Turkish, Greek And Tesla Streams Re-routing Energy Supply In Eastern Europe

June 2, 2015

Russia cancelled its South Stream gas pipeline project in December 2014 replacing it with new Turkish Stream pipeline. The follow-up of this Russian-Turkish project is re-routing the energy supply in whole Eastern Europe with Greek and Tesla [Balkan] Stream gas pipelines.

image001The head of Russian gas producer Gazprom stated on 7th May 2015 that the firm had decided to start building the Turkish Stream pipeline and that preparations to build the undersea stretch of the pipeline were under way. During a meeting between Gazprom’s Alexei Miller and Turkish Minister of Energy Taner Yildiz, the parties sent a resounding message to gas markets: the Turkish Stream will be brought on stream in 19 months. Natural Gas Europe reports: “We had very efficient and crucial talks today. It was agreed to bring onstream Turkish Stream and to start gas supplies in December 2016. Gazprom, while implementing its portion of work under the Turkish Stream project, will follow the agreements reached today,” Miller said in a note released on 7th May 2015

“Gazprom has moved to the construction stage of the sea part of the Turkish Stream pipeline,” Gazprom chief executive Alexei Miller said in an interview with a Russian television. The Russian firm may be reviving the infrastructure that it built for the South Stream. South Stream gas pipeline construction in shallow waters will begin in first 10 days of June 2015. The pipes originally bought for South Stream will be used for the Turkish Stream. For laying the pipes in the bottom of Black Sea, Russia rented two pipe-laying vessels from Italian Saipem company in last fall. Following the cancellation of the South Stream pipeline project in late 2014, Gazprom has paid €25 million monthly to Saipem without any usage of the vessels – Castoro Sei and Saipem 7000.

Recently there has been some tensions between Russia and Turkey. Russia’s President Putin participated to the ceremony in Yerevan to commemorate the Armenian victims of the 1915 events, and Turkish leaders have made some critical comments over situation of tatars in Crimea. However now it seems that the Turkish and Russian delegations have renewed their commitment to increase energy ties. (More e.g in NaturalGasEurope ) .

While South Stream Pipeline project was replaced with Turkish Stream and planning is going on to continue project with Greece and Tesla Streams some serious threats still remain that could endanger the projects. These mostly have to deal a reoccurrence of instability in Macedonia [look my article Terrorism in Macedonia Wasn’t An Isolated Act! ]

eu-gas-russia

Gas to Europe

There are three main sources of supply of pipeline gas to Europe. They are Russia, Norway and North Africa. Norway probably will keep or even reduce the volumes. Besides, North Africa provides gas only to Italy and Spain and its volumes have significantly reduced in recent years.

During last years LNG (liquid natural gas) has came more to European gas markets. There is now more LNG gas terminals in Europe and some new terminals will came in 2015 e.g in Poland and Lithuania so in principle it is possible to import LNG from US. However Europe has decreased its LNG imports due its high price; and as Asian LNG import prices as well demand are much more higher than those in Europe it seems that LNG is not real alternative to Russian gas. LNG suppliers have redirected the volumes of liquefied natural gas to other premium markets and Europe can only be guided by those surpluses when they are not in demand in Asia.

The construction of the Trans Anatolian Pipeline, which will connect the South Caucasus Pipeline to the Turkish-Greek border is already initiated and the construction of the Trans Adriatic Pipeline, bringing gas to the Italian market, will follow. These investments will secure some 10 billion cubic metres of gas a year from Azerbaijan by 2019 to the European market.

The Russian gas to Europe has now three main energy high ways: 1st The Nord Stream via Baltic Sea, 2nd Jamal, four pipelines through Belarus and 3rd Transgas or pipelines through Ukraine. More than 86 billion cubic meters (bcm) of the gas exported to Europe by Gazprom passed through Ukraine’s pipeline network in 2013 – about half of the total. There is also some economic reason to re-route Russian gas via Turkish Stream instead of Ukraine as modernising Ukraine’s gas transport system is estimated to cost 19.5 billion dollars.

After building the first Turkish Stream line, the existing Bulgaria Turkey line will be empty, however it can be used for reverse flow to Bulgaria. (Source: NewEurope )

TurkishStream

Re-routing energy supply in Eastern Europe

Turkish Stream will redesign completely the energy supply route in Turkey and Eastern Europe. Gas that is currently transported via the Trans-Balkan Pipeline through Ukraine to Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey will be re-routed so that Turkey will become the first and not the last recipient of gas in the supply chain. One new aspect are gas interconnectors between Central and East European countries. These interconnectors allow a much better crisis supply of gas, together with new reverse-flow capacities.

Gazprom has already told Europe that it plans to cease using its current export route through Ukraine in 2019 and shift those natural gas supplies to the Turkish Stream pipeline. As Russia now begins construction on the first of Turkish Stream’s four parallel pipelines, each with a capacity of about 16 billion cubic meters. Gazprom can use this first pipeline to supply Turkish natural gas market. Three other pipelines can be implemented when EU and especially Central and East European countries decide to build infrastructure to deliver gas from Turkey to European markets currently transported by the Trans-Balkan pipeline (TBP) to Turkey via Ukraine, Moldova, Romania and Bulgaria. The expiration of a transit agreement on Russian gas supply through Ukraine in 2019 along with the completion of Turkish Stream mean that TBP will likely be suspended. This in itself would be beneficial to Turkey as its security of supply would no longer be vulnerable to Russia’s political stand-offs with Ukraine or other eastern European countries along the route.

On 7th April 2015 representatives of five countries – Hungary, Serbia, Macedonia, Greece and Turkey – met in Budapest, announcing the formation of a working group to facilitate natural gas deliveries – specifically infrastructure development – to their markets from gas emanating from Turkey including possible participation in the Turkish Stream pipeline. The group has pledged to meet again in July and hopes to involve Albania and Bosnia & Herzegovina.

As for whether Gazprom can finance its three major pipeline projects the company has a strong balance sheet, relatively low level of net debt and robust cash flow. Considering it has spent $20 billion on transport over the last few years, the spending required on Turk Stream, Power of Siberia and Altai averages about $10 billion/year.

Greece

One of the main factors in Moscow’s shift from South Stream to Turkish Stream was the EU’s Third Energy Package (TEP). Under these rules, a single company cannot own the pipeline through which it also supplies gas. Neither Russia nor Turkey is an EU member, and so neither are bound by the TEP, which makes the construction of Turkish Stream much easier. However, the construction of Turkish Stream is not the only issue at stake. The pipeline will have to stop at the Turkey- Greece border because of the TEP rules, given that Greece is an EU member state.

In order to transport its gas to Greece and onwards, Gazprom needs to use existing interconnectors – either TAP or Interconnector-Turkey-Greece-Italy, including the DESFA-operated Greek National Gas Transmission System (NGTS). Turkish Stream will traverse the Greek territory as ‘Greek Stream’ and then it will spread itself into two routes. Turkish Stream will traverse the Greek territory as ‘Greek Stream’ and then it will spread itself into two routes. A main line towards the North via FYROM and Serbia and one towards Italy, merging itself with the Italy-Greece Interconnector (ITGI) which originally was to transfer Azeri sourced gas from Western Greece to Southern Italy via the Adriatic Sea. It is of interest to note that ITGI is already eligible under the EU’s Projects of Common Interest (PCI) and it is already owned by 50% by the Italian Company Edison which is a subsidiary of the French EDF.

That detail is of great importance regarding the EU Commission’s clauses of the Third Energy Package that will prohibit an involvement of Gazprom in that sector. Thus Greek Stream is envisaged as a 50-50 project between the Greek DEPA (and DESFA) and Gazprom and the remainder would be a DEPA and Edison partnership. It is supposed that the Italian market would also be used as a stage point for the introduction of some quantities of Russian gas into France as well. (Source and more in Natural Gas Europe )

Trans Adriatic Pipeline and the Turkish Stream pipeline will not be competitive, as each of them will have an own role to play. TAP cannot satisfy the huge demands in natural gas of the European states and peoples and that the project would not be an alternative to the Turkish Stream.

The Greek extension of a pipeline to pump Russian natural gas through Turkey to consumers in southern Europe could cost about 2 billion euros and its construction will create about 20 000 working places. An agreement on the construction of the Greek extension of a proposed pipeline to pump Russian natural gas through Turkey to consumers in southern Europe could be signed at the St. Petersburg Economic Forum on 18-20 June 2015.

 shah%20deniz%20southern%20corridor%20bp_f960x260

Tesla Stream

Turkish Stream is replacing the previous South Stream project which Moscow ditched due to EU (and Bulgarian) resistance to unblock construction. The “Tesla Stream” is an offshoot of “Turkish Stream”. The concept is to connect ‘Turkish Stream’, the Russian pipeline to Turkey’s Eastern Thrace region, to a new hub on the Turkish-Greek border. Tesla pipeline would move gas further across the territory of Greece to the former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Serbia, Hungary, reaching the Baumgarten gas hub in Vienna, Austria. So compared to South Stream Turkish and Tesla Streams are detouring through Greece and Macedonia to compensate for the exclusion of Bulgaria.

