Turkish Stream and Geopolitical Games in Europe

The Turkish Stream pipeline project seems to be the most viable option for delivering Russian natural gas to EU bypassing the unstable Ukraine, Valdai Club expert Gurkan Kumbaroglu believes.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s meeting with Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has revived the Turkish Stream project. Initially, the project was planned to deliver 63 billion cubic meters of gas per year through four parallel pipelines. Later the capacity was reduced to 32 billion cubic meters with the expectation that two pipelines divert to Bulgaria. 

The timing of the Erdoğan-Putin bilateral summit appears to be crucial in the sense that it comes a week after Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borisov’s statement that Russia and Bulgaria will set up working groups that will seek ways to restore energy cooperation and resume work on the South Stream pipeline project which was abandoned in December 2014 as a result of Brussels’ opposition since the project violated the European Union's Third Energy Package. 

Clearly, the Third Energy Package is still in place and the same conditions that made the South Stream project impossible are valid today. Accordingly, it is difficult to understand the motivation underlying the Bulgarian dream of reviving South Stream. May be Bulgaria, one of EU’s poorest states in terms of per-capita income, have found a way to by-pass the Third Energy Package? Or is Bulgaria considering exit from the EU like Britain did recently? There does not seem any other way for the South Stream project to be implemented. 

The outlook for Nord Stream 2 is not bright either as the project has become one of the most controversial topics in European energy policy bringing Central and Eastern European countries against Germany under the claim that the project would have potentially destabilizing geopolitical consequences and could pose certain risks to the energy security of Central and Eastern Europe. Under these circumstances, it is likely that the Turkish Stream project will get back to its original capacity of 63 billion cubic meters of gas per year. 

It is interesting to observe geopolitical games and tension in Europe becoming more and more intense and multifaceted, at a time when efforts on regional coordination and collaboration become more intense in Central Asia. Just one day prior to his meeting with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Iranian President Hassan Rohani and Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev in the Azerbaijani capital Baku. A historical event which marks the first time the three nations held such a meeting. The aim of the summit was to facilitate the development of the economic potential of the region and strengthen ties between the countries. 

The convergence policy can also develop towards cooperation on shelf areas of the Caspian sea. At a time of a dynamic energy landscape with historical happenings in Eurasia, another historical event is coming up very soon. The International Association for Energy Economics IAEE organizes its First Eurasian Conference in Baku on 28-31 August 2016 under the title “Energy Economics Emerging from the Caspian Region: Challenges and Opportunities”.
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.