Caspian gas: Bulgaria first
Azer Ahmadbayli, Trend Analytical Center Expert
Europeans better agree with its Eastern partners on a bilateral basis than on behalf of the whole EU. The example is Bulgaria, which really, as Bulgarian President Georgy Pyrvanov reported, showed Europe how it is possible to deal with Azerbaijan.
Following the results of Bulgarian President's visit to Baku on November 14-15, the sides actually completed transaction envisioning annual sale of 1 billion cubic meters of gas from Azerbaijan to Bulgaria by 2015, the supposed completion date of Greece-Bulgaria Interconnector. Other news was released several days later. Bulgarian news agencies reported that the Energy Ministers of Bulgaria and Turkey, at a recent meeting, signed a political agreement, which envisions construction of a 77-kilometer across-the-border gas pipeline with the annual throughput capacity of 1 billion to 3 billion cubic meters that can subsequently be doubled in future. The sides underscored the project's strategic importance for the two sides. In a report, the Energy Ministry of Bulgaria said this gas pipeline, along with the Greece-Bulgaria Interconnector and compressed natural gas supply to a gas terminal near Varna, Bulgaria, will pave the way for Caspian gas to Bulgaria and all neighboring countries. The new gas pipeline, which requires comparatively insignificant investments, will benefit greatly Bulgaria and the whole region, the Ministry reported.
Thus, Bulgaria, after having agreed with Azerbaijan and Turkey, probably will become the first European country to receive Azerbaijani gas directly before the Shah Deniz Phase 2 is over.
According to Western news reports, Energy Ministers of a series of Central and Eastern European countries, at a meeting in Brussels yesterday, should have signed a Plan of Actions on the North-South Gas Corridor at the sidelines of the European Commission-adopted investment plan of improvement of the EU transport and energy infrastructure. The document will specify gas projects to become a priority under the new Trans-European Energy Program valued at 9.1 billion euro. A group of experts led by EU Energy Commissar Gunther Oettinger made a special report on this occasion.
Officials of Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia think the priority gas import routes are gas pipeline Nabucco and Interconnectors Turkey-Bulgaria, Greece-Bulgaria, Greece-Italy, and Italy-Albania. There are also other priority projects, particularly, a new Interconnector leading from the Czech Republic to the Baumgarten gas station in Austria, gas terminal in Romania's Constanta, etc.
They are the very "missing links" in EU general gas infrastructure mentioned by European Commission Chief Jose Manuel Barroso, who announced that the European Commission adopted a 50 billion euro investment plan of improvement of transport and energy infrastructure.
Europeans understand that they need to refurbish and link together their internal gas infrastructure by a time when the South Gas Corridor is put into full operation.