Todays Date
December 7, 2021

Pipeline war

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The strategic Balkan pipeline project – Trans Adriatic Pipeline – “TAP” becomes a reality. This is achieved by long lobbying by Athens, Tirana and Rome in the world centers of power, but much helped by the crisis in Ukraine. It will deliver Caspian natural gas from the Turkish border, through northern Greece, southern Albania, to Italy and Europe. The gas will be taken from the mega-system “TANAP” in Turkey, and the goal is to reduce Russian energy influence on the region and Europe as a whole. Of 880 kilometers, 540 kilometers will go via Greece and 160 kilometers via Albania, then via Otranto, for the pipeline to reach Italy. Experts further predict that a branch of “TAP” should turn to Montenegro, BiH, Croatia and Western Europe.

Greece, Albania and Italy in Athens in 2013 signed an agreement to build the pipeline “TAP” willing to invest over billions of Euros. Shareholder structure of the supplier “TAP” is – Swiss “Arho”, Norwegian “Statoil”, German “E.ON”, but interest also show companies – “ASPROFOS” which belongs to “Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE)”, British Giant “BP”, Spanish “Enagas” and Azerbaijan “Socar”. It is expected that in 2020 Europe will finally get gas from this system.

The system is of great importance for Europe as it will visibly reduce energy dependence on “Gazprom”, which represents a hard energy and political weapon in the hands of Russia. “Gazprom” has already begun to build in several Balkan states. It is about the project “South Stream” that is supposed to go via Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary and proceed to Western Europe. European Pipeline Project “NABUCCO” unsuccessfully tried to compete with this project, but due to investors’ indifference it remained only at the level of design. Since the gas crisis in 2009, when the Russians closed the valves of the gas pipeline system via Ukraine (reportedly due to debt and low price for Ukraine) – EU has been paying a high price. Since then, the EU has been seeking diversification of gas supply and it is its very important political orientation.

“TAP” is supported by the European Commission, which is prepared to help financially. With this project quality gas will be transported to ten European countries. The Azerbaijan gas is run by the consortium “Shah Deniz II” licensed for exploitation of gas reserves in the amount of 16 billion cubic meters per year. Importantly, “TAP” is supported by this strong consortium as a main gas carrier to southeast Europe, Italy and other parts of the EU. The International Energy Agency predicts that the gas demand in the EU will grow from the current 526 billion cubic meters per year to 622 in 2030.

After the outbreak of the armed conflict in Ukraine, the EU sent a request to the Balkan states where building of the Russian pipeline “South Stream” – daughter of “Gazprom” had already begun – to stop the construction on the grounds that European standards were not respected. It further complicated the situation, so it can very easily produce measures, which does not exclude the possibility in winter to escalate again by closing the Russian valves towards EU. Current Western sanctions against Russia have halved the economic growth of this country (now it is only one percent). Moscow’s nervousness can lead to stopping the delivery of Russian gas to the EU. Unlike the United States where thanks to fracking they do not have a big need to import gas, Europeans are highly dependent on Russian gas. A quarter of the gas consumed in Europe comes from the East. In Germany the figure is much higher – about 39%.

Where are we here? As always – nowhere. We already wrote that Macedonia had lost Corridor 8, thus losing ten billion Euros. The government was busy with lions, horses, mules and donkeys. Current government has a very bad image before the international community and lobbying is not easy. It trumpeted that we would be a transit position with the “South Stream” and we got just a plain supply branch. Now the opportunity is here again. But the government should stop wasting the whole energy just for the preservation of its rating. It should strongly lobby to get a “TAP” branch either from Albania or Greece, thus simultaneously supplying Kosovo and Serbia. Thus it would get gas transit, a strong geopolitical position, internal and regional supply, many jobs and 30 million Euros a year just for transit. So at least once prove that you do not only serve to your personal and group interests! Unfortunately we are light years away from that.

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