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2014-10-06 20:30:00



Despite European Union calls for member states to curb ties with Russia over its aggression toward Ukraine, Finland looks set for closer links with Moscow in energy.

A fraught project with French-German consortium Areva-Siemens has helped prompt Finnish nuclear consortium Fennovoima to look to Russia's Rosatom for a planned reactor while Finland also aims to begin power exports to Russia next year.

The projects come at a time when the European Union has called on EU member states to suspend planned energy agreements with Russia due to its aggression toward Ukraine.

Prime Minister Alexander Stubb acknowledges the country must walk a fine line with Moscow but has rejected criticism from political opponents who say his office is soft on Russia.

"We must oppose the 'divide and rule' games that Russia is constantly playing with the EU," he said last week when meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin.

At the same time, Stubb said Finland's long border and trade ties with Russia meant it must take a "very pragmatic and common-sense approach in all of our Russia policies".

Angered by the government's backing of the Rosatom nuclear project, the Green Party quit the ruling coalition last month.

Green Party leader Ville Niinisto accused the government of 'Finlandisation', a charged term used during the Cold War to describe the former Soviet Union's strong influence on Finnish politics.

Parliament is set to hold a first debate on the nuclear project on Oct. 14, with the final vote expected in early December.

It would involve Fennovoima building a 1,200-megawatt nuclear reactor at Pyhajoki in northern Finland sourced from Rosatom, which will also take a stake in a project expected to cost 4-6 billion euros.

The government has tried to soothe concerns and Rosatom has said Moscow will not use nuclear power as a political weapon.


There is also a commercial back story to the Rosatom deal, following a decade-long delay and huge cost overruns on another nuclear project in Finland, the Olkiluoto 3 plant being built by Areva-Siemens.

The International Chamber of Commerce's arbitration court is currently processing a dispute in which Areva-Siemens are seeking 2.7 billion euros in compensation from Finnish consortium TVO. The latter, which involves Finnish firms including utility Fortum, UPM-Kymmene and Stora Enso, has submitted a counter claim of 1.8 billion euros.

"It is one of the biggest conflicts in the history of the construction sector," Areva Chief Operating Officer Philippe Knoche said in February.

Still, some analysts question the timing of the move to Rosatom given frosty relations between the European and Russia over Ukraine. Japan's Toshiba also sought to supply Fennovoima.

"The Fennovoima decision increases long-term economic interdependence between Finland and Russia at a time when there is no sound basis to predict the EU's relationship with Russia in the future," said Antto Vihma, senior analyst at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs.


And the nuclear project is not the only sign of Finland increasing its ties with Moscow in energy.

Finland aims to strike a deal with Russia to export electricity through a connector cable from next January, during the same winter months in which much of Europe is most worried about a possible disruption to Russian gas supplies over the crisis in Ukraine.

Top Finnish utility Fortum has also said it is sticking to plans to invest 4.2 billion euros ($5.26 billion) in Russia by the end of 2015.

"Business continues as usual... one can say that Russia is one of Fortum's home markets," said spokeswoman Helena Aatinen.

Russian operations accounted for 22 percent of Fortum's sales in the year to June and 15 percent of its profits.

Finland has also cast a vote of confidence in its natural gas ties with Russia, last week indefinitely postponing a planned liquefied natural gas (LNG) import terminal that could have allowed it to diversify away from its complete dependence on piped Russian supply.

In contrast, Poland and Lithuania have invested heavily in LNG import terminals to allow them to take shipped imports from Qatar and Norway.

Yet like other EU countries, Finland has not escaped the impact of sanctions imposed on Russia. Its economy is struggling, and the government recently cut its economic forecasts for 2014 and 2015 due to the impact from the Ukraine crisis.

Moscow's response to EU sanctions have hurt Finnish exports to Russia including food and the weakened Russian rouble has also hit Finnish revenues, including Fortum's, in Russia.




2018, June, 18, 14:00:00


IMF - Within the next few years, the U.S. economy is expected to enter its longest expansion in recorded history. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and the approved increase in spending are providing a significant boost to the economy. We forecast growth of close to 3 percent this year but falling from that level over the medium-term. In my discussions with Secretary Mnuchin he was clear that he regards our medium-term outlook as too pessimistic. Frankly, I hope he is right. That would be good for both the U.S. and the world economy.

2018, June, 18, 13:55:00


IMF - The near-term outlook for the U.S. economy is one of strong growth and job creation. Unemployment is already near levels not seen since the late 1960s and growth is set to accelerate, aided by a near-term fiscal stimulus, a welcome recovery of private investment, and supportive financial conditions. These positive outturns have supported, and been reinforced by, a favorable external environment with a broad-based pick up in global activity. Next year, the U.S. economy is expected to mark the longest expansion in its recorded history. The balance of evidence suggests that the U.S. economy is beyond full employment.

2018, June, 18, 13:50:00


U.S. FRB - Industrial production edged down 0.1 percent in May after rising 0.9 percent in April. Manufacturing production fell 0.7 percent in May, largely because truck assemblies were disrupted by a major fire at a parts supplier. Excluding motor vehicles and parts, factory output moved down 0.2 percent. The index for mining rose 1.8 percent, its fourth consecutive month of growth; the output of utilities moved up 1.1 percent. At 107.3 percent of its 2012 average, total industrial production was 3.5 percent higher in May than it was a year earlier. Capacity utilization for the industrial sector decreased 0.2 percentage point in May to 77.9 percent, a rate that is 1.9 percentage points below its long-run (1972–2017) average.

2018, June, 18, 13:45:00


IMF - South Africa’s potential is significant, yet growth over the past five years has not benefitted from the global recovery. The economy is globally positioned, sophisticated, and diversified, and several sectors—agribusiness, mining, manufacturing, and services—have capacity for expansion. Combined with strong institutions and a young workforce, opportunities are vast. However, several constraints have held growth back. Policy uncertainty and a regulatory environment not conducive to private investment have resulted in GDP growth rates that have not kept up with those of population growth, reducing income per capita, and hurting disproportionately the poor.

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