Azeri natural gas will keep the EU warm soon

José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, received Ilham Aliyev, President of Azerbaijan. Discussions mainly focused on energy issues. (EC Audiovisual Services, 21/6/2013).

José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, received Ilham Aliyev, President of Azerbaijan. Discussions mainly focused on energy issues. (EC Audiovisual Services, 21/6/2013).

Ilham Aliyev, the President of Azerbaijan was in Brussels on Friday 21 June for a good reason. The giant state oil and gas company of his country, Socar, has reportedly agreed with the Greek authorities to acquire the National Natural Gas System Operator (DESFA) S.A. of Greece, owner and operator of the country’s natural gas system.

At this point it must be also noted that it will be nothern Greece, where the partners of the construction consortium of the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) will built it. In this way a new gas pipeline will be constructed, which in full operation will be capable of supplying the European Union with 10% of its needs in natural gas, from Azerbaijan sources. In this way the European Union can greatly diversify its supplies in gas, presently controlled by Russian companies. This last fact is puzzling many EU member states, because Moscow almost openly uses EU’s energy dependence on its gas as a political tool.

The TAP gas pipeline is called “the Southern Corridor” and in theory it is antagonising with the “Nabucco” project, an alternative gas pipeline plan. While the TAP in a very advanced stage of planning and building, mainly in Greece where it runs for 550 km from Turkey to Albania, “Nabucco” is still a plan on paper and it doesn’t cross at all through Greece.

Yes to Azeri gas

In the EU capital, Aliyev met with both presidents Herman Van Rompuy of the Council and Manuel Barroso of the Commission. The Azerbaijani leader however didn’t go to Brussels just on an official visit. Obviously he had gas business with both EU presidents. Baroso and Rompuy after meeting with their visitor gave a detailed account of this issue. Both of them appeared very positive almost hot, over the prospect that the natural gas bonanza of Azerbaijan reach the European Union. In theory the European Union favours the “Nabucco” project more than the TAP-Southern Corridor pipeline. Both however may serve the EU’s needs equally well and can contribute to its energy resource diversification.

Presently the Shah Deniz II Consortium in Azerbaijan is developing a new natural gas field of gigantic dimensions. To bring this gas to Europe the Azeri government can choose between two options; The “Southern gas Corridor-TAP” or the “Nabucco – West”. Either way the European Union is very well served.

Now the fact that the Greek authorities have agreed with the Azeri government to sell the Greek operator of the country’s natural gas system DESFA to Socar, it is easy to imagine which option of pipeline Baku will make. It will be obviously the Southern Gas Corridor-TAP pipeline. Both the EU presidents express loudly their joy for this prospect. Let’s start from Barroso.

Barroso- Aliyev

After the meeting between the President of the Commission and the foreign leader, it’s a tradition that Barroso says a few words and they both answer a few questions from the Press. In this case however Barroso went as far as to endorse the entire Azeri project, including the obvious preference for the TAP pipeline. Barroso was so enthusiastic about the whole affair that he only stopped just short of according beforehand all the EU licenses and approvals this huge project might need.

In detail Barroso said: “We did of course discuss the way ahead on the Southern Gas Corridor in detail. We are both extremely pleased with the progress achieved on the Southern Gas Corridor since our Joint Declaration of 2011. We have both worked hard for the realisation of this strategic project for both Azerbaijan and for Europe”.

Seemingly only at the end Barroso remembered that Aliyev heads an authoritarian regime, which tortures people if they dare protest for anything. But he didn’t mention anything like that, no, not a chance for something like it. Instead Barroso actually congratulated Aliyev for his ‘effective’ government practices by saying: “I had the opportunity to recall that stability and prosperity can only endure in the long-term with the respect of rule of law”. If Aliyev is the guarantor of the rule of law in his country, then the Azeri law must be something very different from what we know in Europe.

Aliyev and Rompuy

Almost the same atmosphere prevailed in the meeting between Aliyev and Van Rompuy. The Council President also appeared very happy with the prospect of the advent of the Azeri natural gas in Europe. Rompuy said afterwards: ”Among other aspects our discussion covered energy. I shared my satisfaction about the remarkable progress achieved on the Southern Gas Corridor, which is a vital strategic project for both of us. I thanked President Aliyev for his leadership on this issue”.

Rompuy finally remembered that Alijev is set to be again re-elected in the upcoming elections and commented, “The European Union hopes that these elections are conducted according to the highest standards”. Of course his interlocutor guaranteed that.

All in all what is certain after this visit in Brussels is related to what Europe needs most; energy. And seemingly the Azeri natural gas in a few years will reach the EU through Greece. As for democracy and civil rights those are European luxuries, in short supply in Azerbaijan.

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