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Four DF ministers in Bosnia’s Federation government resign

Asked On: June 15, 2015

Question: So the government has collapsed now?  They will need to find new ministers and new supporters in parliament to pass any legislation, right?

Answers: The government hasn’t fallen yet. On Monday, the Federation’s President, Marinko Cavara, said he accepted the resignation of the energy minister Reuf Bajrovic, but will have further discussions with politicians before deciding on the other three resignations. The two parties that remained in the ruling coalition – SDA and HDZ BiH - might choose not to attract another partner and, in this case, will not have majority in the parliament. In this case, they will most probably face serious difficulties to pass anything. On the other hand, one of the parties – SDA, has a previous experience in having operational government without the support of a parliamentary majority, so it is possible that they choose to continue without a third partner.

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Reviving Armenia’s chemical plant “economically unsound”, says World Bank

Asked On: June 11, 2015

Question: If the government takes the decision to close the plant - are we likely to see public protests? What is the likelihood that these protests might grow and attract non-Nairit workers, given the fragile state of the Armenian economy and rising unemployment? Could this become a credible threat to the government? Thanks

Answers: The World Bank/Jacobs Consultancy assessment is likely to be far from what the Armenian government hoped to hear. Following the release of the report, Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Yervand Zakharyan announced he's calling for a round of discussions in the Parliament to decide the future of the plant, stating that the government is committed to protect the employees. So far, employers at the plant have contested the World Bank assessment, stating that four times smaller investment would be required for re-launching the complex. Workers have already taken to the street, both in March and April, and local media outlets reported redundant staff stating they wanted a clear calendar of wages in arrers otherwise more protest, even in the form of hunger stikes, would follow. Demonstrations are likely to resume, although it is difficult at this stage to anticipate both the scale and the impact, including a domino effect. Nairit is adding pressure onto the government as the poor state of economy is already squeezing support and patience. To add up, on June 11, the World Bank lowered its forecast of Armenia's economic growth for 2015 to 0.8%, down from 3.3% in the January review. The government is likely to use the recently-signed agreement with US-based Contour Global for the privatisation of the Vorotan Cascade HHP, worth $180mn, as well the reviving of the economic dialogue with the European Union as cards to show off some kind of substantial investment in the country. Whether unemployed citizens would buy it or would start demanding to curb corruption and monopoly is yet to be seen.

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Strong private consumption and investments contributed to robust 4.3% y/y Q1 GDP growth in Romania

Asked On: June 8, 2015

Question: Hi, thanks for this article.  Is it possible that EU funds spending is responsible for the increase in gross fixed capital formation?  

Answers: The short answer YES; according to our estimates/approximations detailed below, 50% y/y larger EU funds disbursed from the national budget in Q1 contributed some 4pp to the 8.3% nominal (8% real, volume terms) rise in gross fix capital formation in Q1. Please however note that the effective absorption (money transferred from EU to national budget) in Q1 was particularly high -- €766, while the effective absorption (invoices sent by recipients of EU funds) was particularly weak -- €45mn, which indicate unsustainably high cash disbursements from national budget to recipients in Q1. In other words, there is no guarantee [rather the contrary] that high EU funds spending will repeat in Q2-Q4. The government unofficially lowered the target on EU funds absorption from €6.5bn this year to maybe one third, after the disappointing Q1 results. This mean that the absorption might remain as strong as in Q1 through whole year -- but for this to happen, effective absorption has to strengthen. The initial €6.5bn absorption target would have generated 0.4pp GDP growth. ESTIMATES/APPROXIMATIONS: Gross fix capital formation (GFCF) increased by 8.3% y/y (RON1,667mn or €375mn) in Q1. The rise in volume was 8% and the rise in price was 0.3% y/y. Total GFCF was RON21,755mn (€4,889mn) in the quarter. The disbursements from the general government budget for EU funded projects increased by 50% y/y (RON810mn or €182mn) to RON2,427mn (€545mn) in Q1. Assuming all EU funds disbursements were spent on capital goods (consultancy for a project for instance being accounted as investment): EU funds were only 11.2% of GFCF, but the 50% y/y rise contributed nearly half (48%, or 4pp) of the 8.3% nominal rise in GFCF.

