Media Highlights of the Week
Author:Caspian Policy Center
Apr 21, 2020
Energy and Economy
Azerbaijan Approves Agreement to Lay Trans-Caspian Fiber-Optic Cable with Turkmenistan
Azerbaijan approved the agreement that will lay the groundwork for construction to begin on a Trans-Caspian fiber-optic cable that will run from Siyazan, Azerbaijan to Turkmenbashi, Turkmenistan. The cable line will allow for the transmission of data and will be incorporated into the Digital Silk Road. The project is also implemented in coordination with the “Azerbaijan Digital Hub” which includes the development of transition lines from Azerbaijan to several Central Asian countries.
Azerbaijan and the United States Will Coordinate to Improve Data Service in Europe
Azerbaijan’s state-owned Azercosmos Company and U.S.-based satellite network operator, Ultistat are cooperating to improve data service in Europe and the Middle East. Under the agreement, Ultistat will use Azercosmos’ telecommunication satellite Azerspace-1, which was launched into orbit in 2013. The decision to collaborate on this project comes as social distancing stemmed by COVID-19 is placing a strain on European data services.
Turkmenistan Seeks to Acquire Observer Status in WTO
Turkmenistan engaged in discussions with various government ministries to establish a special government commission that will work to accelerate Turkmenistan’s ascension to the World Trade Organization. In addition, the government is amending their trade policies and legislation to ensure compatibility with WTO guidelines.
Uzbekistan Hopes to Export Textile Products to Japan
Uzbek officials held a video conference call with the president of Yagiharu Co., Ltd, trading company, Masahiro Yagi. The attendees discussed the goal of establishing a market for Uzbek textile exports in Japan. Masahiro Yagi praised Uzbek textile products and affirmed that there was a high demand for it in Japanese markets. The two sides agreed to continue their discussions at a later time.
Azerbaijan Introduces New System to Provide Economic Support to Entrepreneurs
Azerbaijan rolled out new mechanisms that will alleviate the strain placed on entrepreneurs by the COVID-19 pandemic. The new system requires that entrepreneurs register online with their personal accounts. The system will then allocate funds to pay for insurance compensation and the applicant’s employees before depositing the remaining funds into the accounts of the entrepreneur.
Georgia Inspects Online Businesses to Ensure Compliance with Health Standards
Georgia has already inspected 300 online companies and plans to inspect more this week to ensure that they are complying with the recommendations of the Health Ministry. To begin work again, companies must pass the inspection. In addition, the state of emergency in Georgia was prolonged until May 10 to prevent the further spread of COVID-19.
60 Percent of Kazakhstan’s Working Population is Awaiting Financial Assistance
More than 5.3 million people in Kazakhstan applied for emergency financial aid amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The government has designed mechanisms to deliver a $100 payment to those in financial need due to a loss in income. Kazakhstan has already paid compensation to 2.7 million residents, costing the government $270 million.
Kazakhstan Sends Humanitarian Aid to its Neighbors to Combat COVID-19
Kazakhstan sent 5,000 tons of flour each to Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to mitigate the negative impacts on food supplies caused by the spread of COVID-19. The humanitarian aid cost Kazakhstan more than $3 million and was graciously accepted by both countries.
Second Package of Anti-Crisis Measures Under Way in Kyrgyzstan
The first set of anti-crisis measures introduced by the Kyrgyz government fell short of business leaders’ expectations. Critics argued that taxes remained too high, especially for hard-hit industries, such as the service and tourism sectors. Also, the restriction of movement in the country limits supply chains and negatively impacts businesses. To combat such concerns, the Kyrgyz government is developing a new set of measures that will outline the proposed steps to support businesses and reopen the economy.
Uzbek Bakery Adapts a New Business Model Amidst COVID-19 Pandemic
The Non, a small Uzbek bakery has transformed its operations to allow customers to order bread through an online application due to restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has helped this bakery, among other small and medium-sized enterprises, adapt their operations to become more flexible to the current situation. The Non is able to keep its workers employed and its customers fed throughout the pandemic due to online methods.
Politics and Security
European Parliament Called for Greater Integration of Eastern Partnership Countries
The European Parliament is calling for increased cooperation between the European Union and the Eastern Partnership Countries, which include Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine. The draft report outlines European plans to develop a common economic space that would facilitate greater interaction between EU states and the Eastern Partnership Countries. The report also denounces Russia’s actions in the region, claiming that it is engaging in destabilization, invasion, and annexation in the six Eastern Partnership Countries.
U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi Condemns 'Borderization' On South Ossetia Boundary Line
On April 17, the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi stated that it was "deeply troubled" by reports of Russian-led “security actors” resuming “borderization” activities along the administrative boundary line of Georgia’s occupied region of South Ossetia. Foreign officials from Lithuania, Estonia, Poland, and Ukraine also condemned the “borderization.”
Foreign Nationals not to be Fined for Expired Registration in Kyrgyzstan
The public service centers were temporarily closed in the areas where the state of emergency was declared. As foreign nationals will only be able to apply for registration renewal when the state of emergency is lifted, they will not be fined in case of expired registration.
Uzbekistan Calls for End of Cotton Boycott Due to Pandemic
Uzbekistan called on a global human rights coalition, the Cotton Campaign, to lift an international boycott of Uzbek cotton and textiles, citing progress in eliminating forced labor and the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. The government estimates that an end to the boycott could double textile exports, which would help raise revenue and increase jobs in Uzbekistan.
U.S.-Russian Space Crew Lands in Kazakhstan
After more than 200 days on the International Space Station, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka and NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan safely landed in Kazakhstan. They were replaced by a new crew comprising NASA’s Chris Cassidy and Russia’s Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner. Due to the pandemic, the new crew went straight to Baikonur upon their arrival, instead of being taken to Qaraghandy for the traditional welcome ceremony.
(Sources: Agenda.ge, AKI Press, Azernews, Caspian News, EBRD, Eurasianet, RFE/RL, Times of Central Asia, Trend News Agency, and Uzbek Daily.)