Massenbach-Letter: NEWS 20/03/15

Massenbach-Letter. News

· A European Union Army Is A Terrible Idea * RUSI-Briefing Paper: Russian Forces in Ukraine

· Europeans defy US to join China-led development bank * Japanese firms’ are moving production from China back home

· Iraqi Kurds claim Islamic State group used chemical weapons * Baubeginn bei TANAP: Türkei positioniert sich als europäische Energiedrehscheibe * Member states balk at EU plan to vet Gazprom contracts

· U.S. Assistant Secretary Nuland Travel to Greece, Slovenia, Italy, and Belgium * COLUMN-Transport sector set to give big lift to oil demand: Kemp

· IMF-The Western Balkans: 15 Years of Economic Transition * EP resolution commends Serbia’s progress in reforms

· Bertelsmann-Studie: Armut wirft Kinder schon im Vorschulalter zurück

· Digitizing the value chain-Challenges remain for “Industry 4.0

Massenbach* Sayonara Shenzhen – Japanese firms’ are moving production from China back home

Mar 13, 2015 (WiC 273)

Stopped making televisions in China this year

“Here is a land with enormous potential,” Mitsui’s chairman Ikeda Yoshizo said of China in 1979. “We can understand their sentiments because they share a similar complexion to ours. I think we can help each other spiritually and materially.”

Shortly afterwards, the trading giant signalled its intent by becoming the first Japanese company to open a branch office in Beijing following the signing of a Treaty of Peace and Friendship in 1978. In the decade that followed Japanese companies rapidly established themselves as China’s biggest foreign investors.

Perhaps Communist China’s first premier Zhou Enlai had been right all along when two decades earlier he said that the two countries shared two thousand years of friendship and 50 years of misfortune.

And now in the year marking the seventieth anniversary of the ending of the most calamitous event of all between the two countries (World War Two), their complicated relationship appears to be entering a new phase.

In recent weeks, the Chinese press has reacted with some consternation to a succession of reports that Japanese companies are pulling out of China. Unlike other multinationals, they are not departing to take advantage of cheaper labour cost in Southeast Asia. They are returning home.

After three decades in which Japan’s industrial base was extensively hollowed out, the country is starting to become a cost effective place to manufacture once again. Since Japanese leader Abe Shinzo took office at the end of 2012 the yen has depreciated about 30% against the renminbi. At the same time minimum wage levels along China’s southern and eastern seaboards have doubled over the past five years.

As Japan’s Nikkei newspaper points out, the minimum wage in Shenzhen is now the equivalent of ¥260 ($2.13) per hour. In Japan’s Kochi and Miyazaki prefectures it is ¥677. And while this latter figure is still more than double the Chinese rate, Nikkei believes Japanese workers are more productive.

Daikin, the world’s largest air conditioning manufacturer, set the trend in 2014 when it started transferring some of its production back to Japan. In January, it said it planned to transfer more. Chairman Noriyuki Inoue told reporters, “Daikin sees great potential in being able to turn yen depreciation into a positive advantage.”

Later the same month, electronics manufacturer Panasonic announced plans to halt production at its TV factory in Shandong province with the loss of several hundred jobs. The United Daily News also reports that it plans to move microwave manufacturing to Kobe, air conditioners to Shiga and washing machines to Shizuoka.

At a recent US consumer electronics show, company president Tsuga Kazuhiro told reporters that Panasonic also hopes to attract Asian buyers with products stamped with the words “Made in Japan”.

Other electronics companies are following suit. Sharp has said it will increase its refrigerator production in Japan, while TDK is moving some of its auto electrical parts production to Akita prefecture. The company has announced a $208 million expansion plan at one of its domestic factories to produce next-generation components for automobiles and smartphones.

Nissan, meanwhile, has announced plans to produce an additional 100,000 cars a year in Japan, while Canon says it will increase the domestic production ratios of its cameras and printers from 40% to 60%.

But it is watchmaker Citizen which has ruffled Chinese feathers the most after abruptly shutting a plant in Guangzhou. About 1,000 employees lost their jobs last month, shortly before Chinese New Year.

The Chinese press wonders whether the Japanese are making a big mistake. The United Daily News comments: “Salmon like to return to their home ground, but will these Japanese fish have enough oxygen to survive? Is it wise to build factories in a country where restaurants have to close down because of severe labour shortages?”

The 21CN Business Herald takes an even stronger line. “Returning home because of short-term exchange rate fluctuations is suicidal,” it concludes. “It shows that Japanese companies have very little confidence in the future of their businesses.”

Unsurprisingly, the Japanese press interprets events somewhat differently. The Nikkei newspaper highlights the fact that this is not the first time Japanese companies have attempted to relocate back to Japan. Reasons for doing so in the past have ranged from anti-Japanese demonstrations, piracy and patent infringements, fear of infectious diseases such as SARS and concerns about natural disasters.

But it believes this time may be different and calls on the government to introduce legislation, which could lead to the kind of structural changes that may even attract other foreign MNC’s to Japan. Top of its wish list are reductions in corporate tax rates and more flexible labour laws.

The Nikkei says the trend is still in its infancy and notes that Japanese companies are currently increasing capacity at their existing plants rather than setting up new ones. But it believes Japan’s GDP could be lifted because productivity is higher in the manufacturing sector than the services sector.

The government may even accomplish its long cherished aim of encouraging “labour mobility without job losses” and more importantly, igniting inflation. For while the Chinese press is correct about labour shortages, these exist mostly in Japan’s service sector where wages are lower and less so in manufacturing where many companies are still plagued by overcapacity and find it tougher to lay off staff.

If these ‘excess’ workers are mopped up through capacity expansion, then pressure for wage rises may start to grow.

However, recent figures reveal that while some Japanese companies are beginning to produce onshore, many of their compatriots are still failing to invest much at all. Capital spending has declined for four straight quarters, while Japan Inc’s cash on hand now sits at $1.4 trillion, almost double the level when Abe took office.

Back in China, government officials say the exodus (which also includes US companies such as Microsoft, Tesla and Nike) is nothing to be worried about. Chinese industry is not being hollowed out as Japan’s was three decades ago. It is simply moving up the value chain.

In 2014, China was the world’s top destination for foreign direct investment (FDI). And in January, FDI grew at its fastest pace in four years, up 29.4% year-on-year to $13.9 billion.

Some US and Japanese firms may be pulling back, but other countries, notably the UK, Saudi Arabia and Germany are stepping up their investments.

Speaking to the Securities Times, Zhang Xiaoning, a director at UNCTAD, a United Nations think tank, said, “In 2014, foreign capital inflows in China’s services sector grew rapidly, particularly in distribution services and transportation.”

