PRAGUE - Turkey agreed to complete talks on an intergovernmental agreement on the Nabucco gas pipeline project and sign an accord by the end of next month.
The pledge came in a statement released in Prague Friday by the Czech presidency of the European Union following a meeting between EU officials and leaders from Turkey and five Central Asian countries. The pipeline is to carry gas from the Caspian region to Europe. The pipeline has faced delays because of lack of commitments from customers and suppliers. The EU sees Nabucco as a means to diversify supply after a dispute between Russia and Ukraine cut shipments to Europe in January.
The EU and Turkey agreed "to finish the negotiations of the intergovernmental agreement on Nabucco as quickly as possible" and "to sign it by the end of June 2009 in Turkey," the Czech presidency said.
EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso told reporters after the meeting he is "confident" Turkey will sign a gas transit deal soon. Earlier today, EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs said talks with Turkey "have very much advanced."
Gas will start pumping through Nabucco to Europe by 2015, two years later than planned as more time is needed to obtain gas commitments, Andris Piebalgs said in January.
The pipeline would run from the Turkish border with Georgia or Iran via Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary to Austria's Baumgarten hub. The venture, founded in 2004 and based in Vienna, is led by Austria's OMV AG.Partners include Budapest-based Mol Nyrt., Germany's RWE AG, Bulgaria's Bulgargaz EAD, Romania's Transgaz SA and Ankara- based Botas.
European Commission energy spokesman Ferran Tarradellas said Feb. 19 that the EU may reduce planned aid for the venture by 20 percent to help spread EU subsidies over more energy projects.
Scaling back support
The European Commission is proposing to scale back its support for the Nabucco project to 200 million euros ($268 million) from 250 million euros, Tarradellas said in February. The aid would be channeled through the European Investment Bank.
Last month Azerbaijan's President İlham Aliyev said on a visit to Moscow that his country was interested in signing a natural-gas agreement with Russia that would allow it to boost output and exports to Europe as the Nabucco project remained "at a standstill."
Such an accord may reduce the potential for Azerbaijan to become a rival to OAO Gazprom, Russia's state gas exporter, in supplying European markets.
EU and Egypt
Friday's statement, signed by leaders of the EU, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey and Egypt, also said the EU and Egypt should "agree on specific projects in developing Egypt's gas reserves and export potential for the EU." It said it was signed "in the presence of the representatives of Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan."The statement also called for a memorandum of understanding on energy between the EU and Iraq "as soon as possible." Barroso said a preliminary energy accord with Iraq was "imminent."