20th Mar 2018

Azerbaijan dangles EU gas bonanza

  • Barroso collects honorary degree while in Baku last year (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

Azerbaijan says it might sell up to 50 billion cubic metres (bcm) of gas a year to the EU in future. But it wants more than just money in return.

Rovnag Abdullayev, the head of the country's top energy firm, Socar, told diplomats, officials and press at a meeting in Brussels on Tuesday (13 November): "Our overall export potential will be 40-50 bcm by 2025 and most of this will be destined for European markets."

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

The huge figure would account for 10 percent of EU gas consumption.

It would also break dependency on Russian gas on the EU's eastern flank. Another Azerbaijani energy expert at the event noted that EU countries which get their gas from Russia's Gazprom tend to pay 15 percent less for it if they have alternative suppliers.

Baku will next year decide how much gas it sets aside for its new EU-bound pipeline, which is to run through Turkey to either Austria or Italy.

The meeting in Brussels was held to mark the opening of Socar's new office in the EU capital.

The 100-square-metre-or-so property, on Rondpoint Schuman in the heart of the EU quarter, currently employs three people but is hiring more staff.

Azerbaijan's EU ambassador, Fuad Iskenderov, called it "a new and very important beginning in shaping more friendly relations between the EU and Baku."

But for his part, the country's deputy foreign minister, Araz Azimov, indicated that if the Union wants the gas, it should designate Azerbaijan as a "strategic partner" - a special status reserved for powers such as China, Russia or the US, which comes with regular summits.

Azerbaijan is currently part of the EU's "Eastern Partnership" policy.

The policy also covers Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine and envisages lower-profile "association agreements" and visa-free travel "in the long-term."

"Do I need this approach? I think, I don't ... The time has come to elaborate a strategic relationship," Azimov said.

He also called for more EU pressure on Armenia to make concessions on Nagorno-Karabakh, a chunk of Azerbaijan's territory which it occupied during a brutal ethnic war 20 years ago.

He later told EUobserver it would help to let Azerbaijan-friendly countries, such as Switzerland and Turkey, have more say in the Minsk Group, a body of international mediators on the conflict, which is currently dominated by Armenia-friendly states, France, Russia and the US.

The EU has complicated relations with Azerbaijan.

On the one hand, its top officials, Jose Manuel Barroso and Herman Van Rompuy, go back and forth to Baku on charm trips.

But on the other hand, its lousy track record on democracy and human rights is a source of embarrassment.

In September, the EU complained when Azerbaijan pardoned and promoted a soldier who butchered an Armenian officer with an axe while he slept in his digs during a Nato event in Hungary.

Last week, the EU's digital affairs commissioner, Neelie Kroes, while visiting the Azerbaijani capital for a UN meeting, caused a stink when she criticised Baku for routinely jailing and beating journalists.

The head of the President's chancellery, Novruz Mammadov, in an interview with state media called her "deceitful, biased and detached from reality."

When EUobserver asked the deputy foreign minister if Kroes' remarks might hurt energy relations, Azimov said that democracy and gas are separate subjects.

He refrained from criticising her further, saying only that people should spend more time in the country to learn what it is really like.

But Kroes' own colleague, energy commissioner Gunther Oettinger, whose job it is to get the pipeline built, did not hold back.

In his speech at the Socar event, he called Azerbaijan a "wonderful country" and said he is "confident [EU-Azerbaijani ties] will develop into a strong strategic partnership."

Asked afterwards by this website what he thought of Kroes' remarks, he said: "I think it is arrogant to criticise them [Azerbaijan] from a Brussels perspective. They are by far the most advanced on this [on human rights] compared to other countries in the region - Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan."


Four years on – but we will not forget illegally-occupied Crimea

Together with many other partners, including the United States, Canada and Norway, the European Union has implemented a policy of non-recognition and sanctions regimes, targeting people and entities that have promoted Russia's illegal annexation.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceConmtroversial Turkish Azerbaijani Gas Pipeline Gets Major EU Loan
  2. World VisionSyria’s Children ‘At Risk of Never Fully Recovering', New Study Finds
  3. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMeets with US Congress Member to Denounce Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  4. Martens CentreEuropean Defence Union: Time to Aim High?
  5. UNESDAWatch UNESDA’s President Toast Its 60th Anniversary Year
  6. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Condemns MEP Ana Gomes’s Anti-Semitic Remark, Calls for Disciplinary Action
  7. EPSUEU Commissioners Deny 9.8 Million Workers Legal Minimum Standards on Information Rights
  8. ACCAAppropriate Risk Management is Crucial for Effective Strategic Leadership
  9. EPSUWill the Circular Economy be an Economy With no Workers?
  10. European Jewish CongressThe 2018 European Medal of Tolerance Goes to Prince Albert II of Monaco
  11. FiscalNoteGlobal Policy Trends: What to Watch in 2018
  12. Human Rights and Democracy NetworkPromoting Human Rights and Democracy in the Next Eu Multiannual Financial Framework

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUDigital Cooperation a Priority for China-EU Relations
  2. ECTACompetition must prevail in the quest for telecoms investment
  3. European Friends of ArmeniaTaking Stock of 30 Years of EU Policy on the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict: How Can the EU Contribute to Peace?
  4. ILGA EuropeCongratulations Finland!
  5. EUobserverNow Hiring! Sales Associate With 2+ Years Experience
  6. EUobserverNow Hiring! Finance Officer With Accounting Degree or Experience
  7. UNICEFCyclone Season Looms Over 720,000 Rohingya Children in Myanmar & Bangladesh
  8. European Gaming & Betting AssociationEU Court: EU Commission Correct to Issue Guidelines for Online Gambling Services
  9. Mission of China to the EUChina Hopes for More Exchanges With Nordic, Baltic Countries
  10. Macedonian Human Rights MovementCondemns Facebook for Actively Promoting Anti-Macedonian Racism
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersGlobal Seed Vault: Gene Banks Gather to Celebrate 1 Million Seed Collections
  12. CECEIndustry Stakeholders Are Ready to Take the Lead in Digital Construction