The foreign ministers of Greece, Macedonia, Serbia and Hungary met 7th Apr. 2015 in Budapest to explore their potential participation in Russian plans for the new Turkish Stream pipeline. In the joint declaration on strengthening cooperation in the energy sphere which was signed at the end of the meeting, the parties “expressed their support for the idea of creating commercially viable routes and sources by supplying natural gas from Turkey to countries in Central and South-Eastern Europe via the territory of the member countries”. It was also emphasised that the pipeline would be fully covered by EU regulations. After this positive response Russia’s President Putin and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras have discussed the construction of the so-called Greek Stream pipeline across Greek territory. ‘Russia confirmed its readiness to consider the issue of funding the public and private Greek companies that would be involved in the project’ reads a note published on the Kremlin’s website, referring to the gas transportation system on the Greek territory. 

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Geopolitical aspect

Russia, Turkey and the West all share one rival in the Balkans: political instability. Located at the confluence of three historic empires, the strip of land between the Mediterranean and the Black Sea has long been the focus of competition among global powers. Now it is just one arena in the standoff between Russia and the West. The United States and the European Union have been involved in the internal politics of the Balkans since NATO committed troops in the aftermath of the Bosnian war and the conflict in Kosovo in the 1990s.

Recently with the help of the local revolutionaries and ethnic terrorists, the West was trying to destabilize Macedonia (FYROM) in order to overthrow the democratically elected government and to withdraw the country from the Tesla Stream. (More background in my article Terrorism in Macedonia Wasn’t An Isolated Act! and  Oil Geopolitics: The South Stream Pipeline Has Been Replaced by “The Balkan Stream”  by Andrew Korybko). Also US has already contacted Greece and expressed the negative stance of Washington regarding the Turkish Stream in general.

The bottom line from my perspective is that Turkish Stream will deliver 14 billion cubic metres per year to the Turkish market and there is a good change that another 49 billion cubic metres Russian gas per year will flow to Europe – partly for fulfilling the contracts already signed – via a new hub on the Turkish-Greek border and through Greece and Tesla Streams.

Ο Αγωγός Balkan StreamIn my opinion it is also noteworthy that Turkish Stream and the creation of a gas hub on the Greek Turkish border, coupled with the planned TAP and TANAP pipelines, give Greece and Turkey more reason to enhance cooperation on energy matters as all these lines are generating remarkable transfer fees for both countries. Similarly also from its side Tesla Stream will create significant transfer fees for Macedonia (FYROM), Serbia, Hungary and Austria in addition to their energy security.

Related article: Is South Stream Pipeline Transforming Itself To “Turk Stream”?

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Is South Stream Pipeline Transforming Itself To “Turk Stream”?

December 3, 2014

We believe that in the current conditions Russia cannot continue with the realisation of this project [South Stream].” (Vladimir Putin)

russia vs euRussia’s $40 billion South Stream gas pipeline project came to reach a standstill on Monday 1st Dec 2014 when, as the WSJ reports, Russian President Vladimir Putin said: “We couldn’t get necessary permissions from Bulgaria, so we cannot continue with the project. We can’t make all the investment just to be stopped at the Bulgarian border.

The main reasons for halting the South Stream are plunging energy prices, stalling European demand, interpretation of the European Commission that all bilateral agreements (IGAs) for the construction of South Stream are all in breach of EU law and mostly the political standoff between the European Union and Moscow over the crisis in Ukraine.

The announcement on scrapping South Stream came during a visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Gazprom chief executive, Alexei Miller, to Turkey, during which Putin proposed building it to Turkey instead, offering its gas at a discount.

South Stream

South Stream is a Russian sponsored natural gas pipeline. As planned, the pipeline would run under the Black Sea to Bulgaria, and continue through Serbia with two branches to Bosnia and Herzegovina and to Croatia. From Serbia the pipelines crosses Hungary and Slovenia before reaching Italy. Its planned capacity is 63 billion cubic metres per year (bcm/y).

The key partner for Russia’s Gazprom in the South Stream project is Italy’s largest energy company, ENI.

Russia signed intergovernmental agreements with:

  • Bulgaria – January 18, 2008;
  • Serbia – January 25, 2008;
  • Hungary – February 28, 2008;
  • Greece – April 29, 2008;
  • Slovenia – November 14, 2009;
  • Croatia – March 2, 2010;
  • Austria – April 24, 2010.

The construction of South Stream started on December 7, 2012 is scheduled to be completed by 2015. The offshore section of the pipeline, which will run in part along the seabed and reach the maximum depth of 2,200 m, will be 931 km long. Each of the four parallel strings of the pipeline will consist of 75,000 pipes, each 12 m long, 81 cm in diameter, 39 mm thick and weighing 9 tonnes.

South Stream and partners

South Stream and partners

Last December (2013), the European Commission said that all bilateral agreements (IGAs) for the construction of South Stream are all in breach of EU law and need to be renegotiated from scratch (Source: Euractiv ).

Field status” as solution

The European Commission threatened to launch legal action on grounds that South Stream violates EU anti-monopoly laws, with Bulgaria halting construction in August 2014. There are two main requirements for the eligibility of major new gas infrastructure projects like South Stream to be developed in the EU in compliance with the European Commission Directive 2009/73/EC concerning common rules for the internal market in natural gas. The first one relates to the unbundling between the suppliers and the owners of infrastructure, while the second one relates to the granting of third party access to the transmission and distribution systems. This is a formality – the real cause to block South Stream from EU side is of course political confrontation due Ukraine.

Bulgaria and Russia have been discussing the possibility of reclassifying the Bulgarian section of the South Stream gas pipeline into a field pipe to exempt it from EU restrictions. Indeed “the field status” could solve all the problems on restrictions related to the EU third energy package.

In the case of the South Stream Russia’s Gazprom cannot be engaged in production, transportation, and sales of natural gas at the same time. But the pipes carrying gas from EU’s sea shelf fields have a special field status, which exempts them from the restrictions of the legislation.Under EU legislation, pipelines carrying gas from the sea shelf wells of EU countries, particularly Germany, France and Belgium, have a ‘field pipeline’ status that exempts them from the requirement for mandatory granting of access of third parties to the pipeline.Austria’s OMV, Gazprom’s partner in the Austrian section of South Stream, produces gas on the Bulgarian Black Sea shelf, and a pipeline built by OMV to carry gas from the shelf can be later included in the project by reassignment of rights. (Source and more at Novinite: Bulgaria, Russia Discuss Exempting South Stream from EU Restrictions )

Consequences

The main loser of possible cancellation of South Stream project will be Bulgaria. The direct budget revenues that Bulgaria would have had from [gas] transit were at least €400 million a year. The share in the country’s €40 billion GDP to come from South Stream was expected to be 1.5 percent, according to Bulgarian Economic Ministry. Direct investment was supposed to be around €3 billion creating around 2,500 new jobs. The Northern parts of the country, through which the main pipeline route would be laid, were expected to have significantly improved social infrastructure and become more attractive to investment.

Besides Bulgaria also Serbia, Austria and Italy would have made big time revenue, and employed lots of people in need of jobs, by being links in the South Stream chain. Now they will have to pay the Turk Stream toll booth to secure their energy needs.

For Serbia it [South Stream] has been the cornerstone of our industrial strategy for the next 10 years so the situation is worrying us,” Vuk Jeremic, former foreign minister of Serbia, told New Europe on the sidelines of the Athens Forum 2014 on September 15. Right now the bets are off. But I’m hopeful that there will be progress in the future. But it would have to be part of a wider development of normalisation of relations between Russia and the West which currently does not seem to be in the making,” he said. Reminding that Gazprom is one of the biggest foreign investors in Serbia, Jeremic stressed that such a project would be of immense importance for his country’s economy so there are reasons for Belgrade to be worried.”

In addition with Turk Stream a reality, Ukraine has lost its strategic energy significance. The project operator South Stream Transport estimates that European companies will lose at least 2.5 billion euros because of the abandoned project. Japanese companies who were participating in the project will lose some 320 million euros – a Japanese consortium made up of Marubeni-Itochu and Sumitomo had received a pipe supply order worth that amount. (Source: Russia Beyond the Headlines )

If Gazprom decides to choose Turkey and Greece for the South Stream route, the pipeline project would largely resemble the TANAP-TAP project to bring Azeri gas to Italy through the territories of the same countries. The Trans-Anatolian gas pipeline (TANAP) is a proposed natural gas pipeline from Azerbaijan running through Turkey. The approximately 870 km long TAP pipeline connects with TANAP, and will cross Greece and Albania before reaching Italy through an offshore section. It is to be built by a consortium led by BP, Norway’s Statoil and Azerbaijan’s SOCAR. TAP is in an advanced stage of preparation and the start of its construction is planned in 2016.

