Master Plan

ASHGABAT/BERLIN | | turkmenistan

ASHGABAT/BERLIN (Own report) - Berlin is intensifying its pressure to obtain access to Turkmenistan's natural gas deposits. Following the conclusion of a basic agreement guaranteeing the RWE Corp., with headquarters in Essen, Germany, access to the Turkmen gas deposits, the German Ministry of Economics and various German companies have intensified over the past few weeks their negotiations with Ashgabat. The objective is to obtain a privileged position for German companies helping Turkmenistan to develop its economy. Not only is this aimed at Germany becoming the recipient for a major portion of Turkmen raw materials, but also at strengthening German influence in the country. Germany's chances are good. A German company drew up the master plan for Turkmenistan's economic development. In addition, over the past few years, German companies have been able to make themselves a name, by accomplishing quite unusual services for the dictatorship in Ashgabat. Human rights organizations raise strong criticism of the state, whose natural gas is to reduce Germany's dependence on Russian resources.

Natural Gas Supplier

For years, Berlin has been covetously eying Turkmenistan's deposits of natural gas. This is not only because of its volume - the country has one of the world's largest gas fields, with reserves estimated at six trillion meters³, making it the world's third largest deposits. But above all, Turkmen gas could fill the planned "Nabucco" pipeline.[1] The "Nabucco" project, in which the RWE Corp., with headquarters in Essen, participates, is meant to pipe natural gas to Europe from the Middle East and Central Asia, reducing, thereby, Europe's dependence on Russian gas supplies. Because it is still unknown whether Iraq and Iran can be considered as "Nabucco" gas suppliers, more pressure is being exerted to convince Turkmenstan to participate. Complicated measures would be necessary, including laying a pipeline through the Caspian Sea. Since Ashgabat has alternative natural gas clients - it continues to supply Russia and, beginning at the end of this year, also China via a newly opened pipeline - the German government considers additional lobbying indispensable.

Favorable

Berlin has already achieved an exclusive position. For years, German companies have been making themselves a name through providing unusual services to the dictatorship in power in Ashgabat. For example the Daimler Corp. is being accused of corruption. To insure its business interests, among other things, it had the book "Ruhnama," written by the late Turkmen president, Saparmurad Nijasov translated into German. Nijasov died in 2006. "Ruhnama" was considered compulsory reading for the entire Turkmen population and served the personality cult around Nijasov.[2] Nijasov made numerous financial transactions through the Deutsche Bank, which have led to international NGOs accusing the Deutsche Bank of supporting Nijasov's shady deals. It is alleged that billions in state finances have been siphoned off.[3] Two years ago, following Nijasov's death, the government coalition in Berlin refused to accord the opposition's demand to freeze his account at the Deutsche Bank, until accusations of corruption could be settled. As it now turns out, that was a very clairvoyant government decision. Turkmen government circles are still very favorable toward Germany.

Flanking

This is confirmed by the development of the past months' business relations. In February 2008, the German Minister of the Economy at the time, Michael Glos (CSU), visited Ashgabat and reached an agreement on various measures for the development of business relations between the two countries. A "managerial advance training program" for Turkmen company directors began already at the end of 2008 in Germany. Just a few weeks ago, the government level "Turkmen-German Working Group" for economy and trade, whose founding also had been decided in February 2008, began functioning. The German Ministry of Economics explained that the work of this body supports "concrete entrepreneurial projects requiring government flanking".[4] Just previously, the State Secretary in the German Ministry of Environment, Michael Mueller, had signed an agreement on German-Turkmen cooperation in environmental and climate protection, aimed at providing the state flanking necessary for these new showcase branches.

Partner in Technology

The first tangible successes are beginning to appear. For example Siemens, active in Turkmenistan already since 1997, achieved a breakthrough in May, when it was chosen to be Ashgabat's "partner in technology" for the development of the Turkmen infrastructure. "We are happy about this technological joint effort with Turkmenistan," said the Siemens presidium, charged with Central Asia and explained the extent of this cooperation: "we have the products and the solutions for that country to cover its requirements in energy, clean drinking water, mobility and medical care."[5] This occurred a short time after the RWE Corp. had concluded a basic agreement with the Turkmen authorities, in April, allowing RWE to participate in the exploitation and development of natural gas fields in the Caspian Sea and engage in negotiations concerning the supply of natural gas to Germany.[6] Wintershall, a BASF subsidiary, with headquarters in Kassel, has, since last year, also been expanding its work in the sector of Turkmen natural resources.[7]

Key Role

Comprehensive business agreements with German companies in Turkmenistan are to be expected in the near future - permitting not only a large portion of the profits from Turkmen resources to flow to Germany, but also favorably affecting Germany's starting position for the coveted access to the country's natural gas deposits. The goetzpartners, management consultants, in Munich, is playing a key role. goetzpartners won the contract for submitting a draft proposal for the development of Turkmenistan's industry and infrastructure. The draft proposal, drawn up in cooperation with several German companies, including Siemens, was presented in Ashgabat last January. Alongside its concepts for the development of the textile or paper industries, and an expansion of the capital's airport, the founding of a "Turkmen - German University" was also among the proposals. As with the other aspects of the goetzpartners' proposals, German firms are also interested in cooperation within the framework of this university.[8]

Turkmenism

Human rights organizations are angrily reacting to the booming cooperation between Germany and the Turkmen dictatorial regime. In its most recent report, amnesty international accuses Ashgabat of massive reprisals against dissidents as well as political prisoners. Independent journalists are still being "intimidated," and there reigns a "comprehensive impunity for police, security forces and other agencies of the government."[9] Amnesty sees a bit of progress in the question of ethnic discrimination against minorities. Though it is "still common practice" to "trace the Turkmen ancestry back three generations, resulting in the fact that neither ministers, administrative directors nor their deputies at regional and local levels are from ethnic minorities," a few exceptions have still been made known, wherein "non-Turkmens," after paying a bribe "have been admitted to the university."

Consideration

In spite of everything, the Turkmen dictatorial regime does not have to worry about complaints from Germany. Ashgabat announced that in according future business contracts "the Turkmen leader" would "take well known German companies more into consideration."[10]

[1] see also Nabucco and Southern Corridor
[2], [3] see also Ein gewisser Prozentsatz and Spezifische Methodik
[4] "Deutsch-Turkmenische Regierungsarbeitsgruppe Wirtschaft und Handel" erörterte die Möglichkeiten des Ausbaus der bilateralen Wirtschaftsbeziehungen; Pressemitteilung des Bundeswirtschaftsministeriums vom 26.05.2009
[5] Turkmenistan wählt Siemens als Technologiepartner für Ausbau der Infrastruktur; Reuters 12.05.2009
[6] see also Southern Corridor
[7] Exploration and Production: Production at new high; www.wintershall.com
[8] President of Turkmenistan attends Goetzpartners's presentation; www.turkmenistan.gov.tm
[9] amnesty international: Jahresbericht 2008; www.amnesty.de
[10] President of Turkmenistan attends Goetzpartners's presentation; www.turkmenistan.gov.tm