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Trafigura trades bulk of Rosneft's oil, provides advance payment

Asked On: June 1, 2015

Question: Who owns Trafigura? What a name!

Answers: Trafigura Beheer B.V. was set up by Dutch citizens Claude Dauphin and Eric de Turckheim as a commodity trading company (metals, energy etc) in 1993, with its headquarters based in Lucerne, Switzerland. A spinoff of some businesses owned by the US fugitive (later pardoned by Bill Clinton just as he left office in 2001) Marc Rich. It has international operations and so was not a classic oligarch front like the murky Gunvor trading company, which is rumoured to have Russian owners of the very top Kremlin elite. Its main competitors are Glencore and Vitol. Its Russian connection comes through it 8% ownership of Norilsk Nickel – one of its divisions is metals – and that business is mostly with Russians, which means it is close to oligarch Vladimir Olegovich Potanin in Russia It also went into a joint venture with DT Group, an investment vehicle of controversial Ukrainian oligarch Dmitry Firtash, in the Angola state oil firm Sonangol to form a new company, Sonaci DT Pte Ltd, to market Angola’s new liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports. Firtash may have beaten extradition to the US recently, but he is nevertheless a major crook.  Trafigura’s main energy subsidiary is Puma Energy, which operates in more than 20 countries, mainly in Central America and Africa. Its operating history is chequered and has been caught up in a number of scandals, including sanctions busting in Iran and dumping toxic oil waste in the Ivory Coast in 2006 To sum up, it’s been an outfit set up and run by a couple of dodgy Westerners with not too many scruples about who they are dealing with nor how they operated in some dodgy emerging markets.  Now the company is 80% owned by 600 staff of its 5300+ staff, according to company pages. It’s taken on some notables to clean up its image like Lord Thomas Strathclyde.

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Serbian parliament approves privatisation law changes to save 17 key firms from creditors

Asked On: May 29, 2015

Question: Hi, thanks for the article.  It's a little unclear to me which deadlines apply to which firms.  My understanding was that up until the change in the law, all firms had a June 1, 2015 deadline, but now this has been extended for 17 firms to June 1, 2016 and all the rest are still subject to the June 1, 2015 deadline.  Which companies does the October deadline apply to?  Is the October deadline a new deadline or was it in the original legislation?  

Answers: It is true that up until the changes in the law the deadline for the court protection from creditors (concerning firms under restructuring) was end-May 2015 for all. Following the changes, the deadline for 17 firms of key state interest (not officially named yet) as well as for 18 Serbian-owned firms in Kosovo has been prolonged by one year, i.e. up until June 1, 2016. However, according to earlier statements of Economy Minister Zeljko Sertic, the court protection will remain valid after the end of May for all companies whose privatisation process has been launched before the end-May deadline. In these cases creditors will have to wait until the privatisation process is completed, or cancelled - or until the end of October 2015, at the latest. This is also stipulated in the law amendments, which you can find here (but only in Serbian) - - page 3., Article 12. for the end-October deadline. Article 13. concerns the new June 2016 deadline.  

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Romania's general government surplus stands at 0.85% of GDP in Jan-Apr

Asked On: May 27, 2015

Question: Is there any update on the EUR 1 billion in suspended EU funds?  Should we expect a further slowing of absorption in May and June given the suspension?

Answers: The ministry of European funds does not provide details on the state of the suspended projects, like the estimate voiced by PM Ponta on May 7 (the €1bn). But the small volume of disbursements -- some €100mn in May and €180mn in April, indicates that not many of them were unblocked so far.

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U.S sets anti-dumping duties on Turkish steel rebar.

