Morning Brief

Turkmenistan's relations with the European Union in the implementation of the 'Middle Route' energy project

In staging a new energy strategy, the European Union needs to look beyond Azerbaijan to reduce dependence on Russian supplies.
Published by
Central Office
on July 16, 2022
on July 16, 2022
Image Source:
The Diplomat
Image Description:
Turkmenistan's President, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow

The European Union's concern for the introduction of gas from the Caspian Basin to the European continent is of growing importance, and its increasingly cold relations with the Russian Federation, following the Kremlin's interference in Ukraine, have meant that the bloc's orientation towards Central Asia and the transit states (Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan), became a move of a geostrategic importance for European energy security.

One of the European Union's energy strategies and efforts is the opening of the Southern Gas Corridor, as a consequence and recognition of the dominant position that the Russian Federation has in the current trade context, being the largest source of EU gas imports, and as an endeavour to reduce the energy dependence on Russian supply.[1] In March 2015, Maroš Šefčovič, Vice President of the European Commission in charge of the Energy Union, showed his openness, together with the Presidents of Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey, in a ceremony held in Kars (Turkey) to the beginning of the construction of the Trans-Anatolian Pipeline (TANAP), a project through which the European Union hopes to build a series of pipelines that will connect suppliers, not only in the Caspian Basin, but also in the Middle East, to European markets. Thus, the first gas destined for Europe, through TANAP will come from Azerbaijan, but due to the inability of this Caucasian state to produce enough gas for export, as the initial capacity of the trans-Anatolian pipeline is 16 billion cubic meters, with an increase expected to reach 60 billion cubic meters, Turkmenistan, with a huge production capacity, over 17 trillion cubic meters of gas, has become a serious option to contribute to TANAP.[2] [3] The emergence of the Turkmen state in a new European gas transport project is not a surprising move, as the European Union considers Turkmenistan an important partner for the expansion of the Southern Corridor, by developing the Trans-Caspian pipeline and connecting Turkmen gas to that route (via Azerbaijan), bringing volumes of gases ranging between 45 and 90 billion cubic meters / year (representing 10-15% of total EU consumption). Turkmenistan's geopolitical importance comes from its energy resources, with the country holding 17.5 trillion cubic meters of natural gas, 9.4% of the world's proven resources.[4] Thus, there is a real interest from the European Union in its cooperation with the Central Asian state in the field of energy, but the issue of human rights violations in Turkmenistan has been a major obstacle to the legally conclusion of any agreement. An example of this could be the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA), which Turkmenistan signed with the EU in 1998, but which has not yet been ratified due to the resistance of the European Parliament and certain EU Member States, in protest against Turkmenistan's negative human rights record.[5] On 12 September 2011, the EU's Foreign Affairs Council agreed to give the European Commission a mandate to negotiate with Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan on the trans-Caspian gas pipeline.

The ambitious Trans-Caspian project to transport gas from Turkmenistan to Azerbaijan via the Caspian Sea has returned to the attention of important members of the bloc, who want to resume talks with the Turkmen state. France hosted in Paris a series of political consultations on various areas of interest to both states, including collaboration in implementing the development of the Trans-Caspian Pipeline project, as a particularly important extension of the Southern Corridor.[6]

The European Union seems to be moving strategically in terms of its energy supply, by playing an important card with the opening of the Southern Gas Corridor. The Corridor in turn includes four important routes, the Trans-Caspian route (Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline), route connecting Turkmenistan to Azerbaijan, South Caucasus Pipeline route connecting Azerbaijan to Turkey via Georgia, Trans-Anatolian gas pipeline, the central part of the corridor, route that delivers gas on the Turkish territory to Greece, and the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline linking Turkey to Italy via Greece and Albania. The development of this energy network (a middle route) comes as a result of political calculations within the EU to reduce not only the dependence on Russia, but also to develop an alternative route for the imports of Central Asian energy supplies bypassing the traditional northern route via Russia.

[1] https://thediplomat.com/2017/06/no-europe-wont-get-turkmen-gas-by-2019/.

[2] https://www.rferl.org/a/energy-pipelines-turkmenistan-former-soviet-europe/26974648.html.

[3] http://www.tanap.com/tanap-project/why-tanap/.

[4] http://www.euractiv.com/section/global-europe/opinion/turkmenistan-looks-to-the-west/.

[5] https://eeas.europa.eu/headquarters/headquarters-homepage_en/4077/EU-Turkmenistan%20relations.

[6] https://en.trend.az/casia/turkmenistan/2824487.html.

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