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Press review: EU edges towards more restrictions on Russia and coal price forecast doubles

Top stories from the Russian press on Thursday, September 16th

Kommersant: EU eyes widening sanctions against Russia

The European Parliament voted on a new report on Russia, which labeled its foreign policy "aggressive and revisionist." Strasbourg sees the Kremlin as "the main threat to the security of Europe" and proposes imposing sanctions on its armed forces, special services, and the oil and gas sector, in addition to excluding the country from the SWIFT system, Kommersant writes.

The report itself is an overview of Russian foreign and domestic policy over at least the last decade. The European Parliament voted on the report on Wednesday, with the results expected on Thursday, however, surprises here are almost impossible, the newspaper writes.

Meanwhile, Russia also has a lot of questions for the European Union. In particular, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was especially outraged by the de facto call to ban EU countries from developing relations with Russia. And the Russian Federation Council accused the European Parliament of direct interference in the domestic affairs of Russia, promising to discuss the issue on Thursday.

Deputy Director of the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies at the Higher School of Economics, Valdai Club expert Dmitry Suslov told Kommersant that the EU would not abandon its current strategy of combining electoral dialogue with political containment. "Relations between Russia and the EU will not improve in the near future. At the very least, the current level of confrontation will remain, but more likely, hostile rhetoric will be even greater," he explained.

As for the report, the expert believes the EU is unlikely to agree on implementing these recommendations. "The European Parliament reports should be regarded as a barometer of the state of relations, and not as a direct guide to action," he noted.


Izvestia: SCO plans to discuss Afghanistan

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) will celebrate its 20th anniversary in Dushanbe on September 16-17, the city will host several high-level events: the CSTO Collective Security Council meeting, summit of the SCO heads of state and heads of government, as well as joint meetings of the leaders of both organizations. A source in diplomatic circles told Izvestia, the SCO leaders plan to sum up the results of the organization’s activities and outline plans for its future development. This might start with welcoming Iran to the SCO.

"The current theme is dedicated to the 20th anniversary of the SCO. The countries’ leaders will reflect on the results, outline plans for the organization’s development and interaction," a Russian diplomatic source told Izvestia.

One of the plans could be starting the procedure for admitting Iran to the SCO. The country applied to join the organization in 2008, but its membership has not been agreed upon for many years due to the UN Security Council sanctions against Tehran. "There were certain questions to the country. And now, to some extent, these obstacles may be considered removed," the source told the newspaper.

The organization will also discuss Afghanistan, although the country, which has the observer status in the organization since 2012, will not be directly represented. However, one of the diplomats close to the event’s preparation told Izvestia that there are no plans to sign any joint documents based on the discussion. "The SCO platform is rarely used for divisive issues, and such things are never shown to the public. The SCO behavior assumes discussing differences and problems in a narrow circle with only the leaders of the SCO member states," a diplomat from the SCO told Izvestia.


Kommersant: North Korea challenges the US and its allies in Asia

The recent ballistic missiles tests by North Korea have returned the Korean crisis to the global agenda during the 76th session of the UN General Assembly. Meanwhile, Japan and South Korea are taking urgent measures to neutralize the threat from Pyongyang. Experts interviewed by Kommersant believe that the new missile launches show that North Korea does not want to abide by international bans and plans to hurt the US positions in the Indo-Pacific region.

"The ballistic missiles that have been tested might belong to a new type of weapon, which was actively developed in North Korea in recent years. Testing such missiles send a signal to the United States and South Korea that Pyongyang is ready to toughen its position even further. At the same time, considering the fact that South Korea has tested its ballistic missiles for submarines, there is a mutual process of growing tensions," Deputy Director of the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies at the Higher School of Economics Vasily Kashin told Kommersant.

"The main goal of the recent missile launches is not military, but political," former Russian ambassador to South Korea Gleb Ivashentsov told the newspaper. In his opinion, Pyongyang considers it necessary to show readiness not only for dialogue but also for confrontation.

Meanwhile, Chief Researcher at the Institute of the United States and Canada of the Russian Academy of Sciences Vladimir Batyuk believes that North Korea’s tests have become a "serious challenge to the military-political positions of the United States in the Indo-Pacific region".


Izvestia: European Union postpones Balkan integration

Serbia and Montenegro might not join the European Union before 2025, the European Parliament told Izvestia, noting that other Balkan countries, including Albania, are even distancing themselves from the goals of such integration. Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that the Balkan integration was in the EU’s geostrategic interests, however long it might actually take due to the candidates lagging behind European standards.

The discussion about the Balkan countries joining the EU has been going on for several years. According to the forecasts of the European Commission back from 2018, Serbia and Montenegro may join the EU before 2025.

Deputy of the Serbian National Assembly Jovan Palalic told Izvestia that the country hopes to join the European Union by 2025 and is doing everything it can to achieve this, but so far this time frame seems unrealistic.

Montenegro shows similar skepticism - President of the Parliamentary Board for Defence and Security Milan Knezevic told Izvestia that all of Montenegro’s citizens want to join the EU, but the government may not have time to bring the laws in line with European standards by 2025.

According to Serbian political scientist Stevan Gajic, even the EU itself needs reforms at the moment, so adding new members is not on its immediate agenda. According to him, no Balkan state can join the organization before 2025, since the region is clearly not a priority issue for the Union at the moment, he told Izvestia.


Vedomosti: Coal prices rise amid market shortage and surging gas prices

The average price of thermal coal in Asia (FOB Newcastle) in Q4 of 2021 may grow to $190 per tonne, Goldman Sachs wrote in its review. The bank earlier forecasted a price of $100 per tonne, which means that the projections have almost doubled. Goldman Sachs has also revised its forecast for the price of energy coal for 2022 - from $85 to $120 per tonne. According to Vedomosti, growing coal prices may be the result of a coal shortage due to recovering demand for electricity and problems with coal output in key producing countries.

Head of the analytics department for the securities market at Alfa-Bank Boris Krasnozhenov told the newspaper that growing prices for coal in Asia are due to several factors including the rapid development of the Chinese economy and coal generation in Asia, declining investments in new mining projects, as well as falling supplies from Indonesia and Australia due to climate factors and restrictions caused by the pandemic.

The main reasons for the rise in coal prices include growing gas prices and ongoing problems with supplies to China due to disputes with Australia, Managing Director at NRA rating service Sergey Grishunin believes. The first problem is expected to be resolved soon, but it is difficult to forecast political relations between China and Australia, he told the newspaper.

According to Asset Manager at BCS World of Investments Vitaly Gromadin, the current extreme situation with prices will not have a long-term impact on the coal market. For example, the United States plans to completely abandon coal electricity generation by 2030.

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