Tag Archives: South Stream

The European Diplomacy, Energy Security and Central Asian Stake

The events in Central Asian countries very rarely attract massive international media attention. It does not means that nothing happens here. In the last decade of May, the third annual meeting of deputy foreign ministers of Central Asian states (an event organized by the United Nations Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy – UNRCCA and held in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan) was focused on enhancing regional cooperation and sustainable development. In the same time, the First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Tajikistan Mahmudjon Sobirov received the U.S. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Geoffrey Pyatt. Mr Pyatt expressed desire of the US side to facilitate trade between Central and South Asia. In his turn, M. Sobirov expressed hope that the US will also support the implementation of energy projects in Tajikistan that would contribute not only to the economic development of Tajikistan, but to the entire region, since these projects will allow Tajikistan to export energy to the countries of South Asia. In another part of the world, Europe – Germany announced that it will gradually close all nuclear reactors by 2020. Likewise, Switzerland. But until to this “green future”, existing energy alternatives cannot yet cover the energy needs of the European, American or Chinese. In this context, the fuel resources of the countries of Central Asia makes this space an issue for the diplomatic front where the battle is becoming increasingly fierce. Whether we speak of the European Union or China, the basic idea remains the same and was sound enough: diversify supplies in order to reduce structural dependence on Russia. In this discussion we will limit to the moves from the European side. Projects started, projects delayed and too few concrete results. Moreover, history seems again from Russia’s side. Unrest in North Africa and the Middle East increases the need of European Union to find new solutions to ensure energy needs. So no wonder there is a European Union diplomatic offensive on the all possible fronts.

Nabucco vs South Stream

When talking about the two major energy projects of European Southern Corridor, we mainly observed that Western European diplomacy has always tried, at least in public, a delicate balance by supporting both projects. Diplomats and officials from Austria, Germany or even Italy have defined open the option to support both projects. What mattered in the price of gas imported from Russia. In contrast, the countries of Eastern Europe, namely Bulgaria and Romania have tried without much success a dual approach. Berlin, for instance, was (and still is) interested in opening new pipeline routes out of Central Asia in order to diminish the European Union’s dependence on Russian energy. German diplomats also were on the lookout for ways to boost trade in ways that benefited German manufacturers. In addition, the German military was eager to retain access to a military base at Termez, near the Uzbek-Afghan border. More, the meltdown of Kazakhstan’s banking sector in early 2009 cost German firms an estimated 500 million euros in lost investments, 300 million euros of which will have to be borne by German taxpayers. But the economic debacle did nothing to diminish Merkel’s enthusiasm for engagement with Astana. But from Moscow the diplomatic offensive of Germany was overlooked, given the many economic and political projects common to both countries. In contrast, many of Romania’s diplomatic contacts in Central Asia (even though concrete results have minor) were born from the Kremlin a grumble; however, the relations between the two countries are not the happiest. Romanian diplomacy seems unable to adapt in real time to the dynamic changes in the international community. (Full text)

PublishedOriental Review, June 4, 2011

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The agreement for the Bulgarian section of South Stream was signed

In the presence of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his Bulgarian counterpart Boyko Borissov, Bulgaria and Russia signed on Saturday in Sofia for the South Stream gas pipeline agreement. The agreement provides for the

Vladimir Putin, Boyko Borissov

 

creation of a joint Russian-Bulgarian company to build and then manage the Bulgarian section of the pipeline. The company will be owned equally by the Russian company Gazprom and the Bulgarian Energy Holding BEH, with the possibility that the latter should be replaced by another Bulgarian company. The pipeline, expected to be inaugurated in 2015, will have a total capacity of 63 billion cubic meters of gas per year. The pipeline is to leave the territory of Russia, across the Black Sea and out on its west coast.
In a press conference after signing the agreement, Putin noted that South Stream is a crucial project for Europe. «Our partners from Western Europe have shown interest in this project; leading Italian and French companies have already joined it. Gazprom and Bulgarian Energy Holding have embarked on a feasibility study for the Bulgarian section of South Stream. Today they have made a very important step in implementing this bilateral agreement – they have signed the charter and the shareholders agreement for their joint venture». Also he said that in the last 9 months of this year trade between Russia and Bulgaria grew by 50 percent and about building a nuclear plant at Belene. (Full Russian Prime Minister’s speach can be read here). Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov also hailed South Stream as “a true European project” adding that all agreements signed Saturday were reviewed in advance with EU Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger.

The talks regarding the Romanian section of South Stream would be completed by December 2010.

Putin and energy diplomacy strategy

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was in Paris for a two-day working visit. Before the visit’s formal events got underway, he had breakfast with former French President Jacques Chirac, held restricted-attendance talks with French Prime Minister Francois Fillon and participated in the 14th meeting of the Russian-French Commission on Bilateral Cooperation at the level of prime ministers. Prime ministers Putin and Fillon met with top managers from both Russian and French companies, signed the summary document of the 14th session of the Russian-French Commission and gave a joint press conference.

“Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin won another victory for his aggressive energy diplomacy strategy Friday, signing a deal bringing French investment to a pipeline project” reports AFP.

In a successful trip that worried Russia’s nervous neighbours, Putin also secured French investment to save the struggling Lada car maker and a promise that France will consider selling Moscow a huge amphibious assault ship.

I will return with an analysis on this subject.