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Gazprom Eyes More Sales to EU

July 18th, 2016 4:00pm Posted In: Natural Gas News, News By Country, Russia, Market News, Corporate, Import/Export, Europe, EU

Russian gas export monopoly Gazprom will increase export to Europe by 2-3bn m³/yr by 2021, the chairman of its board of directors, Viktor Zubkov, said at the Petersburg Dialogue forum. ?Our estimates and long-term contracts prove that we should not reduce volume of gas supplies to Europe. On the contrary, we need to add 2-3bn m³/yr in the coming three to five years,? Zubkov said.

In 2015 Gazprom supplied 158.56bn m³ to the far abroad (European countries outside the former Soviet Union and Turkey). In 2016 exports are expected to reach between 166bn m³ and 170bn m³.

During the first five months of this year, Gazprom’s export revenues stood at $12.87bn, down 31% on the year, according to the federal trade commission statistics. From January to May, Gazprom’s gas export increased by 7.9% and totalled 81bn m³, of which 66bn m³ were delivered to the far abroad, which indicated 16% growth. By contrast exports to CIS member states dropped by 18% to 15.1bn m³.

Viktor Zubkov (Credit: Gazprom)

During that period the average price of exported gas was $158.8/’000 m³ ($4.50/mn Btu), 36.4% less than the same period in 2015, according to the FTC.

Gazprom?s ‘stress case’ scenario for this year is based on an export gas price of $151/’000 m³ while the finance ministry’s budget envisages a price of $199/’000 m³.

The rise in oil prices since the start of the year could feed through into slightly higher gas prices although most of its European sales have been indexed to spot gas prices, so growing demand especially in northwest Europe and Italy will be critical to its actual receipts. Cuts in Groningen output from October, and the reduction in peak winter gas in the UK thanks to problems at Rough storage, are both bullish signals.

Ilham Shaban


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Turkey alleges Muslim cleric was behind coup bid

Fethullah Gulen

Turkey?s allegations that Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen was behind the country?s recent coup attempt has exacerbated the ill will between him and the nation?s president, who were once considered close allies.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blamed the coup attempt on supporters of his US-based foe, Gulen, whose Hizmet movement has an influential presence in the Turkish media, police and judiciary.

Gulen issued a statement condemning in ?the strongest terms? the attempted coup and categorically denying accusations that he was behind it.

?Government should be won through a process of free and fair elections, not force,? he said. ?I pray to God for Turkey, for Turkish citizens, and for all those currently in Turkey that this situation is resolved peacefully and quickly.?

?As someone who suffered under multiple military coups during the past five decades,? Gulen said, ?it is especially insulting to be accused of having any link to such an attempt.?

Outsiders faulted
Faced with anti-government protests and corruption investigations, Erdogan has blamed his problems in part on Gulen?s followers and foreign powers. The Turkish president has frequently accused his former ally, who lives in exile in the US state of Pennsylvania, of trying to overthrow the government.

But in his own messages, Gulen has said Erdogan suffered from ?decayed thinking? and denied the president?s accusations. Washington has never found any compelling evidence in Erdogan?s previous claims.

Speaking to reporters in Luxembourg on Saturday, US secretary of state John Kerry said that the US would entertain an extradition request for Gulen, but only if Turkey presented legitimate evidence of wrongdoing. ?We fully anticipate that there will be questions raised about Mr. Gulen,? Kerry said.

As an imam in Turkey, Gulen encouraged his followers to become educated, and the movement spread beyond Turkish borders, with hundreds of schools and charities established in other countries.

Since the preacher?s run-in with Turkey?s secular leadership in the 1990s, one of the key aims of his movement?s international activities abroad has been to leverage its international clout back in Turkey.

His philosophy
The ailing 75-year-old Muslim cleric is known for promoting a philosophy that blends a mystical form of Islam with strong advocacy of democracy, education, science and interfaith dialogue.

In an interview with the Voice of America in 2014, Alp Aslandogan, a Turkish-American businessman, Gulen?s main spokesman, compared the preacher to US civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

?The civil rights movement advocated equal rights for all citizens,? said Aslandogan. Similarly, in Turkey, Gulen advocated for equality and equal opportunity for all citizens ? observant Muslims and others who historically had been discriminated against.

?The civil rights movement abstained from violence. Similarly, Gulen throughout his life always criticized and rejected violence,? Aslandogan said. After the September 11 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States, he said, Gulen called Osama bin Laden ?a monster.?

Gulen?s messages of peace and tolerance have won him praise from luminaries in the United States. Former secretaries of state Madeleine Albright and James Baker and former president Bill Clinton have all spoken at Gulen foundation events.