Gazprom had spent 487.5 billion rubles ($9.4 billion) in the last three years on South Stream and upgrading the Russian pipelines that would have supplied it. Some of that work can be used for a separate link to Turkey. Supply contracts and intergovernmental agreements surrounding the project remain in force. The infrastructure built in preparation for South Stream will be used for “Turk Stream”.

“Turk Stream” instead?

Related to implementation of South Stream Russia agreed on 6th August 2009 with Turkey about energy cooperation with South Stream and also development of Blue Stream pipeline between Russia and Turkey under Black Sea so South Stream has secured also an alternative route. While EU started to create obstacles to project and in case Bulgaria continues to obstruct the construction of the South Stream pipeline this cooperation made base for Gazprom’s “Plan B”. Also on 24 May 2014 Russian President Vladimir Putin already hinted at another route for South Stream, during his meeting with leaders of world media.

Ankara would allow South Stream to reach Turkey under the Black Sea instead of Bulgaria, as originally planned. Russia would prefer not to opt for a plan B, but if the Commission doesn’t stop pressuring Bulgaria to freeze the construction of the pipeline, this alternative appears to be a viable option.

While announcing about South Stream hold off the Russian leader said he will add an extra branch to his existing Blue Stream gas pipeline to Turkey and build a new storage and trading “hub” on the Turkish-Greek border. The pipeline will have an annual capacity of 63 billion cubic meters. A total of 14 bcm will be delivered to Turkey, which is Gazprom’s second biggest customer in the region after Germany. The rest can be shipped through Turkey’s pipeline network to the Balkans.

On the left, the planned South Stream route, to the right, the Blue Stream pipeline to Turkey. Image from www.gazprom.com

On the left, the planned South Stream route, to the right, the Blue Stream pipeline to Turkey. Image from http://www.gazprom.com

Russia’s energy minister Aleksandr Novak said that the new project will include a specially-constructed hub on the Turkish-Greek border for customers in southern Europe. Novak later confirmed that Vladimir Putin personally ordered for the South Stream project to be mothballed, and its existing facilities to be repurposed for the new Turkish pipeline. (Source: RT )

The clear winner of new plans is Turkey – the in-between partner and energy hub – who will take gas from Iran and Russia to Europe. In addition Russia and Turkey also noted that plans for Russian firm Rosatom to build a $20 billion nuclear power plant in Turkey are proceeding full speed ahead.

The bottom line

South Stream exposed cracks in EU strategy as Hungary, Austria, Serbia and Bulgaria among others saw it as a solution to the risk of supply disruptions via Ukraine, which have occurred three times during the last decade. Brussels, on the other hand, saw it as entrenching Moscow’s energy stranglehold on Europe. It remains to see whether Russia’s decision was final or a political ploy – a tactical step – to gain more favorable terms.

From my point of view the original South Stream is the better alternative than “Turk Stream” as it is the direct option to EU/Europe and avoid a transit risk related to Ukraine or Turkey so in my opinion the best follow-up would be attempt to solve Russia-EU differences and run pipeline directly to Europe as initially planned.

P.S:

Turkey, the country that bridges Europe with Asia is merely the latest expansion of Putin’s anti-dollar alliance as Turkey and Russia agree to use local currencies in trade. Wider perspective about this issue can be read from my article ¥uan and Waterloo of Petro$

Update 05/12/2014:

The South Stream pipeline crossing southeastern Europe could still be completed, despite the stated intention of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia to abandon the project, according to Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission.  The comments by Mr. Juncker, at a news conference here on Thursday, indicated that the bloc was intent on keeping at least the idea of the South Stream project alive — despite the European Union’s sanctions against Russia over the crisis in Ukraine, and despite the Europeans’ longstanding skepticism about a pipeline that could extend the region’s heavy reliance on Russian energy.

“South Stream can be built,” Mr. Juncker said. But, he added, “the ball is in the court of Russia.” Mr. Juncker’s comments — as surprising in some respects as Mr. Putin’s sudden decision to reroute the pipeline — were the latest twist in a project that has became a geopolitical tug of war between Brussels and Moscow. (Source: NYT )

pipelines From Russia to EU


Serbia’s EU association is not a Must

April 25, 2011

“If the Balkans find that too many obstacles are strewn about the road to Brussels, they may well be tempted to set out on the shorter road to Istanbul”

(Misha Glenny, Balkan political analyst)

Practically the Eastern EU enlargement for the moment is stopped. Croatia’s membership is a bit delayed, Turkey’s EU bid is dead as continent simply has no intention of ever incorporating 70 million Muslims and the rest – such as Serbia – are still more or less in association process. Tens of thousands demonstrators demanded early elections in Serbia at a protest rally 16th April 2011, blaming Serbia’s pro-Western government for a deepening economic crisis and alleged corruption. The government has rejected the demand for early elections, saying they will be held after Serbia wins candidacy for EU membership in the autumn. European Commission (EC) unanimously agrees that early parliamentary elections in Serbia should not be called which position in my opinion gives a strange picture about EU’s view towards democracy – really a view that democratic elections would harm stability and EU-accession.


From day one of membership at the latest, candidates are expected to be able to implement and enforce the “acquis communautaire”, i.e. the detailed laws and rules adopted on the basis of the EU’s founding treaties and make EU law part of their own national legislation. The most positive part of the European Commission progress report states that Serbia is well advanced in the sector of industry, small and medium enterprises, agriculture and food safety and that good progress has been made in the fight against drugs and organised crime.

The European Parliament ratified the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) between the EU and Serbia in Strasbourg on 19. January 2011. The Questionnaire, which covers all elements of Serbia’s future negotiations with the EU, was delivered to Serbia by the EC on 24 November 2010 and answers were delivered on 31. January 2011. Responses to 2,483 questions, divided in six annexes and 33 chapters, were completed within the record 45 days and are divided in more than 37 volumes and weigh ten kilograms. Third expert mission of the European Commission (EC) analysing responses to the EC Questionnaire in order to prepare an opinion on Serbia’s EU membership, finalized its work on 18 March.

Serbia has implemented significant structural reforms in many parts of its economy over the past decade but more is needed. The main components of further reforms are: judicial reforms, the continuous fight against organised crime and corruption, the improvement of our political system, property right issues and reforming Serbia’s regulatory agencies and removing bureaucratic bottlenecks. It remains to see if there is enough political will for these reforms or even for membership – especially after Serbia’s next elections, due by spring 2012. Most sectors of the economy are open to foreign investment. Reforms have improved the investment environment is improved by reforms, but e.g. corruption discourage foreign investments (Serbia ranks 83rd out of 180 countries in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index for 2009).

More about Serbia’s EU integration can be found from The EU Integration Office of Serbian Government.

Serbia’s road towards EU membership has two obstacles – status of Kosovo and cooperation with Hague tribunal (ICTY). Probably the later problem will be solved with Serbia’s own efforts before association process is in its final stage. Serbia’s vice-PM Djelic said in his interview (Euractiv) on March 10. 2011, that

today in Serbia all major criminal figures are either under arrest or on the run. In the fight against corruption we have had high-level arrests of people who used to run our railway system, our road system, teachers, professors, surgeons, public officials. It is still not very pleasant but it is a demonstration that there has been a critical mass within the administration and the people to fight these phenomena.

The question of Kosovo is politically harder as there is a need to find a common compromise with Kosovo Albanians and this question can end or at least freeze Serbia’s EU association for long time, maybe so long that when solved there may not be EU at all or it is completely different than today.

New elements in new Kosovo talks

Talks between Serbia and its separatist province Kosovo started finally in Brussels on March 2011. The agenda concentrated to technical questions however everything is about politics i.e about solving Kosovo’s status. The status question would solve problems regarding north Kosovo, which is currently under “dual sovereignty” (officially part of Kosovo, which officially is UN protectorate and under sovereignty of Serbia and practically totally integrated to Serbia).

The new situation has forced also International Crisis Group (ICG) to admit the defeat of its Kosovo policy recommendations during last decade. ICG has informally as informal extension of U.S. State Department however pretending to be neutral mediator and think tank. During earlier “status” negotiations 2005 it endorsed preconditions before talks and afterwards supported sc Ahtisaari plan. Now in their new analysis Kosovo and Serbia after the ICJ Opinion ICG sees Kosovo’s partitition with land swap one of possible solutions during coming talks between Belgrad and Pristina. The (dead) Ahtisaari plan and expanded autonomy for North Kosovo are the other two conceivable solutions according ICG.

