ON REGIONAL ENERGY DEVELOPMENTS
Over the recent period the developments around the implementation of the regional energy projects, in particular around building of the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline and profound disagreements, which emerged in the Russian-Turkish energy issues, stirred up.
EU vs “Gazprom” and Trans-Caspian gas pipeline
On the last days of September unexpected inspections were initiated in the offices of some big natural gas supplying companies, which, according to the statement spread by the highest governing body of the European Union, were carried out by the decision of the European Commission. The representatives of the security services of some European countries took part in the inspections; their goal was to reveal possible cases of abuse of monopoly and corruption. Though, according to the preliminary data, the inspections were carried out in 8 European companies only some of them confirmed this fact. Among them are the Czech branch of the German RWE, German giants E.On Ruhrgas and Polish PGNiG. Those inspections could have been considered exclusively European affair but for the fact that the companies inspected were the main European partners of the Russian “Gazprom” which sell Russian gas in the EU countries.
It is remarkable that after the inspections in the European companies the representatives of the law machinery visited the office of “Gazprom Germania” company and tried to reveal the transparency of the contracts concluded by the company and their compliance with the European law. After those searches a number of the European analysts expressed the opinion that the main purpose of the inspections was to exert pressure on Russian “Gazprom”. The company will conclude new contracts with the European companies on gas supply and its price at the end of the year and official Brussels tries to make Russian company lower the gas price.
Another purpose of the inspections can be considered the fact that the EU tries to impede the plans of Moscow to takeover the Eastern and Central European gas companies, in the consequence of which the Russian “Gazprom” can become not only the exclusive natural gas supplied to Europe but also the distributor of that gas in the region. Such a prospect constitute a great menace for the EU as in the consequence of the takeover of the European companies by the Russian company Moscow may take under the control Eastern and Central European energy companies, thus directly influencing domestic and foreign energy policy of Europe. And that influence will be mainly directed to hampering the construction of the Trans-Caspian and “Nabucco” gas pipelines which will go round Russia and are meant to supply gas from the Central Asia.
This is important issue for the EU, as Brussels stirred up the attempts on reaching an agreement on building the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline. Back in March 2011 the Turkmen government confirmed its participation in the gas pipeline building project, which was stated to the Deutsche Welle by the executive director of “Nabucco” consortium R. Mitchek. In the same statement he mentioned that there is no need for Turkmenistan to get permission of the neighbouring countries for joining the project: “For building Trans-Caspian gas pipeline only an agreement between Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan is necessary, the rest, in our opinion, are the speculations”. After Turkmenistan the EU stirred up negotiations on building of the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline with Kazakhstan. On October 3, against the background of the inspections in the offices of the branch of the Russian “Gazprom” and its partners, at the KAZANENERGY forum the EU Energy Commissar G. Oettinger officially invited Kazakhstan to join the project of the Trans-Caspian building, in consequence of which Kazakhstan can supply natural gas to Europe round the Russian territory and without mediation of “Gazprom”, G. Oettinger particularly said: “Few people know that this is the first time the EU proposed to sign an international contract aimed at support of the infrastructure project”. Let us mention, that though the official Astana have not answered affirmative univocally to the proposal of the EU commissar but the vice-president of the state and biggest “Kazmunaygaz” company stated that the company did not mind Kazakhstan joining the project.
The activation of the EU constitutes serious danger to Moscow; this is proved by the statements of the Russian officials connected with building the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline. The inspections of the energy companies in the EU and the proposal to Kazakhstan to join the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline received an immediate negative response of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. But, unexpectedly, the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline became the main subject of the speech of the Russian president D. Medvedev delivered on October 14 at the Security Council session. The Russian president particularly mentioned: “Building of the pipeline is a serious problem, which is directly connected with the legal status of the Caspian Sea and demands the consent of all the coastal countries”. This statement of the president of Russia points out the drastic change of the official stance of Russia on the Caspian Sea issue; if previously Moscow criticized Tehran for meddling in the bilateral projects of the coastal states and if two states have no border problems, they can independently discuss bilateral relations, after the D. Medvedev’s statement, Moscow, in fact, began sharing the approach of Tehran. I.e. there cannot be any projected which is not coordinated with all the coastal states.
At the same time, it should be mentioned that Russia’s clutching to the legal status of the Caspian Sea may be evidence that Moscow has partially lost the leverages of preventing Astana and Ashgabat from building the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline. This is rather interesting reality after the article of the Russian prime-minister V. Putin about creation of a new Eurasian union with the participation of Kazakhstan.