His movement, Hizmet, or ?service? in Turkish, includes think tanks, schools and various media enterprises.

Investigations in US
However, the movement has been under increasing scrutiny in the US for its links to a group of about 145 charter schools. Hizmet-linked schools in Texas have been accused of visa fraud and misuse of taxpayer money, and the FBI has investigated allegations of sexual misconduct at a charter school in New Orleans. Both the schools and the Hizmet movement deny that they have a relationship, but Gulen supporters are believed to hold positions in the schools.

In 1999, Gulen, who had conflicts with the military-backed secular government in Ankara, left the country and took refuge in what was then a camp for Turkish-American children in Pennsylvania. He was granted permanent-resident status in 2008.

Source: VOANews.com

(Fethullah Gulen photo: fgulen.com)

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FDI in Bulgaria in January-May was 517.3M euro

Photo: Michael Faes/sxc.hu

Foreign direct investment in Bulgaria in the first five months of 2016 stood at 517.3 million euro, the equivalent of 1.1 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP), statistics from the Bulgarian National Bank (BNB) showed on July 15. In the same period of 2015, FDI was 788.7 million euro, but the original amount reported by BNB last year was 616.9 million euro, which was revised upward later.

Investment in equity, including in the real estate sector, stood at 179.9 million euro (compared to 7.3 million euro in the first five months of 2015) and re-invested earnings accounted for 139 million euro (versus 370.7 million euro a year earlier), according to preliminary data.

Receipts from real estate investments by foreign companies totalled 16.5 million euro, compared to 15.5 million euro during the same period of 2015.

To read the full story, please click here.

(Photo: Michael Faes/sxc.hu)

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Bulgarian MPs start clock on financial watchdog reshuffle

National Assembly Parliament Sofia Bulgaria April 2015 photo copyright Clive Leviev-Sawyer-crop

Bulgaria?s Parliament started on July 15 the proceedings to appoint a new chairperson of the Financial Supervision Commission (FSC) amid heated debates on the House floor. The motion outlining the rules for appointing the new chairperson passed with 108 votes in favour, 39 against and 28 abstentions.

The rules stipulate that nominations can be made by individual MPs or parliamentary groups, but with a tight deadline of five days to submit their nominations. The short nominating period would allow Parliament to make the appointment before it adjourns for summer recess at the end of the month.

The term of incumbent FSC chairperson Stoyan Mavrodiev expired in June and Bulgaria?s laws stipulate that the proceedings to appoint a replacement or confirm the incumbent for another term must be finalised no later than a month before the expiration of the term.

Budget committee chairperson Menda Stoyanova said that she shared some of the blame for the delay in starting the appointment proceedings, but said that it was ?better to start now than wait until it is a year or two late?.

MPs from the two largest opposition parties ? the socialists and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms ? accused GERB, the senior partner in the ruling coalition, of rushing the process and attempting to control the independent regulator.

According to news website Mediapoool.bg, the delay in starting the appointment proceedings was due to an internal disagreement within GERB whether to endorse Mavrodiev for a second term (Mavrodiev was an MP for GERB before his appointment to the FSC) or nominate Deputy Finance Minister Karina Karaivanova for the job.

Mavrodiev?s tenure at the helm of the regulator has seen several high-profile controversies. FSC oversees all financial institutions other than banks (which are the purview of the Bulgarian National Bank) ? insurers, pension funds, brokerages and the stock exchange.

The regulator started its stress tests of the financial sector, due to be concluded in autumn, on July 15. During the debate in Parliament, MP Radan Kanev said that the only reason for the rush to replace Mavrodiev was that ?the European Commission would not acknowledge the results of stress tests carried out by the [current] failed and non-functioning leadership of the FSC?.

(Bulgarian Parliament photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)

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Nigeria LNG Names New CEO

July 15th, 2016 10:30am Posted In: Natural Gas News, LNG, News By Country, Netherlands, Infrastructure, Corporate, Appointments, Nigeria, Africa

Nigeria LNG announced July 14 it had appointed Tony Attah to succeed Babs Omotowa as CEO.

Since January 2016 Attah has been Senior Integrated Gas Projects Advisor at Shell, working on projects in The Netherlands and Singapore. Prior to that since 2014, he had been managing director and board chairman of Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company (SNEPCo), the Anglo-Dutch major?s oil and gas operator in the country, in addition to being Shell?s vice-president for human resources across Sub-Saharan Africa since 2013.

In 2005-07 Attah managed the Soku Gas Plant as asset superintendent and operations manager of the initial NLNG gas supply, as well as NLNG Train 3 construction works.