Asked On: May 26, 2015

Question: Do you have any more updated info about Steel Industry's Y2014, or any analysis for Habas FY2014?

Answers: Since Habas is not a public company it does not disclose its financials on its website. However, the Turkish Exporters’ Assembly (TIM) provides data on Habas in its “Top 1000 Exporters” list. Accordingly, Habas’s domestic sales stood at TRY1.7bn and its pre-tax income was TRY17.4mn in 2014. The company’s export revenues increased by 0.37% in 2014 compared to 2013, reaching USD1.2bn last year. Here is the link to TIM’s list   Turkey’s steel exports fell by 4.3% y/y to USD13.2bn in 2014, and declined by 4.5% y/y to 17.55mn tonnes. Data is provided by the Steel Exporters’ Assembly (CIB). TIM reported that steel exports fell by 19.8% y/y to USD3.74bn in January-April/2015. According to data of DCUD (Steel Producers’ Association), crude steel production of Turkey fell by 1.8% y/y to 34.04mn tonnes in 2014. The most updated data regarding the country’s steel output is provided by the World Steel Association. According to data, crude steel output was 10.41mn tonnes in January-April/2015 vs 11.14mn tonnes in the same period of 2014. Veysel Yayan, general secretary of the Turkish Steel Producers’ Association, said earlier this year that Turkey’s crude steel production was expected to rise 5% to exceed 32mn tonnes in 2015.    

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Kazakhstan's crime rate surges by 40% in Q1

Asked On: May 19, 2015

Question: Is there any clarity on what the drivers for the surge in crime were? And is there any detail on which part of the country the greatest increases were registered? Has there been a simultaneous increases in public protests or strike action in the same period?

Answers: Thank you very much for your query. Here is the answer. There are no direct indications as why the general crime rate went up. At the same time, the total number of registered crimes went up from 79,568 to 108,856, including serious crime from 7,028 to 8,546, particularly serious fell from 561 to 548, moderate crime went up from 62,239 to 65,451. The jump in the general crime rate was largely caused by an increase in light crime from 8,740 to 23,383. The jump may be explained by a better registration of crimes reported. Authorities now force the police to register and investigate all crimes reported but police are reluctant to register insolvable crimes because each crime registered but remained unresolved points to poor performance. Police try to persuade complainants not to report their crimes. So people may have just become more insistent on having crime against them registered. The rise seems to be even throughout the country, but oil-rich Atyrau Region in the west and rural Zhambyl Region in the south posted the highest growth in crime registration – by nearly 50% and nearly 60%. That there are no grounds to attribute the growth in registered crime to falling socio-economic conditions is backed up by trends in neighbouring oil-rich regions (in Atyrau Region’s case neighbouring Aktobe Region and West Kazakhstan Region showed a growth below the national average (only 12% and 33% respectively) and Mangistau Region by 37% - the national average; in Zhambyl Region’s case neighbouring rural South Kazakhstan and Almaty Regions showed growth slightly over the national average and 21% growth respectively). Since all these regions are predominantly Kazakh speaking the suggestion that the rise in registered crime is due to better reporting is plausible as Kazakh speakers seem to be more open to police persuasions not to report crime and they also have lower levels of general trust in authorities. There seem not to be a rise in protests in the first quarter of 2015. If anything the number of protests should have been lower because there was a spike in protest mood in the first quarter of 2014 associated with a oneoff devaluation of the tenge in February 2014. Hope this will help. Please let us know if you have further questions. Thank you

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Romania approves rescue aid for CE Hunedoara mining, power group

Asked On: May 14, 2015

Question: So are the finance and justice ministries no longer blocking the aid?  What caused them to object in the first place and what was done to mollify them this time?

