supply of the European market is a significant fragmentation of parts of broken supply chains, the creation and improvement of which has been spent for more than 50 years.At the same time, political forces interfere in the most complex mechanisms for the formation and implementation of contractual relations between suppliers and consumers of gas, which do not sufficiently take into account the specifics of gas as an energy carrier and a commodity of international trade. If we add to this the numerous bureaucratic innovations of the European Commission, then the subjects of the EU gas market objectively cannot form guidelines for their long-term development, and this, in turn, negatively affects long-term investments.This is critically important, since gas trade is characterized by the need for huge and long-term capital investments, primarily for its transportation and storage. At the same time, hopes pinned on a regional energy transition with a corresponding reduction in hydrocarbon fuels are not justified even in the short term.Both the efficiency of the functioning of the national economy and the reliability of energy supply to consumers based on renewable energy sources are doubtful. All this is happening in the context of aggravating negative problems in the development of the world economy, a high probability of unexpected political events, and a deteriorating state of the environment.As for the expected decline in prices for energy products supplied from Russia under the influence of sanctions, it turned out that they, first of all, changed the structure of oil and gas imports to the European Union, as a result of which prices for them objectively began to rise.Economic practice has shown the futility of using anti-Russian sanctions for these purposes. In addition, anti-Russian sanctions in the context of the destruction of the system of international law objectively led to the destruction of the system of long-term contracts and, consequently, to an additional increase in prices.In April 2023, the EU bureaucracy finally began to gradually formalize the cartel principles of relations between regional buyers of natural gas and its sellers. It is obvious that the main goal of the proposed aggregate demand and joint purchases of natural gas is, first of all, the formation of a coordinated negotiating position to put pressure on gas suppliers in order to reduce prices.  In addition, the interest in expanding gas imports using the new principles implicitly confirms the recognition of the fact that the idea of focusing on the widespread use of green electricity is increasingly becoming questionable.By proposing a new form of preparation and conclusion of gas contracts (AggregateEU), the EU bureaucracy presents it as a means of increasing the transparency of transactions and forming new forms of cooperation (Regulation 2022/2576), as well as an important means of increasing the level of security of consumer security (Regulation 2022/1032). This highlights the particular benefits of aggregation for small companies or companies from landlocked countries (i.e., those with no potential access to LNG). However, in modern contracts for the purchase and sale of gas, everything is very obvious.  As for the development of new forms of cooperation, in gas supply, the aggregation of demand will further complicate the problem of contractual distribution of responsibilities of the parties.It should be noted that the mandatory aggregation of demand applies only to 15% of the volume of gas storage facilities of the EU member states, including those that do not have them on their territory. Surprisingly, gas storage facilities, the main purpose of which is to secure the gas pipeline network in conditions of peak levels of daily gas withdrawal (usually winter), are perceived by the European Commission as ordinary storage tanks (Regulation 2017/1938).Meanwhile, with regard to gas supply, now the second, summer peak of energy consumption has finally formed in the region. This means that with sharp fluctuations in weather conditions characteristic of modern climate change, their extremely negative consequences are possible both in winter and in summer. It will now be almost impossible to resist them, since for many consumer countries, a reliable and large-scale source of energy - pipeline gas from Russia - has been largely lost.It is important to note that a characteristic feature of the above-mentioned documents is the possibility of multivariate interpretation of their articles by buyers, which means in the future the uncertainty of their potential contractual obligations and, accordingly, the orientation of gas exporters mainly to spot supplies.That is why economic practice shows that the most far-sighted importers of natural gas in the EU countries are not going to lose a reliable and profitable source of gas supply, which based on the existing long-term trade and economic ties. Thus, in July 2023, the Austrian oil and gas company “OMV” confirmed its intention to continue purchasing natural gas from Russia on a long-term basis, and Spain became the European leader in the import of Russian LNG.Naturally, the energy-intensive industries of those EU countries that have lost access to reliable and cheap supplies of natural gas from Russia have finally lost their competitive advantages.Thus, the ideas of the European Commission on reforming the regional natural gas market on the basis of aggregate demand and joint purchases can be relatively successfully implemented only in terms of spot supplies. Moreover, LNG exporters, for whom the market of China and other rapidly developing Asian countries is more attractive in terms of volumes and prices, as well as in terms of stable long-term prospects for gas consumption growth, are likely to avoid direct contracts with buyers from Europe, preferring intermediaries. And this, naturally, will lead to an additional increase in regional prices.It is obvious that in order to really improve the situation with gas and energy supply to the EU countries, it is not bureaucratic exercises in the field of export-import operations that are required, but the integration of main gas pipelines with the subsequent creation of a unified gas supply system for the region.As for the global natural gas market, the impact of European "innovations" on it will be insignificant. It is obvious that the majority of modern politicians in the European Union are not sufficiently aware of the peculiarities and scale of changes in the global and regional economy. As before, external threats seem more dangerous to them in comparison with accumulating internal ones.However, it is the deterioration of the regional economic situation in the foreseeable future that will lead to the loss of effective access by the EU countries to global export flows of natural gas.  

