'Nothing seems to be decided on which pipeline project to make race'

Fri 28 October 2011 12:44 GMT | 17:44 Local Time

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Dr.Friedemann Müller

News.Az interviews Dr.Friedemann Müller of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (Germany).

The Azerbaijani-Turkish deal signed this week will complement the Nabucco intergovernmental agreement signed in 2009, European Commission reported. How would you estimate this agreement?

Of course it is good news for Europe if Azerbaijan makes it clear that the Shah Deniz natural gas goes fully to Europe (10 bn cu m) and Turkey (6 bn cu m). Nothing seems, however, to be decided on which pipeline project will make the race. For the EU Nabucco is the preferred project. As Asian Times put it recently, Nabucco is a strategic the others non-strategic projects. So, for the time being it is wishful thinking if anyone at the European Commission believes that the Azeri-Turkish agreement supports Nabucco.

Which of the 4 projects - ITGI, TAP, SEEP and Nabucco – is more real, and why?

The problem is that Nabucco is far more ambitious than the others. Its capacity is 31 billion cu m per year, while TAP the next largest is projected to have a capacity of just 10 bn cu m (with an option to extend it to twenty later on). Nabucco is designed also to transport Turkmenistan and Iraq natural gas and, in the long term, perhaps even Iranian. Only then the political purpose of making Europe less dependent on Russia is significantly served.

Political interests, of course, are not congruent with interests of the private sector (including European companies). This makes it difficult to make Europe speaking with one voice. The private sector (such as BP) has, however, a good point if they argue that the pipeline, if financed privately, has to be profitable which requires a capacity that is adjusted to the real natural gas flow. If natural gas from Iraq and Turkmenistan remains a dream, Nabucco will not become profitable.

Turkmenistan’s participation in any of this project is crucial. Are you sure that Turkmenistan will join a project, and what will be if it won’t join?

I don't think that natural gas from Turkmenistan is crucial for ITGI, TAP or SEEP, but is for Nabucco, unless an agreement on gas from Iraq can be signed soon. The problem with Turkmenistan is, on the one hand, that its government is not very predictable. It lies, however, in the interest of the country, not to be completely dependent on the huge Asian powers Russia and China, Insofar, it is probable that Turkmenistan, one of the worldwide four largest gas reserve holders, wants to deliver gas to the largest import market in the world, which is Europe.

On the other hand, the more serious problem is the required trans-Caspian pipeline route, considering the unclear legal status of the Caspian Sea and Russian and Iranian opposition to this project. It is very difficult for Turkmenistan to overcome this resistance. If Turkmenistan will not join the Caspian-Europe pipeline project it definitely needs Iraq to join it.

Managing Director of National Iranian Gas Exporting Company referred to the Nabucco gas pipeline project a “dead plan” and expressed Iran’s readiness to transit Turkmenistan’s gas to Europe. What do you think about proposal?

Europe has a number of very serious and for more than ten years pending problems with Iran (Iran's unclear nuclear ambitions, its support for hostilities against Israel, but also human rights violations). While Europe joined a critical dialogue with Iran at the beginning of this century no progress could be registered since. Unless Iran will become more constructive with regard to these issues there is no chance that the pipeline project of the 1990s (from Turkmenistan via Iran and Turkey to Europe) will be revived.




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