EU Commission president's visit to Turkmenistan to clarify situation around Nabucco

Oil&Gas Materials 8 January 2011 11:32 (UTC +04:00)

Azerbaijan, Baku, Jan. 7 /Trend, G.Hasanov/

EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso's visit to Ashkhabad was expected already in the spring of 2009 - he was supposed to attend the UN international conference on security of energy transit.  

Because of his busy schedule, Barroso could not come. But Turkmenistan's top FEC managers could listen to his special video message saying that "it needs to connect Turkmenistan to European markets via the South Caucasus and speaking on "the importance of long-term partnership".  
Brussels is actively seeking an alternative in the Caspian Sea via the Nabucco pipeline project, which aims to protect Europe from the energy crisis experienced in the previous winter periods because of the inconsistency in matters of gas transit from Russia.

In his message to Ashgabat, Barroso also noted that the "gas crisis in January signaled that serious guarantees are necessary for the uninterrupted supply of energy resources and the EU will seek to diversify sources, including from Turkmenistan.
As expected, next week, in the Turkmen capital, Barroso will not only attend the opening of an EU representation, but also hold talks on the Nabucco project. It is obvious that the leadership of Turkmenistan, which has the fourth largest natural gas reserves in the world, hopes that Brussels would clarify the situation around Nabucco and EU's specific expectations related to Turkmenistan, experts say.

Official Ashgabat has taken a number of concrete steps towards Europe recently. Turkmen authorities have recently openly declared their readiness to supply gas for the Nabucco project. As known, this project is also earnest for Russia, who used to see the European market as its field of activities, and for a long time, Turkmen gas to Europe got through the pipelines of Gazprom, which bought it in cheaper prices for resale.

The status quo has changed after the global recession. If in 2008, Russia bought about 40 billion cubic meters of Turkmen gas per year, in 2010, the figure totaled ten billion. According to preliminary information, this volume will continue this year as well.
In this regard, commenting on its interactions in the energy sector with Russia, the Turkmen Foreign Ministry made a statement in October 2010 which noted that the European direction "for Turkmenistan is even more urgent at a time when the Russian side has reduced the volume of purchases of Turkmen natural gas."

"In accordance with international law and on a reciprocal basis, Turkmenistan will continue to strengthen the European vector of its energy policy and to decide questions about the choice of partners" - said in a statement.
"In accordance with international law and on a reciprocal basis, Turkmenistan will continue to strengthen the European vector of its energy policy and decide questions about the choice of partners," the statement said.

After this, Ashgabat has provided guarantees for transportation of 40 billion cubic meters of gas annually to its borders for the EU member states. In addition, Ashgabat has a Memorandum of long-term cooperation, signed with the German RWE energy group, participating in the Nabucco consortium, a memorandum of cooperation in the energy sector with the EU.  

Today Turkmenistan is negotiating with European companies Total, Eni, BP, Shell and U.S. oil giants Chevron, ExxonMobil, ConocoPhilips. The EU has taken a reciprocal step by agreeing to sign a trade agreement with Turkmenistan, which has delayed for several years. It is a way for European companies to the Turkmen market through investment and trade. At the same time, the Europeans understand that Nabucco, which was initially "politicized", is not immune from the Caspian Sea issues.
If the question of Trans-Caspian route between Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan rises, then, according to analysts, the issue of the legal status of the Caspian Sea could be brought up. Turkmenistan clearly outlined its position that ultimately has opened a wide field for negotiations on the Trans-Caspian.
Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov said at the Caspian summit in Baku that the construction of pipelines via the Caspian Sea is "principled" to Ashgabat.  
"Turkmenistan is firmly convinced that laying an underwater pipeline via the Caspian Sea may be carried out only with the consent of those countries through which such a pipeline will be built. Naturally, it will observe the highest international environmental standards and norms," he said, noting that ha acts against giving any political painting on any unresolved issues on the Caspian".  

According to him, "delimitation of the Caspian Sea is a legal issue that must be resolved by peaceful, diplomatic and legal means and methods."