The foreign ministers of Hungary, Greece, Serbia and Macedonia have added their names to a declaration on “Turkish Stream” project earlier today (7 April), endorsing plans to build a new Russian gas pipeline. This is widely seen as yet another blow to EU unity with respect to its strategy to Russia in general and over the Ukraine crisis in particular. During today’s meeting in Budapest, which took place just ahead of Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s two-day visit to Moscow, senior officials from several European states sought to explore their potential participation in Russian plans for the new Turkish Stream pipeline.
The pipeline, announced by Russian President Vladimir Putin during his state visit to Turkey last December, is designed to replace the earlier South Stream project while bypassing Ukraine and also Bulgaria, which eventually decided to withdraw its support to the South Stream. Russia reportedly plans to construct the offshore section of Turkish Stream to the European territory of Turkey, and bring its gas to a new gas-trading hub situated at the Turkish-Greek border.
The text of the declaration says that the signatories “expressed … support to create a commercially viable option of route and source diversification for delivering natural gas from the Republic of Turkey through the territories of our countries to the countries of Central and South Eastern Europe”. Furthermore, the declaration also appeals to the European Union to play an important role in the whole project by helping fund the necessary infrastructure because the pipeline “would … make a significant contribution to the overall energy security of Europe and must therefore be a common responsibility of the European Union”.
Meanwhile, the European Commission had blocked South Stream because it sees it as violating EU anti-monopoly laws. It is telling that both the former and the present EU Energy Commissioners criticized the South Stream project citing mainly strategic grounds. While the current Energy Commissioner, Maros Sefcovic, has denounced the South Stream for being a political project designed to weaken Ukraine and increase EU dependence on Russia, his predecessor explicitly linked the project to conflict in Ukraine saying that it would be highly inappropriate to take part in the project in the context of Russia’s aggression against its smaller neighbor.