Cause and Effect in European Politics and Law

Energy, energy, energy

Adelina Marini, April 27, 2009

Energy seems to be the dominating issue in the next two weeks either because at the GAERC - the General affairs and external relations council, which starts today in Luxembourg one of the main topics will be the summit Southern corridor and New silk road in Prague on the 7th and 8th of May.

The Southern corridor is a planned energy route for deliver of natural gas from the Caspian region through Turkey for Europe. In the framework of the Southern corridor are the TransCaspian pipeline from Turkmenistan to Azerbaijan and "Nabucco" which will start from Turkey, through Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and will end in Austria. In this regard the Southern corridor shouldn't be mistaken with the "South Stream" pipeline project that will be built by Russia together with the Italian company ENI. The Southern corridor is an energy transit route, approved by the European spring council in 2007 as one of the ways for diversification of energy sources and "South Stream" has not been included absolutely on purpose. Gaining access to the Caspian basin and the suppliers from Central Asia will give Europe the opportunity to resist further shortages of gas like in January this year.

A serious problem with the realisation of the projects in the Southern corridor is the policy of Russia which does everything possible to prevent Europe becoming more independent from Russian deliveries. For the last year there's certain emancipation from Russia of some former Soviet republics that are also very rich of natural gas like Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan. But Iran has still not being included in the equation and the country has enormous gas resources and regarding the "Nabucco" project Tehran has couple of times stated its readiness to participate. But that is in contradiction with the positions of the EU and much more of the US. The American position was once again confirmed by the American special envoy on energy issues Richard Morningstar in Sofia. He said that he doesn't accept the assumption that any project cannot be done without a specific partner. He mentioned Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan as potential suppliers of gas for "Nabucco" and at a later stage of Iraq. Ambassador Morningstar did not elaborate further on Iraq's participation. Iran should prove that it really is willing to cooperate and that is has no plans for a nuclear programme. He went even further by saying that cooperation in energy sphere could be used as a carrot in solving other problems with Iran.

Either way for the realisation of all projects a lot of serious problems still remain like the lack of money for the "Nabucco" project which is supported by the US and the EU. There's also uncertainty for the filling the capacity of the pipe with gas. Another problem is that the countries-suppliers lack money to invest in modernising or opening of new gas deposits. Russia has the same problem, although it denies it. The Russian minister of energy said that Russia will not diminish its gas production because it has the possibility, if necessary, to develop some of its existing deposits. The American envoy underlined, in the mean time, that no pipeline is a Holy Grail and that is why Europe and specifically Bulgaria should concentrate on energy efficiency, internal connectivity, additional depots. alternative green technologies.