Answers: As a pre-condition to the approx €37mn rescue aid, the EC asked CE Hunedoara to pay back a state aid of around €6mn (plus interest) received in 2009-2011 from state-controlled Hidroelectrica under the form of preferential contracts [and established by the EC in 2012]. CE Hunedoara is supposed to pay back the state aid  to the government. Since it was not able to do so, the finance&justice ministries opposed. Possibly the economy ministry tried to explain that the state and rescue aid would somehow be netted, but it was still formally not correct.  Yesterday, on May 13, the government announced that the finance ministry extended a RON40mn loan to CE Hunedoara, from the privatisation revenues and under market terms, for the repayment of the 2009-2011 state aid. Thus, the company managed to meet the pre-condition for the rescue aid. Now, CE Hunedoara will pay back to the state the €6mn plus interest - -roughly RON40mn altogether -- the money received yesterday from Treasury, to the state and remain with RON120mn -- a bit more than it needs in order to buy the gas emission certificates and keep operating. Nonetheless, in six months time it has to come upo with a restructuring strategy that would make the company viable. Indeed, the protests of the workers, during the past two days, might have accelerated these financial procedures. sources: EC's press release on April 21 on the rescue aid:

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Azerbaijani central bank’s reserves drop by 43.6% y/y in April

Asked On: May 12, 2015

Question: I could not find the April values on the Central Bank website. I was wondering about the trend - was the reduction of the reseves in April stronger or weaker than in March - i.e. is the pressure on the reserves stable, increasing or decreasing? Does the continuation of FX reserves depletion create fears of another devaluation? Apart from the FX reserves, how are the gold and oil reserves moving, and can those also affect the currency stability?

Answers: Azerbaijan, like other oil exporters in the Caucasus and Central Asian (CCA) region, has faced increasing pressures on its currency since late 2014 due to the sharp decline in oil prices, the strength of the U.S. dollar, and the wave of currency depreciations in the region. In this context, the IMF considers that the manat devaluation in February will help absorb the oil price shock.  Despite the decline in CBA reserves so far, preliminary data points to a slowdown in the decline of reserves in April relative to monthly trends observed since the beginning of the year.  Moreover, the CBA reserves still cover about 7 months of imports. Including the reserves from the oil fund, the import cover is near to 3 years. So the country has still comfortable buffers to defend the currency. An IMF mission is expected in  Baku in early June to assess recent economic developments and exchange views with the authorities on policy plans to deal with the difficult external environment. A lot will be clearer then as the mission will disclose data and figures otherwise often unclear in Azerbaijan.

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Kyrgyz central bank starts sales of gold bullions to reduce dollarisation

Asked On: May 11, 2015

Question: Thank you for this article. I have a couple of general questions on the topic: What is the current level of FX reserves at the National Bank?  Did the exchange rate bounce back since March due to government intervention? Between comittment to keep the currency somewhat stable and depleting its reserves, are there expectations for the National Bank to introduce other forms of capital or currency exchange controls?  Is the upcoming entry into EEUU expected to affect National Bank policy and interventions in any way?

Answers:  thank you very much for your questions. Here is the answer. Thank you The central bank is not going to sell its own gold, which would obviously have a direct impact on its gold reserves, but gold produced by Kyrgyzaltyn, Kyrgyzstan’s state gold miner (ingots weighing over an ounce, but smaller amounts of gold (1, 2, 3, 5 etc grams) will be Kazakh as Kyrgyzstan hasn’t got a capacity to make small ingots, according to Kazakh media). So the measure has no direct impact on the bank’s gold reserves, but it’s only aimed to give people an accessible investment alternative to the dollar and this is believed to help reign in the current increasing level of dollarisation in the economy) What is the current level of FX reserves at the National Bank?  Kyrgyzstan’s foreign reserves fell to KGS100,862mn ($1,709mn) at the end of April, down from 108,957.8 a year earlier, according to the latest figures from the country's National Bank. Current foreign reserves are enough to cover over three months of imports at 2014 levels. Did the exchange rate bounce back since March due to government intervention? Not really. In fact, the central bank bought some $20mn on the local currency market between April and May to stabilise the exchange rate. Local press quoted central bank officials as saying that the som recovery because of “seasonal” factors. Between commitment to keep the currency somewhat stable and depleting its reserves, are there expectations for the National Bank to introduce other forms of capital or currency exchange controls?  There were some rumours at the end of 2014, when the som was quickly depreciating,  suggesting upcoming tighter controls on private currency exchange offices, but no specific measure has been taken yet. Is the upcoming entry into EEUU expected to affect National Bank policy and interventions in any way? There is no sign of it yet. At this stage, central banks in EEU are still free to adjust the exchange rate / interest rates the way they prefer, regardless of the consequences on the comparative advantage of goods traded within the EEU. Russia has been talking of establishing a currency union (the latest to join the chorus being President Putin) but the Kazakhs are belligerently against even any suggestion that Kazakhstan might be in a currency union with Russia. The same position has been adopted by Belarusian authorities. Here is a link to the story All this indicates that Kyrgyzstan is safe from any EEU impositions and will remain independent in pursuing its fiscal and monetary policies (except for market driven influences).

