CONFERENCE CALL: Moving from a vision of a greater Europe, to a greater Asia

By bne IntelliNews March 16, 2015

Henry Kirby in London -

 

Cross-border cooperation and a sense of urgency by investors are the primary factors needed to create an efficient and liquid pan-continental energy market, according to speakers at the third annual “Caspian Corridor Conference” in London on March 12.

The daylong event, hosted by the London office of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), featured a number of panels discussing topics ranging from the energy vision for the Caspian region to the development and financing of projects and the development of trade relationships with the region’s states.

Gary Campkin, director of international strategy at TheCityUK, spoke of the “enormous potential” of the region “for the UK’s financial and related professional services industry”, adding that investment there “is essential for creating jobs and driving economic growth”.

A key theme of the conference was the potential benefit that a cooperative and integrated multinational economic area could have for the broader Eurasian energy market.

The EBRD’s managing director for energy, Ricardo Puliti, said that, “the corridor has the potential to promote important energy integration for the producing, transit and consuming countries through which it passes,” while warning that “if one of these participants fails, we all fail.”

However, responsibility for ensuring successful operations in the area does not fall solely with foreign investors, said Mehmet Ogutcu, chairman of investment advisory group Global Resource Partners. “Gone is the heyday of resource nationalism. Now, the region must be more investor-friendly, to keep and to attract new investors,” he explained.

“In Kazakhstan, for example, there are serious problems. Kashagan [oilfield], or as many are now calling it, ‘Cash-Has-Gone’, is nine years behind schedule.”

A senior political adviser for the EBRD, Oksana Antonenko, also warned that European economies could no longer assume that emerging market nations in Central Asia automatically look westward for growth opportunities. “Many of the countries in the region no longer see their futures so fundamentally rooted in a European identity or European values,” she said, pointing out China’s “determination and professional understanding of the region which, unfortunately, is still lacking in Europe”.

“In the words of Dmitri Trenin, a very prominent Russian analyst, we are moving in the region from a vision of a bigger Europe, from Lisbon to Vladivostok, to a vision of a bigger Asia, from Shanghai to St Petersburg,” she added.

Despite these hurdles, Charles Hendry MP, the British prime minister’s envoy to Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan, spoke of the “extraordinary potential of these [Caspian] countries”.

His optimism, however, came with a word of warning: “These are countries with ambition and they are countries in a hurry. They would like to work with us, but if we are too slow then they are not going to wait. We must realise those opportunities, we must build those links and we must make these partnerships truly happen.”

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