EU urges Turkey for Nabucco project
Turkey will be urged this week to give more support to the proposed Nabucco natural gas pipeline, following mounting EU concern about Ankara's commitment to the project.
Jozias van Aartsen, the EU's co-ordinator for natural gas projects in southern Europe, will visit Ankara on Thursday to press Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the prime minister, to tackle some of the obstacles facing the plan.
Mr van Aartsen told the Financial Times at the weekend: "If they are seeking a relationship with the EU, it is one of the ways to make really clear that they do want a future relationship."
The European Commission is expected today to grant a key regulatory approval to Nabucco, marking a further step forward for the scheme.
RWE, one of Germany's biggest energy companies, joined the project consortium last week.
However, Nabucco still raises many concerns, including the role of Turkey.
The project, a 3,300km route to bring gas from Azerbaijan and other countries in the Caspian region, is supposed to bolster the EU's energy security by providing an alternative to Russian supplies.
Gazprom's dispute with Ukraine over claims of unpaid bills has highlighted concerns about the EU's increasing reliance on gas from Russia.
Yet some in the EU argue there is little point backing Nabucco if it makes the EU more dependent on gas sources that were less reliable than Russia.
Ankara has repeatedly said that it is committed to Nabucco, and Botas, the Turkish gas company, is a member of the project consortium.
However, Turkey has failed to agree a pricing framework for the use of the pipeline, supplies from Turkey to Greece have been interrupted recently following the loss of supplies from Iran, and Ankara is resisting Gaz de France joining the Nabucco consortium, apparently for political reasons.
GDF said last week that it had not given up on eventually being allowed to join Nabucco, but it was now looking at other projects in the area.
These include South Stream, a plan between Gazprom and Eni of Italy to bring a pipeline from Russia to Bulgaria.
"Nabucco is not the saviour project for Europe; we have to evaluate the political and economic risks as for any other project," a European diplomat said.
The diplomat suggested there could be viable alternatives, including White Stream, the proposed pipeline under the Black Sea from Georgia to Ukraine and on into the EU, which is strongly backed by Kiev.
The other significant concern over Nabucco is whether enough gas can be supplied by Azerbaijan, which will be the principal source, at least in the first phase that is due to begin in 2013.
However, Stefan Judisch of RWE said last week he was confident that, once Nabucco was built, it would encourage companies to find more gas in the region.