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    Transparency key to be reliable energy partner

    by Serkan Demirtaş
    02.07.2009 - 00:00 | Son Güncelleme:

    ANKARA - Viewing Russia as an unpredictable energy supplier, the European Union needs a reliable energy corridor. Europeans need to know more about Turkey’s energy strategy and its plans on energy efficiency to be convinced that Turkey can provide this, says Jean Lamy, a top French energy official.

    A more transparent and predictable framework of regulation is required before Turkey can become a reliable East-West energy corridor and convince international companies to invest in projects such as Nabucco, a key pipeline to supply gas to Europe.

    "We need to know more about Turkey’s energy strategy and its plans to increase its energy efficiency. If we know this, this will surely increase the transparency and predictability of the project. The ball is on your side," Jean Lamy, head of the French Foreign Ministry’s Department of Energy-Climate, told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review in an interview in Paris.

    Since completing the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, Turkey has increased its efforts to become an energy hub by securing multiple projects for pipelines that would pass through its territory. Nabucco, an international pipeline project that will bring Azerbaijan’s natural gas to Europe via Turkey with intent to reduce the continent’s dependency on Russia while meeting growing demands, is seen as a major potential development that would fulfil expectations of Turkey anchoring itself to the EU.

    With its 600 billion-cubic-meter gas consumption annually, the EU is one of the world’s largest markets. But it is estimated that the 27-country union will need another 200 bcm by 2030, which makes the issue a priority for Brussels. Turkey, as a transit country that could carry non-Russian gas to Europe, has a unique opportunity to provide an alternative for the European continent as it seeks to reduce its dependence on Moscow, which has begun to use its gas reserves for foreign policy leverage.

    However, the problem between Turkey and the EU seems to derive from a lack of confidence and communication. In addition, Turkey’s way of negotiating its position has unsettled many European countries and companies that are considering investing billions of euros in the projects.

    Hurdles not yet overcome

    An intergovernmental agreement for Nabucco has to be concluded within days but there are still very important hurdles, according to sources. Turkey is still negotiating with the EU and companies within the Nabucco consortium about an option to buy 15 percent of the gas at a low price and become a re-exporter of the Azerbaijani gas to Europe.

    "Fifteen percent of the Nabucco gas makes 4.5 bcm of gas. That’s a large amount of gas," Lamy said, adding that what was important for the companies and countries that are politically supporting or planning to invest is to know the facts and the limits in regard to the amount of the natural gas to be carried. "The energy security of transit countries such as Turkey is important for us in order to be able to secure future supplies for consumers in Europe and that’s why we have close dialogue with Turkey," he said.

    "Nabucco is a priority for the EU and it’s been announced. But the business plan of building pipelines for companies is different than those of the governments," Lamy said. The Nabucco consortium is composed of Austria’s OMV, Hungary’s MOL, Romania’s Transgaz, Bulgaria’s Bulgargaz, Turkey’s Botaş and Germany’s RWE. France’s Gaz de France was also interested in participating but was rejected by Turkey due to Paris’ recognition of the alleged Armenian genocide. Lamy, who did not want to comment on the issue, just said, "Nabucco is a European project, not merely France’s."

    "The investment should come from private companies. But they can only do it if they are guaranteed that the pipeline will be full of gas," said Lamy. "They need to know from where the gas will come, to whom it would be sold, its price and the framework. And the public sector, the governments should take steps to reduce their risk and guarantee them a return on their investment. Therefore, what we see as a main problem is the predictability."

    He advised all related countries to issue long-term contracts with companies, increase energy efficiency, adopt a framework of regulation often referred to as a transit country regime and make business plans with the source countries.

    Divided Europe

    "Turkey needs to set more transparent rules for its transit regime. Once it’s done, the gas would flow," William Ramsay, director of the European governance and geopolitics of energy department at the French Institute of International Relations, told the Daily News. Ramsay drew attention to the fact that the EU was far from establishing a coherent energy policy to secure its future demands.

    "Many European countries are considering the energy security problem as a national concern," he said’ adding that the most powerful EU countries, France and Germany, have no such problems with their gas supplies.
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