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Projects and activities

These five key areas can be divided as follows:

The specifics of transition in Euro-Asia and the emergence of new economies in the region. By 1996, a broad literature was developing on the transition in Eastern Europe and the transformation in Russia triggered wide policy debate. But some key transition issues were underserved by the academic and policy communities, including challenges in the Caspian and Central Asian economies. Some countries in this region, for example, had to implement transition in settings that frequently involved landlocked economies, energy exploitation and diversification challenges. These regional features provided one key focus for the CEAS' early research and publications. 'The new national economy: the learning curve', part of a 1998 book on Kazakhstan which was the first English language study of the economy, is a title that says it all.[1]

Post-transition challenges. By the end of the 1990s, as activities at the CEAS expanded, the transition recession was bottoming out amid shocks from the Russian crisis. It was time to start looking beyond debates about stabilisation, liberalisation and privatisation. The region's evolving international linkages and strategies for economic development deserved more forward-looking analysis. Published in 2000, 'The Euro-Asian World: a Period of Transition' analysed the politics of security, the new Great Game, and the geopolitics of Caspian energy.[2] In the years since then, debate in the West has confirmed these dimensions of Euro-Asia as critically relevant for the global economy.

Energy security and renewable energy. At the turn of the millennium, Europe's energy dependence on the North Sea and Russia was steadily increasing. But with energy prices low and pipeline price wars undreamed of, energy security and diversification had slipped low on the EU agenda. Caspian oil and gas were barely on the perimeter of policy attention. In 2001 a series of studies, published by the CEAS as 'Energy in the Caspian Region: Present and Future', evaluated the future energy contribution of the region. Building on this theme, the CEAS organised a panel at the in 2005 American Economic Association Meetings, bringing together experts from Australia, Belgium, the United Kingdom and the United States to review key challenges in energy development and to assess the EU's relations with the region.[3] These papers were subsequently published as a Symposium in Economic Systems.

Lifting the 'natural resource curse'. Energy endowment has negative risks associated with it. These include rent-seeking behaviour, instability caused by price fluctuations and the possibility that 'Dutch Disease' may hollow out the economy. A 2005 conference on 'Hydrocarbon Wealth and Development in Resource Rich Economies' explored these topics, which are increasingly relevant in today's high energy price environment. In recent years National Oil Funds have also gained attention as an instrument to address some of these challenges by buffering the economy from shocks and by saving for the future. Research in the CEAS, published in Comparative Economics, has focused on the role of these funds in the region and highlighted the question of whether they enhance transparency and enrol constituencies for prudent policies.[4]

Economic transformation and business enterprises. Dependency of the economy on the extractive sector needs efforts to support transformation of direct and indirect employment and the procurement of goods and service into a new sector of the economy beyond the extractive industry. This topic recently gained more attention some several high-profile international organisations. For example, UNCTAD Report on the 'State of Commodity Dependency' (2019) stressed that more than half of all countries, and two-thirds of developing countries, are commodity dependent. The research is increasingly important, since when the non-renewable natural resources like extractives are depleted, what will happen with the economy of these countries? Adoption of new digital technologies is another factor transforming existing industry value chains and entirely changing how companies operate in many industries. The decline of the North Sea oil and gas industry is exacerbated by the global economic context: the industry has seen reduced investment with around 130,000 jobs lost in the UK. The economic contraction of the industry has been further precipitated by the COVID-19 crisis. This means also the significant transformation of the workforce, especially if it includes continued access to 'decent' work for fossil fuel workers. Business enterprises, including multinational enterprises operating in the extractive sector and indigenous firms and entrepreneurs, are central players of the process of the transformation. This is alongside other important actors, such as the public sector, civil society, industrial organisations and research and development institutions. The new avenue of research relates to the diversification from the traditional extractive sector to new industries, including the growing service sector.[5]

From an academic perspective, these five issues have been among the driving forces for work at the Centre over the past decade, reflected in the series of publications in its Euro-Asian Studies series with Palgrave Press.

Academic outreach: the places, the people

An early decision was to seek a number of students from the Euro-Asian region, including Central Asia and the Caspian area, and to engage an academic dialogue with institutions in those and other transition economies. Students at the CEAS have come from countries including Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Russia, Germany and Ukraine. They have in some cases benefited from sponsoring that the centre has put in place on a country basis.

Over time, a network of Country Representatives has also been built up to strengthen continuing links. This network now covers ten transition economies, from Lithuania to Kyrgyzstan, as well as France, Korea, Turkey and Switzerland.

Meanwhile, members of the CEAS are actively engaged in research on the region, with many projects being inter-disciplinary and collaborative. Memberships and Visiting Fellowships have provided links to academic institutions in the UK as well as Australia, Kazakhstan, Russia and the United States.