Omotowa will return to Shell International in the Netherlands, after five years at the helm of NLNG which said that — under his watch — it became the highest corporate tax paying entity in Sub-Saharan Africa. 

Babs Omotowa (Photo credit: NLNG)

NLNG is 49%-owned by state Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), 25.6% by Shell, 15% by Total and 10.4% by Eni. It has six LNG trains with a combined production capacity of 22mn metric tons/yr, plus 5mn mt/yr capacity of LPG/condensate, and two main subsidiaries: shipowner Bonny Gas Transport and ship operator NLNG Ship Management.

Meanwhile, a gas distribution pipeline belonging to NNPC subsidiary Nigerian Gas Company was attacked and blown up by militants on the evening of July 12. Local reports on July 14 indicated the attackers had pretended to be NNPC employees, and that the attack took place in the Ogijo area in the southwestern state of Ogun previously not targeted by militants. Officials said there were no casualties and that the pipe was repaired by July 13.

Mark Smedley


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New UK PM Picks Clark for Top Energy Post

July 14th, 2016 4:55pm Posted In: Natural Gas News, News By Country, United Kingdom, Political, Ministries, Europe

New UK Prime Minister Theresa May has appointed Greg Clark as the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, according to the PM’s official website July 14.

The department, combining business with energy, is a new one, replacing the former Department of Energy and Climate Change. The shift in title may be seen by some as suggestive of a shift towards boosting industrial performance at the expense of climate change targets, although as yet it is too early to see what changes there may be in policy.

Energy intensive users have suffered over recent years from high power and gas prices compared with rival producers, such as the US, where industry has benefited from the lower gas prices brought by the shale revolution. UK energy users have also had to pay to support climate change policies that many of their rivals do not.

Greg Clark, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Credit: Govt)

Clark is the MP for Tunbridge Wells in southern England and was previously the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, although when the Conservative party was in opposition he held the post of Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change during 2008-2010.

He worked for Boston Consulting Group before entering politics, with postings including the USA, Mexico, South America and Iceland.

Clark replaces the previous Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Amber Rudd, who is now Home Secretary. Theresa May became PM on July 13, replacing David Cameron, who has stepped down after failing to persuade the British people to remain in Europe during the Brexit referendum of June 23.

Alex Froley


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French embassy and consulates in Turkey close until further notice

French-Embassy-TR-IBNA-565x335

France surprisingly closed its embassy in Ankara along with its consulates in Istanbul and Izmir indefinitely due to serious information about an impending terrorist attack.

In a written statement, the French embassy in Ankara mentioned that all the planned activities for the Bastille Day, on July 14 are cancelled. Turkish newspaper Hürriyet stresses that French intelligence services have cross checked information of a serious threat on the day of the celebrations of 14th of July.

For the full story, please click here.

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Bulgarian Parliament approves new law on voting abroad

parliament national assembly Bulgaria

Bulgaria?s National Assembly approved on July 13 the second reading of amendments to the Electoral Code that set controversial rules for voting abroad.

In Bulgaria?s 240-member Parliament, the vote was 100 in favour, 25 against and there were eight abstentions.

The bill provides for a limit of 35 polling stations in a country outside Bulgaria for voting in national elections and referendums.

For a polling station to be opened in a place other than a diplomatic or consular mission, 60 citizens will have to lodge an application. However, the final decision on opening a polling station will be taken by the Central Election Commission.

The changes, proposed by the nationalist Patriotic Front (PF), which supports the government without holding any Cabinet seat, are widely seen as directed against the emigre vote in Turkey, traditional stronghold of the opposition Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF), currently the third-largest party in the National Assembly.

Krassimir Karachanov of the PF insisted that the changes were not directed against the MRF, but against what he described as the interference of Turkish president Erdogan.

The proposals have been controversial for months and an earlier version of the Electoral Code was vetoed by President Rossen Plevneliev, although this veto was overriden by the National Assembly ? ahead of new amendments.

MRF MP Chetin Kazak said that Bulgarian citizens in Turkey were not a threat to national security that their opportunity to vote should be restricted. He said that Prime Minister Boiko Borissov?s GERB party had supported the bill because the PF had made this a condition of continuing to support the government in Parliament.

Lyutvi Mestan, the ousted former MRF leader who is currently amid a court process to register his new DOST party, described the legislation as discrimination on ethnic grounds, and said that GERB would go down in history for this shameful act.

Radan Kanev, of the opposition Democrats for a Strong Bulgaria, asked from the floor impeded or facilitated voting. Kanev said that in some foreign countries, 35 polling stations would be inadequate.

