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    The EU's Non Energy Union



EU member states follow their own gas strategies regardless of Energy Union rhetoric

by: Ioannis Michaletos

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Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), Top Stories, Pipelines, Security of Supply, Azerbaijan-Georgia-Romania-Interconnection (AGRI) , Ionian Adriatic Pipeline (IAP), Nord Stream Pipeline, Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) , Trans-Anatolian Gas Pipeline (TANAP) , Trans-Caspian Pipeline, Turk/Turkish Stream, News By Country, Azerbaijan, Germany, Russia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Austria, Georgia, Greece, Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, Spain, United States, Uzbekistan, Balkans/SEE Focus, Energy Union

The EU's Non Energy Union

The European Union's all-encompassing long-term strategy, known as the Energy Union, seems to be out of context when observing current developments and especially in the natural gas sector. Each country or groups of states follow their own policies and make or break alliances as suited to their national interests and wider visions. Below, a set of present day developments is going to be presented so as to illustrate the case and the factors involved.

The recent Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) introduced an "unexpected" upturn when Gazprom announced that it will proceed in with Nord Stream 2 phase together with E.ON, Shell and OMV. Moreover, BASF was also noted as a possible partner to decide on its inclusion by September 2015.

This new route will run in parallel with the already operational Nord Stream and it is envisaged it will be completed by 2019 and will be able to carry up to 55 bcm per annum. Effectively this project renders the unstable role of Ukraine as a transit route for Russian exports into Europe and further elevates German territory as the ultimate gas hub in Europe, a long-term national priority for Germany. Despite numerous analyses by mostly eastern US political papers, there seems no way that major economic powers in Europe/Eurasia such as Germany would relinquish their special and very profitable but also industrially vital relationship with Russia over Ukraine's geopolitical brinkmanship. Furthermore, the Energy Union as it has been beginning to take shape under Maroš Šefčovič directorship seems to have been shaped more on rhetoric and sentimentalism rather than the hard and cold logic of geo-economic relations. Hence Nord Stream 2 also contradicts recent Gazprom initiatives to construct Turkish Stream as only one of the two could be established due to mass quantities having been already allocated.

Moving into the Balkans, the Greek government, already embroiled in hard bargaining over its debt, seems eager to proceed with Turkish Stream and has signed a "political declaration memorandum" with the Russian government. More interestingly, Greek Foreign Affairs Minister Nikos Kotzias at a recent visit to Belgrade complained that Athens is being frowned upon for attempting to be involved with Turkish Stream, while its Northern partners proceed with their own plans which are of a competitive nature.

Similar comments were made by the Serbian side which has already complained that Northern EU states want to be exclusive importers of Russian gas and excluded the Balkans. Nevertheless, Athens still strives for the project which was the top item in the agenda for Kotzias when meeting his counterparts in Serbia but also in FYROM.

Meanwhile, Romania follows its own individual course away from Germany and from the rest of the Balkan states. The Energy Ministry in Bucharest unraveled the two basic versions of the Azerbaijan-Georgia-Romania Interconnector (AGRI). The first plan calls for a 5 bcm per year transfer via LNG from Georgia to Constanta in Romania and the second option is for 8 bcm per year. The project has been pending since 2010 and the quantities are deemed as small for the EU's overall needs, but Bucharest assures its partners that it aims to open the Caspian Basin producers (Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan) with far larger supplies sometime after 2025. Interestingly enough that is exactly the assumption of the designers of the TANAP-TAP-IAP system of pipelines, commonly known as the Southern Gas Corridor, thus it becomes clear that competing projects have been taken off by different countries, aiming at the same producers, regardless of the fact that supplies are far from being tapped either in the short term or in the long run.

Conclusively it is becoming obvious day by day that the Energy Union has strategic deficiencies in terms of implementation since diverging interests of a vital nature regarding energy security interlinked with geopolitical considerations are nullifying any common stance. Additionally, other countries such as Spain and Portugal are relying on their plans for LNG introduction and their strong bonds with the North African producers, while Turkey, being of course an outsider but with a strong influence in the EU, follows its own individualistic natural gas strategy.