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EBRD to buy 25% stake in Belarusian Belinvestbank

Asked On: May 6, 2015

Question: Thanks for this story - any idea about how much 25% of Belinvestbank is worth?    

Answers: Hi there, well in 2010 brokerage Renaissance Capital valued the entire bank at well the entire bank at $530mn, which is the latest published evaluation.        

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Romania’s Senate endorses revised Fiscal Code with minor amendments

Asked On: April 28, 2015

Question: How did the various political groupings in the Senate vote?  What is the full list of changes and their amounts in the tax law?  Has there been much discussion about potential amendments that the Chamber of Deputies may make?

Answers: Of the 176 senators, 130 attended the debates 90 voted for 36 agains 4 abstained Senior ruling PSD voted for, as well as its junior partner UDMR [ethnic Hungarians] Main opposition party voted against. However, of the 3 senators that abstained, 3 were from PNL. About the amendments, a complete list of them is available at [46 pages]. the text of the law [127/2015] as approved by the senate is not available until it is sent to [and published online by] to the chanber of deputies. About the main amendments, finance minister has discussed on April 26. All of them are in favour of larger revenues to budget. Members of the expert committee of the Romanian Senate have recommended MPs to reject government’s proposal for cutting the excise tax for car fuels, under the revised Fiscal Code project currently under debates in parliament – finance minister Eugen Teodorovici said in an interview for TV station ProTV, on April 26. The expert committee also recommended cutting to 5% from 16% currently, instead of eliminating -- as drafted by the government, the tax on dividends [the tax is payable only for the dividends paid to romanian legal persons]. The softer tax cuts proposed by Senate’s experts means higher revenues to budget, minister Teodorovici commented. Maintaining the car fuel excises at current levels would generate RON3bn higher revenues, compared to government’s baseline scenario (of lower excise taxes) while the 5% tax on dividends will generate another RON0.5bn of revenues. However, the Senate’s expert committee left untouched the main tax cut moves inked by the government – including the 4pp cut of the general VAT rate to 20% as of January 2016 and the complete elimination of the so-called tax on special industrial assets.  

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Albania accuses Russia of 'destabilising' Western Balkans

Asked On: April 28, 2015

Question: "The group were later found to be from the Kosovan town of Gosince."  So it has been determined who the alleged attackers were?    

Answers: Yes, the day after the attack, a Kosovan man who called himself Commander Fljamuri claimed responsibility, and said the attack was carried out by the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) - though the KLA was disbanded in 1999. His statement was widely reported in the Macedonian press, though I haven't seen any official confirmation so can't vouch for its authenticity. On April 27, the Macedonian interior ministry also said it had carried out a raid in two Macedonian villages, Brnjartsi and Brest, in connection with the attack, discovering a stash of weapons. So it seems the operation to find those responsible is still ongoing, and members of the group/people connected to the group could have been from inside Macedonia. Also, I must apologise for an error in this morning's article - the group was believed to be from the Kosovan town of Gnjilane; Gosince was the name of the border post that was attacked. 