Last decades have showed how it is possible to draw new borders in Europe, the issue is only the method; e.g. while the Czechs and the Slovaks negotiated by themselves the terms of separation nobody objected to the splitting of Czechoslovakia. In Kosovo there has been implemented only forced temporary solutions outsiders and therefore the outcome is a frozen conflict. The International Crisis Group (ICG) advised the Kosovo Albanian authorities to consider granting autonomy for the northern Kosovo. In exchange they would get “Serbia’s recognition of Kosovo statehood”. ICG concludes that Serbia and Kosovo have equal sovereignty in north Kosovo and should work to resolve what the ICG calls “the Balkans’ most serious territorial dispute.”. Many other even more sustainable solutions are available such as splitting of Kosovo to independent Albanian part and to Serbia integrated Northern part, with or without land swaps. Also a sc Hong Kong model is possible; such a compromise – with the principle of ‘one country, two systems’ – would guarantee Kosovo economic and political autonomy without endangering Serbia’s territorial integrity. It is as well possible to create national union between Albanian part of Kosovo and Albania. In my opinion all these alternatives could be better for local parties than to continue the situation as today. Economically, Serbia is probably better off without Kosovo.

Belgrade’s chief negotiator, Borko Stefanovic, said in an interview published April 23, 2011 in the daily newspaper “Blic” that “Serbia’s negotiating team is not resisting the possibility of talking about the division of Kosovo.” Belgrade has hinted in the past that it could support a division, with Kosovo’s Serbian-majority north being attached to Serbia. (Source: RFERL )

The trial against two former leaders of the Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA, who are charged with war crimes committed against civilians in Albania during the conflict in Kosovo, has gotten underway in Pristina. The victims of the crimes included in the indictment are Albanians whom the KLA commanders accused of collaborating with Serbian authorities, and individuals whose political views differed from those of KLA. The trial against the two men begins several months after Dick Marty, Special Rapporteur of the Council of Europe, released a report in December alleging that human organs were harvested from detainees during and after the conflict in Kosovo, with the harvesting run by the KLA and allegedly taking place in Albania. Politically the key importance in Marty report is an allegation that a criminal network is linked to Kosovo’s Prime Minister Hashim Thaci and that western intelligence services knew this link but were silent to stabilize the region. More in Balkaninsight and in my article Captured Pseudo-State Kosovo .

Serbia’s Foreign trade

The value of export amounted to EUR 7.4 billion, which was a 24.0% increase when compared to the same period in 2009, while the value of imports amounted to EUR 12.6 billion, which was a 9.7% increase relative to the same period in 2009. The deficit amounted to EUR 5.2 billion, which was a decrease of 5.7% in relation to the same period in 2009.

EXPORTS AND IMPORTS OF GOODS BY ECONOMIC ZONE, 2010.

Zone

Exports, in mlln. EUR

Imports, in mlln. EUR

Share (%) in the total

I-XII 2009

I-XII 2010

I-XII 2009

I-XII 2010

Exports

Imports

Total

5961,3

7393,4

11504,7

12621,9

100.0

100.0

EFTA

66,0

52,3

189,0

171,9

0.7

1.4

EU

3195,9

4235,3

6532,7

7068,7

57.3

56.0

CEEC

306,4

359,8

164,6

205,8

4.9

1.6

CIS

408,2

599,3

1665,6

1959,1

8.1

15.5

MEDA

1642,7

1880,0

1026,9

1174,2

25.4

9.3

(Source: SURVEY RS 4/2010)

For economical development sc Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) are important factor.According last statistics in terms of the country structure, investors from the European Union top the list, accounting for about 70% of the total FDI influx. The leading spot on the country list is held by Austria, followed by Greece, Norway, Germany, the Netherlands and Italy, while major investor countries also include Slovenia, France, Hungary, the Russian Federation and Luxembourg. The actual amount of investments from U.S. and Israel is significantly higher than the official figure due to their companies investing primarily through European affiliates. ( Source and more info from SIEPA )

Other directions – Turkey and Russia

“For many years, the perception has been that Turkey needs Europe more than Europe needs Turkey.  If Europe does not look hard at the dynamism of Turkish economic and foreign policy, it may miss the boat.”

(Misha Glenny, Balkans political analyst)

Serbia was under Ottoman empire hundreds of years and according Gallup polls only less than 20 % Serbs consider Turkey a friendly power. At the state level, the historic vision in Serbia of Turkey as an abusive occupier has little influence. Turkey has also been very active in Balkans during recent years; its trade with the Balkan countries increased to $17.7 billion in 2008 from about $3 billion in 2000. Turkey’s banks provided 85 percent of loans for building a highway through Serbia for Turkish transit of goods to the EU. In 2008, Turkish Airlines bought a 49 percent stake of Bosnia’s national carrier, BH Airlines, and has also expressed its interest in Jat Airways – the Serb national carrier – and other Turkish companies are keen to invest in shops, supermarket chains and hotels. Since January last year, Serbian exporters have been selling their products in Turkey free of customs duties. (Source: Turkey uses economic clout to gain Balkan foothold by Dusan Stojanovic)

On 16 October 2009 Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu gave a presentation in Sarajevo, speech concludes with the promise that the golden age of the Balkans can be recaptured:

Like in the 16th century, which saw the rise of the Ottoman Balkans as the center of world politics, we will make the Balkans, the Caucasus and the Middle East, together with Turkey ,the center of world politics in the future. This is the objective of Turkish foreign policy, and we will achieve this. We will reintegrate the Balkan region, the Middle East and the Caucasus, based on the principle of regional and global peace ,for the future, not only for all of us but for all of humanity.

Increase trade relations, remove (visa) barriers to freedom of movement between people, privilege soft power, emphasize a common history … such have been the core principles of Turkish foreign policy, not only towards Syria and Iraq but also towards Georgia, Russia or Greece. Turkey and Serbia’s free trade agreement came into force on September 1 this year. The deal opens Serbia’s to Turkish investors and paves the way for visa-free travel for nationals of both countries.

However, many commentators in Serbia see this change of Turkish foreign policy as an alternative to EU membership because both Turkey and Serbia know they are still far from formally joining the union. (More Multikulti and the future of Turkish Balkan Policy by Gerald Knaus/ESI)

Suha Umar, who left his post as Turkish ambassador to Belgrade on September 10, 2010, concluded his period in Serbia as follows:

When I arrived in this country… relations between Serbia and Turkey were at their lowest level because of [Turkish support for] Kosovo’s independence but also because of the lack of common interests, some prejudice and a lot of manipulation from outside. We managed to overcome the obstacles. If we are after peace and stability, without Serbia truly seeking peace and stability, it won’t happen. If we are looking for trouble, without Serbia it is very difficult to create trouble. This is why Serbia is the key country and Turkey has realised this fact. (Source: BalkanInsight )

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin visited in Balkans end of March 2011 emphasizing the bonds linking the two Orthodox Christian nations. The two countries’ ties go back to when Russia supported Serbia’s drive for independence from the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century. Putin’s visit took place on the eve of the 12th anniversary of the NATO bombing over Belgrade’s policy toward Kosovo reminding Serbia of its past differences with the West. A survey of 42 countries conducted in the summer of 2009 showed that Serbs had the fifth-most favorable opinion of Russia: Some 53 percent of respondents had a positive opinion of the country, while 61 percent expressed negative feelings toward the USA.

Putin delivered a message that Europe needs South Stream as part of its energy security because it can no longer rely on North Africa as a safe alternative. Serbia is a very critical part of the whole South Stream project. Beside energy policy there are 15 new agreements between Serbia and Russia being drafted at the moment including cooperation in science, technology and tourism. Politically Putin promised continued Russian support for Serbia over Kosovo. He pledged Russian investment and further cooperation in energy sector – e.g. development of ‘Lukoil’ petrol pumps net, new investments in energy system and electric power plants – in the power system, railway, infrastructure and agriculture. The two countries signed agreements on inter-governmental tourism, scientific and technical cooperation, and an international road service. A package for Serbian economy brought to Belgrade by Putin is estimated to be worth USD 10 billions. At the moment it is known that 3 billions are for the Army of Serbia. Also debts by the NIS to Serbian budget shall be settled (about EUR 1 billion). And finally, the enterprise ‘Southern Stream’ is going to be founded. In addition, Putin revealed that the Russian government is considering issuing an $800 million loan to Serbia for railway projects.

Recently after Putin’s visit the first military consultations between the Ministries of Defense of Serbia and Russia in Moscow, a bilateral military cooperation plan for 2011 was signed, while Serbian and Russian foreign ministers confirmed that the relations between the two countries are friendly, close and improving. They also said this would be confirmed by a strategic partnership agreement to be signed in the near future.

Serbia’s possible NATO membership may have big influence to Serbia-Russian relationship. The ruling coalition in Belgrade has designed to leave the door to NATO membership open without quite saying so. While the ruling coalition is supporting Montenegro’s intention to become a NATO member it officially to back a Resolution on Military Neutrality made by National Assembly on December 2007. According to a WikiLeaked February 2010 cable from the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade, “Tadic believes that Serbia cannot remain outside of NATO forever, but doesn’t say this often because of the political sensitivity of the issue.” (Source: Serbianna )

The opposition – Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) – is advocating a non-aligned policy (opposing Serbia’s NATO accession), similar to Ukraine, Finland, Sweden, Ireland, Switzerland, and other democratic states, promotes strong economic ties with Russia. From tactical point of view by moving closer to Russia, Serbia strengthens its negotiating position with both the EU and the US.


