Breakthrough in EU gas supply
Joint Declaration with Azerbaijan guarantees the Southern Gas CorridorMaria Koleva
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger made a strong start in Baku, the first stopover in their Caspian tour.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger made a strong start in Baku, the first stopover in their Caspian tour. President Barroso and Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev signed a joint declaration on natural gas supply from Baku to Europe. In exchange for ensuring substantial volumes of gas to the EU, Azerbaijan will get guaranteed access to European markets. Sources in the Commission reveal the declaration is and important step towards establishment of the Southern Gas Corridor and diversification of energy supplies to Europe.
This is a major breakthrough, President Barroso underscored adding the agreement secures Europe's direct access to natural gas from the Caspian basin, which enables realisation of the Southern Corridor. This new supply route will enhance the energy security of European consumers and businesses, he stressed.
With gas imports climbing over the coming decades, the EU needs new supplier nations and Azerbaijan is among the most favoured in addition to our established partners, the Energy Commissioner Oettinger said.
The Southern Corridor provides for construction of several gas pipeline falling back on Caspian gas supplies. One of them is Nabucco pipeline project (Turkey-Bulgaria-Romania-Hungary-Austria) planned to bring 31 bcm per year of natural gas from Central Asia / South Caucasus / Middle East to the EU. According to the plans, construction of the pipeline is scheduled to start this year and the first volumes of natural gas will flow in 2014. the other route is Interconnector Turkey-Greece-Italy (ITGI), which, like Nabucco, is backed by the EC. The other projects are White Stream and TAP (a project to connect Albania and Italy). Nabucco is designed to supply gas to EU borders using a brand new pipeline while TAP and ITGI require existing infrastructure fortification in non-EU nations. The Southern Corridor involves Turkey as a key transit country.
The Baku document reiterates the special significance of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline and the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas pipeline for transportation of energy resources from Azerbaijan and other Caspian countries. Both parties confirmed the importance of EU-Azerbaijan energy relations enshrined in the Memorandum of Understanding of November 2006, its provisions signed two years later and in the energy declaration of the Prague Summit in May 2009.
This first written document for gas supplies from Baku to the EU, sets out the common objective is to see the Southern Corridor established and operational as soon as possible and to establish the Republic of Azerbaijan as a substantial contributor to it. Transportation, marketing and allocation of the gas produced in Azerbaijan will entail no discriminatory legal, regulatory or trade conditions. Meanwhile, days ahead of the visit, the consortium running Nabucco - the most competitive project in the Southern Gas Corridor - welcomed Barroso and Oettinger to Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan in a special statement for the media ezpressing its support for the EU officials initiative to promote the project. Nabucco Gas Pipeline International points out 2011 is a paramount year for Nabucco because of the decisions which will affect future EU energy supplies. The consortium backs the efforts of EU institutions to bolster the dialogue and cooperation with Central Asian countries and believes particular economic projects such as Nabucco will bring closer the two regions.
According to observers, the upcoming stopover at Turkmenistan hides more unknowns, but the good start made in Baku gives hopeful prospects for the Southern Corridor and Europe.