Energy & Economics
Russia on World map with countries borders. Stamp Sanctions on Russian territory. Concept of Ukraine war, crisis, economic sanctions, politics, russophobia, travel

How Russia is shifting to a war economy in the face of international sanctions

by Christoph Bluth

As Russia’s progress in Ukraine has stalled, with enormous losses in material and people, the frustrated head of the Wagner mercenary force Yevgeny Prigozhin has called for Russia to shift to a total war economy: The Kremlin must declare a new wave of mobilisation to call up more fighters and declare martial law and force ‘everyone possible’ into the country’s ammunition production efforts. We must stop building new roads and infrastructure facilities and work only for the war. His words echo similar sentiments expressed by the head of Russia’s state broadcaster RT, Margarita Simonyan – an influential supporter of the Russian president, Vladimir Putin – who said recently: Our guys are risking their lives and blood every day. We’re sitting here at home. If our industry is not keeping up, let’s all get a grip! Ask anyone. Aren’t we all ready to come help for two hours after work? Already facing western sanctions since its annexation of Crimea and occupation of territory in Ukraine’s eastern provinces in 2014, Russia has had to adapt to life under an increasingly harsh series of economic punishments. And, while Putin had apparently planned for a relatively short “special military operation”, this conflict has become a protracted and expensive war of attrition. The Economist has estimated Russian military spending at 5 trillion roubles (£49 billion) a year, or 3% of its GDP, a figure the magazine describes as “a puny amount” compared to its spending in the second world war. Other estimates are higher – the German Council on Foreign Relations (GDAP) estimates US$90 billion (£72 billion), or more like 5% of GDP. But the international sanctions have hit the economy hard. They have affected access to international markets and the ability to access foreign currency and products. And the rate at which the Russian military is getting through equipment and ammunition is putting a strain on the country’s defence industry. So the Kremlin faces a choice: massively increasing its war efforts to achieve a decisive breakthrough, or continuing its war of attrition. The latter would aim to outlast Ukraine in the hope that international support may waver in the face of a global costs of living crisis. Equipment shortages Russia has lost substantial amounts of arms and ammunition. In March 2023, UK armed forces minister James Heappey estimated that Russia had lost 1,900 main battle tanks, 3,300 other armoured combat vehicles, 73 crewed, fixed wing aircraft, several hundred uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs) of all types, 78 helicopters, 550 tube artillery systems, 190 rocket artillery systems and eight naval vessels. Russia has to contend with several important military-industrial challenges. For one, its high technology precision-guided weapons require access to foreign technology. This is now unavailable – or restricted to sanctions-busting deals which can only supply a fraction of what is needed. Most of the high-tech electronic components used by the Russian military are manufactured by US companies. So it has to substitute these with lower-grade domestic components, which is probably why the Russian military is using its high-tech weaponry sparingly. But the artillery shells on which it has been relying are running short. US thinktank the Center for Security and International Studies has reported US intelligence estimates that since February 2022, export controls have degraded Russia’s ability to replace more than 6,000 pieces of military equipment. Sanctions have also forced key defense industrial facilities to halt production and caused shortages of critical components for tanks and aircraft, among other materiel. Make do, mend – and spend There are clear signs of increasing efforts to address the shortages. According to a report in the Economist, Dmitri Medvedev, deputy chairman of Russia’s security council, has recently announced plans for the production of 1,500 modern tanks in 2023. Russian news agency Tass reported recently Medvedev also plans to oversee a ramping up of mass production of drones. The government is reported to be providing substantial loans to arms manufacturers and even issuing orders to banks to do the same. Official statistics indicate that the production of “finished metal goods” in January and February was 20% higher compared to the previous year. The GDAP reported in February: “As of January 2023, several Russian arms plants were working in three shifts, six or seven days a week, and offering competitive salaries. Hence, they can increase production of those weapon systems that Russia is still able to manufacture despite the sanctions.” So it appears the Kremlin is playing a delicate balancing act of redirecting significant resources to the military and related industries while trying to minimise the disruption of the general economy, which would risk losing the support of large sections of the population. The International Monetary Fund has projected Russia’s economy to grow by 0.7% this year (which would trump the UK’s projected growth of 0.4%). This will largely be underpinned by export revenues for hydrocarbons as well as arms sales to various client countries happy to ignore western sanctions. Meanwhile diversifying import sources has kept stores stocked. However, Russian public opinion pollster Romir has reported that while most people aren’t worried about the absence of sanctioned goods, about half complained that the quality of substituted goods had deteriorated. So ordinary Russians – those who haven’t lost loved ones on the battlefield or to exile – remain relatively sanguine about everyday life. But a longer, more intense conflict, requiring a shift to a total war economy, could be a different matter altogether.

