Gas challenge, Russia in the lead

European governments' concern over the energy challenge in the Continent. Tspiras-Putin agreement on a Turkish Stream pipeline?

Dependent on oil and dependent on gas. The news of a Tspiras-Putin Memorandum of Understanding, on June 18 and 20 in Saint Petersburg, regarding the passage on Greek territory of the Turkish Stream pipeline – a project born on the ashes of the “South Stream”, gives renewed relevance to the question of energy supply of European Countries. On several occasions, in the past, Greek Premier Tspiras, grappling with the national economic and financial crisis, hinted to the possibility of a rapprochement with Moscow, in the attempt of finding new sources of funding for the Country. Energy policy. The Moscow-Athens rapprochement in the energy sector would project Greece in the Russian orbit, not without concerns of Europe and the US. For a long time the purpose of EU countries has been to adopt appropriate infrastructures for gas supply, as shown in the documents highlighting the “2020 European energy strategy”, the “2030 energy policy guidelines” along with the “2050 energy roadmap”. Veritable scoreboards for Member countries’ implementation of sustainable policies and overarching strategic measures capable of transforming the European energy system from the perspective of decarbonisation, ensuring the availability of supply. These are all medium-term measures that don’t seem to provide a sufficiently strong response to the urgent needs of the present circumstances. This is also due to the fact that the various EU Member Countries, without Brussels’ coordination, manage energy policy independently. The West, dependent on Russian gas. In this energy tug of war, Russia seems to prevail with infrastructures such as “Blue Stream” that carries natural gas from Russia to Turkey across the Black Sea, the “North Stream”, with a capacity of 55 billion cubic meters a year, combining directly, through underwater pipelines, Russia to Germany, bypassing the Baltic States and Poland, and “South Stream”, 63 billion cubic meters per year, a project that was frozen because of US and EU sanctions, where Russia’s Gazprom in an agreement with the Italian ENI, France’s EDF and Germany’s BASF-Wintershall, seem to come full circle in favour of Putin and, above all, put an end to the disputes between Moscow and Kiev that led to the interruption of flows to Europe in 2006 and 2009. In fact, it should be remembered that some 40% of the gas consumed by Europe arrives from Russia and that only half of this, over 80 million cubic meters a year, transits through Ukraine. Thus, many Western States’ dependence on Russian supplies appears evident, as it appears equally urgent for the European Union to achieve greater energetic independence, that could have been ensured through the creation, now no longer an option, of the “Nabucco” pipeline under EU and US patronage, meant to send gas to Europe from the Caucasus region. A southern gas corridor, through which Europe would have drawn gas from Arzebajan, Turkmenistan, Iraq and eventually from Uzbekistan and Iran. In order to diversify gas supplies, today there is a more feasible infrastructure: the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), designed to send to Italy 10 billion annual cubic meters of Azerbaijani gas via Greece and Albania. The questions. But there are other questions to Europe. Whence will it be possible to rely on other supplying Countries such as Egypt, Libya, Algeria, not to mention Iraq and Syria, Middle-Eastern countries where the situation is marked by high tensions and terrorist threats? In this framework Russia has considerable weight, and most important, it could play a major role in the solution of regional crises (Syria and ISIS). Certainly, those who will have the control of the region and of its oilfields and pipelines will sell gas to Europe. Will it be Turkey, Qatar, among the major exporters of natural gas, or Iran, once its international sanctions issues are solved, ready to export its gas through Iraq, Syria, Caucasus and the Black Sea? The international energy scenario presents also other actors such as China, a Country with large interests in central Asia, that put on the table 65 billion dollars for a pipeline that would unite it to Russia. The other player is the US, with the “shale gas” (extracted from rocks with hydraulic drilling), aimed at independence from imports by 2030. Now the intention of the US it is to sell 90 billion cubic meters a year at the expense of Russia and the Middle East. And the EU? Europe has considerable reservoirs in Romania and Poland, but they are hard to exploit. The challenge is open: to find new energy sources without fomenting further conflicts.

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