European Commission head to visit Turkmenistan to promote Nabucco project

Turkmenistan, Ashgabat, Jan. 14 /Trend H. Hasanov/

The President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso will arrive in Ashgabat on Friday afternoon, the official Turkmen sources said. The visit aims to discuss the Nabucco project to diversify raw material for Europe.

According to the information, it is his first visit to the Caspian country. Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov is expected to hold talks with Barroso on Saturday.

The previous meeting was held in November 2007 at EU headquarters in Brussels. Moreover, Barroso is likely to participate in opening the EU office in Ashgabat.

The press service of the Turkmen government said that the visit is intended to be a new step in intensifying the dialogue between Turkmenistan and the European Union.

Official Ashgabat expressed hope that new opportunities for effective interaction in the context of both existing and developing long-term projects and programs may be opened at this meeting.

It will be of particular importance in forming an effective model of cooperation that meets the realities of modern time and the spirit of a mutually beneficial and equal partnership.

Nabucco gas pipeline project connects the EU and Turkmenistan, in particular, its gas resources.

Only Russia, Iran and Qatar leave it behind on its reserves. Its assets significantly increased after major oil companies of the West joined the Turkmen market.

Today Turkmenistan is negotiating with European companies Total, Eni, BP, Shell and U.S. oil giants Chevron, ExxonMobil, ConocoPhilips.

Turkmenistan's leadership hopes that Brussels will clarify the situation with Nabucco, experts said. Ashgabat has already taken a number of concrete steps in this area.

A 1,000-km East-West gas pipeline, which will connect the significant reserves of Yoloten field (with resources worth 22 trillion cubic meters of gas) in the east of the Caspian coast, is under construction in the territory of Turkmenistan.

The EU has taken a reciprocal step by agreeing to sign a trade agreement with Turkmenistan, which has delayed for several years.

At the same time, the Europeans understand that Nabucco, which was initially "politicized," is not insured against the Caspian Sea issues.

If the question of the 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 pipeline. 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.

This project is also earnest for Russia, who used to see the European market as its field of activities.

Turkmen gas to Europe got through the pipelines of Gazprom, which bought it in cheaper prices for resale.

Russia recently reduced the volume of imported Turkmen gas motivating this by reducing the demand on the world market due to global economic crisis.

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.

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.

EU Commission President José 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 a 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.

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