5th Mar 2024

Turkey plays politics with EU pipeline scheme

The EU risks continued energy dependency on Russia and a sharp rise in natural gas prices unless it unblocks EU accession talks with Turkey, Ankara indicated on Friday (8 May).

At an energy summit in Prague, Turkish President Abdullah Gul signed a declaration promising to close an inter-governmental agreement (IGA) in June on building the Nabucco gas pipeline through his country.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Get the EU news that really matters

Instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • Turkey's Abdullah Gul (r) meets Czech leader Topolanek in Prague (Photo: eu2009.cz)

But he linked the IGA deal to the EU's opening the energy chapter of Turkey's accession negotiations, blocked by Cyprus due to a long-standing territorial dispute.

"In order to be more successful, it is of great importance that co-operation and solidarity exist on both sides," Mr Gul said. "We believe the opening of the negotiations on the energy chapter will accordingly provide great benefits."

The Nabucco pipeline, which cannot go ahead without the IGA, is a project to pump by 2020 25 billion cubic metres (bcm) a year of Caspian Sea basin gas directly to the EU, bypassing Russia.

The pipeline would reduce the impact on the EU of any future Russian gas cut-offs and complicate Russian plans to put gas prices on a higher footing for the long-term.

European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso in Prague on Thursday downplayed Turkey's Nabucco-accession link. "He [Mr Gul] did not make any kind of conditionality," the commission president said.

The commission's ambassador to Turkey, Marc Pierini, speaking to press in Ankara the same day, was less diplomatic, however.

"Turkey is not formally linking Nabucco to Cyprus blocking the energy chapter in the Council [the EU member states' secretariat], but it is part of their understanding of the issue," he said. "It is a political play within the Council."

Ankara's negotiating position is weakened by the fact it needs extra Caspian gas as much as the EU, the Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA) told EUobserver.

"It's own gas use is growing. It consumed 16 bcm in 2002 and 37 bcm in 2008," the IEA's Ian Cronshaw said. "Sixty three percent of its gas comes from Russia and they got cut off in the Ukrainian crisis as well," he added, referring to January's Russia-Ukraine gas crunch.

Turkmenistan disappoints

In a second niggle at the Prague summit, world number four gas owner Turkmenistan did not sign the EU declaration pledging future gas volumes for Nabucco.

Turkmenistan sent its number two official, Tachberdy Tagiev, to Prague, and two days before the summit released a political prisoner, Mukhametkuli Aymuradov, auguring well for EU relations. But it did not put pen to paper on the day.

"Azerbaijan [which did sign] is a European country which has European aspirations. Turkmenistan is a Central Asian country that doesn't have such aspirations, so that's where I would look for the reason," Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek said.

The political question marks hanging over Nabucco and other pipelines in the "Southern Corridor" region are preventing EU energy companies, such as Germany's RWE, from moving ahead with contracts.

"What is very helpful is a unified political signal supporting the idea of a Southern Corridor in general," RWE spokesman Michael Rosen told this website.

EU docks €32m in funding to UN Gaza agency pending audit

The European Commission will release €50m out of €82m in funds for the UN aid agency (UNRWA) operating in Gaza. The remaining €32m will come pending an audit. The commission has received no evidence to support Israeli allegations against UNRWA.

Russian oligarchs failed to get off EU blacklist

Hungary failed to get three Russian and three Chinese names deleted, as the EU approved its 13th package of sanctions ahead of an anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.


The macabre saga of Navalny's corpse

With Alexei Navalny's funeral in Moscow on Friday, Vladimir Putin's regime haven't just insulted his mother and widow with their treatment of his corpse — they've breached international treaties and conventions.

Latest News

  1. EU must overhaul Africa trade offer to parry China, warns MEP
  2. EU watchdog faults European Commission over Libya
  3. Hungary's Ukrainian refugees in two minds as relations sour
  4. The six-hour U-turn that saw the EU vote for austerity
  5. Defence, von der Leyen, women's rights, in focus This WEEK
  6. The farming lobby vs Europe's wolves
  7. EU socialists fight battle on two fronts in election campaign
  8. EU docks €32m in funding to UN Gaza agency pending audit

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  2. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries
  3. European Citizen's InitiativeThe European Commission launches the ‘ImagineEU’ competition for secondary school students in the EU.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  5. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  6. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us