Analysis, Geopolitics

Think-Tank: Designing a New EU-Turkey Strategic Gas Partnership

Simone Tagliapietra and Georg Zachmann (Bruegel)

The current crisis in Ukraine has moved the issue of energy security back to the forefront of EU interests. This process climaxed with the formation of an Energy Union with five basic principles: energy security, solidarity and trust, a fully integrated internal energy market, higher efficiency, decarbonization and research of new technologies. In the framework of energy security, other goals are defined as well, among others also the crucial diversification of resources. Reinvigoration of the partnership between the EU and Turkey in the area of energy policy is therefore vital.

The Southern Gas Corridor (SGC) is the most important project of the EU and Turkey that is designed to guarantee the supplies of fossil fuels. The objective is to ensure an alternative route for these supplies to reach the eastern EU Member States. The SGC has become a priority project after Nabucco, an earlier gas project that was designed to traverse the Black Sea, finally collapsed. The newly planned route should therefore go through the Turkish territory and continue further via Greece. For both the EU and Turkey, this is an exceptional opportunity to decrease their energy dependence on Russia.

Therefore, a closer collaboration with Turkey is absolutely essential for the EU’s long-term energy security strategy. Given the current international situation, the main supplier would be Azerbaijan, whose desire to get into the European market has been widely known. There is, however, also the third option of further expansion towards Turkmenistan or eventually also Iran. From the perspective of the EU, the SGC project holds a tremendous potential to prevent Russia from realizing its foreign policy interests by blackmailing Europe through cutting gas supplies.

Russia is also trying to increase its influence in this region. In early 2014, Vladimir Putin hinted at the construction of a new pipeline, the so-called Turkish Stream, designed to bypass the unstable Ukraine while providing Turkey and the EU with a new alternative. Russia would, however, be still the only supplier, thereby allowing Moscow to control all the available pipelines. For Turkey, it is tempting that the entire project would be bankrolled by Moscow. The flipside is that Turkey would have only a minimal influence over the Russian-financed pipeline. Therefore, it is more likely that Turkey will follow the SGC. Indeed, it is crucial that the EU will offer Turkey such conditions that Turkish representative will find attractive enough.

(The full study can be downloaded here: http://bruegel.org/2015/07/designing-a-new-eu-turkey-strategic-gas-partnership-2/)

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