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Romania extends €16.6mn state aid to Bosch Rexroth for investments.

Asked On: April 27, 2015

Question: This doesn't violate EU state aid restrictions?

Answers: No, this particular state aid [and the others to be extended to other recipients under the same scheme, within a €100mn budget] does not violate EU state aid regulations. It was extended under: DECISION no. 807 of September 30, 2014 on establishing certain State aid schemes with the object of stimulating investments that have a major impact on the economy. The DECISION was, in its turn, issued in line with the provisions of the Regulations (EU) no. 651/2014 of the Commission of June 17, 2014 declaring certain categories of aid compatible with the internal market in application of articles 107 and 108 of the Treaty and of the Decision of the European Commission C(2014) 2240 final. The DECISION in brief sets up a state aid scheme [open to all companies], with the object of regional development through the performance of investments in all sectors, with the exception of those provided by art. 15 and by the List of activity sectors which are not granted State aid pursuant to this scheme, as mentioned in appendix no. 1. The complete text of the DECISION, in english, is available at:

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Tajik central bank shuts down foreign exchange offices

Asked On: April 22, 2015

Question: Hello, can you please help me clarify the following: 1. what is the current level of reserves in the Central Bank of Kosovo and where is it expected to be going forward? 2. Does the bank have sufficient level of USD to support the currency and what is the forcast of where the currency will be (future devaluation?). 3. How have the levels of remittances from Russia been and where are they expected to move?   Thank you!

Answers:   •The National Bank of Tajikistan declared foreign reserves for TJS2.88bn, or $466mn at current exchange rates, at the end of February - gold reserves make up TJS2bn, the remainder is classified as "other assets"   •Current reserves are not enough to cover two months of imports at current levels, which is not an optimal situation for the central bank, given the chronic trade deficits the country historically runs (-$537.2mn in Q1 2015). In these circumstances, without any solid source of FDI - the largest foreign investor is China, which has little impact on the exchange rate because generally transactions are carried out in yuan by Chinese companies employing Chinese workers - the bank is obviously struggling to sustain the exchange rate. The somoni lost over 16% against the dollar year-to-date, and the latest decision to close private exchange offices, which only make up half of the active exchange offices in the country, will probably do little to shore up the somoni in the currency market.   •Total remittances, mostly from Russia, fell by 8% y/y in 2014 and the IMF expects them to fall by 30% in 2015. Remittances made up over 46% of GDP in 2014.   

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Montenegro’s Q1 budget gap contracts 1.7% y/y to €51.6mn

Asked On: April 22, 2015

Question: Thank you for this.  Does it strike you as strange that the govt underexecuted on repayment of debt?  Does debt in this case include arrears?  If not, how do you end up with a plan that calls for debt repayment than actually happened without a default?  

Answers: Indeed, Montenegro’s government repaid €5.4mn in arrears through March, which was not planned for this period and was not included in the debt repayment figure. Instead, it was moved up, in the expenditures. It should also be noted that, according to the state budget, capital expenditure through March had to amount to €71.2mn, however it totaled €16.7mn. According to the budget bill, the capital expenditures had to be financed by loans from international institutions. The same applies for last year, when capital expenditures were €75.2mn, below the planned €101.8mn. Regards, Denitsa

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Armed group in Kosovo Liberation Army insignia attacks Macedonian border post

Asked On: April 22, 2015

Question: Hi, thanks for this article.  This is very strange and concerning.  Do you think this is connected at all to the RPG attacks on government buildings in Skopje a few months ago?  Did anyone actually see the 40 raiders besides the 4 border guards?  Do you think there is any chance this attack was not actually carried out or was carried out by people who are not ethnically Albanian?