According to Ministry of Commerce data, new foreign investment in the services sector has risen to 55.4% of the total and is now 22% higher than the manufacturing sector. In an article entitled “Multinational exits nothing to fret over” the Global Times says that with foreign companies getting “out of the way”, local ones will be able to take advantage of new market opportunities. They will also be able to recruit the technicians that the foreign firms have trained.

Optimistically, it even concludes such moves may prompt an acceleration of China’s industrialisation and environmental clean up.

http://www.weekinchina.com/2015/03/sayonara-shenzhen/?dm

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

*Europeans defy US to join China-led development bank*

Privately, US and Australian officials have suggested that the British decision to break ranks and join the bank was driven by commercial considerations and that London was blind to the broader geopolitical implications in the Asia-Pacific region.

France, Germany and Italy have all agreed to follow Britain’s lead and join a China-led international development bank, according to European officials, delivering a blow to US efforts to keep leading western countries out of the new institution.

The decision by the three European governments comes after Britain announced last week that it would join the $50bn Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, a potential rival to the Washington-based World Bank.

Australia, a key US ally in the Asia-Pacific region which had come under pressure from Washington to stay out of the new bank, has also said that it will now rethink that position.

The European decisions represent a significant setback for the Obama administration, which has argued that western countries could have more influence over the workings of the new bank if they stayed together on the outside and pushed for higher lending standards.

The AIIB, which was formally launched by Chinese President Xi Jinping last year, is one element of a broader Chinese push to create new financial and economic institutions that will increase its international influence. It has become a central issue in the growing contest between China and the US over who will define the economic and trade rules in Asia over the coming decades.

When Britain announced its decision to join the AIIB last week, the Obama administration told the Financial Times that it was part of a broader trend of “constant accommodation” by London of China. British officials were relatively restrained in their criticism of China over its handling of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong last year.

Britain tried to gain “first mover advantage” last week by signing up to the fledgling Chinese-led bank before other G7 members. The UK government claimed it had to move quickly because of the impending May 7 general election. The move by George Osborne, the UK chancellor of the exchequer, won plaudits in Beijing.

Britain hopes to establish itself as the number one destination for Chinese investment and UK officials were unrepentant. One suggested that the White House criticism of Britain was a case of sour grapes: “They couldn’t have got congressional approval to join the AIIB, even if they wanted to.”

The US Treasury said on Monday night that it recognised the need for greater infrastructure investment around the world. However, it said any new institution should “incorporate the high standards that the international community has collectively built”, and that new members of the AIIB should “push for the adoption of these same high standards”.

Privately, US and Australian officials have suggested that the British decision to break ranks and join the bank was driven by commercial considerations and that London was blind to the broader geopolitical implications in the Asia-Pacific region.

South Korean media have reported that Seoul will also now rethink its decision not to join the AIIB. Japan, the US ally in the region that is most worried by China’s growing influence, is not expected to become a member.

http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/0655b342-cc29-11e4-beca-00144feab7de.html#axzz3UdBJOtOJ

**********************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

Policy= res publica

Freudenberg-Pilster* Bertelsmann-Studie: Armut wirft Kinder schon im Vorschulalter zurück*

Schon früh hinken Kinder aus armen Familien in ihrer Entwicklung hinterher. Sie sprechen schlechter Deutsch, haben Probleme mit Zahlen und der Körperkoordination. Helfen könnten laut Bertelsmann-Stiftung sozial gemischte Kitas.

13.03.2015

Viele Kinder, deren Familien von Hartz IV leben, hinken in ihrer Entwicklung laut einer Studie bereits im Vorschulalter hinterher. Demnach weisen sie mehr als doppelt so viele Defizite auf wie Altersgenossen aus gesicherten finanziellen Verhältnissen. Dies zeigt eine am Freitag veröffentliche Untersuchung der Bertelsmann-Stiftung.

So sprechen mehr als 40 Prozent der armutsgefährdeten Kinder nur mangelhaft Deutsch. Geht es den Familien finanziell besser, haben hier nur rund 14 Prozent große Defizite. Ähnlich sieht es bei Problemen mit der Körperkoordination aus (24,5 zu 14,6 Prozent), dem Umgang mit Zahlen (28 zu 12,4) oder Übergewicht (8,8 zu 3,7).

Auffällig ist auch, dass Kinder mit Armutshintergrund kaum Zugriff auf soziale und kulturelle Angebote haben. Nur 12 Prozent von ihnen lernen ein Instrument. Bei Kindern aus finanziell unabhängigen Familien sind es 29 Prozent. Beim Zugang zu einem Sportverein hinkt die Gruppe mit 46 zu 77 Prozent hinterher. Bei der frühkindlichen Bildung sieht es ebenfalls nicht gut aus. Vor dem dritten Geburtstag gehen nur 31 Prozent der armutsgefährdeten Kinder in eine Kita, bei der anderen Gruppe sind es fast 48 Prozent.

Mehr zum Thema

Die Studie weist allerdings darauf hin, dass ein Kita-Besuch kein Allheilmittel ist. Positive Effekte habe die Kita nur, wenn die Gruppen sozial gemischt sind. Bei Kitas in sozialen Brennpunkten funktioniert das aber nicht. Wenn es einer Kommune nicht gelingt, bei Neuaufnahmen für eine sinnvolle soziale Durchmischung in der Kita zu sorgen, müssen die Ressourcen anders verteilt werden, raten die Autoren. „Kitas in sozialen Brennpunkten brauchen dann mehr Geld, mehr Personal und mehr Förderangebote“, sagt Brigitte Mohn vom Vorstand der Stiftung.

Für die Studie haben Forscher der Uni Bochum 5000 Schuleingangsuntersuchungen der Jahre 2010 bis 2013 in der Ruhrgebietsstadt Mülheim im Ruhrgebiet analysiert. Nach Angaben der Gütersloher Stiftung wachsen in Deutschland mehr als 17 Prozent der unter 3 Jahre alten Kinder in Familien auf, die von der staatlichen Grundsicherung leben. „Das Ergebnis aus Mülheim lässt sich gut auf ganz Deutschland übertragen“, sagt Kirsten Witte von der Bertelsmann-Stiftung. Die Studie habe ganz Mülheim mit seinen sehr unterschiedlichen Quartieren mit sehr niedrigen und sehr hohen Quoten von Hartz-IV-Empfängern in den Blick genommen.

http://www.faz.net/aktuell/politik/inland/bertelsmann-studie-armut-wirft-kinder-schon-im-vorschulalter-zurueck-13480708.html

*********************************************************************************************************************************************

Politics: From Vision to Action

Barandat* Briefing Paper: Russian Forces in Ukraine*

The Russian military operation against Ukraine has revealed some of the constraints on Russia’s exercise of military power; primarily, its limited capacity to sustain an operation of this size.

