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19th Jan 2020

EU says Gazprom’s Turkey plan 'won't work'

  • Gazprom has already bought a lot of pipes for the defunct South Stream project (Photo: south-stream-offshore.com)

The European Commission’s energy chief has once again poured scorn on Russia’s plan to build a new gas pipeline to Turkey.

Maros Sefcovic told press in Brussels on Wednesday (4 February) the project - Turkish Stream - “won’t work” because of “simple maths” on supply and demand and because of contractual obligations.

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Russian supplier Gazprom says it will deliver 63 billion cubic metres (bcm) of gas a year to the Turkish-Greek border and will be operational from 2019.

It also said it will stop using Ukraine transit pipes to the EU when it is up and running.

But Sefcovic noted that Turkey itself needs just 15bcm while countries in south-east Europe need a further 15 only.

“So why do you need to ship more than 60bcm and tell the Europeans: ‘OK. Now build your pipelines to the Turkish border’?”, he said.

“It’s simply not viable to suddenly change everything”, he added on switching from Ukraine to Turkey.

“This won’t work and I cannot see how this will be the final solution. I think we’ll have to come back to a debate on what should be the future of this project”.

Sefcovic also said Gazprom is tied to a different model of gas deliveries in contracts with EU distributors.

He said several EU-based companies “confirmed” to him “there are very clear [contractual] articles about the place of delivery and this is not the Greek-Turkish border”.

He complained about Gazprom’s lack of respect for EU clients.

He noted that it’s “unusual” that Russia made the Turkish Stream announcement in a press conference in Ankara before telling them first.

“We’re good customers. We’re paying a lot of money. We’re paying on time and we’re paying in hard currency. So I think we should be treated accordingly”.

He stopped short of urging EU states to boycott the Turkish-Greek hub.

But he said countries in south-east and central Europe would be better off building inter-connecting pipes between themselves instead of linking to Gazprom's new "hub".

Energy Union

Sefcovic spoke following talks with fellow commissioners on the “Energy Union”.

The initiative - originally a Polish idea - is to be unveiled on 25 February and to cover five areas: security of supply; market liberalisation; CO2 emissions; renewables; and new technologies.

The commissioner said the Ukraine crisis has created a “clear feeling that, in the 21st century, we shouldn’t spend each summer worrying if we will have secure energy supplies in the winter”.

But despite the feeling, he noted EU states won't agree to joint purchases of Russian gas because western countries want to stick to “market-based principles” even if it means higher rates for easterly EU states.

Russia made the Turkish Stream announcement after saying it will cancel South Stream - a gas pipeline also bypassing Ukraine, but via Bulgaria - due to the commission's legal objections.

Russia and Ukraine, which are at war, have made a deal on gas deliveries up until the end of March.

Analysts warn that if the conflict persists the EU could face severe gas shortages next winter.

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