вторник, 19 мая 2009 г.

Not enough silk for Nabucco

Pyotr ISKENDEROV

The organizers of the new “Drang nach Osten” in Brussels were disappointed with the results of the “Southern Corridor-new Silk Road” conference, which was held in Prague on May 8 as part of the Eastern Partnership Summit Format. It was expected that former Soviet republics, which yet had not been invited to join the Partnership (EU wants Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Egypt and Iraq to comprise the 'new silk route'), would confirm their intention to approve the EU`s energy policy (in which Russia is not viewed as partner). The key moment of the conference would have become the ratification of a political declaration on Nabucco, which says that all EU members countries involved in the project, EU membership candidate Turkey and former Central Asian republics of the Soviet Union should undertake all necessary efforts to sign an intergovernmental agreement on Nabucco by June 2009.

But Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, the countries which are expected to supply gas to the EU through the Nabucco pipe, refused to sign the anti-Russian declaration. The authors of the document did not even mention Moscow as a key EU`s energy partner but attempted to torpedo the agreements Russia had already signed with its partners on purchasing natural gas an its transportation to Europe via the existing pipe lines and the construction of the South Stream gas pipe (from the Black Sea to Bulgaria and further to Italy and Austria).

Why they were in such a hurry? The reason is quite clear. Brussels expects to put the Nabucco gas pipe in operation in 2014 in order to outrun the South Stream, at least for a few months. But since some Balkan states (Bulgaria,Hungary and Serbia) had already signed bilateral agreements with Russia, the EU planned to achieve a deal between a greater number of countries to repudiate the already existing agreements (if not de jure, at least de facto).

The scenario for the 'new silk route' proved once again that the EU leaders yet have not abandoned their Cold War thinking and continue to play geopolitical games which show 'zero result'.

On May 14 President of Bulgaria Georgy Pyrvanov published an article in the country's most circulated Trud newspaper daily. Although the article says nothing about either the Eastern Partnership or the ''new Silk Road”, it is obvious that Mr. Pyrvanov wrote it after the EU had failed to press former Soviet republics on the Nabucco project. He emphasizes the need of cooperation with Russia and suggests that the South Stream project be as important for the EU as Nabucco.

“When we talk about energy security, we can`t ignore Russia. It is necessary to decide whether the diversification policy will be implemented without Russia's participation, or will Russia, EU and other countries rich in energy resources develop their strategic cooperation. Russia will remain Europe's major energy supplier, and thus any attempts to 'isolate' Russia would have undermined the process of diversification and hampered Russia-EU cooperation in many other spheres. In the meantime, partnership with Russia would have put the international energy cooperation on a brand new level”,- President of Bulgaria writes. Mr. Pyrvanov says both projects are necessary in the interests of energy security and due to anticipated gas demand until 2025 and further. “Bulgaria makes its own contribution to the process and will continue the implementation of both projects since for the EU Nabucco is a project of high priority. But I also believe the South Stream must be on the agenda as well. We cannot make far-reaching plans on energy security without Russia. However, we want Moscow to understand that we are going to defend our national interests-like it was during the talks in January 2008, when we signed an equal agreement on the South Stream, and like it was this spring. We should stick to the agreements which have been made”. The Eastern Partnership and the Nabucco project in particular have already faced some financial difficulties. Although the EU leaders were all smiles on 7-8 May in Prague and looked optimistic, the initiators of the Nabucco project say the pipeline is estimated to $7,3billion (about 5,4 billion euros), and all the money will be from the EU budget. At the conference in Prague, the sides approved a program which stipulates a 600-million euro aid to Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Moldavia and Ukraine until 2013.

Apparently, the Eastern Partnership aims to isolate Russia from the process of energy cooperation despite the likelihood of financial and political loses. However, not all countries in Eastern Europe, to say nothing about the leading energy producing countries, are ready to step on this slippery path. Although maybe too cautious, the conclusions made by the President of Bulgaria in his article prove this quite well.

Source:The Strategic Culture Foundation

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