Download the briefing here (PDF)

While the annexation itself of Crimea was relatively peaceful, the actions of Russian and Russian-backed forces in eastern Ukraine turned into an increasingly fierce fight as the Ukrainian government launched its own ‘anti-terrorist operation’ against the Russian-supported rebels.

In this way, the comparatively bloodless Russian spring gave way to a Russian winter of fierce combat. The first operational successes of Ukrainian forces in late June and early July 2014 first prompted Russian artillery fire from within Russian territory, targeted against advancing Ukrainian troops on their own soil, from mid-July onwards. Direct intervention by Russian troops in combat roles then followed in the middle of August, when the prospect of rebel defeat had become realistic. The presence of large numbers of Russian troops on Ukrainian sovereign territory has, more or less, since become a permanent feature of the conflict.

This briefing explores the Russian military involvement in Ukraine. It argues that the operation is instructive, having been waged in accordance with the Gerasimov Doctrine of Ambiguous Warfare but also because it has revealed some of the constraints on Russia’s exercise of military power; primarily, its limited capacity to sustain an operation of this size.

https://www.rusi.org/publications/other/ref:O54FDBCF478D8B/

***********************************************************************************************************************************************************************

*A European Union Army Is A Terrible Idea*

Europe lacks not an army but the will to defend itself. Instead of a European Army, individual countries should get serious about defense again.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker recently called for creating an army for the troubled European Union. Noting accurately that the EU isn’t “taken entirely seriously,” Juncker suggested standing up its own army “would convey to Russia that we are serious about defending the values of the European Union.”

Juncker’s comments got considerable attention, as he is the top bureaucrat in Brussels and his suggestions carry weight, although he is a high-flying Eurocrat from central casting who lacks any strategic or military background.

Moreover, the notion that what the EU lacks is an army is misguided, since what an increasingly disarmed Europe is actually short on is the will to defend itself, as demonstrated by deficits in spending and thinking seriously on defense. What EU countries lack is political will and seriousness about defense matters, not a common army. Since the EU cannot manage to assemble a coherent foreign policy on any matter of substance, one wonders what an all-European defense ministry in Brussels would actually do.

The EU Can’t Handle Existing Military Resources

Just how bad things have gotten across the EU in military affairs has been laid bare by the Ukraine crisis. A decade ago, the EU began assembling multinational battlegroups of between one and two thousand troops to be deployed in the event of crises but, despite no lack of crises lately, no battlegroups have been deployed anywhere, so low is the EU’s confidence in their flagship defense program.

Vladimir Putin’s savaging of Ukraine over the last year has concentrated some European minds, but not enough.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO’s) whip-hand about defense spending has had little effect on the alliance’s European members—nearly all of whom are also EU members—as hardly any of them spend the notionally required 2 percent of gross domestic product on a military. Nearly four years ago, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates issued a stern warning at Brussels, noting that low European defense spending was leading the Atlantic alliance to “military irrelevance” and a “dim if not dismal future.” Yet Gates’s caution that America, facing its own budget problems, was losing patience with parsimonious Europe in defense matters did not spur action.

Vladimir Putin’s savaging of Ukraine over the last year has concentrated some European minds, but not enough. Last summer’s alliance summit in Wales, in the aftermath of Moscow’s theft of Crimea, led to more promises about doing better, but only a small handful of NATO members spend the “required” 2 percent. There are positive developments—directly threatened by Putin, Poland and Estonia are on something of a spending binge, relatively speaking, while others ought to copy Lithuania’s restoration of conscription to deter the Russians—but the bad news is more substantial.

The erosion of military power across the EU is astonishing. For all its economic and political clout, Germany has hardly any deployable military to speak of, while even NATO stalwart Britain faces terminal military decline. The ability of British forces to join any United States-led coalition is now in serious doubt, thanks to deep defense cuts, while recent warnings that soon the British Army may fall to just 50,000 active troops, the smallest land force since London failed to subdue the American rebellion of the 1770s, has generated headlines.

Arguments for a European Army Lack Merit

There are arguments in favor of a European Army, and they are not new. At the onset of the Cold War, Paris in particular was worried about rearming a recently defeated West Germany, which the Americans wanted, and pushed for a unified military for Western Europe—de facto under French control, of course. Unsurprisingly, the project went nowhere when British and West German politicians realized the real objective behind any European Army, while the Americans were skeptical a from the start.

National frictions will endure, no matter how Europe organizes defense.

Certainly, developing common defense initiatives to save money on research and development and acquisition programs is commendable, but this is already happening and does not require a European Army. Most big-ticket items being purchased by EU militaries are already pan-European projects. A dozen European armies use the German Leopard 2 battle tank, while most leading EU air forces fly the Eurofighter Typhoon.

Moreover, creating a European Army, with national units no larger than battalions, does not guarantee any more coherent defense or security policy. National frictions will endure, no matter how Europe organizes defense. Here history is instructive. Multinational militaries are fragile things by nature, and require delicate political handling, not to mention that common threat pictures can be hard to come by.

For centuries, the Habsburg Empire managed one of Europe’s largest military machines, drawn from a dozen ethnic groups. While that fissiparous force held together down to the end of World War I in the autumn of 1918, it was not always efficient nor effective, despite important exceptions, and backbiting among ethnic groups was a perennial problem for Vienna. Worse, it’s hard to see how the twenty-first century EU, which has difficulty maintaining minimal political coherence in peacetime, would stand up to the rigors of even the smallest war, much less a major struggle against a resurgent Russia.

Individual Countries Need to Man Up on Defense

What Europe needs is seriousness about defense. While countries on the EU’s eastern frontier, who suffered under Soviet domination, have woken up to the new era of threats to the continent, many others have not. The Netherlands, which once had more than 400 modern Leopard 2 tanks, decided to take them out of service back in 2011, selling most of them off, since how could the Dutch Army ever need tanks again? Such short-term thinking, amounting to a kind of strategic stupidity, is a luxury a Europe that wants to survive can no longer afford.

Creating a European Army is a bad idea that would waste scarce EU defense cash on lavish headquarters and well-catered meetings, which are Brussels’ real acumen, so Juncker’s suggestion has generated much discussion. Moscow is no doubt excited, since for decades the Kremlin liked the idea of a European Army, which would not be under NATO (read: American) control, and such viewpoints still exist. Indeed, they are getting louder by the day in places like Germany.

The answer to Europe’s growing defense shortfall isn’t a European Army, it’s funding the armies European countries already have adequately, which means taking defense seriously again.

