Thursday

23rd May 2019

Greece and Hungary sign up to Russia gas pipeline

  • The Budapest meeting comes amid Russian attempts to split the EU over Ukraine (Photo: Axel Buhrmann)

Greece and Hungary have endorsed plans for a Russian gas pipeline in the latest blow to EU unity on the Ukraine crisis.

Their foreign ministers, Nikos Kotzias and Peter Szijjarto, as well as counterparts from Serbia, Macedonia, and Turkey added their names to a declaration on the “Turkish Stream” project in Budapest on Tuesday (7 April).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

The text says they “expressed … support to create a commercially viable option of route and source diversification for delivering natural gas from the Republic of Turkey through the territories of our countries to the countries of Central and South Eastern Europe”.

It calls for the EU to co-fund related infrastructure, claiming the pipeline “would … make a significant contribution to the overall energy security of Europe and must therefore be a common responsibility of the European Union”.

It also voices interest in “interconnecting the natural gas infrastructures of our countries with European Union financial assistance”.

Russian leader Vladimir Putin last year in Ankara said he'll build Turkish Stream, a pipeline under the Black Sea to Turkey, after the EU blocked construction of South Stream, a pipeline under the Black Sea to Bulgaria.

He said Turkish Stream will terminate at a new trading hub on the Greek-Turkish border.

He added that when it’s built, he'll stop supplies to the EU via Ukraine and that if the EU wants the Russian gas it should pay for new infrastructure in south-east Europe.

The European Commission blocked South Stream on grounds it violated EU anti-monopoly laws.

Its former energy commissioner, Gunther Oettinger, also criticised it on strategic grounds, saying it would be inappropriate to take part in the project in the context of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.

Its new energy chief, Maros Sefcovic, is equally critical of Turkish Stream, which EU diplomats see as a political project designed to undermine Ukraine and increase EU dependence on Russia.

Hot air?

The Budapest communique underlines that it's a statement of “political intent only, and that further exchange of views and dialogue is needed”.

The Turkish minister, Bozkir, also told Hungarian media that “after the project’s feasibility studies are over, we’ll be able to give it a more qualitative estimate”.

The caveats come amid Turkish scepticism that Turkish Stream will come to be, because Russia lacks money and because its capacity exceeds the region's requirements.

“Frankly, nobody in Turkey is taking it very seriously,” a Turkish source told EUobserver after Putin unveiled Turkish Stream in Ankara last year.

“In the present climate, the Russians feel isolated. So they have the same reflex as the Iranians used to have - to announce some kind of new project with Turkey, and the whole idea is to show they still have international partners”.

EU unity

The Budapest meeting is a blow to EU unity on the Ukraine crisis despite the pipeline’s dim prospects.

Russia is courting Cyprus, Greece, Hungary, and Italy as potential veto-wielders on EU plans to extend economic sanctions before they expire in July.

The Greek PM, Alexis Tsipras, is to meet Putin in Moscow on Wednesday, following earlier Putin meetings with Cypriot, Hungarian, and Italian leaders.

Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman, told the Tass news agency on Tuesday that Russia might exempt Greece from Russian sanctions on EU food exports.

“We co-operate in agriculture, and we can fix a decline in trade in this sphere linked to the forced introduction [by Russia] of retaliatory measures”, he said.

Nikolay Fyodorov, Russia’s agriculture minister, told Tass that Cyprus and Hungary might also get exemptions.

The Greek energy minister, Panagiotis Lafazanis, said: "I have a feeling that the visit of Alexis Tsipras to Moscow and his meeting with Vladimir Putin may become an important milestone”.

“The new chapter in the development of Greek-Russian co-operation, which will also include the Russian gas pipeline on Greek territory, may bring drastic and very positive changes".

Gazprom chief warns EU on higher gas prices

Gazprom chief Alexei Miller has said the EU's planned energy union will raise the cost of Russian gas and warned that his company will stop supplying gas through Ukraine in 2019.

News in Brief

  1. Poll: Denmark set to double number of liberal MEPs
  2. European brands 'breaking' chemical safety rules
  3. Report: Merkel was lobbied to accept EU top job
  4. May struggling to get Brexit deal passed at fourth vote
  5. German MPs show interest in 'Magnitsky' sanctions
  6. CoE: Rights violations in Hungary 'must be addressed'
  7. EU affairs ministers rubber-stamp new ban on plastics
  8. Private companies campaign to boost turnout in EU poll

Planned German coal exit boosts case for Nord Stream 2

German commission recommends phasing out coal power over the next 19 years - which will provide additional arguments to build the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline from Russia, which both the European Commission and the US have reservations about.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  3. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  8. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  9. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  10. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  11. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us