Energy Aspect – South Stream nullifying Nabucco

Energy aspect is now more important in geopolitics and for Balkans as well than decades before. First of all, due to the turbulence in the Arabic-Muslim world and the ongoing rapid increase in industrial production in countries such as China, India, Brazil, Vietnam and South Africa, the price of oil and gas has increased significantly. Because of the Arab turmoil, LNG imports are at risk, as well as, the whole spectrum of hydrocarbon imports from the Arab world for years to come. Russia, as well as, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan are starting to lay down long-term plans for the exportation of tremendous amounts of gas to China for the next decades. That means in simple terms that the EU states will have to act fast in order to secure sufficient amounts of energy, otherwise they may end up relying in the spot market by instable regions such as North Africa, Nigeria and others. The continuous instability in Iraq in combination with the isolation of Iran due to its nuclear program makes the European energy market anxious to secure reliable and steady flow of natural gas and oil.

As a result Russia gains more than a 1.2 billion Dollars daily only from its oil exports, thus being able to continue its investment program and in parallel being able to attract significant foreign direct investment and fund placements. Between January and March, 2011, around 3.5 billion Dollars were placed in Russian-based funds for investments purposes and the Moscow stock exchange has seen an almost 30% growth. A 7.5% GDP increase for the Russian economy is projected -ceteris paribus- for 2011. (Source: Russian energy moves indicate a shift in priorities by Ioannis Michaletos )

The international gas pipeline South Stream shall be finished until December of 2015 while its construction shall begin in 2013. The $21.5 billion South Stream pipeline would transport up to 63 billion cubic meters of gas from Russia to Central and Southern Europe. The stretch running through Serbia shall cost from EUR 1.3 to 1.5 billions. Serbian construction on a leg of a natural gas pipeline that could boost plans for the South Stream pipeline for Europe started in September 2010. The project would be completed this year.

The New York Times reported on 22ndSerbia March 2011 that the German oil-and-gas company Wintershall AG (a unit of German chemicals giant BASF), is set to join Russia’s South Stream natural-gas pipeline, a move that the partners hope will increase the pipeline’s chances of gaining European Union backing. BASF said joining the South Stream consortium would give it access to markets in southeastern Europe. South Stream is owned 50-50 by Italy’s ENI and Gazprom . Electricite de France is to take a 10% stake later this year as well Wintershall AG its 15 % stake.

Serbia and Slovakia have signed an agreement on cooperation in the construction of gas pipeline Aleksandrovac-Novi Pazar-Tutin. The agreement is worth €45 million and the project will be implemented jointly by a Serbian gas company Srbijagas and a Slovak consortium led by company Euroframe. The construction of the pipeline with the capacity of 100,000 cubic meters per hour could be completed in two years. Serbia has also started a €14 billion investment cycle in the energy sector and its main components are investments of about 2 billion euros in the gas sector, about 1 billion euros should be invested in the oil sector, while the potentials of renewable energy sources would enable investments worth between 2 and 6 billion euros over the next five to seven years. A Canadian company REV has informed that the company will invest about €140 million in the construction of two hydroelectric power plants – Brodarevo 1 and Brodarevo 2 on the River Lim. The Electric Power Company of Serbia (EPS) and the Italian company Seci Energia have signed the Preliminary agreement which concerns implementation of construction of a system of hydroelectric power plants on the middle reaches of the Drina river. Several agreements on cooperation in use of hydro potentials of the Drina river have already been signed between the governments of Serbia, Italy and the Republic of Srpska (RS). The capacity of these hydroelectric power plants will be 300 megawatts, while the value of the investment is estimated at about €819 million.

From EU*s side it has its own favorite energy project called Nabucco, however there is broad recognition that the €7.9bn ($10.5bn), 3,900km project is desperate for momentum as it enters what even its backers concede is a make-or-break year. Among them is the commission itself, which has contributed €200m in start-up funding. The existential question hanging over Nabucco is whether there will be enough gas to make it commercially viable. The biggest difference between the two projects is that while Gazprom will fill the South Stream pipeline with Russian gas, the consortium behind Nabucco has yet to sign up any gas suppliers or, for that matter, investors.

The competition over gas is coming harder. In my article New Player in Caspian Sea Power Corridor I described how China has came to game to take big share of Turkmenistan gas. This gas was one of the last hopes for Nabucco to fill its planned pipeline. For contest between EU’s Nabucco and Russia’s South Stream China’s actions favor later. Today’s arrangements are securing gas for South Stream while Nabucco still is searching supply. It is more clear that Nabucco should be filled with Iraqi and/or Iranian gas and political aspects related to this may delay finding(private) investors and the implementation of project as whole. In bottom line while Russia is taking its part from old gas fields and China from old and new gas fields the Nabucco pipe still is more than half empty.

Turkey has been using its recent diplomatic rapprochement with Moscow to lobby for making the Balkans a major strategic hub for a Russian gas pipeline planned to stretch from Central Asia to Western Europe, via Turkey.

Reshaping new cooperation framework

Inside EU there is already increasing amount of EU sceptics. Some of them be regarded as right wing and/or populist politicians, however in my opinion their criticism should not be ignored only because of their political position. Especially in UK has been discussions about being inside or outside of EU. (Director of the Trade Policy Research CentreDirector of the Trade Policy Research Centre) Ronald Stewart-Brown gives one possible position related to the content of EU membership in his article “The Vacuity of UKIP’s Flagship Policy” as follows:

One possible solution is to negotiate to stay in customs union with the EU outside the framework of the EU treaties and institutions on the basis of a simple new “plain vanilla” bilateral customs union agreement. Staying within the EU tariff band could reasonably be seen as a fair price to pay for continuing free movement of goods. Such an approach combined with other agreements to cover areas such as services, intellectual property, public procurement, competition and technical barriers to trade could attract the happy label of “Staying in Europe for Trade”. It would also approximate to the Common Market most people thought they were voting for in 1975, which was after all a customs union rather than a free-trade area.

In my article “Turkey’s EU hopes -is there any?” I was covering a German idea about a “privileged partnership” for Turkey instead of full membership in order to allow Turkey into the EU economically but not politically. From my point of view “privileged partnership” could pre indicate a possible search of “third way” between EU member- and non-membership. The model – when first created – could be copied also with some other countries which now are in enlargement process or included in Eastern Partnership program which include free trade agreements, visa waivers, financial aid and economic integration with the EU. This “privileged partnership“ could be a pragmatic alternative model in EU enlargement and it could even be better alternative for all stakeholders than full EU membership.

The EU’s main political aim in the region, at least in the short term, is to avoid trouble. And the bloc’s most effective stabilisation tool is money. The European Investment Bank has increased its lending in the Balkans in the past two years and will soon open regional headquarters in Belgrade. There is no concern about “enlargement fatigue”. The bloc’s financial institution aims to “help member states and future member states achieve their objectives”.

My Perspective

“There is no enlargement fatigue, what I see is enlargement apathy on the part of governments in the Western Balkans” (Stefan Füle, European Commissioner for Enlargement)

EU does not have a fixed timeframe for Serbia’s EU integration, and that it will make the decisions only once it estimates that Serbia is ready. The late reaction to the democratic revolts in the Arab world only further underlined that Brussels lacks a vision of how to steer a common EU policy agenda. Democratic deficit, enlargement fatigue and ever more rescue funds. Is there still a future for a common Europe? Is the EU the real sick man of Europe?

The European Union seems to be ready to welcome Serbia as a candidate member in spite of enlargement fatigue and economic crisis. In the meantime people in Serbia show signs of scepticism about EU membership. Support for EU accession has dropped to a meagre 57%, the lowest level of support since 2002 (when the Serbia EU Integration Office started these surveys), while a third of the respondents fears that the EU will stop the enlargement process altogether in the near future or may even fall apart.

The Balkans still aspire to EU membership, but Turkey allows them privileged access to a huge and rapidly growing domestic market of 74 million people, compared to about 55 million in the entire Balkan region. A Free Trade Agreement between Turkey and Serbia entered into force 1st of September 2010 and will give Serbian exporters opportunity to sell their products duty free to the large Turkish market, in addition to the already existing free trade agreements with the EU, CEFTA, Russia, Belarus and Ukraine.

All Balkan countries have their own development paths – some countries are going to join fast to EU (Croatia), some are going to do it later (Macedonia, Albania), some are maybe looking alliances from other directions (Serbia), Kosovo will be international protectorate – a quasi-state captured by organized crime tribes – also next decade; Bosnia will totter between breakup, federation/confederation, state, protectorate depending inner politics and exterior influences.

Serbia has strategic partnership agreements with China, Italy and France, and one such agreement is expected to be signed with Russia soon. Serbia can be seen a gravitational center of the region. In my previous articles, still and now even more than before I have a view that Serbia should think if joining to EU is worth of time, money and bureaucracy it demands, could the main benefits of EU membership be achieved via “third way”. Despite this I think that at this moment it is good idea to continue EU process but not only to fulfil EU needs but especially the needs of the beneficiaries aka Serbs not EU elite in Brussels. Most of the some 32 chapters negotiated in association process can help economical and other cooperation between Serbia and EU. Also Serbia should same time develop its economical cooperation with Russia, other BRIC countries, Turkey and regional neighbours.