John R. Schindler, a former National Security Agency official and Naval War College professor, is a strategist and expert in counterterrorism and counterespionage. He blogs at 20committee.com.

http://thefederalist.com/2015/03/16/a-european-army-is-a-terrible-idea/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

A European Army: Who Speaks For Europe?
Dr. Jackson Janes

Ahead of the Brussels Forum, AICGS President Jackson Janes emphasizes the need for a common military defense mechanism supported by deeper European integration.

http://www.aicgs.org/issue/a-european-army-who-speaks-for-europe/?utm_medium=email&utm_source=advisor

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
March 10, 2015
Ambassador John Kornblum

Amb. John Kornblum analyzes the relationship with Russia in the context of the crisis in Ukraine.

He explains how history can help to form long-term strategies for the United States, Europe, and NATO.

http://www.aicgs.org/issue/testimony-before-the-senate-foreign-relations-committee-march-10-2015/?utm_medium=email&utm_source=advisor

******************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

COLUMN-Transport sector set to give big lift to oil demand: Kemp*

(John Kemp is a Reuters market analyst. The views expressed are his own)

LONDON, March 17 (Reuters) – Demand for oil is intimately connected to the demand for transportation in the United States and the other advanced industrial economies.

Cars, trucks, airlines, railways and shipping accounted for 71 percent of total U.S. oil consumption in 2013, according to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

Petroleum-derived fuels, including gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and fuel oil, met 97 percent of the transportation sector’s energy needs.

Before the oil shocks of the 1970s as much as half of U.S. oil demand came from power producers and for heating homes, offices and factories.

But following the sharp rise in prices, oil’s role in other parts of the economy was largely replaced by cheaper coal, gas, nuclear and eventually renewables, leaving oil as a transport fuel.

The same pattern was repeated across the other advanced industrial economies. Oil demand has become inseparable from the demand for transportation services.

But the relationship is a complex one involving trade-offs between capital investment, operating practices, speed and fuel bills.

TRAVELLING SLOWER

Fuel consumption is strongly affected by the mode of transport chosen. Air services consume far more fuel per passenger or per kg of freight than ships, railroads, trucks or cars.

Fuel costs are also influenced by decisions about investment (whether to replace older engines with newer more fuel efficient ones) and operational behaviour (how fast to run the plane, ship or truck, and whether to run it part loaded or fully loaded).

Broadly speaking, there are trade-offs between capital investment and operating costs. Replacing old aircraft, locomotives, ships and trucks with more fuel efficient ones is a major capital expense but can cut fuel bills substantially.

There are also trade-offs between speed and fuel consumption.

The most obvious is between air transport, which is fast but uses enormous quantities of fuel, and surface shipping, which is slower but less fuel intensive.

As a result, air freight tends to be reserved for small high-value items (batteries and aero engines) and perishables (cut flowers) while heavier, bulkier and lower value items go by sea, rail and truck.

But there are also speed/fuel trade-offs within a single mode of transport.

For example, the faster a container ship or oil tanker moves through the water the bigger the bow wave it generates and the more fuel is required to overcome the resistance.

For a ship, fuel consumption rises even faster than speed. So when freight rates are high and fuel prices are low, it makes sense to sail faster despite the increase in fuel costs to generate more income with the same number of ships.

But when freight rates are low and fuel prices are high, it is more cost effective to travel slowly to reduce fuel consumption even if journeys take longer and more ships are needed to carry the same amount of cargo.

"The speed of a vessel has a dramatic impact on fuel consumption because the speed is related to the propulsive power required by approximately a third or fourth power relationship," according to the American Bureau of Shipping. "Roughly this means if you double the speed you increase the power required by a factor of at least 8."

"Likewise, sailing at 90 percent of the design speed requires only 75 percent of the power. The corresponding reduction in total fuel consumption is offset a bit by the longer time spent to complete the voyage. So by slowing down 10 percent the vessel can save about 20 percent in fuel" ("Ship Energy Efficiency Measures").

The phenomenon of "slow steaming" is well known in the shipping industry as an important way to cut operating costs when oil prices are high. However, speed also plays an important albeit smaller role in fuel consumption for aircraft and trucks.

In recent years, U.S. airlines and trucking firms have ordered staff to cruise at marginally slower average speeds to save fuel. Speed and capital (larger fleets are needed) have been sacrificed to cut expensive energy consumption.

Transport operators have also resorted to a host of more obscure operational changes to cut fuel bills. Airlines have cut the amount of fuel and water flown by employing computer models to calculate exactly how much will actually be needed during the flight.

Crews of aircraft, ships and trucks have been instructed to turn off main engines when stationary and switch to ground power at airports, ports and truck stops.

Pilots have been warned against employing excessive thrust during takeoff. Truckers have been ordered to plug into electric power at rest stops to use air-conditioning.

TRAVELLING LESS

At the most fundamental level, some individuals and businesses responded to higher fuel prices by cancelling discretionary journeys and some firms reportedly shortened their supply chains to cut freight-miles.

The number and length of car journeys fell in the United States and a number of other advanced economies between 2008 and 2013. In some instances, businesses began to switch from distant suppliers to nearer ones to save on shipping costs.

Taken individually, each of these fuel saving strategies made only a small difference. In combination, however, the fuel saving has been enormous.

Total energy consumed by all modes of transportation in the United States increased almost 30 percent between 1990 and its peak in 2007.

But six years later, in 2013, energy consumption was still 10 percent below its previous peak, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

Consumption of gasoline, road diesel and jet fuel in the United States all peaked between 2005 and 2007 then started to fall both absolutely and compared with the previous trend.

By 2013, total oil consumption across the United States, Europe and the advanced economies of Asia had fallen around 8 million barrels per day compared with the pre-2005 trend, according to a calculation by James Hamilton at the University of California.

LOWER FUEL PRICES

Some of those changes are now deeply entrenched in the economy.

The more fuel efficient aircraft, ships, locomotives and trucks ordered between 2002 and 2012 will be in use for decades. Businesses will not easily unlearn some of the operating practices they were forced to adopt during the years of high fuel prices.

But other changes in the fuel economy are softer and could be reversed, at least partially, now fuel costs have plunged.

Container ships and oil tankers are already voyaging faster. The former focus on slow steaming has been replaced by an emphasis on cutting journey times.

Airlines are trying to win back some of the cargo trade they lost to cheaper and slower surface shipping during the years of high fuel prices.

With the U.S. economy strengthening and diesel cheaper, logistics firms are once again focusing on getting deliveries done as fast as possible, even if that means using a bit more fuel.

The pressure to avoid travelling with part loads, and avoid empty backhauls, that became so intense during the years of high fuel prices, is easing.

And businesses and private motorists who were deterred from making discretionary journeys may now jump in their cars and onto aircraft more often.