Energy & Economics
Hand of man with a credit card using an atm man using an atm machine with his credit card

Coping with Technology Sanctions in the Russian Financial Sector

by Alexandra Prokopenko

The Russian financial sector has taken a double hit from sanctions – both in infrastructure (affecting financial transactions) and in technology (affecting the hardware and software). Infrastructural sanctions imposed by Western countries in reponse to the war on Ukraine (de-SWIFTing, overcompliance, and breaking of correspondent relationships) affected their operational activity. Moreover, the Russian government banned the use of foreign software and equipment imports, which has been a drag on business development. The financial sector was able to withstand the first shock. However, the most recent restrictions on access to advanced technologies, especially from the US and the EU, will lead to import substitution based on technologies of yesterday.  - Since the war began, every second Russian company has lost tech support and access to cutting-edge technology. - Import substitution leaves tech companies scrambling for what they can get, not what they actually want or need, and stunts business development. - The financial sector is shifting from creating innovations to ensuring technological security and supporting current operations. Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a coalition of Western countries led by the European Union and the United States imposed a large array of sanctions. Since then, the Russian financial sector has taken a double hit, namely sanctions on the infrastructure, affecting financial transactions, and on the technology, like software and hardware, it needs to operate. Infrastructure sanctions restrict banks’ ability to make payments (disconnection from the SWIFT global payments system and overcompliance). Technology sanctions create hindrances to technical upgrades and innovation. Before the war in Ukraine, the Russian financial sector was a world leader: it was third in financial technology penetration, in the top 10 in digital banking development, and fourth in the transition to cashless payments during the pandemic. Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the imposition of sanctions in 2022, it has lost this competitive position.   The sanctions against Russia’s financial sector have largely isolated Russia from access to the global financial system. Inside Russia, however, only a small fraction of Russians have felt these restrictions. Russian payment infrastructure was and remains resilient primarily due to the financial messaging system (SPFS), the Russian equivalent of SWIFT, which was developed in 2014 and through which banks are required to exchange data within Russia. In 2022, traffic in the system increased by 22 percent. There are currently 469 participants, including 115 non-Russian banks from 14 countries. Among the foreign countries, banks in Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Switzerland are connected to the system. Due to the risk of new sanctions, Russia’s central bank does not disclose detailed statistics. Direct messaging channels allow for direct international transactions with those banks connected to the SPFS, including those bypassing SWIFT. Minimizing the damage of sanctions that target Russia’s financial sector infrastructure is considerably more difficult. Former partners, even in friendly jurisdictions like some post-Soviet countries, have been slow to help Russia with system-level transactions. It will take considerable time to build new payment infrastructure channels, as the technological constraints are much more difficult. The lack of access to modern technology keeps banks’ IT systems in their current state and impedes fintech development and innovation. Pain and Risk About 85 percent of software used in the Russian financial sector is produced abroad. For hardware, the situation is even worse. Only large-scale assembly takes place in Russia. For this reason, the departure of companies that ensure the viability of the financial sector has been particularly painful for the financial sector - companies like Oracle, SAP, Cisco, IBM, Intel, AMD, Diebold Nixdorf and NCR (ATMs). Every second Russian company was left without technical support after the war began. For Russian banks, it was impossible to quickly switch to domestic solutions, as the right quality and scale were simply not available on the market. Virtually all operations of a modern financial institution, from client services to internal operations, are heavily dependent on the smooth operation of software and equipment. This makes the financial system particularly vulnerable on the technological side. Banks and non-financial institutions may face operational risks due to the lack of servers and software. This could make systems more vulnerable to cyber-attacks, raise the risk of technical failures due to a shortage of equipment and maintenance specialists, and require failing equipment to be replaced with either used Western-made products or Chinese analogues. The Bank of Russia, which supervises the financial sector, pointed out these risks