François Koch (Egmont – Royal Institute for International Relations)
The new Russian gas pipeline project called Turkish Stream, which is projected to lead across the Black Sea towards the Turkish-Greek border, became a substitute for the South Stream pipeline. A failure to execute this project was understandable from the financial perspective since its construction was discussed at a time when the price of gas was high. On the other hand, Turkish Stream is being devised in a period unfavorable for the Russian economy. Russia is, however, acting strategically. If the project is realized, this new situation will bring about a significant shift in gas supply to Europe as a part of Russia’s attempt to completely terminate gas deliveries to the EU via Ukraine.
There are countless potential benefits for the Russian market. One of them is an increase of EU’s dependence on Russian gas supplies. The construction of Turkish Stream will also weaken Ukraine’s position since it will bypass its territory, while, on the other hand, reinforcing Turkey’ position, which will be traversed by the new pipeline. For the EU, the construction can signify a conflict of interest in regard to the planned Trans-Anatolian Gas Pipeline (TANAP), which should ensure the transportation of gas from Azerbaijan to Europe via Turkey. At the same time, Brussels will have to face a growing tension between EU Member States, who need to remain united in their views and strategic perspectives. To that end, it is hardly surprising that Russia is making great effort to improve its relations with Hungary and Greece, hoping that both states would support it in the energy domain in the future.
The construction of the new gas pipeline can have a fundamental impact on the energy security of the European Union. The question is now how the Union will approach the whole project, in particular whether it will stick to a course it’s been pursuing for decades or whether it will decide to change it and take a step towards energy self-sufficiency. Russian Federation, as the biggest supplier of gas for Europe, will probably play an important role in the energy sector even in case the EU sets out in the latter direction. At the moment, it is important for the EU to be active in planning alternative solutions while trying to avoid ambitious, yet infeasible projects.
(The study can be downloaded here)