Answers: This afternoon there were reports in the Macedonian press that a Kosovan calling himself “Commander Fljamuri” has claimed responsibility for the attack, which he says was carried out by the KLA. The group is also reported to have been from the town of Gnjilane in Kosovo-Metohija. This hasn’t been officially confirmed by the Macedonian authorities, although the April 21 Macedonian interior ministry statement said that according to initial findings the group was from Kosovo. The statement from the Macedonian interior ministry also quotes one of the border guards saying that the group spoke in Albanian, and one of their number translated “into imperfect Macedonian”. This seems to indicate they were ethnically Albanian, but we only have the reports from the border guards to go on. There has also been speculation that the attack was intended to destabilise the situation within Macedonia. Macedonia’s main ethnic Albanian party, the DUI said on April 21 that it “severely harms the agenda of Albanians in Macedonia” and urged the population “not to fall prey to such provocations”. 

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Kazakhstan cuts uranium production by 0.8% y/y in Q1

Asked On: April 21, 2015

Question: Despite there being no explanation for the cut in production from Kazatomprom, could this have been a conscious move to reduce supply of uranium to the market? Or was the drop in production at Kazatomprom unplanned by the company/ the result of unforeseen circumstances?  On the subject of the nuclear power plant – the Kazakh press writes that a decision may be taken to build two power plants. How likely do you think this is? And why do you think the Kazakhs are hesitating over choosing Rosatom to build the power plant, despite having signed an MoU with the company in May 2014?

Answers:   Kazatomprom expressed its will to influence uranium price market as early as during chairmanship of Mukhtar Dzhakishev who was arrested in 2009 and was replaced by Vladimir Shkolnik. Then, the Kazakh government expressed its intention to influence the market by saying that prices for uranium are too low following accident in Fukushima power plant. Still, the production in the country stabilized only in 2014. This means that cut in production might indeed be a conscious move taken by Kazatomprom, which however is quite late considering the date of previous statements.      Regarding cooperation with Russia in nuclear sphere. Kazakhstan has started cooperation with Russia in uranium industry in 2006 when the sides agreed to cooperate in construction of medium-sized reactors, which however never materialized. Meantime, many other players sought opportunity to build uranium power plant in Kazakhstan (i.e. China, India). Kazakhstan has been looking into the issue without making any decision while changing its opinion regarding possible location of the nuclear power plant. This is quite striking given the fact that Astana expressed plan to build own atomic plan as early as in 1999, just after the facility in Aktau was shut down.   The memo, you have mentioned, was signed in May 2014, when Kazakhstan and Russia were also signing agreement on Eurasian Economic Union. The project that is more political than economic, pursued by Russia and which Astana perceives as dangerous for its sovereignty. The overall context of current relation  between Astana and Moscow (disagreements over Ukraine conflict and growing problems in trade relations) show that cooperation with Russia is not seen as an asset but it becomes more and more a burden for Kazakhstan. Although Nazarbayev will never officially admit that Russian interest are against those of Astana, the measures he is taking show the opposite (i.e. he declared 2015 the year of 550 anniversary of Kazakhstan statehood following Putin’s remark that Kazakhs had no state until Nazarbayev came to power. Thus, given the current political context, the decision on construction of power plant in cooperation with Russia will be a political one. As of today, it remains unknown who will be the owner of the new facility and some analysts do not believe that Kazakhstan really needs such a plant.    

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Albanian government, opposition select candidates for Tirana mayor

Asked On: April 17, 2015

Question: What happened to Lulzim Basha?  What is he up to now?

Answers: Lulzim Basha announced on March 31 that he did not plan to run for a second term as mayor of Tirana. The reason he gave was that he wanted to focus on his role as chairman of the opposition Democratic Party, and that the position of mayor also required a full time commitment. A week before Basha announced he was not running for a second term, former president and prime minister Sali Berisha told journalists that he saw Basha as a future prime minister. Given the intense antagonism between government and opposition, and the DP’s calls during recent rallies and parliament sessions for the government to quit, it is possible that Basha is positioning himself to take advantage of any weaknesses in Edi Rama’s government - however, this is only speculation at this stage. 

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