for the first time almost a year after the invasion. Import Substitution Software The withdrawal of foreign companies has left the Russian financial sector with a huge gap in software and services. Also, in October 2022, the government banned Russian banks from using foreign software, a rule that applies even if there are no domestic equivalents. This has forced critical information infrastructure facilities to urgently seek domestic solutions. The combination of these two factors has given a boost to software development in Russia. Thus, according to Ilya Sivtsev, CEO of Astra (developer of operating systems and PostgreSQL database management system (DBMS) based on open source code), the company’s revenue in 2022 doubled to over RUB 6.5 billion (USD 65 million) and the share of its revenues from the financial sector increased from 4 to 22 percent. Astra’s outlook for 2023 is for double-digit growth.  Astra’s figures generally reflect the situation in the Russian IT market in 2022: there was rapid growth due to the departure of foreign competitors. As Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Chernyshenko, who oversees the industry, reported, IT firms in 2022 grew revenues by 35 percent and earned RUB 2.38 trillion (USD 27 billion). Despite the reduced presence of foreign companies, turnover in the Russian IT market has grown. Switching to Russian software instead of foreign software may not be the most significant challenge, but it is an expense that businesses could have invested in furthering business growth. With all the advantages of the Russian DBMS, migration from the US-made Oracle software may lead to performance degradation of 30-50 percent. This is a serious limitation for the financial sector, whose mission-critical core system (processing, the core of an automated banking system) requires high-speed interaction with databases. The banking applications must also be transferred to the new DBMS. In addition, information security risks that could jeopardize the stability of the financial system have increased. The massive migration to new IT solutions reduces the cybersecurity of the entire system. The growth of the Russian software market is limited by two factors: the Russian government’s permission for companies to use unlicensed foreign software and the country’s own borders. Before the war, Russian IT companies were rather active on the markets of neighboring countries, providing various services (e.g. 1, 2, 3 )–from the integration of IT systems and products to the provision of services to companies and private customers. Russian solutions were often cheaper and technical support in Russian was an important advantage in the regional Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) market. And while Russian companies were also looking to expand abroad before the war, they will now have to compete there with Western companies that have left the Russian market and whose technological development is not restricted by sanctions. The relationship between customers and integrators running programs to implement products from different vendors has also changed. The customers say, “I want it like SAP, but faster and better,” while the integrators say, “My offer is limited, so take what I have or you will run out too.” In other words, customers have to accept a downgrade in software and hardware capacity for certain technologies. Import Substitution and Hardware Because it was not profitable, the equipment needed for  assembly in Russia is not produced in the country. Until 2022, only large-scale assembly from imported components was carried out in Russia. And the financial sector is not the only one waiting for servers, storage systems, controllers and components – industry, the public sector and retailers are also in line. In their search for equipment, Russian companies have turned to parallel imports, obtaining what they need from countries that have not imposed sanctions. They have also acquiesced to lower requirements for equipment quality and delivery deadlines. However, there are no systemic solutions or supply lines yet. Right at the beginning of the conflict, the US applied the Foreign Direct Product Rule (FDPR) mechanism to Russia. The FDPR prohibits exports to sanctioned countries of equipment that US companies were involved in developing or manufacturing – thus it affects companies outside the US in so-called third countries. This mechanism is primarily aimed at keeping the defense industry from importing technology. However, civilian products that can be classified as “dual-use” (military and civilian) are also largely subject to the restrictions – including the kinds of equipment needed by the financial sector. That has made systematic and large-scale purchases much more difficult. Third countries are willing to restrict technology exports to Russia, and the US is constantly updating its sanctions lists to include intermediaries. Nevertheless, loopholes in sanctions frameworks and delays in sanctions decisions allow Russia more room to adjust, finding new partners in Asia or new ways to bring hardware to Russia. Chinese partners, for example, support Russian companies