Today's Zaman Lamiya Adılgızı
Greece’s growing interest in the energy resources of Azerbaijan, an oil-booming country on the shores of the Caspian Sea, is down to the belief Azerbaijan’s natural gas could rescue the country from the economic crisis it has been going through if Azerbaijan agrees to export its natural gas through the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline project (TAP), rather than its competitor Nabucco West.
“Greece considers TAP as a good opportunity to recover from its economic crisis and become a strategic energy terminal in the region. In order to materialize its ambition, Athens will try hard to persuade Baku to export TANAP gas through TAP, rather than the Nabucco-West option,” Emre İşeri, energy and security analyst at the İstanbul-based Kadir Has University, said in an interview with Sunday’s Zaman.
Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras paid a visit to Azerbaijan this week on his way back from China, a month after Greek Foreign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos made a trip to the capital city of Baku for official talks on enhancing cooperation with Baku. The visit by Samaras has attracted a great deal of attention as it is the second high-ranking trip by Greece in a month.
Being received by Azerbaijani President İlham Aliyev in Baku on May 20, both leaders had an opportunity to discuss boosting political, economic and cultural ties. The leaders’ tete-a-tete meeting, which reportedly mainly focused on important opportunities to further strengthen bilateral cooperation, especially in the field of energy, was described by Samara’s as “positive” while briefing Greek President Karolos Papoulias on May 21.
Greece is very interested in Azeri gas, as Azerbaijan is expected to make its final decision about the export route of its natural gas from the Shah Deniz II field in the Caspian basin late this June.
Athens wants the gas in question to be transported via the TAP pipeline project that will take mainly Azeri natural gas from Turkey via Greece, Albania and the Adriatic Sea to Italy and further into Western Europe. However, Azerbaijani gas might also be transported through another potential option, the Nabucco West route, which will provide Europe’s energy-hungry nations through Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Austria.
However, TAP’s prospects have been considered to improve significantly over the Nabucco West project since Moscow decided to abandon the South Stream’s southern branch from Greece to Italy. Gazprom’s withdrawal from that project offered TAP a good chance to more easily reach the Italian market, a move that also contributed to the TAP-Nabucco West contest over Azerbaijani gas.
Calling these views “naïve,” Rovshan İbrahimov, head of the department of foreign policy analysis at the Baku-based Center for Strategic Studies (CSS), said in an interview with Sunday’s Zaman that whether Azeri gas will feed into the TAP or the Nabucco West pipeline projects is still undetermined as both projects have their advantages and disadvantages. “The view of the Azerbaijani government and the Shah Deniz II Consortium is that the final decision should be a commercial one, while the geostrategic aspect should also be assessed in terms of commerce and be included into the deal done,” İbrahimov said.
Calling TAP much more prepared in terms of infrastructure and feasibility, İbrahimov noted however that Nabucco West is being welcomed more positively in Azerbaijan as Azeri gas will certainly diversify suppliers in the transit countries as the demand for gas is increasing in this part of the world.
Asked whether the chances of the Nabucco West project might be overshadowed in the eyes of Azerbaijan given the increasing reputation of the TAP export route and the intensifying Greek-Azerbaijani exchange of meetings and views, İşeri said that throughout the lobbying process, Athens could use its state-owned energy companies, the Greek Public Gas Corporation (DEPA) and gas network operator DESFA, as bargaining chips; however given the initial phase, each pipeline option has its own pros and cons.
“Given that for the initial phase, 10 billion cubic meters per year [bcm/y] of gas is expected from Shah Deniz in 2017, it is not likely that Nabucco-West, with 10 and 23 bcm/y capacity, and TAP, with 10 to 20 bcm/y capacity, will co-exist in the short-term,” İşeri said, adding, “But it is clear that along with the commercial preferences of Shah Deniz partners -- SOCAR, BP, Statoil, Total -- and TANAP partner [state-owned Turkish Pipeline Corporation] BOTAŞ, Baku and Ankara’s political calculations in regard to Moscow and Brussels will be vital in the final decision at the end of June 2013.”
The number of potential pipeline projects was reduced to Nabucco West and TAP last year; however the available gas is enough to feed only into one of them. For this reason, officials from both Nabucco West and TAP, including officials from Greece, which is feeling the effects of the economic crisis, are currently engaged in major lobbying campaigns to boost their own projects to the Shah Deniz partners, especially the Azerbaijani government, the main supplier to all pipelines.