Bulgaria Would Still Get Transit Gas, Transit Millions
The debate on Vladimir Putin's cancellation of the construction of the South Stream pipeline was animated, but somehow one-sided, writes Andrey Gurkov of Deutsche Welle's Russian section, quoted by the BTA wire service.
Everyone talks about the pipeline that was not meant to be and who would get to suffer the most. The participants point at Bulgaria as victim number one and calculate how many hundreds of millions of Euro it will lose.
But rarely (one might wonder why) they mention the pipeline that would become a fact. Because in Ankara, where the Russian leader renounced his darling and dear, but very expensive pipeline, he applied the principle “the pipeline is dead, long live the pipeline”. Instead of one transport pipeline skirting Ukraine, Kremlin is planning the construction of another – again along the bottom of the Black Sea, but towards Turkey, instead of Bulgaria.
But the gas will still flow towards the EU. There simply isn't another direction. Please, make the effort and have a look at the map! Who are Turkey's largest neighbours? - Iran, Iraq and Syria. They do not need gas from distant Russia, they already have enough.
The Gazprom chief Alexey Miller made it clear in Ankara: the new, yet unnamed pipeline, will carry gas to the EU. He even gave specific numbers: 50 B cubic metres.
So the Europeans don't lose anything. More or less the same volumes, which currently flow through Ukrain and were meant to flow through South Stream, will reach them via Turkey. The Turks themselves will divert only what they get from Russia now through Ukraine.
As a matter of fact, Miller actually said something that few understood. He said that there will be a delivery point at the border between Turkey and Greece. What is this delivery point? Perhaps the place where the supplier delivers the goods to the consumer and forgets about it – the transport from there onward is a problem of the buyer.
In other words, this modest formula covers a profound change in the export (and even geopolitical) strategy of Gazprom. The Russian company does not insist anymore on building pipelines on EU territory. This means that practically Russia has accepted the requirements of the much hated anti-monopoly Third Energy Package, banning the same ownership of extraction and transport.
Trying to keep face, however, Kremlin made a performance, including loud rejection of South Stream and public flogging of Bulgaria. It turns out on December 1 Moscow was ready with the new offer “to ask” (or more threateningly “to force”) the EU to build the supply pipeline by itself.
But let us remember once more Miller's words: “at the border between Turkey and Greece”. Why exactly Greece? Look at the map again, please! The European part of Turkey borders with Greece and Bulgaria. The Greeks don't need 50 B cubic metres of gas.
Besides, by the end of this decade, they will build on their territory the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) with a capacity of 10 B cubic metres and an option for expansion to 20 B cubic metres. This pipeline will carry gas from Azerbaijan, via Greece, to Italy.
There is no point in building another pipeline, parallel to this one. The option to build a “delivery point” at the border with Bulgaria from which the EU to build a pipeline to Austria, is self evident. In other words, the project might get resurrected, but we shall keep it quiet for now, because we don't want to spoil the pleasure of calculating the damages to the once brotherly Slavic state. This is why Miller placed the “delivery point” at the border with Greece.
The resurrection of South Stream will be discussed as early as December 9, when the European partners in the project will gather under the aegis of the EU to discuss the situation. And there is another option – to resurrect the European Nabucco pipeline, which was cancelled due to the South Stream competition. To be more precise – the Nabucco-West pipeline, which was meant to carry gas from the Bulgarian-Turkish border to Austria.
In either case Bulgaria will get its millions from transit fees and Moscow should keep its fingers crossed about that. Because it might turn out that Gazprom will sit at the “delivery point”, waiting for a buyer.
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