Related articles:

 Serbia on the road to EU

Turkey’s EU hopes -is there any?”

Captured Pseudo-State Kosovo”

Is it time to bury Nabucco?

“New Player in Caspian Sea Power Corridor”

EU’s big choice – Nabucco or South Stream?


Ukraine: End of Orange Revolution, start of Stabilisation

February 10, 2010

We can say goodbye to our democracy, our independence and our sovereignty” (outgoing President Yushchenko predicts a future with either Ms Tymoshenko or Mr Yanukovych as President)

I’m quite happy because whoever is chosen today will be hated tomorrow by the majority of the country.” (Andrey Kurkov)

Ukraine’s Russian-leaning opposition leader, Viktor Yanukovych is on course to become the country’s president, with early results indicating he had a lead of several points over his bitter rival, Yulia Tymoshenko, the prime minister. Describing yesterday’s vote as a “turning point in our country’s history”, he added that he would pursue policies that helped all Ukrainians – and would not favour one geographical area. “We don’t need to find enemies in our country. We need to unite together,” he declared. In contrast to 2004, international observers said there was no major evidence of fraud. Despite fair elections PM Tymoshenko insists that she will challenge the results of the presidential election.


With more than 97% of votes counted, Mr Yanukovych had a 2.6% lead over his rival, PM Yulia Tymoshenko. According to the results, “against all” received 4.4 percent. Preliminary estimates showed about a 69 percent turnout. Sunday’s elections had been given a “positive assessment” by the election observation mission led by the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights ODIHR) of the Organisation for Security Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). The OSCE hailed the process as “professional, transparent and honest,” saying it should “serve as a solid foundation for a peaceful transition of power. There looks to have been less interference from the US this time than happened in 2004, when a number of Washington-backed NGOs took an active part in events in Kiev.


The outcome

Before 1st round I wrote and article “Ukraine – choosing a new Way

I described Ukraine’s challenges – created mainly the disastrous regime of outgoing President Yushchenko – and prognosticated that Ukraine is now selecting more pragmatic and balanced approach with its foreign policy. I also predicted right the 1st round outcome but bet wrong the final 2nd round. One reason can be that after 1st round President Yushchenko went really mad – changing voting regulations, naming Stepan Bandera (nazi-collaborator and chief of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, OUN) as Hero of Ukraine and proposing to vote “against all”. These actions were maybe enough to increase the support for Mr. Yanukovich and decrease the popularity of Ms. Tymoshenko.

Tensions ran high ahead of the vote, with both candidates accusing each other of planning large-scale ballot fraud and vowing to send their supporters into the streets to sway the outcome of any legal disputes over the count. The positive assessment of international monitors however gives limited background to contest the result.

Stabilisation

Mr. Yanukovych and his team may be an old-style party team, however this past can be seen also as an experience needed to bring order and stability to country. In contrast to 2004, Yanukovych’s potential presidency is no longer viewed among Western Ukrainian voters as an existential threat to Ukraine. Earlier Party of Regions even managed to came third in the local election to the city council of Ternopil in March 2009 gaining about 10% and surpassing Tymoshenko’s bloc (which called for a boycott of the election) and Yushchenko’s “Our Ukraine.” Yanukovych’s personal support in the West of Ukraine rose to the same level. At the same time, the less intense animosity to Yanukovych now and disillusionment with his main alternatives means that the West of Ukraine will grudgingly accept him as a new president just the way it accepted Kuchma in 1994. One may claim that the ongoing political confrontation between the Orange leaders has become a far greater threat to Ukraine’s statehood than any of Yanukovych’s election promises could ever be.

According to the 2001 census, 67.5 percent of the population declared Ukrainian as their native language and 29.6 percent declared Russian. Ethnic Ukrainians make up 77.8% of the population while the share of ethnic Russians is 17.3%. So it is clear that the new President has considerable support also outside predominantly Russian regions. This situation may ease tensions between different ethnic and religious groups, not only between Ukrainians and Russians but e.g. between central government and the (Trans-Carpathian) Rusins as the Crimean Tatars.


One of his first tasks is to unblock frozen IMF aid for its ailing economy. Yanukovich supports the idea of starting talks with Russia and the EU on the possible creation of a gas transportation consortium in order to increase the reliability of Russian gas transit to Europe. Improving Ukraine’s investment climate could attract foreign companies who could help Ukraine to develop its vast oil and gas reserves and strengthen its energy security.

In foreign policy the outlines of the new Yanukovych era are clear. He will improve Ukraine’s strained relations with the Kremlin tilting country back towards Russia’s sphere of influence, after the relentlessly pro-European course set under President Yushchenko. He will rule out Nato membership and extend the lease on Russia’s Crimea-based Black Sea fleet. It expires in 2017. He also believes in European integration – economically if not politically.

Energy aspect

The election may also be the final nail in the coffin of GUUAM (Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and Moldova) Group which was founded 1999 with help of US to foster favourable conditions conducive to economic growth through development of an Europe-Caucasus-Asia transport corridor. GUUAM was dominated by Anglo-American oil interests, ultimately purports to exclude Russia from oil and gas deposits in the Caspian area, as well as isolating Moscow politically. First Uzbekistan withdraws from it leaving behind a stump GUAM. Then Georgia started its aggressions with false idea of western support leading today’s situation. Moldova was aiming towards Nato and EU but after conflict in Georgia it started to look other alternatives. Political attitudes of Azerbaijan and Russia have approached each other. Now Ukraine as last fortress of GUAM is taking distance from its earlier Nato ambitions. More e.g. in article “Is GUUAM dead?

Constructing the White Stream pipeline underneath the Black Sea was supposed to be the main energy project of GUAM bloc; it was also designed as an alternative to EU’s Nabucco. The idea of White Stream is to pump natural gas from the Caspian region to Ukraine and further to Romania, from where it can be marketed to Europe. On May 28, 2008, the European Commission identified the project as a “Project of Common Interest” and furthermore accepted it as a “Priority Project.” However the last Georgian energy summit on January 14-15 2010 in Batumi to discuss the construction of pipelines bypassing Russia failed and got downgraded as no high-ranking officials who said they would attend the meeting ended up coming. White Stream has some similarities with Nabucco – both are more political project and both are missing the gas supply. With new President in Ukraine also political backing is dispelled.


Ukraine’s role of a major European gas hub is also at risk because South Stream could almost halve its transit earnings. Russian newspaper Kommersant reported on Tuesday that Viktor Yanukovich had invited Gazprom to participate in upgrading the Ukrainian gas pipeline system. Gazprom has made early comment that the pipelines needed upgrading and the company would be interested in participating, however any investment would not replace the need for Gazprom to develop the South Stream pipeline. I agree – politicians are coming and going and chancing their minds in between but pipe will stay a halve century if not more.

My Conclusions

  • The most positive result were fair and free elections. I expect that in domestic politics attitudes between regions/groups identifying more with Ukrainian nationalism and the Greek Orthodox religion, and predominantly Russian and favourable to the Soviet era will ease.

  • It appears obvious that in foreign policy one of the top priority in the political agenda of new President will become the restoring of cordial relations with Russia.

  • I hope that the EU and Ukraine will rapidly reach agreement on a new Association Agreement (including comprehensive free-trade agreement) that added to better investment climate will help modernise the Ukrainian economy and enable it to return to pre-recession growth rates.

Summa summarum

  • Free and fair elections will revise the policy both with internal and foreign affairs of Ukraine. Nato membership will be ruled out, European integration will continue economically if not politically, relationship to Russia will improve. Ethnic tensions may be reduced and more united country with new President has better possibilities match economical challenges.



The Nabucco-South Stream race intensifies

November 15, 2009

The race between the two EU’s eastern gas pipelines is going on while next winter can again show some supply problems via Ukraine. South Stream got latest boost on 11th November 2009 as Russia’s Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko and Slovenian Economy Minister Matej Lahovnik signed an agreement on the passage of the South Stream gas pipeline across Slovenian territory. Same time shareholders in the Nabucco have started talks with two European top lenders over borrowing almost €1.5 billion for the pipeline’s construction; a €5.6 billion loan is needed for the construction first stage of the project and the shareholders have also started talks with two credit insurers. Besides loan Nabucco still desperately is searching gas for its planned pipe.

With South Stream Russia is looking a more reliable route for its gas exports to Europe as it bypasses Ukraine and Belarus, where price disputes have in the past led to gas shortages. EU Commission tries with Nabucco provide a supply of gas not subject to Russian control.


The competition


The competition over gas is coming harder. In my article “New Player in Caspian Sea Power Corridor” I described how China has came to game to take big share of Turkmenistan gas.

