Nabucco Project Gains Momentum as Four EU States Sign Agreement with Turkey     Print
Wednesday, 15 July 2009

The long-awaited and much-debated — mostly between Turkey and the EU — Nabucco pipeline project turned a small corner this Monday (July 13) as four EU member state representatives signed a transport agreement with Turkey.

The signature of the transit agreement could be the push needed to secure overall financing and committed suppliers for the project to help ease uncertainty about the project.

Representatives from Austria, Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania convened in Ankara for the signature of the agreement. The pipeline will stretch over 2,000 miles carrying natural gas from the Caspian Sea, through Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, and Hungary, and will end in Austria, where the gas will be distributed throughout Western Europe. Current plans estimate Nabucco’s transport capacity at 31 billion cubic meters a year, which should meet 5 to 10 percent of the EU’s gas demand. Construction is loosely set to begin in 2011 and finish by 2015; but with the cost of the pipeline expected to reach €7.9 billion and only a €200 million pledge from the EU, there is a significant financing gap that is still missing before breaking ground.

This agreement has not produced any committments from the countries being discussed as potential suppliers —Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, and Azerbaijan— but with Turkey’s legal support of the pipeline it could be a small maneuver to end the uncertainty of Nabucco. Iraq, Egypt and Iran have also been discussed as potential sources for the pipeline, according to a New York Times article.

Undoubtedly this agreement puts forth a step towards European energy independence. U.S. Senator Dick Lugar, a senior Republican, stated that the agreement is “a signal to the rest of the world that partner governments will not acquiesce to manipulation of energy supplies for political ends,” referring to the most recent Russian gas cut-off.

Meanwhile Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, expressed hope that the agreement would also “open the door to a new era in the relationship between the European Union and Turkey, and indeed beyond.” With its EU accession talks still on-going, this kind of geopolitical cooperation could reflect positively on Turkey’s ambitions to join the EU.