not only with equipment but also with chips. Shipments of microchips and other semiconductors from China to Russia  are 2.5 times higher than than pre-war level; China now accounts for more than 50 percent of semiconductor imports to Russia. By the end of 2022, China supplied 40 percent of Russia’s imports and purchased 30 percent of its exports, and the RMB had become the only (albeit less convenient due to its incomplete convertibility) alternative to the euro and dollar for Russia’s international payments. In 2022, trade turnover between the two countries reached an astronomical USD190 billion, and it is quite likely that within these imports are sanctioned goods that Russia desperately needs. Reports that China is helping Russia circumvent sanctions, especially in the technology sector, are mounting. The Russian IT sector’s focus on Chinese suppliers and their products – from servers and data center equipment to bulk purchases of consumer electronics – reflects Moscow’s growing and asymmetrical dependence on Beijing. For second- and third-tier Chinese companies, this opens up opportunities to enter the Russian market. For example, Sber, Russia’s largest bank, is testing its own custom-made laptops. Sber’s partner, the Chinese company Shanghai IP3 Information Technology, is a contract manufacturer that takes orders for electronic devices and commissions them from Chinese production facilities. Whereas before the war Russian companies were free to choose their equipment and electronics suppliers, taking advantage of the wide supply on the market to obtain favorable prices, the choice has now narrowed to Chinese manufacturers. The lack of alternatives also forces them to accept less attractive terms. Innovation Inhibited The sanctions bottleneck in both hardware and software is shifting the focus of IT specialists in the Russian financial sector from creating innovations to ensuring technological security and supporting current operations. The most prominent example is the introduction of payment stickers for Russians who can no longer make contactless payments with their smartphones. A payment sticker has an embedded near-field communications (NFC) chip that exchanges data with a payment device. In other words, it is a bank card chip stuck onto an iPhone, as iPhone owners are considered to be the highest-paying target group, and banks have a vested interest in maintaining the usual number and volume of card transactions. Android smartphone owners will still have the option of making contactless payments via a MirPay wallet linked to their domestic payment system card. Frank RG, the Russian financial information publication, estimates that 12 of Russia’s 25 largest banks already offer stickers to their customers. Tinkoff, the leader in innovative banking, plans to issue over 1 million stickers by July 2023. At state-owned Sberbank, over 100 000 people applied for stickers within three hours of their offering. Issuing stickers is more expensive for the bank than standard payment card issuance, bankers acknowledge. Russian financial institutions have become so similar to IT companies that they are almost indistinguishable. Sberbank alone employs 38,000 IT specialists, Sberbank President Herman Gref reported to Vladimir Putin in March 2023. Besides the purely financial challenges, such as ensuring the sustainability of the payment infrastructure, the financial sector needs to work with the IT industry on providing non-sanctioned hardware and software, finding indigenous solutions to replace Western ones, and localizing instead of scaling up. An important but not decisive obstacle to innovation is the mass exodus of IT professionals. Competition for the remaining specialists is fierce and will only increase. The government is making gigantic efforts to keep the remaining skilled workers in the country. The slowness in changing the taxation of departing Russians seems partly related to the fear that most foreign IT professionals who continue to work in Russia will no longer do so. Prospects for the Financial Sector The Russian financial sector’s resilience to sanctions on its financial infrastructure has been limited to Russian territory. The sanctions have largely isolated Russia from the international financial infrastructure. Russia’s demand to allow banks to use SWIFT (e.g. under the Grains Agreement) is a clear indication of this. Technological restrictions and the withdrawal of Western companies from the Russian market may seem less painful at first glance, but this is not the case. Their impact is longer-term: declining quality of hardware and software, forced investment at IT, cybersecurity, and operational risks. And while infrastructural constraints have had only a temporary impact on the ability of the financial sector to operate smoothly, technological constraints have significantly limited its potential for growth and development. The Russian financial sector’s dependence on foreign, especially Western, software and hardware manufacturers is high. This poses a significant risk to Russia’s financial stability, especially if Western countries tighten sanctions against the Russian IT sector.