For contest between EU’s Nabucco and Russia’s South Stream China’s actions favor later. Today’s arrangements are securing gas for South Stream while Nabucco still is searching supply. It is more clear that Nabucco should be filled with Iraqi and/or Iranian gas and political aspects related to this may delay finding(private) investors and the implementation of project as whole. In bottom line while Russia is taking its part from old gas fields and China from old and new gas fields the Nabucco pipe still is more than half empty.

More about this comparison one may find from my post “EU’s big choice – Nabucco or South Stream?“.

Bulgaria?

From 2015 South Stream is scheduled to take gas into the EU via Bulgaria. A northern branch ends up in Italy via Serbia, Hungary, Slovenia and eventually Austria. A southern route takes the gas through Greece and under the Adriatic Sea to Italy. With Slovenia Russia has all the necessary European partners for us to be able to complete its project. During Summer 2009 there was discussions if South Stream could pass Bulgaria. Russia however agreed on 6th August 2009 with Turkey about energy cooperation with South Stream and also development of Blue Stream pipeline between Russia and Turkey under Black Sea so South Stream has secured also an alternative route. After that the discussions between Bulgaria and Russia got a new boost.


Austria?

 

Austria has officially backed Nabucco even some of Austrian companies are also partners in South Stream. On 11th Nov. 2009 Russia and Austria had meeting. PM Putin said after talks with Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann that they agreed to draft an agreement on cooperation in South Stream. Faymann said South Stream is in Austria’s interests and that Austria’s government had given a mandate to start negotiations two weeks ago. He said Nabucco and South Stream shouldn’t be viewed seen as competitors: “We believe that this is diversification as well as a chance to make the energy supply more secure,” Faymann said. More in CNBC news.

Bottom line


Russia made already on May 2009 a proposal including the South Stream gas pipeline to pump natural gas from Russia to the Balkans and onto Europe in a list of EU priority projects. The U.S./EU backed Nabucco project had been included in the list, but South Stream not yet. From my point of view I would like to see EU to change priority status from Nabucco to South Stream. Nabucco could still be kept alive in case to wait stabilisation in the Middle-East.

 


New Player in Caspian Sea Power Corridor

September 29, 2009

Competition – or development – of EU’s eastern gas supply routes has intensified this year. Both EU/U.S. backed Nabucco and Russia’s South Stream have made deals to guarantee realization of new pipelines until 2015. The EU’s new “southern corridor” – Nabucco as essential part of it – has been dubbed a version of U.S. “Silk Road Strategy” aimed to block Russia from gas fields around Caspian Sea and its connection to Iran. Russia on the other hand wants direct access to EU markets without transit via Ukraine.

Until this summer the gas game has be seen as battle between Russia and West. Now the world economic crisis and current low price of gas have brought a new player to game in fuel sector – China. With its financial strength China has now had ability to intensify its offensive towards the Caspian Sea energy sources especially in Kazakhstan (especially oil) and Turkmenistan (especially gas). Will the outcome be, that both Russia and Western powers with their companies will lose Caspian oil and gas while it will flow to East? Not necessary but from now on one can not ignore China as key player in region.

As main source related to energy game in Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan I have used Ajdar Kurtov’s fine article “SCO Yekaterinburg summit and China’s energy offensive towards the Caspian Sea”

Kazakhstan

Back in the 1990s Kazakhstan made easily available its mineral wealth to American, British, French and Italian companies. The bulk of the profit generated was channeled to Kazakhstan’s new partners. A threat loomed large of Kazakhstan turning into a third-world country with a raw exports role to play for the highly-advanced states.

However, Kazakhstan growing stronger economically, socially and politically while the world hydrocarbons market prices shooting up early this century made Kazakhstan leaders think better of their old stands. The new conditions prompted Kazakhstan to reconsider the earlier signed agreements, and Astana specifically proclaimed the objective of establishing state control over the oil and gas sector. The Kazakh authorities brought pressure to bear on the foreign companies in a bid to force the latter to accept changes to the earlier signed contracts.

The national company “KazMunaiGaz” was made responsible for advancing Kazakhstan’s state interests in the oil and gas field institutionally. Initially Kazakhstan leaders applied much the same tactic to pursue the same objective to one of Kazakhstan’s three oil refineries, the Pavlodar refinery, which is located by the Russian border and technologically oriented to Russian oil refining. The facility was privatized in January 1997 and the government’s stake placed in management by the US CCL Oil Ltd. Company on the terms of a public-private partnership agreement. But the Kazakh government prematurely terminated the agreement a few years later and handed over a 51% stake to the OAO “Mangistaumunaigaz”. The company later brought its stock of shares to 58%, with 42% of the Pavlodar oil refinery’s stock capital owned by the state. After that the national company “KazMunaiGaz” bought 51% of the “Mangistaumunaigaz” stock of shares from Indonesia’s Central Asia Petroleum and consequently gained control over the facility.

It was reported on the 16th of April 2009 that amid the world economic crisis Kazakhstan borrowed from China 10 billion dollars during N. Nazarbayev’s visit to Beijing. The Chinese CNPC Company bought a 50% stake of “Mangistaumunaigaz” for 1.4 billion dollars. Kazakhstan leaders are ousting western partners from the hydrocarbons market and refusing to meet Russian companies halfway, while losing ground to China. Chinese companies already own a third of Kazakhstan-produced oil, or more than 20 million tonnes per year. The purchasing of Kazakhstan’s “Mangistaumunaigaz” assets by China’s CNPC further tightens China’s grip on the Kazakh oil market and weakens the positions of Russia and the West in Kazakhstan’s fuel and energy complex.

Turkmenistan

China’s policy of advancing towards the Caspian Sea region resources is seen also in Turkmenistan. Ashgabat has long discussed the construction of a 6,500 kilometer gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to China to Japan. The construction project was due to be carried out in 10 years and was pretty costly (11 billion dollars, of which some 1.7 billion dollars would account for the sea section of the pipeline). Later the easterly direction of Turkmen natural gas deliveries was sort of “updated”, namely the option for laying a pipeline to Japan was dropped, with China having been made the only terminal point of delivery.

A more important development for Turkmenistan in 2006 was the republic’s president S. Niyazov’s visit to China in early April. The main agreement in a package he signed in Beijing was the General intergovernmental agreement on the implementation of the Turkmenistan – China gas pipeline project and on selling natural gas from Turkmenistan to the People’s Republic of China in the volume of 30 billion cubic metres annually for 30 years since the time the gas pipeline was commissioned, which was due in 2009.

The new Turkmenistan-China gas pipeline will be nearly 6,500 kilometres, with over 180 kilometres due to be laid in Turkmenistan, 530 kilometres, – in Uzbekistan, 1,300 kilometres, – in Kazakhstan, and over 4,500 kilometres, – in China. The overall cost of the project makes up some 20 billion dollars. 17 billion cubic metres of Turkmen gas were due to be annually exported through the development of new gas fields, while the remaining 13 billion cubic metres of annual gas exports,- through the construction of gas purification and treatment plants at the largest gas condensate field Bagtyyarlyk.

The construction of the pipeline (Turkmenistan-China) got under way in 2008 when Russian Company “Stroytransgaz” won 395 m€ contract for laying the Turkmen section of project and also plant to purify and dehydrate gas and a gas-measuring station. The Turkmen stage is expected to be finished by December 2009 and the entire pipeline in late 2010.

Iran?

On February 21st 2009 the Iranian and Turkmeni governments signed an agreement that will give Iran the rights to develop the Yolotan gas field in Turkmenistan. The deal will help Iran resolve gas supply problems in its north-eastern provinces. Turkmenistan will sell Iran an additional 350 billion cubic feet of gas annually, more than doubling current supplies of almost 300 bcf a year, according to the agreement first disclosed by Iran’s official media and later confirmed by Turkmenistan.Iran also recently offered to invest $1.7 billion for a 10 percent stake in the second phase of Azerbaijan’s huge Shah-Deniz gas field which will come on line by 2014. Iran already has a 10 percent share in the first phase and it wants to import large volumes of gas from the Azeri field. For Iran, the deals couldn’t be better suited to its objectives. It’s economically unviable currently to supply gas to its isolated, north-eastern third of the country. Getting gas from Turkmenistan would therefore make more Iranian gas available for export to Turkey.

Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI)

The Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline on the other hand would feed natural gas into downstream economies that are desperate for natural gas supplies. Afghanistan is the first of these, and energy shortages are rarely discussed as one of the problems of their economy, but with only 10 – 12% of the populace having access to electricity and with only limited natural gas resources (perhaps enough for a 100 megawatt power station), the country needs to import natural gas in large volumes. Pakistan is still desperate for help with natural gas and other energy fuels. But so far there is no pipeline to help.

There is some base to claim that U.S.military’s involvement in Afghanistan is directly related to the large reserves of natural gas in Turkmenistan. While the U.S. military may be a wholly owned subsidiary of the international (i.e. American and British)oil companies), its anyway clear that demand to increase troop levels in Afghanistan jumped a bit along with the recently publicized discovery of the very large large natural gas reserves in the Yoloten-Osman gas field in southern Turkmenistan.

