At the official opening of Nord Stream
© AFP / Scanpix

On Sunday Gazprom started constructing the "TurkStream" pipeline, which is another piece of the puzzle for Russia to supply gas to Western Europe by bypassing East European countries. Romas Švedas, who is an independent energy expert, told this to LRT.lt. "Looking at "Nord Stream", which is finished by "Gazprom", „Nord Stream 2" that is in process, claims to the capacities of the "Opal" project and" TurkStream, we can say that Europe not only helps but also allows Russia to implement their energy geopolitics" said the respondent, LRT.lt reported.

On Sunday, Russia started to build a pipeline „TurkStream", which, according to the energy experts, is basically the equivalent of the failed project "South Stream". By building this pipeline, Russia is openly showing their intent to sell gas to EU countries, despite the fact that the Union declares the need to reduce dependence on Russia in regards to the energy resources.

Virgilijus Poderys, who is the chairman of Parliaments Energy Commission, called "TurkStrem" a geopolitical tool that will allow Russia to feed Southern Europe with their gas.

"TurkStream has two strands, one will be for Turkey's domestic consumption, the other for export to southern EU countries. This is the "South Steam" which could have gone through Bulgaria. So far it seems there are countries that want to buy Russian gas, which can go through Greece up to Northern Italy. It is worth to wait but I haven't heard any strong and clear positions for the purchase of gas through „TurkStream".

On one hand, this pipeline is just a „bypass" of Central and Eastern European countries. On the other hand, it's a competition to the possible flow from Caspian Sea. Russia, which supplies the EU with gas, bypasses the requirements of the EU's Third Energy Package (the basis of the package is the separation of supply and production from network exploitation - LRT.lt) – said the MP and energy specialist V. Poderys.

R. Švedas, who is an independent expert on energy, called "TurkStream" an attempt of Russia to bypass Eastern and Central Europe and profit from Western European countries. However, it doesn't match the principles of the EU's energy policy.

"This project should be talked about in the context of the Middle and East Europe geopolitics. Considering that „Nord Stream" has been finished, „Nord Stream 2" and „TurkStrem" are surplus, and economically unjustified political projects. Russia wants to ensure their ability to export gas to Western Europe, bypassing Eastern and Central Europe with both North and South Stream.

That's inconsistent with the EU's energy policy, which aims to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, and the dominant gas supplier that is Russia. Politicians should be concerned" said R. Švedas.

Gazprom is tightening a gas noose around Europe

R. Švedas emphasises that the construction of "TurkStream" is a political and a legal issue, and this kind of issues are quite often resolved in Russia's favour.

"We know that the issue of about "Nord Stream 2" being in compliance with European law, separation of activities is being solved. The same has to be done in the case of "TurkStream" as well. But at this point, "Gazprom" manages to negotiate extremely large discounts and exemptions, which is surprising.

"Nord Stream" was successfully integrated into the EU law, the same with "Nord Stream 2, and the question of "Opal" had been raised too. "Gazprom" wants exclusive rights to the capabilities of the "Opal" pipeline and the European Commission (EC) is too obedient and willing to give them the opportunity. According to independent lawyers, the EC findings don't match up to reality" said the energy expert.

According to R. Švedas, judging from how the "Nord Stream" was implemented, what is the process with "Nord Stream 2", what agreements were made between Gazprom and the EU countries for the "Nabucco" gas pipeline (which failed but aimed to connect Turkey to Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Austria, and reduce Europe's energy dependence on Russia - LRT.lt) substitute, the EU member states fail to maintain their political provisions, while "Gazporom" and Kremlin will continue the project "TurkStream" and reach their goals.

"Looking at "Nord Stream", "Nord Stream 2", claims to "Opal" capabilities and "TurkStream", we can say that Europe helps and allows Russia to implement their energy geopolitics.

"TurkStream", "Opal" and "Nord Stream 2" should be a warning bell to the EU. In my evaluation, it would an important achievement for "Gazprom" and the EU is acting against their own energy policy" said R. Švedas.

If Russia succeeds in implementing all of their planned projects, then the Russian gas pipe noose will encircle Europe, and create conditions to sell gas to Western Europe, at the same time bypassing Central and Eastern European countries.

Can anything stop "TurkStream?

There are not many factors that could stop "TurkStream". Practice shows that Russia knows how to "push through" their energy projects to Europe, there might also be ones who will be willing to buy gas form Russia. It's also likely that economic benefits for Russia in energy geopolitics is not a crucial factor.

Rytas Staselis, an independent expert, says that there are a lot of European companies that are interested in supplying such projects: the construction will need pipes, compressors, engineering solutions.

"Honestly, when the projects like these happen, not necessarily Russian, but also European ones, the eyes of the companies go red and they can give anything for the opportunity to take part in such projects.

There are also countries that wouldn't oppose getting gas in this direction, particularly in Southern Europe. But there are some nuances. Firstly, there's the Turkish factor. On the other hand, there there are great alternatives, as the gas pipeline would go through the Caspian Sea through the Caucasus to Turkey with gas from Azerbaijan. This year there was information about Israeli gas through the Mediterranean Sea" said R. Staselis.

Arvydas Anušauskas, a member of the Parliament's National Security and Defence Committee (NCDC), states that the market will always be willing to buy gas at dumping prices.

"It is also possible to find and intermediaries, who will get offers of great "pocket money". It happened in Lithuania and is happening elsewhere: it seems that Russia sells their gas directly but in most cases this is done by intermediaries, who ensure political support so these projects wouldn't face obstacles", says A. Anušauskas.

R. Staselis said that the Third energy package, is the legal leverage, which could interfere with the "TurkStream" project but R. Švedas has doubts on how effective it is.

"The Third energy package has to be applied to these projects as they aren't according to the general principles of the energy package. However, after the one that is implementing the project addresses the European Commission, conditions for their realisation appear, to match the requirements through a number of exemptions. So the conditions are given for them, even though, they don't match the Third energy package" he says.


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