RISING FUEL DEMAND

Fuel consumption is notoriously hard to measure in real time. But all the contemporary indicators available point to a gradual rise in fuel consumption which started in early 2014 and then accelerated towards the end of the year in response to lower prices.

Sales of motor fuels in California and Texas and fuel consumption by U.S. airlines are all increasing, according to state and federal records. And container ships and oil tankers are voyaging faster, according to consultants at RS Platou, which implies higher fuel consumption.

Some of this increase is due to a stronger economy, but some is down to cheaper fuel.

Just as high fuel prices forced thousands of barely perceptible small changes that caused an enormous shift in total oil consumption between 2002 and 2012, so low prices are now beginning to have a gradual effect in the opposite direction.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/03/17/oil-transportation-kemp-idUSL6N0WJ3I920150317?feedType=RSS&feedName=everything&virtualBrandChannel=11563

******************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

Middle East

*Baubeginn bei TANAP: Türkei positioniert sich als europäische Energiedrehscheibe*

Deutsch Türkische Nachrichten | 16.03.15, 16:18

Die Türkei will internationales Energiezentrum werden. Der Baubeginn der transanatolischen TANAP-Pipeline ist Teil dieser Strategie. Eine Strategie, mit deren Hilfe die türkische Regierung Energie auch in Zukunft bezahlbar machen will.

Der türkische Energieminister Yildiz träumt von einem “Energy-Hub” in der Türkei (Screenshot Youtube).

Der türkische Präsident Recep Tayyip Erdoğan wird am Dienstag den Grundstein für eine neue Erdgas-Pipeline legen. In Kars, einer Stadt im Nordosten der Türkei, soll der Bau der transanatolischen Gaspipeline TANAP beginnen. TANAP soll Erdgas vom aserbaidschanischen Gasfeld Shah Deniz II quer durch die Türkei bis an die Grenze der EU führen.

Die Gaspipeline hat eine Kapazität von 16 Milliarden Kubikmetern. Nach Anschluss an die Transadriatische Pipeline TAP könnte die erste Gaslieferung 2019 erfolgen. Sechs Milliarden Kubikmeter Gas aus dem Shah-Deniz-Gasfeld sollen dann an die Türkei geliefert werden, zehn Milliarden Kubikmeter Gas sind für den europäischen Markt bestimmt. Mit TANAP ist Aserbaidschan zum größten Direktinvestor in der Türkei aufgestiegen.

Ein Prestigeprojekt

Bei der Ankündigung des Baus der TANAP-Pipeline im September 2012 beschrieb der türkische Energieminister Taner Yildiz das TANAP-Projekt als „Paradebeispiel für die Liberalisierung des türkischen Energiemarktes“, so das Netzwerk für Außenpolitik. Ein Prestigeprojekt für den türkischen Energiesektor also, gleichzeitig aber auch ein dringend notwendiges Projekt: Mit dem Wirtschaftswachstum der vergangenen Jahre ist auch der Energieverbrauch des Landes rasant angestiegen. Die Türkei selber kann jedoch nur auf ein begrenztes Vorkommen von Öl, Kohle oder Gas zurückgreifen.

Neue Wege im Energiesektor

Das massive Gefälle zwischen den heimischen Ressourcen und dem Gesamtverbrauch der Türkei zwingt die türkische Regierung zum Handeln: Der türkische Präsident Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will dem steigenden Energiebedarf seines Landes in den kommenden acht Jahren mit massiven Investitionen begegnen (mehr hier). Und neue Strategien zur Energiesicherheit müssen her: Hierbei geht es vor allem darum, die ununterbrochene Versorgung des Landes mit Kohle, Öl und Gas zu garantieren. Energie soll in der Türkei auch in Zukunft bezahlbar bleiben. Die Parole hierzu heißt: diversifizieren. Als eine der Möglichkeiten, sich aus ihrer Öl- und Gasabhängigkeit zu lösen, macht sich die türkische Regierung deshalb schon seit einiger Zeit daran, Energiezulieferer und Zulieferungswege zu diversifizieren. Um die Energieimportwege des Landes zu diversifizieren, will man das Land als Energieumschlagplatz zwischen Mitteleuropa und dem Nahen Osten etablieren. Die TANAP-Pipeline ist ein Teil dieser Strategie.

Wer kontrolliert die europäische Gasverteilung?

Aber ist TANAP auch eine echte Alternative zu russischem Gas? Wohl kaum. TANAP wird zusammen mit der TAP-Pipeline als wichtige Option für die Versorgung der europäischen Gasmärkte gehandelt wird. Die tatsächlichen Zahlen sehen aber ganz anders aus: TANAP entspricht mit ihren geplanten zehn Milliarden Kubikmetern gerade einmal zwei Prozent des gesamten europäischen Gasbedarfs. Die russische Gazprom verkauft 15 Mal mehr Gas nach Europa. Das geht so weit, dass manche Gazprom-Manager im privaten Umfeld scherzen sollen, dass das aserbaidschanische Gas in Europa „gerade mal für eine Grillparty reichen würde“, so die Financial Times.

Kostenprobleme

Experten wie Dr. Frank Umbach, Research Director des European Centre for Energy and Resource Security (EUCERS) am King‘s College, London, sehen noch ganz andere Probleme. Im World Review schreibt er: „Es ist unwahrscheinlich, dass das aserbaidschanische Offshore-Gas kostengünstig zu produzieren und 4.000 km über Land nach Europa zu transportieren sein wird – und das auch noch auf einer Route, die generell anfällig für geopolitische Verschiebungen und Terroranschläge ist.“ Auf der anderen Seite, könne die übergeordnete strategische und geopolitische Bedeutung von TANAP und TAP für die europäische Energiesicherheit allerdings auch kaum überschätzt werden, so Umbach. Auch in der EU ist man sich über die energiepolitische Schlüsselposition der Türkei einig: “Wir haben keinen Zweifel, dass wir mit der Türkei weiterhin sehr eng zusammenarbeiten werden”, so zitiert EurActiv einen EU-Beamten. Die Türkei könne sowohl die Route also auch den Nachschub zum EU-Energiemarkt diversifizieren.

Eins ist sicher: Die Türkei könnte in Europa in Sachen Erdgasverteilung in Zukunft der “lachende Dritte“ sein. Mit TANAP steuert das Land nämlich nicht nur eine direkte Kontrolle der europäischen Gaslieferungen aus Zentralasien an, sondern soll, wenn es nach dem Gazprom-Chef Alexej Miller geht, auch zum Transitpunkt für russisches Gas werden: Erst Mitte Januar hatte Miller die EU darüber informiert, dass er den 2019 auslaufenden Transitvertrag mit der Ukraine nicht mehr verlängern und stattdessen den Transit über die Türkei laufen lassen werde, wofür man eine neue Pipeline namens “Turkish Stream” bis zur türkisch-griechischen Grenze errichte, berichtet Die Welt. Noch im Dezember des vergangen Jahres hatte der türkische Außenminister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu dem Pipeline-Projekt von Gazprom allerdings indirekt eine Absage erteilt: Der Bau der Transanatolischen Pipeline reiche aus, um Europa mit Energie-Trägern zu versorgen. Die Fertigstellung dieses Projekts habe Priorität (mehr hier). Ob Millers Vorstoß ein reiner Bluff ist oder ob durch die Türkei bald auch russisches Gas fließen wird, darüber sind sich Experten allerdings noch uneinig.