Energy & Economics
European Commissioner for Energy, Kadri Simson giving speech during the European Green Deal

Industrial Policy, Green Energy of the European Union and Long-Term Regional Developement Problems

by Pavel Sergeev

Annotation The features of the implementation of the industrial policy of the European Union aimed at achieving the goals of ensuring the functioning of green energy are considered, an assessment of the prospects for regional and global development in the context of rising prices for energy products is given The beginning of 2023 showed the correctness of scientists who have long warned about the strengthening of the negative impact on humanity of natural and climatic changes, natural disasters, man-made disasters and their consequences, which leads to a decrease in the sustainability of global economic and social development. The most incomplete list of them includes the earthquake in Turkey, the danger of a new pandemic, the strongest tornado in the USA. As for the problems of climate change for the European Union countries, at present the problem of drought and the increasing shortage of fresh water is becoming increasingly urgent there. Moreover, in the most unexpected places, natural hazards that are not characteristic of the region, including volcanic activity, may also occur. Clearly, overcoming this kind of problem will require, at a minimum, a reliable energy supply. However, the orientation of the region's industrial policy towards green energy, the creation of capacities for the production of alternative energy sources means, if we do not consider the negative environmental consequences of this, a sharp decrease in the reliability of energy supply. This is all the more important since the EU own energy production is at a rather low level. The prospective restructuring of regional gas supply means for the EU a significant decrease in the competitiveness of goods produced in the region, which, without the supply of cheap Russian natural gas, leads to the loss of the main markets.  At the same time, it is possible that regional crises, such as climate, environmental, migration, demographic, food, logistics, which continue to intensify, will one day lead to global consequences, including a financial crisis. And it will eventually lead to an exchange crisis, which will necessarily spread to commodity markets with appropriate consequences. In a natural way, ordinary EU citizens understand how the abandonment of a cheap and reliable source of energy supply will end, including its long-term consequences. And the companies of the global energy market are now confident that the time has come for long-term contracts. The fact is that modern competition, conducted by individual subjects of international relations in a very specific way, began to deny international law, primarily the UN Charter (at least Article 1.3). The result of all this will be serious disproportions in the development of the global economy and very many will have to refresh the survival skills formulated by Robert Baden-Powell (1857-1941) at the beginning of the twentieth century.