Some (geo)political remarks

  • In March 1999, the U.S. Congress adopted the Silk Road Strategy Act, which defined America’s broad economic and strategic interests in a region extending from the Eastern Mediterranean to Central Asia. The act was revised in 2006 to include the energy interests of the US as one of the primary reasons for the US to be in Afghanistan – note no reference to Osama Bin Laden or Al Qaeda ;The Silk Road Strategy (SRS) outlines a framework for the development of America’s business empire along an extensive geographical corridor. The successful implementation of the SRS requires the concurrent “militarization” of the entire Eurasian corridor as a means to securing control over extensive oil and gas reserves, as well as “protecting” pipeline routes and trading corridors. This militarization is largely directed against China, Russia and Iran. More about background of this battle in my articleIs GUUAM dead?
  • As said the new pipeline will run through Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan to Xinjiang in western China. Xinjiang is becoming increasingly important as a transit route for gas pipelines from Russia and Central Asia. Given the vast region’s location several thousand kilometers inside China, it is impractical for the Chinese to protect fully the long stretches of pipelines through Xinjiang’s vast mountains and deserts so they are trying to eliminate the militant groups before the pipelines become operational. So far the unrest in Xijiang has be seen based to ethnic questions. The energy aspect explains why China’s response to unrest is and will be strong also in future.
  • Summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization that was called in Yekaterinburg on the 16th of June. Besides some universal ideas in statements and declarations the SCO Energy Club has to this day failed to come up with a cooperation model that would suit all member-states. China’s actions on the ground will lay the basis for actual energy cooperation in the SCO framework since instead of some remote private owner China as state (via state-owned company) is implementing the projects. Promoting energy cooperation in SCO framework must from now on take the “Chinese Factor” seriously.
  • The bad news for Russia is that there is a customer willing to take all the gas that Turkmenistan has for sale: China. It has been steadily gaining access to the energy wealth of Central Asia, while ousting American, European and Russian companies from the area. Beside oil and gas the Chinese are simultaneously planing to transport also the mineral resources in question to China’s western border.
  • For contest between EU’s Nabucco and Russia’s South Stream China’s actions favor later. Today’s arrangements are securing gas for South Stream while Nabucco still is searching supply. It is more clear that Nabucco should be filled with Iraqi and/or Iranian gas and political aspects related to this may delay finding(private) investors and the implementation of project as whole. In bottom line while Russia is taking its part from old gas fields and China from old and new gasfields the Nabucco pipe still is more than half empty.

More about background of Nabucco/South Stream battle in my articles “Is it time to bury Nabucco?” and “EU’s big choice – Nabucco or South Stream?





Is it Time to Bury Nabucco?

May 21, 2009

Latest developments during last weeks related the EU’s policy of diversifying Europes’s energy supplies give a clear indication that EU’s pipedream – Nabucco – is vanishing while the rival Russia’s South Stream gets a boost both on the ground and updated aims. European Commission has tried enhance Nabucco already some nine year with modest or even backward success. Now is maybe the right time to reconsider EU’s energy plans in new context.

Russia will propose including the South Stream gas pipeline to pump natural gas from Russia to the Balkans and onto Europe in a list of EU priority projects, a Gazprom deputy CEO said Tuesday. “We are drafting an application for inclusion of the South Stream project into the list of EU priority projects, and we see no grounds why this application should be rejected,” Alexander Medvedev told journalists during a break at an international energy conference in Berlin.

Earlier Nabucco got its priority status in EU as the aim was to diversify supplies away from Russia.  Now Gazprom is to make a presentation to the European Parliament to promote South Stream later in 2009. The EU Energy Commission says Gazprom would have to prove South Stream represents “added value” for Europe to become a priority, earlier the EU has already accepted Gazprom’s Nord Stream as a priority project.

Boost to South Stream

On May 15 South Stream project got a boost two step closer to reality. As I mentioned in my previous article in addition to Italy’s ENI, Gazprom signed memoranda of understanding with Greek natural gas transmission company DESFA, Serbia’s Srbijagas and Bulgarian Energy Holding.  What I didn’t knew then was that at a meeting in Sochi, attended by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Russia’s Gazprom and Italy’s ENI agreed to double the planned pipeline’s capacity to 63 billion cubic meters from previous plan 31 bcm/y.  So at same day the establishment of joint ventures for the construction of South Stream pipeline was finally provided with a formal basis and the project doubled estimated gas flow. This Gazprom’s move strengthens their competitive advantage over Nabucco and at the same time affirm its dominance in the field.

The pipeline would cross the Black Sea at 2.000m depth and from there to the city of Barna, in Bulgaria and from there its north part will reach Austria after crossing Serbia while its south part will extend to Greece and Italy.

Signed contracts are boosting also regional economy. The Greek section of South Stream will cost between 700 to 1000 Mln Euros, the section in Serbia is estimated cost some  700 Mln Euro, costs in Bulgaria  depend if gas is going existing or totally new pipeline. Further investments related to final route(s) of pipes are possible also in Croatia and Slovenia.  After the gas flows the transit fees can be remarkable in transit countries.

Desperate search for gas by Nabucco

The economic viability of the Nabucco project has long been questinable. EU has only committed a small fraction of the €7.9 billion ($10.6 billion) needed to build the pipeline. The basic question is where the gas for Nabucco (ultimately targeted at 31 billion cubic meters per annum) will come from. If there is no good answer coming soon the today’s and tomorrow’s potential investors are looking better alternatives.

But despite the recent progress on Nabucco, it all still looks to many analysts like a case of too little, too late. “I believe Nabucco still looks very problematic,” says Jonathan Stern, director of gas research at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies. “It might work, or it might not, but I don’t think it’s going to work quickly.” He argues that the pipeline probably won’t be viable until around 2020—much later than the 2014 starting date currently being advanced.

Nabucco’s supply base has been vanishing with latest developments.  Original idea was to get gas from Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan.  Gazprom’s newfound willingness to offer cash on the barrelhead for Turkmen and Kazakh gas led to Kazakhstan’s permission to construct a new pipeline that will feed gas from Central Asia into Russia’s export network.  The United States Senate offers verbal support, but Washington is no closer to brokering the tradeoffs that would be necessary for Nabucco to get off the ground.  Same time Gazprom is ready to buy all the gas from the second stage of an offshore Azeri development and Azerbaijan stll lacks a direct gas link to Europe and has been unable to agree with Turkey on terms for the transit of larger planned volumes.

Ongoing sanctions against Iran made an extension line from Turkmenistan to Turkey a non-starter.  They also meant that no Western government could countenance even an informal arrangement where Iranian gas might compensate Turkey so that more gas flowing through Nabucco would reach other European markets.

Nabucco tinkering with Middle East dreams while South Stream works on the ground in Europe

A couple of days after Sochi meeting four UAE and European companies told an oil and gas contracts between them and the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) to supply gas from Iraq’s Kurdistan region to kick-start the Nabucco pipeline project to supply Europe.

The Iraqi government on Monday 18th 2009 rejected an $8 billion Kurdish plan calling new contracts illegal.  The KRG, which has clashed with Baghdad over draft oil legislation, has countered that the deals are legal and comply with Iraq’s constitution. In Iraq gas normally has been a side-product in oilfields so increasing gas production has been related increasing oil production.  Whatever the legal output will be a strong estimation is that gas starts flow for export after 2020.

Schroeder’s view

Speaking at a business meeting in Russia’s Kaliningrad on Monday, Schroeder, who chairs the Nord Stream shareholders’ committee, said that Russia cannot be blamed for recent gas shortages at the EU.

“When we get Russian gas, the problem is not the supplier, but the fact that 80 percent of the pipeline is located in the Ukraine. We should look for independence not from Russia, but from such transit schemes,” he was quoted by RIA Novosti as saying. “Both Nord Stream and South Stream allow to avoid unstable transit countries,” Schroeder added.

My view

As Nabucco’s supply base has vanished and its economical reliability is going same way while South Stream is gaining distance on the ground it is time to revise European Commission’s pipedreams. Does EU want be dependent on Russia’s gas (South and Nord Stream), Ukraine’s transit (today’s lines), Turkey’s blackmail combined middle-East as supplier (Nabucco)?

Power play has many aspects – I have touched only gas.  Searching and increasing use of renewable energy sources, increasing nuclear energy, decreasing consumption etc are all as part of a whole.  However from my point of view need of gas will be the at least the same if not bigger than today in EU and Europe for next two-three decades.

I would like to see EU to change priority status from Nabucco to South Stream.  Nabucco could still be kept alive in case to wait stabilisation in middle-East.  Besides whole the time there is improvements in liquefaction plants and tankers to increase the share Liquefied natural gas/LNG compared to gas supplied via pipes.  Selecting South Stream now could secure its smooth implementation before 2015; help EU focus other aspects of its energy sources and policy and improve EU-Russia relationship with its geopolitical consequences.

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