Kanev said that 200 000 Bulgarians would be changing their status, from living in the EU to living beyond its borders, because of the decision by their host the United Kingdom.

GERB?s Danail Kirilov, head of the National Assembly committee on legal affairs, said that the limit on the number of polling stations was consistent with the maximum voter turnout at Bulgarian polling stations in the United States and United Kingdom.

Kirilov said that the mode of voting would be the same whether or not the UK was a member of the EU.

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Ghostbusters: With Friends Like These, Who Needs Ghosts?

At the end of last year, film critic Eric Hynes, writing in Reverse Shot, opened his review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens by declaring, ?This is the era of do-not-fuck-it-up.? In an entertainment environment in which Hollywood franchises are being rebooted and remade on a regular basis, he explained, fans greet the arrival of major upcoming releases not with excitement but, rather, a general sense of dread that their makers will ruin beloved properties. ?Ant-Man? It?s fine?at least Peyton Reed didn?t fuck it up. Batman v. Superman? Don?t fuck it up, Zack Snyder, like you did Watchmen.? As a result, Hynes explained insightfully, ?Movies are made of proven entities to minimize risk, but that transfers the stakes from making something good to making something that meets the expectations for what it?s supposed to be.?

The Force Awakens was the perfect example to illustrate Hynes? don?t-screw-it-up theory of careful cinematic brand maintenance?it?s a very entertaining movie, but one meant to stay in its lane, to meet expectations but not surpass them, lest you offend the faithful by attempting too much. Even then, Disney had to contend with spoiled-brat online commenters who took issue with the fact that, heaven forbid, there was going to be a black Stormtrooper or, lord have mercy, a woman would be the principal hero. But these nods to inclusiveness are the closest a filmmaker like J.J. Abrams can get to taking real chances in a modern tentpole?and, even then, it feels mildly risky, even subversive.

By that metric, director and cowriter Paul Feig?s Ghostbusters is the gutsiest blockbuster in quite a while, which is an astounding thing to say considering how pleasant and silly this remake is. As you?ve no doubt heard, in the two years since this project was announced, plenty of invective has crisscrossed the internet, inspiring angry men (including a blowhard running for president) to complain that no one should redo that classic 1984 comedy with a bunch of ladies. In the don?t-screw-it-up age, Feig and his cast dared doing just that. This new Ghostbusters doesn?t entirely succeed, but its genial insistence that it has every right to be its own movie is downright triumphant. Even when you?re not loving this movie, you?re rooting for it?and how often do you say that about assembly-line blockbusters these days?

Uptight Erin (Kristen Wiig) and nerdy Abby (Melissa McCarthy) were once best friends who co-wrote a book trumpeting the existence of the paranormal, but now that Erin is a college professor seeking tenure at a stuffy university, she?s trying to erase any mention of the book off the web. But after Erin encounters a nasty specter, she seeks out Abby for the first time in years. Now teamed with a wacky gadget-head named Jillian (Kate McKinnon), Abby is preparing to begin hunting apparitions, a proposition that?s simply too exciting for Erin to turn down. They soon become a foursome, the group including the all-attitude Patty (Leslie Jones), whose copious knowledge of New York history mostly serves as a handy expositional guide to keep the plot moving along.

Rewatch the 1984 original and you?re struck by the fact that it?s largely a hangout comedy, introducing us to its main characters as they stumble from one misadventure to another?it only really becomes an action movie in its final third. (The film isn?t a continuation of director Ivan Reitman?s two ?80s films; the new Ghostbusters pretends those earlier movies never happened?except in other, more ethereal ways, which we?ll discuss later.) Feig, who previously made Bridesmaids and Spy, sticks to that formula for his remake, letting his four leads? interactions drive much of what happens. It?s a winning strategy: Although this Ghostbusters is sometimes undermined by flabby moments where it seems apparent that the actresses were left to adlib their way through an unfinished scene, the pure delight of being around these characters is entertaining enough to overcome the rough spots.

Rewatch the 1984 original and you?re struck by the fact that it?s largely a hangout comedy.

That?s especially true of Wiig and McCarthy, who reunite for the first time since Bridesmaids. That film has been a bit of an albatross for the actresses. For Wiig (who was nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay), she?s mostly avoided mainstream projects post-Bridesmaids, preferring to stretch herself with prickly indies like The Diary of a Teenage Girl (which was very good) and Hateship Loveship (which was not). As for McCarthy (who was nominated for Best Supporting Actress), Bridesmaids showcased the powder-keg side of her comedic personality, which made her a movie star but also made me have to sit through garbage such as Identity Thief, in which she drove her pitbull-intense shtick into the ground.

