BRUSSELS (AP)–The EU’s top energy official will travel to Turkey and Azerbaijan Wednesday to show Europe’s commitment to a pipeline that would transport natural gas from the Caucasus westward in 2013, keeping it out of Russia’s grasp.
EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs will make a push for the Nabucco pipeline, whose viability is threatened by energy deals Russia is pursuing in the Caucasus.
If these succeed it will be hard for the EU to ease its dependence on Russia, which provides 40 percent of EU gas imports today — a level that is set to rise in the years ahead.
In Ankara, Piebalgs will try to unblock talks for a gas transmission accord, EU officials said Tuesday.
Turkey wants 15 percent of the gas flowing through the Nabucco pipeline for itself. The EU insists it must pay the normal transit fee.
"All transit arrangemen’s should be dealt with on a commercial basis," said an EU official who asked not to be named given the sensitive nature of the topic.
The European Commission is confident the Turkish transit deal can be signed by the end of year.
"In Turkey there is a strong interest to make the pipeline project happen. (Like the EU it) will also see shortfalls of gas" in the decades ahead, said the EU official.
After Turkey, Piebalgs will have talks with government officials in Azerbaijan.
Moscow has worried the EU by negotiating with Turkmen’stan and Kazakhstan for their Caspian Sea gas supplies to flow westward through Russia.
It is pushing a rival pipeline project, costing some $13 billion and called South Stream, that is promoted by Gazprom, the Russian gas monopoly.
In recent years Moscow has cut off gas deliveries to Ukraine and Belarus, disrupting supplies to several European countries.
All Central Asian natural gas exports to the EU currently flow through Russia. Both the EU and the US support the Nabucco pipeline, which is being developed by a consortium led by Austria’s OMV. It also includes Hungary’s Mol, BOTAS of Turkey, Bulgargaz of Bulgaria and Transgaz of Romania.
The project involves investmen’s of 8 billion euros ($10.26 billion), according to EU data.
The Nabucco pipeline will be 3,300 kilometers long and run from the Caspian Sea across Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania