Azerbaijan, Baku, Jan. 22 /Trend, V.Zhavoronkova/
Uzbekistan President's upcoming visit to Belgium tells about Europe's high interest in cooperation with Uzbekistan in the gas sector, German expert on Central Asia Michael Laubsch said. However, according to him, Uzbekistan is not much interested in selling energy resources to Europe and prefers to other buyers for its gas.
Uzbek President Islam Karimov plans to make an official visit to Belgium on Jan. 24. Presumably, one of the main topics of Karimov's talks in Brussels will be energy resources, exactly natural gas. Also Karimov is supposed to meet with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.
According to BP data for in 2009, Uzbekistan ranked the second in the CIS for natural gas production after Russia. Proved gas reserves of the country are estimated at 1.68 trillion cubic meters. In 2009 gas production totaled 64.4 billion cubic meters, which is 3.9 percent more than produced in 2008. Gas consumption in Uzbekistan in 2009 amounted to 48.7 billion cubic meters, or 0.3 percent more than demand in 2008.
"In the past, Europe itself refused to cooperate with Karimov, however, the fact that Barroso expressed his desire to meet with him tells that Uzbekistan is a strategically important country for the EU," the head of the German non-governmental organization ETG (Eurasian Transition Group) Laubsch told Trend in a telephone conversation from Berlin.
After the tragic events in Andijan in 2005, the European Union introduced sanctions against Karimov, and he was forbidden to enter the EU territory. In addition, the European organizations periodically act with criticism over the situation of freedom of speech and human rights in Uzbekistan.
According to the expert, not the main reason for European Union's interest in purchasing Uzbek gas is of course the so called diversification of gas import to Europe in the future.
"They don not want to be only reflected on Russian gas and would like to diversify the gas imports of the not more independent only on Russia any more," he said.
In case of sale of Uzbek gas to Europe, its price will be high because of the length of the transportation route, however, according to the expert, EU is not willing, may be or may not able also to consider the pure financial aspects of such projects, since this figure is strategically important for it.
According to Russian expert on Central Asia, a member of the Trend Expert Council Stanislav Pritchin, Islam Karimov's upcoming visit to Belgium tells that Uzbekistan may become a member of the Southern Corridor.
The South Corridor is a priority EU energy project diversifying energy supply routes and sources and increasing EU energy security. The South Corridor includes the Nabucco gas pipeline, Trans Adriatic Pipeline, White Stream, and ITGI.
According to Pritchin, if the Southern Corridor is working, then the resource base for it in the future may be Uzbekistan.
Natural gas reserves in Turkmenistan may be not enough to fill all existing projects, including China's direction, the Russian direction, Iran, the planned gas pipeline Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI), the expert said.
According to him, if Uzbekistan join the South Corridor, it will be a very serious step for Europe, so the EU is working for the future.
"If the Turkmen direction of gas supplies to Europe works and the Uzbek direction has a real prospect in the future - it will seriously expand Europe's influence on the region in the context of long-term geopolitical interests," Pritchin Trend by telephone from Moscow.
However, according to Laubsch, despite the desire of Europe, Uzbekistan displays no serious interest in the sale of natural gas to the EU.
"There are some numbers indicating that Uzbekistan will take part in the South Corridor projects, but as far now I don't see any willing of Uzbek authorities to do that," said the expert.
According to the expert, for Karimov himself the visit to Brussels will be starting of a big propaganda show after the Andijan events in 2005.
According to Laubsch, Karimov is mainly interested in selling his gas mainly to his Russian partners, but he is also looking forward to cooperating with the Chinese partners and also to low extent maybe with India in future.
"I don't see any statements by Karimov and his officials that they would like to open up the gas exports to Europe. I think in the past the main reason probably for it is that Europe would not intervene in country's internal policy," he said.