But with Ghostbusters, they get to play very likeable, caricature-free characters, which is especially cheering with McCarthy, whose collaboration with Feig in last year?s Spy was the best thing either of them have done. There, she was sexy, smart and vulnerable?eschewing the tiresome big-jerk demeanor of Tammy and The Boss?and in Ghostbusters, she?s a charming, sensitive geek who never quite forgave Erin for breaking their bond. It?s indicative of this remake?s deeply mild daring that the story is really just about two friends who mend fences?that those friends happen to be women in a big, effects-driven spectacle is what makes it so relatively groundbreaking.

If the original Ghostbusters was filled with snarky stars?the culmination of the Animal House/Stripes/Saturday Night Live era of wise-ass big-screen comedy?this new movie is a gentler, loopier, more cheerful creation. The remake is as emblematic of our current comedic landscape as the ?84 movie was of its, combining the bighearted sweetness of Feig?s films with the sneaky weirdness of contemporary Saturday Night Live, which is less of a rabble-rousing instigator than it is a cozy but still funny institution. SNL?s female cast members have dominated for years now, and so it?s probably no coincidence that three of Ghostbusters? four leads are or were on the show?and that McCarthy is a frequent host.

Like Bridesmaids, Ghostbusters has a kindness in its humor that?s incredibly appealing. (That extends to Chris Hemsworth as a boy-toy nincompoop who becomes the women?s secretary, mostly because Erin falls for his dumb-as-dirt hotness.) As a big fan of McKinnon and Jones on SNL, I?m less impressed with them in the movie than other critics are. (I find Jillian to be too rambunctiously ?quirkily? conceived?she?s too much of an idea of a funny character rather than just being genuinely, organically funny.) But the room that Feig provides them to do their thing?especially Jones?s no-nonsense gruffness?is its own kind of reward, a big-screen expansion of already-enjoyable personas.

Ultimately, what hems in Ghostbusters isn?t the fact that Feig dares to mess with the franchise, but rather that he doesn?t screw it up enough.

Ultimately, what hems in this Ghostbusters isn?t the fact that Feig dares to mess with the franchise, but rather that he doesn?t screw it up enough?instead he adheres to the rules such reboots require. Don?t worry, aging fans of the original: In the new movie you will get Slimer, the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, Bill Murray, Annie Potts, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, the Ghostbusters logo, the Ghostbusters firehouse, proton packs, ghost traps, the Ray Parker Jr. theme and, unless my eyes deceived me, a respectful nod to Harold Ramis in the background of one shot. As with The Force Awakens, this remake bends over backwards to provide ample fan-service, which Feig all but acknowledged recently when he said that he and cowriter Katie Dippold made a list of all the things from the ?80s films they wanted to be sure to include.

At its weakest, the new film becomes a dutiful checking-off of a cultural-reference to-do list. The irony of the 2016 Ghostbusters is that, for all the whiny ?my childhood is ruined? memes floating around the web, Feig has worked hard to satisfy those closed-minded fans?often, to the detriment of his own film, which is never less spirited than when it?s propping up some stale cameo. (The callback I didn?t mention, however, is my favorite, so I?m not spoiling it.) Consequently, this Ghostbusters is half-liberated, half-constrained. This time, women get to be heroes, but they?re not held back by the patriarchy so much as they are by those brand-management expectations. Hollywood ain?t afraid of no ghost?but it is terrified of what will happen if its movies aren?t visited by the specter of past success.

Grade: B

Grierson & Leitch write about the movies regularly for the New Republic and host a podcast on film, Grierson & Leitch. Follow them on Twitter @griersonleitch or visit their site griersonleitch.com.

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30 000 Bulgarians emigrated in 2015

Sofia Airport photo A Magic

Close to 30 000 Bulgarians emigrated in 2015, mainly to Germany, the United Kingdom and Spain, according to a research institute at the Bulgarian Academy of Science.

Of the nearly 30 000, 25 per cent went to Germany, and 14 per cent each to the UK and Spain.

Emigration by Bulgarians in 2015 exceeded immigration to the country.

There were about 25 000 immigrants, mainly from Turkey and Syria, according to the Bulgarian Academy of Science.

The precise number of Bulgarian emigrants last year was 29 470, of which 52 per cent were men. More than two-thirds of emigrants were of working age.

According to the research institute, 43.6 per cent of Bulgarians who left the country in 2015 were aged between 20 and 39. Just more than 25 per cent were in the 40 to 59 age group.

About 17.5 per cent of emigrants were younger than 20.

For the full story, please click here.

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