Mehr zum Thema:

DGAP: Hunger nach Strom und Öl-Der türkische Energiesektor profitiert von der Schlüssellage

Türkei erhofft sich große Gewinne aus dem Shah Deniz Projekt
EU-Beitrittsverhandlungen mit der Türkei: Jetzt muss das Thema Energie angegangen werden
Schlüsselland für Energie: Portugal unterstützt EU-Beitritt der Türkei

http://www.deutsch-tuerkische-nachrichten.de/2015/03/509972/baubeginn-bei-tanap-tuerkei-positioniert-sich-als-europaeische-energiedrehscheibe/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Member states balk at EU plan to vet Gazprom contracts:

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

U.S. Assistant Secretary Nuland Travel to Greece, Slovenia, Italy, and Belgium*

March 16, 2015

Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland will travel to Athens, Greece; Ljubljana, Slovenia; and Rome, Italy, March 16-19, to meet with senior government officials in each of these countries to discuss the range of bilateral, regional, and global issues.

Assistant Secretary Nuland will then travel to Brussels, Belgium, on March 20, to meet with NATO leaders and senior European Union officials, including members of the European Commission, to discuss the broad range of global and regional issues. She will also participate in the German Marshall Fund’s annual Brussels Forum.

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2015/03/238906.htm

******************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

*Massenbach’s

Recommendation*

*Digitizing the value chain*

Challenges remain for “Industry 4.0,” but the buzz is growing.

Digital manufacturing and design are drawing attention from innovators and investors alike. Sometimes referred to as “Industry 4.0” (especially in Europe) or as the “Industrial Internet” (General Electric’s term), these labels reflect a basket of new digitally-enabled technologies that include advances in production equipment (including 3-D printing, robotics, and adaptive CNC mills1, smart finished products (such as connected cars and others using the Internet of Things), and data tools and analytics across the value chain.

These technologies are changing how things are designed, made, and serviced around the globe. In combination, they can create value by connecting individuals and machines in a new “digital thread” across the value chain—making it possible to generate, securely organize, and draw insights from vast new oceans of data. They hold the potential for disruptive change, analogous to the rise of consumer e-commerce. In 2010, when some two billion people connected online, the Internet contributed approximately $1.7 trillion to global GDP.2 What’s in store when 50 billion smart machines—deployed across factory floors, through supply chains, and in consumers’ hands—can connect with one another?

Competitors and policymakers are pooling their efforts to make that happen. In the past year, for example, more than 200 organizations from industry, government, and academia joined in supporting the Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute (DMDII) to advance digital integration in the manufacturing economy. Participants have committed more than $200 million to support the DMDII, and the US federal government is contributing an additional $70 million. Companies such as Caterpillar, GE, and P&G are among the industry partners. But even as the holy grail of a digitized value chain draws closer, industry leaders are expressing some prominent, common concerns.

McKinsey had an opportunity to poll executives at companies participating in the DMDII. While 80 percent of the respondents consider digital manufacturing and design to be a critical driver of competitiveness, only 13 percent rate their organizations’ digital capability as “high” (exhibit). And even among those leaders, many believe that their firms and their industries currently lack necessary standards, data-sharing, and cybersecurity capabilities.

Exhibit

Industry executives report that digital capabilities fall well short of current aspirations.

Across industries, executives at several manufacturers identified a need for dramatic improvements in certain software applications. Reporting dissatisfaction with some vendors’ products in areas such as computer-aided design (CAD), enterprise resource planning (ERP), and manufacturing execution systems (MES), these executives cited examples of applications they found too hard to learn, too slow to evolve and adapt, and sometimes too expensive for small businesses. Some systems are also closed—they don’t communicate with each other or allow others to build upon them. Achieving the transformative potential from digital manufacturing, by contrast, requires information systems that are open, interoperable, and user-friendly.

Successful implementation of digital-manufacturing solutions entails fluid digital communication across the value chain—this continuous flow of data is the digital thread. In response, a number of legacy software vendors, to their credit, are striving to capture a share of this new market. But it’s an open question whether they can move fast enough. The evolution of the consumer Internet does offer some insight for its more nascent industrial counterpart. Today’s consumer-based apps and cloud-based software, for example, are updatable, affordable for the masses, and intuitive to use. Manufacturing leaders yearn for design and manufacturing software solutions and for an app-store ecosystem that can reach the same bar.

Enabling individuals and machines to communicate seamlessly would of course make production more cost efficient. But perhaps more compellingly, digitizing the value chain facilitates innovation and can directly improve the top line. For example, the aggregation and analysis of data across a product’s life cycle can increase the uptime of production machinery, reduce time to market, and make it possible to understand the product’s consumers. They also make product innovation less about “tribal knowledge” and gut feeling and more of an exercise in analyzing, testing, and responding to hard data and robust simulations.

To that end, the leaders we surveyed were particularly bullish about the impact of digital technologies on product development and design. When they were asked to rank the specific value-chain areas that would benefit most from digitization, one of the highest was the “design–make” link—including the ability to compare “as designed” intent with “as made” data from factories or to predict the quality of new products by using real-time simulations that leverage actual factory data.

Digital manufacturing is already proving its potential to create value at points beyond the design phase. Coca-Cola applied a flexible packaging process in its “Share a Coke” campaign, in which firms collaborated throughout the supply chain and helped increase the company’s soft-drink volumes across world markets. Daimler has rolled out “Mercedes me,” which, among other features, tracks the usage and wear of key automotive parts to help service automobiles more effectively. (For more, see “Marketing the Mercedes way.”) It’s important that the opportunities from digital manufacturing are not just for big corporations. Micro-manufacturers, for example, are using Etsy’s wholesale program as a digital distribution platform to scale themselves up to multimillion-dollar enterprises.

With compelling opportunities across the digital thread, venture-capital firms and other investors will continue to take notice. GE Ventures, for one, opened a Chicago office in 2014, drawn in large part by opportunities to apply digital manufacturing in America’s industrial heartland. Manufacturing remains, after all, a massive driver of the global economy, representing approximately 16 percent of global GDP.4With those stakes, even marginal improvements will unlock significant wealth.