However, it is already clear that Moscow considers the involvement of the EU in the energy affairs in the Central Asia as a threat to its interests, and building of the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline which will connect Turkmen or/and Kazakh gas fields with Baku and “Nabucco” as project which has good chances for realization. This will directly influence the policy of Russia in the South Caucasus and may also affect Russian-Azerbaijani relations, as it is Azerbaijan that tries to become an alternative to Russia in transition of the Central Asian gas to the EU. Possible Russian-Azerbaijani energy contradictions are directly connected with the Russian-Turkish relations which suffered serious setback in the energy sphere.
Russian-Turkish energy contradictions
Probably it was unexpected for Moscow when Turkey also joined the campaign against the Russian gas in the EU. On September 29, the Minister of Energy of Turkey T. Yildiz in his interview to “Bugyun” newspaper stated that from the next year the biggest Turkish state “Botash” company would not buy Russian gas, if “Gazprom” “does not considerably lower the price of the gas sold to Turkey”. At the same time the tone of the minister was cutting and tough. He mentioned that even if the Russians lowered the price it would not mean that the Turks would buy it. According to the minister, Ankara is interested in the new Russian proposal which can be discussed, accepted or rejected. As some Russian experts mentioned the statements of the Turkish minister “looked like bluffing” which purpose is to lower the price for gas supplied to Turkey. But on October 1 the Turkish Minister stated the official decision – from 2012 Turkey will no more buy Russian gas which has been supplied to Turkey through the territories of Ukraine, Moldova, Romania and Bulgaria (“western corridor”) since 1986, and if Moscow wants to continue to sell it, it has to look for new partners in Turkey, as the state “Botash” will not sign a contract with “Gazprom” on gas supply. It became cleat that the Turkish stance was not simply bluffing after phone conversation on buying gas between the prime-minister of Turkey R. Erdogan and prime-minister of Russia V. Putin.
The press-secretary of the Russian prime-minister D. Peskov confirmed that Turkish “Botash” refused to buy Russian gas: “they discussed... the prospects of continuing Russian gas supply to Turkey, taking into consideration the fact that one of the Turkish companies refused to extend the contract”. Which Turkish private company will substitute “Botash” or whether any will substitute (Turkish gas pipelines belong to “Botash” and it is difficult for private companies to use them) is still open question. But it is obvious that Turkey is going towards the reduction of the volume of the Russian gas import, most probably waiting for the abrupt growth of the volume of the Azerbaijani gas import. Of course it is not about renouncing the Russian gas – only 6 billion m3 of 18 million m3 of Russian natural gas is supplied by means of the “western corridor”, the rest is supplied by “Blue Stream”. But the Turkish tendency of substituting Russian gas by the Azerbaijani is obvious.
It is difficult to explain the renouncement of Turkey to buy Russian gas in economic terms, as “Gazprom” sells gas at the lowest price after Armenia to Turkey - $250 for 1000 m3 which is incomparably cheaper than the Russian gas sold to Europe. It is even cheaper than the gas sold to Turkey by Azerbaijan which contract price is $280 for 1000 m3. But if the discussion of the stance of Ankara is held in the light of the campaign directed against the Russian gas in Europe and appreciable progress in the Trans-Caspian project, the Turkish stance becomes clearer. Ankara realizes that after building “Nabucco” and Trans-Caspian gas pipeline it will become one of the biggest energy carriers transition centers in the region and will consolidate its positions in the energy fields of Azerbaijan, Central Asia and Europe. In all those spheres the main competitor of Ankara is Russia. Over the recent years the high level of the Russian-Turkish relations was, among other reasons, conditioned by the fact that the projects of the pipelines supplying Caspian energy carriers which go round Russia and pass through the territory of Turkey were frozen and, as a result, the former Russian-Turkish energy contradictions were sidelined. Today, when those projects are revived, contradictions between Ankara and Moscow are revealed again.
It is interesting that the state of the relations between Moscow and Ankara is the same as with Iran: the recent improvement of the relations is followed by new contradictions. And if for Iran the Turkish issue is conditioned by the stance of Turkey on Syria and presence of the US militaries, for Russia it is connected by the stance in the sphere of energy.
Summing up, let us mention that the regional developments in the sphere of energy will condition new contradictions between the regional states, will aggravate competition for the control over the energy carriers and thus they can directly influence the security environment of the South Caucasus, which is one of the crucial regions in the aspect of gas and oil dissemination.
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