Saturday

1st Oct 2016

Russia and Turkey restart talks on EU gas pipeline

  • Gazprom also plans to build a new pipeline to Germany (Photo: gazprom.com)

Top executives from Russian energy firm Gazprom will in Turkey on Wednesday (31 August) resume work on a potentially divisive gas pipeline project to the EU.

Alexander Medvedev, Gazprom’s deputy CEO, told Russia’s Tass news agency that he and the firm’s CEO, Alexei Miller, will take part in the delegation on the Turkish Stream pipeline.

"They [the talks] are actually under way. This process began at the [recent] meeting of the Turkish economy minister with Russia’s energy minister. They agreed on the resumption of the project”, Medvedev said.

“Alexei Miller’s visit to Turkey and his meeting with his vis-a-vis are scheduled for tomorrow [Wednesday]. I'm also going there, the process is actually going on," he said.

The Turkish Stream pipeline, which is to run under the Black Sea via Turkey to Greece, was designed to replace South Stream, a pipeline from Russia to Bulgaria.

Russia scrapped South Stream because under EU competition law Gazprom would have had to split up its ownership of the project and let rival firms use the pipe.

It then scrapped Turkish Stream after Turkey, last year, shot down a Russian jet which it said had crossed into its airspace from Syria. But the Turkish leader, in June, apologised to Russia’s Vladimir Putin, whom he met in Russia earlier this month to reset relations.

Russia is also planning to build a new pipeline to Germany, Nord Stream 2, and has said that it would stop delivering gas to the EU via Ukraine from 2020, when the new pipes are in place.

EU divisions

Turkish Stream had earlier faced European Commission criticism because it would force EU states, such as Greece, to build new infrastructure to connect to Turkey, while abandoning existing transit pipelines to Ukraine.

Nord Stream 2 has raised complaints from eastern EU states, such as Poland, who said it would help Russia to cut off supplies to their region and would harm Ukraine at a time when it was trying to align itself with the West.

Bulgaria has also complained that if Turkish Stream was built it would make a mockery of its loss of South Stream in order to comply with EU law.

Amid falling gas demand, low oil prices, and legal hurdles, it remains uncertain which, if any, of the projects will go ahead.

But the promise of potential new gas income is helping Russia to win friends in the EU in its bid to end the sanctions regime over Ukraine, EU diplomats have said.

Putin’s promises

For his part, Bulgarian prime minister Boiko Borisov, a sanctions critic, earlier this month spoke with Putin by phone about reviving South Stream.

Speaking to EUobserver last year, a Slovak diplomat compared the pipeline projects to Russia’s “disinformation” campaign on the Ukraine conflict.

“Some EU leaders keep meeting Putin and keep believing what he says. But he says different things to each of them and his actions don’t match his words,” the diplomat said.

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