Members of other academic institutions have come to discuss current issues with students at the CEAS, including at its weekly inter-disciplinary seminars. Recent academic and research institute speakers have come from the universities of Manchester, Newcastle, Oxford, Southampton as well as the CEPR and the Kiel Institute for World Economics. These events are typically open to other students at the university.

Networking with government and industry

While the prime focus of the CEAS has been academic, it has from the outset sought to build up a dialogue with government and industry. This has been achieved through conferences, workshops, industrial visits by students and consultancy in the region.

The CEAS' links to the private sector have allowed it benefit from generous funding of academic work, conferences and scholarships to help cover the costs of students from the region coming to study in Reading. British Gas, Burren Energy, Chase Manhattan Bank, Rothschild and Son and the Soros Foundation have been among the sponsors of activities organised by the CEAS. Projects have been sponsored also by the Department for International Development, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the World Bank.

Members of the CEAS have also been contributors at international conferences and workshops organised by inter-governmental organisations that include the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the European Commission. In addition, members have been actively engaged in research and consultancy with organisations such as the Energy Charter Secretariat and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

In turn, seminars at the CEAS by officials and private sector speakers have exposed students to the latest developments in policy and business thinking. Subjects have ranged from 'The Foreign Policy Dynamic and Energy Security' to 'Russian Capitalism: Is It Unique?'

In 2006 the CEAS was selected by the UK Government to organise a three-month pilot scheme on the economics of energy issues for members of the Chevening Fellowship Programme. Civil servants, academics and private sector specialists from Angola, Georgia, Libya, Malaysia, Mexico, the Philippines, South Korea, Syria and Turkey all took part and the Fellows participated in a series of lectures, company experience with Shell International and case studies and visits to enrich their understanding of theoretical and practical developments in the field.

• The British Council CREATIVE SPARK: Higher Education Enterprise Programme (2018 - to date)

• The British Council Newton-Al Farabi Fund for the Strategic Institutional Research Link Collaboration Local Content Impact: Economic Development, Technology and Entrepreneurship in Kazakhstan's Energy Value Chain - Developing a Centre for Competitiveness in Kazakhstan. (1 April, 2015 - 1 April, 2017).

• Foreign and Commonwealth Office (British Embassy in Russia) Business Incubation 3.0 (BI 3.0): Networking for sustainable growth, entrepreneurship support and best practices exchange. Joint grant with MGIMO University. (27 September, 2016 - 27 September, 2017).

• The British Council Co-operation Development Fund for the UK and Azerbaijan Higher Education Institutions Oil Rents and Human Capital Formation (Azerbaijan Case). (26 January, 2017 - 1 July, 2017).

• The British Council Newton Fund for the strategic research link workshop 'Delivering sustainable economic development in resource-rich countries: Ukrainian Crisis: Risks and Opportunities for Azerbaijan as energy supplier and for its sustainable development'. (November 2014 - February 2015).

• The British Council INSPIRE Strategic Partnership Grant for a project 'Environmental attitudes and impacts on Local Content Policy formation in Kazakhstan' (2010-2014).

• Business connections, a course organised by the National Chamber of Entrepreneurs of Kazakhstan Atameken and the German Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy Fit for the partnership with Germany (2017).

• Southwest Minzu University represented by Dr Gin Gao, a visiting Fellow of the Centre for Euro-Asian Studies, applied and received grant from the national research fund of China to support the study and research trip of the CEAS member to Chengdu, China (November, 2019).

• The UNCTAD has nominated the conference paper by Irina Heim and Cindy Wilhelm (University of East Anglia) entitled Extractive MNEs and sustainable development: a comparative study of a least developed and emerging resource-rich countries for the UNCTAD-AIB 2020 Award for research on investment and development (July 2020).

[1] Kalyuzhnova, Y. 1998. The Kazakhstani economy: independence and transition. Macmillan Press. Basingstoke.

[2] Kalyuzhnova Y. and Lynch D. ed.2000. The Euro-Asian World: A Period of Transition. Macmillan Publishing.

[3] Symposium EU - Central Asia: Economic Partnership March 2005, Economic Systems, Volume 29, Issue1. 9781138238442

[4] Kalyuzhnova, Y., Nygaard, C. A., Omarov, Y. and Saparbayev, A. (2016) Local content policies in resource-rich countries. Palgrave Macmillan UK, London, pp235. ISBN 9781137447852 doi: 10.1057/978-1-137-44786-9

[5] Heim, I. (ed). (2020). Kazakhstan's Diversification from the Natural Resource Sector: Strategic and Economic Opportunities. London, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

Research projects

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Professor Yelena Kalyuzhnova

If you have any questions, please contact Professor Yelena Kalyuzhnova, CEAS Centre Director.

Telephone: 0118 3786637