THE SECOND INTERNATIONAL ENERGY AND BANKING FORUM
EU – EUROASIA: GEOPOLITICAL ENERGY PERSPECTIVES
Split, 27 – 28 September 2018
Second International Energy and Banking Forum ''European Union – Euroasia: Geopolitical Energy Perspectives'' organized by the Institute for European and Globalization Studies took place in Split on 27th and 28th September 2018. This year's second International Energy Forum, organized at times of notable tensions and rivalries of the leading international stakeholders, brought together once again a large number of participants from academic community, representatives from different government agencies, home and foreign energy experts, experts from oil companies, financial corporations and entrepreneurs. Main topics of the Forum were energetic trends in new geopolitical environment, but this year, in order to create new possibilities of energetic cooperation and facilitate investments and business deals, banking and financial sectors were included. This year's Forum mission was establishment of dialogue and cooperation, and targeted association of domestic companies with economically most powerful part of the world – Euroasia.
This year, Energy and Banking Forum, following intense political dialogue with Russia, was held under the auspices of the Office of the President of Republic of Croatia, Kolinda Grabar – Kitarović. In her letter of support, the President stressed the importance of energy debate that this year's Forum adressed in the context of wider linking between EU and Euroasia, areas in which Republic of Croatia also has it's interest. The President has stressed that Croatia, as one of the emerging gas hubs, is extremely interested in energetic cooperation with Euroasian countries, particulary Azerbaijan.
At the opening of the Forum, Professor Anđelko Milardović, Ph.D., Director of the Institute for European and Globalization Studies, stressed that main ideas behind Forum were freedom and pluralism of opinion and viewpoints, tolerance and free dialogue. Energetics is not only economic, but also important political category, which is why Croatia must accept new realities in international relations. ”We must survive in the „bathtub“ of the Adriatic Sea following experience of Republic of Dubrovnik which existed besides two contemporary globalization models – Venetian and Ottoman. And in the long run, Republic of Dubrovnik has survived. It had its foregin and domestic policies, advanced diplomacy, trade and much more.” – he said. According to Professor Milardović, Republic of Croatia has to define both its energetic and foreign policy according to interest which is a rational category, free from value and affective categories.
”Sector of energetic consulting is very interesting for Croatia, because diversity of energy imports is an integral part of energetic security” – said Ms. Mirjana Čagalj, Vice President of Croatian Chamber of Commerce. Conference was also greeted by Mr. Blaženko Boban, County Prefect of Split – Dalmatia County, Mr. Ivan Velimir Starčević, Head of Euroasian Sector, Eastern Partnership and Asia in MVEP, Mr. Ivo Miletić, State Secretary at Ministry of Environmental Protection and Energy, HE Anvar Azimov, the Ambassador of Russian Federation, HE Fakhraddin Gurbanov, the Ambassador of Azerbaijan, and by Mr. Garegin Ašotović Tosunjan, President of Russian Banks Association.
Euroasian energetic tendencies in new geopolitical context, energetic challenges in the 21st century, and opportunities for energetic cooperation between Croatia and other European countries, were topics of the panel on the first day (September 27th). Unavoidable topic was economic sanctions imposed on Russia by EU. HE Anvar Azimov, the Ambassador of the Russian Federation, who was among the most active participants of the Forum, defended Russian interests during both days of debating. He stressed that Europe and Asia are logical partners and that Russia's priority is to regain its strategic relationship with European Union. Russia is one of the most important players on the European energetic market, and as far as Croatia is concerned, Russia is one of its most important suppliers. Russia supplies around 70% of Croatia's gas needs, however, according to Ambassador Azimov, trading has expanded to other areas as well. This year, trading has reached US$ 1,3 billion, which proves that cooperation between Russia and Croatia is reviving and advancing. ”My goal is to reach two billion” – said Ambassador Azimov.
HE Fakhraddin Gurbanov, the Ambassador of Azerbaijan stressed the importance of the Forum, and also presented a very significant project for Croatia – construction of the Adriatic - Ionian Pipeline. Already during first panel discussion, Ambassador Gurbanov confirmed good relations with Croatia. ”Although the first part of the gas pipeline (TANAP) has already been built, our cooperation is guiding us in direction of building the second part of the southern pipeline (TAP), which would change the energy map of the entire region, and bring Caspian gas to European market. Azerbaijan has large, still unused gas reserves that can link the Caspian region to Croatia and Europe.” – said Ambassador Gurbanov, expressing hope for the project to be concluded and ready for commercial use by 2020. Mr. Ivo Miletić, the State Secretary at the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Energy, addressing the participants of the meeting, also stressed that Croatia can and should become an important hub on European energy map. For Croatia, the Adriatic - Ionian gas pipeline is extraordinarily significant, since this infrastructure project promotes Croatia as a ''channel for promotion of wider EU energy interests towards third countries''.
Certainly, a great deal of attention was triggered by panel discussion about construction of the Adriatic – Ionian gas pipeline that should extend from Azerbaijan, across Turkey, Albania, Montenegro, B and H, all the way to Croatia. Since this gas pipeline connects Caspian area with Southeastern Europe and continues to EU countries, this is a project from which all of mentioned countries, especially countries from the region, expect great economic benefits. Mr. Marin Zovko, a board member of the Plinacro, emphasized that this project is very important for the Southeastern Europe, because now, Albania and Montenegro have no developed gas transport system. At the same time, TAP is connecting Croatian gas system with a new source coming from Azerbaijan. This is a new supply route securing more competitive and secure supply for Croatia.
Ms. Sanja Tapavčić Ph.D. believes that that countries from the region are interested in cooperation in the energetic sector, however, they need far more diplomatic and economic initiatives to attract investments from Russia and Euroasia. Mr. James Moran from the Center for European Political Studies emphasized that it is impossible to ignore economic sanctions that cause tensions and conflicts, until crisis are resolved.
While during first day of the Forum participants discussed energy issues, during second day discussions were focused on possibilities of financing and extending economic cooperation of Croatian and Russian companies. Numerous business people gathered at the Forum, many of them from Russia. Mr. Garegin Ašotović Tosunjan, the President of Association of Russian Banks, said that Russian banks show great interest for investments in Croatia, not only in its energetic sector, but also in tourism, agriculture and real estate. He believes that there are promising prospects for increased entry into Croatian market by Russian banks, however it will take some time to establish confidence in relationship. Mr. Josip Zaher, the Vice President of the Chamber of Commerce and Finance, stressed that Russian banks are ready to invest directly in Croatian shipbuilding industry, an important development component for Croatia.
After the first, initial Forum in 2017, this has been already the second (and we hope that it has been succesfull) Energy Forum. It was focused, on energy, but also on financial sector investment possibilities in Croatia and other countries of the region. We will work to secure position of the Energy Forum on the map of important conferences in Europe and beyond. We extend our gratitude to the Office of the President of Republic of Croatia, all State and Government institutions and companies - INA, HEP, HBOR, JANAF, HGK, PLINACRO, LUCOIL, IDS and Slobodna Dalmacija. They were a significant support in organization of the Second International Energy and Banking Forum: EU – Euroasia.