**********************************************************************************************************************

Serbien

moderated by Srecko Velimirovic

Massenbach-Newsletter – Serbien

Dear Reader,

after spending much of the 1990s mired in conflict, the Western Balkan countries have experienced a notable transformation over the last 15 years.

They have transitioned toward market-based systems, privatized many inefficient state-owned companies and enhanced the external orientation of their economies.

The result has been a significant catch-up in living standards relative to their richer neighbors in advanced European Union economies. However, the combination of reform fatigue, resistance from vested interests, difficult politics of the past 10 years resulted in a delayed EU membership of many Western Balkan countries. Serbia as well as the whole region still lags well behind the New Member States of the European Union in terms of economic transformation, living standards and income levels of those in Advanced EU economies.

Strengthening the reform process is essential to improve living standards and close the income gap to the European countries.

The European Parliament (EP) adopted last week a resolution on Serbia based on a draft prepared by EP rapporteur David McAllister. The adopted amendments call on Serbia to faster the reform process, make more effort to its foreign and security policy, including policy towards Russia and to align it with the EU as well to reconsider the relevant law for reconciliation and good neighborly relations. These has been seen as important prerequisites to strengthen bilateral relationships between regional countries.

One of the main conclusions reached at the 10th conference of the European integration committee from countries in the Stabilization and Association process for South East Europe, which took place last week in Serbia was that countries in the region need to set up a higher level of bilateral cooperation. Therefore Serbia wants to build a long-term relationship with neighboring countries, especially with Croatia, characterized by mutual trust and respect. Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic told last week that, Serbia is ready for a constructive political dialogue and willing to resolve all outstanding issues and to step up cooperation with Zagreb.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) released last week a special report on regional economic issues to underscore the incomplete reform process of many Western Balkan countries. According to the International Monetary Fund, Serbia has attained major economic achievements, but needs to complete the transition to market economies to lay the ground for future sustainable growth. On this matter you can find in the Massenbach-Newsletter/Serbia a short interview with the director of the European Department of the IMF Poul Thomsen, who speaks about the regional economic issues and examines the major economic achievements attained by Western Balkan countries in the last 15 years.

The Serbian Public Debt Administration released a statement that the public debt increased unplanned since January to March 2015 by around EUR 1 billion mainly caused by external effects and the rise of the U.S. dollar rate against the euro. Now Serbia’s public debt totals EUR 24.2 billion. In order not to jeopardize the ongoing process of restructuring the state owned companies, the World Bank (WB) is going to approve a USD 100 million loan to Serbia as a budgetary support for solving the issues of restructuring. During the year the WB will back Serbia with loans totaling USD 400 million supporting various reform.

I hope you enjoy reading!

Srecko Velimirovic

*IMF: The Western Balkans: 15 Years of Economic Transition*

The countries of the Western Balkans have undergone a major economic transformation over the past 15 years, and many are unrecognizable compared with where they stood at the turn of the century.

Following the conflict-ridden 1990s, these countries set out to comprehensively rebuild and reform their economies. They opened up to global trade and became increasingly export-oriented, expanded the role of the private sector, dismantled regulations that stifled business development, and began to build institutions needed to support a market system. Banking systems were built up literally from scratch in some cases with the aid of foreign capital and know-how. The result of these efforts has been robust economic growth, a significant rise in incomes and living standards, and enhanced macroeconomic stability.

However, the process of structural transformation began to stall in the mid-2000s, in the face of vested interests and as reform fatigue set in, and remains incomplete. By the time of the global financial crisis, growth in the Western Balkans was driven more by ample global liquidity and unsustainable capital inflows than by real progress in economic reform. Clear evidence of the weakness in the region’s economic model can be found in the extremely high unemployment rates, which remained above 20 percent in many countries even at the height of the precrisis boom.

Growth in the postcrisis period in the Western Balkan countries has been lackluster. The external environment has been weak, but it is the incomplete reform process that is holding back convergence to income levels of richer European Union economies. And faster growth, in itself, may not be enough. The Western Balkan countries also need to generate jobs to reverse the weak labor market outcomes that are leaving so many behind. What, then, needs to be done? Preserving macroeconomic stability is paramount for durable growth.

Previous gains in terms of low inflation should be safeguarded. Countries that are facing high fiscal deficits and public debt need to tackle them urgently; others should gradually rebuild fiscal buffers. Everywhere in the region, investment in the tradable sectors is needed to boost exports and reduce large trade and current account deficits. In addition, high levels of nonperforming loans need to be addressed so that credit can grow again and facilitate the recovery. The development of nonbank financial markets would help diversify sources of funding.

Embarking anew on deep structural reform is a key policy priority for the region. Many inefficient state- or socially-owned enterprises remain to be privatized; competitiveness problems, including red tape and weak governance, will have to be addressed if the private sector is to become the key engine of growth; and legacy practices that prevent the expansion of employment and distort labor markets outcomes will need to be dismantled.

http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/reo/2015/eur/eng/pdf/erei_sr_030915.pdf

EP resolution commends Serbia’s progress in reforms*

STRASBOURG – The European Parliament (EP) adopted in plenary session a resolution on Serbia based on a draft prepared by EP rapporteur on Serbia David McAllister, in Strasbourg Wednesday.

MEPs adopted three of the seven amendments to the proposed amended version of McAllister’s report, concerning Serbia’s jurisdiction in prosecuting war crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia, the position of Ombudsman Sasa Jankovic and progress in the normalization of relations between Belgrade and Pristina.

A mitigated version of the amendments proposed by Croatian MEPs, backed by the European People’s Party (EPP), requesting Serbia not to prosecute those indicted for war crimes committed in Croatia, saw their way into the final draft.

The amendment, adopted by a vote of 347 to 319, calls on Serbia to reconsider the relevant law in the spirit of reconciliation and good neighborly relations.

Also passed was an amendment requesting to condemn attacks on the Ombudsman and to make his work easier and to furnish him the documents that he has requested acting in full compliance with the law. The European Parliament (EP) adopted at its plenary session in Strasbourg the resolution on Serbia wherein it commended the country on the progress in reforms, development of good neighbourly relations and the dialogue with Pristina, and also called on the European Council to open the chapters in the negotiating process as soon as possible.

On the other hand, the resolution based on the proposition drafted by EP Rapporeur David McAllister contains certain criticism over the violation of freedom of speech and position of independent institutions, as well as Serbia’s refusal to join European sanctions against Russia. The EP also adopted the amendment of the Green Party for Serbia to be awarded with recognition for the agreement on the judiciary achieved after the February round of the dialogue on normalisation of Belgrade-Pristina relations.

