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19th Oct 2019

Russia frets over EU plans to link up Caspian gas fields

  • Gas from the Caspian region has until now been a Russian monopoly (Photo: lib.utexas.edu)

Moscow expressed its "disappointment" on Tuesday (13 September) over EU plans to build a Trans-Caspian pipeline connecting large Turkmen gas reserves to Azerbaijan, offering an alternative to the Russian monopoly on gas transports from that region.

The Trans-Caspian pipe would allow gas-rich Turkmenistan to join Azerbaijan in exporting directly to Europe via Nabucco, a planned 1200-km pipeline crossing Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary.

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Talks on this EU pet project have stalled in recent years precisely due to fears that there is not enough Azeri gas to make it viable.

The EU decision, announced on Monday, "seems to have been adopted without taking into account the internationally accepted legal and geopolitical situation in the Caspian basin," a statement from the Russian foreign ministry said.

It added that EU nations have no experience developing such complex projects and expressed its "surprise" that the first link would run under a body of water that is so far removed from Europe.

Moscow also suggested that as a country bordering the Caspian Sea, Russia could veto any international agreement allowing for the pipeline to be built.

But EU experts suggest that the Azeri-Turkmen link can be done without Russia's permission, by connecting the two countries' respective offshore gas fields in the Caspian, for which a bilateral agreement is sufficient.

"We have the intention of achieving this as soon as possible," EU energy commissioner Guenther Oettinger said in a statement, adding that it is important for the EU to get new sources of gas. Currently, the bloc imports a quarter of its gas consumption from Russia via Ukraine. A considerable part of that is Turkmen gas, transported through Soviet-era pipelines crossing Russia.

Nabucco chief Reihard Mitschek welcomed the EU plan to develop a Trans-Caspian pipeline and said that together with his project it "offers the most competitive export route for Caspian gas.”

EU clings to hopes of Trans-Caspian gas pipeline

The European Commission still believes Europe can break Russia's stranglehold on Central Asia gas supplies with a Trans-Caspian pipeline, but a new Russian deal and internal EU divisions are hampering the project.

EU's gas pipe to Caspian Sea faces make or break decision

Caspian countries need to sign supply contracts this year for Europe's long-planned gas pipeline Nabucco if the project is to go ahead, with a ‘big push' expected from the EU commission and member states involved, one of the stakeholders told this website.

Divisive gas pipeline launched under EU banner

The leaders of Germany, the Netherlands and Russia, the prime minister of France and an EU commissioner have celebrated the launch of a new gas pipeline that some fear could be used to divide the EU.

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