Central and Eastern European Countries (CEEC) see the extension of the Turkish Stream to Bulgaria as a key opportunity for gas diversification and demand from the European Union (EU) to support the transit of Russian gas across the whole region, was the view of those at the opening of the Eurasian Energy Security Forum here on Friday.
In a speech at the opening of the two-day inaugural international multi-stakeholder conference, Serbian Energy Minister Aleksandar Antic highlighted the Turkish Stream as an opportunity for regional countries to make profit by becoming a transit route for the transport of Russian gas to Europe.
“The opportunity to import 10 to 15 billion cubic meters of Russian gas across Turkey to Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary and Austria is a serious chance to improve our energy security. This would open the possibility to develop gas infrastructure and gas-based industry,” said Antic, according to the ministry’s press release.
“(The) pipeline going across the Black Sea will reach the Turkish shore by November and then the construction of an extension towards Bulgaria will begin,” he estimated, adding that the decision to extend the pipeline was also up to Serbia’s neighbors Bulgaria and Hungary.
Hungary’s Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto pointed out that the EU should have the same approach towards CEE countries as it does towards those of Western Europe when it comes to the diversification of the natural gas supply.
Referring to the European Commission’s criticism of the Turkey-Bulgaria gas connection, and the region’s cooperation with Russia, he accused the European Commission of double standards and hypocrisy.
“If the European Commission has nothing against the Nord Stream, I don’t see what is their problem with the southern transport route. If we look at these two projects, the only difference is that strong energy companies from Western Europe participate in the Nord Stream 2, while the Southern route includes smaller ones from Central Europe,” he said, referring to the natural gas pipeline connecting Russia and Germany.
Szijjarto said that Hungary would be willing to invest “up to 50 million euros (57 million U.S. dollars) in this project so that it could get from six to eight billion cubic meters of gas per year from Serbia” as the region needs to diversify its supply and invest in new transport routes.
“We, in Central Europe, demand equal conditions and the same approach of the European Commission,” he said, concluding that in future, CEE countries must not, as they did in the past, be the ultimate losers in battles between the East and the West. He also said he expected the Commission’s help with the project.
He suggested that countries of the region should make independent decisions when it comes to their energy security, to raise their voice against double standards imposed by the EU, to diversify their supply channels, and to turn Eurasian cooperation into one of their key priorities.
The project Turkish Stream replaced the earlier South Stream project, but was halted in November 2015 after the Russian jet fighter was shot down by Turkey. The agreement for the pipeline construction was nonetheless signed in 2016 and works started in May last year.
The Eurasian Energy Security Forum aims at connecting major international stakeholders such as governments, business and civil society. It was organized by the EnergyPact Foundation at the Serbian parliament.