MCALLISTER: RESPECT AND SUPPORT FOR ACHIEVEMENTS SO FAR

European Parliament rapporteur for Serbia David McAllister said after the adoption of a resolution on Serbia on Wednsday that Belgrade’s choice to join the EU and the government’s efforts towards reform deserved respect and support from Brussels, and he stressed the importance of continuing the reforms.

Serbia is on the path towards EU membership and its government is showing commitment to EU integration, he noted.

The government is tackling system, social and economic reforms, which deserves support and respect from the EU, he stated, adding that the Serbian parliament had recently adopted important laws on whistleblowers, media, labour, privatisation and bankruptcy, calling it a positive development.

He also stressed that a comprehensive implementation of the law is key to a successful EU integration.

"The rule of law, management focused on economic goals and administration reform are fundamental for democracy and the accession talks, he underscored.

The duration of the talks will mostly depend on Serbia’s abality to achieve sustainable progress in reforms, he said.

HAHN: CLEAR EP SUPPORT TO WESTERN BALKANS

European Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn stated on Wednesday that the European Parliament (EP) unambiguously supports the European path of Western Balkan countries.

In Strasbourg on Wednesday, MEPs adopted in plenary session a resolution on Serbia based on a draft prepared by EP rapporteur on Serbia David McAllister. Presented during the session late on Tuesday, the draft resolution notes that Serbia has achieved considerable progress in the EU accession process but still needs to strengthen its efforts in structural reforms, protection of minorities and implementation of the Brussels agreement.

Late on Tuesday, Hahn called on MEPs not to impose new conditions on Serbia in the EU accession process and reflected on the amendment filed by the European People’s Party wherein it called on Serbia to revise the law to grant the powers to the Belgrade special court concerning the prosecution of war crimes committed in the entire territory of former Yugoslavia.

***********************************************************************************************************************

*Gender, ethnic and other prejudices widespread in Serbia*

BELGRADE – Serbia’s Commissioner for Protection of Equality Nevena Petrusic has observed that gender, ethnic and other stereotypes and prejudices, and high levels of social distance towards certain ethnic, religious, sexual and other minorities, are still deep-rooted and widespread in Serbia.

In her regular annual report for 2014, she said that those were the most important obstacles to the establishment of equality and full societal inclusion of all groups and individuals.

These factors is why the phenomenon is still widespread, despite the relatively satisfactory anti-discrimination legal framework and a number of activities aimed at preventing discrimination, she said.

http://www.tanjug.rs/news/169562/gender–ethnic-and-other-prejudices-widespread-in-serbia.htm

**********************************************************************************************************************

Kurdistan

Iraqi Kurds claim Islamic State group used chemical weapons*

BAGHDAD — Kurdish authorities in Iraq said Saturday they have evidence that the Islamic State group used chlorine gas as a chemical weapon against peshmerga fighters, the latest alleged atrocity carried out by the extremist organization now under attack in Tikrit.

The allegation by the Kurdistan Region Security Council, stemming from a Jan. 23 suicide truck bomb attack in northern Iraq, did not immediately draw a reaction from the Islamic State group, which holds a third of Iraq and neighboring Syria in its self-declared caliphate. However, Iraqi officials and Kurds fighting in Syria have made similar allegations about the militants using the low-grade chemical weapons against them.

In a statement, the council said the alleged chemical attack took place on a road between Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul, and the Syrian border, as peshmerga forces fought to seize a vital supply line used by the Sunni militants. It said its fighters later found "around 20 gas canisters" that had been loaded onto the truck involved in the attack.

Video provided by the council showed a truck racing down a road, white smoke pouring out of it as it came under heavy fire from peshmerga fighters. It later showed a white, billowing cloud after the truck exploded and the remnants of it scattered across a road.

An official with the Kurdish council told The Associated Press that dozens of peshmerga fighters were treated for "dizziness, nausea, vomiting and general weakness" after the attack. He spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to discuss the incident.

The Kurds say samples of clothing and soil from the site were analyzed by an unnamed lab in an unnamed coalition partner nation, which found chlorine traces.

"The fact ISIS relies on such tactics demonstrates it has lost the initiative and is resorting to desperate measures," the Kurdish government said in the statement, using an alternate acronym for the Sunni militant group.

There was no independent confirmation of the Kurds‘ claim. A spokesman for the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which has monitored Syria dismantling its chemical weapons stockpile, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Chlorine, an industrial chemical, was first introduced as a chemical weapon at Ypres in World War I with disastrous effects as gas masks were not widely available at the time. While chlorine has many industrial and public uses, as a weapon it chokes victims to death.

In the Syrian civil war, a chlorine gas attack on the outskirts of Damascus in 2013 killed hundreds and nearly drove the U.S. to launch airstrikes against the government of embattled President Bashar Assad. The U.S. and Western allies accused Assad’s government of being responsible for that attack, while Damascus blamed rebels.

There have been several allegations that the Islamic State group has used chlorine as well. In October, Iraqi officials claimed Islamic State militants may have used chlorine-filled cylinders during clashes in late September in the towns of Balad and Duluiya. Their disclosures came as reports from the Syrian border town of Kobani indicated that the extremist group added chlorine to an arsenal that already includes heavy weapons and tanks looted from captured military bases.

Insurgents have used chlorine gas in Iraq before. In May 2007, suicide bombers driving chlorine tankers struck three cities in Anbar province, killing two police officers and forcing about 350 Iraqi civilians and six U.S. troops to seek treatment for gas exposure. Those bombers belonged to al-Qaida in Iraq, which later became the Islamic State group.

Meanwhile Saturday, Iraqi security forces engaged in fierce clashes with the militants as they continued their offensive to retake Saddam Hussein’s hometown, Tikrit.

Iraqi forces, which include the military, police, Shiite militias and Sunni tribesmen, entered the city of Tikrit for the first time Thursday, gaining control of neighborhoods on its northern and southern ends.

Militia commander Hadi al-Amiri has said security forces will hold their position until the area is cleared of any remaining civilians. He estimated on Friday that Iraqi forces would reach the center of Tikrit within two to three days.

*************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

*************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

see our letter on:

*Herausgegeben von Udo von Massenbach, Bärbel Freudenberg-Pilster, Joerg Barandat*

*****************************************************************************************************************************************

UdovonMassenbachMailJoergBarandat

03-01-15 RUSI – 201503_BP_Russian_Forces_in_Ukraine_FINAL.pdf

11-01-2013 DGAP-Der trkische Energiesektor profitiert von der Schlssellage.pdf

03-20-15 A European Army _ AICGS.pdf

Newsletter_12KW.pdf

03-20-15 John Kornblum-Testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee _ AICGS.pdf

03-18-15 Member states balk at EU plan to vet Gazprom contracts – FT.pdf

Advertisements