Reinhard Mitschek is chief executive of Nabucco Gas Pipeline International GmbH in Vienna. He began his career at the Austrian oil and gas group OMV. He spoke to EurActiv Senior Editor Georgi Gotev.
The French energy group GDF Suez became a shareholder in the Nabucco consortium on 27 May. Until now there were five shareholders along the pipeline’s route - OMV (Austria), FGSZ (Hungary), Transgaz (Romania), BEH (Bulgaria) and BOTAS (Turkey). France is obviously not on the route of Nabucco. Why such interest?
GDF has a strong position in upstream, also in the Caspian region, in offshore Azerbaijan. GDF Suez is a partner of Total and SOCAR [the Azerbaijani state gas company], it has markets in Romania, Austria, Germany with a strong customer base, a strong downstream base. That’s a very welcome combination for an additional shareholder of Nabucco.
Does it mean that the new shareholder highlights the European dimension of Nabucco, which is better known for its regional importance for Southeast Europe?
What we always underlined is that Nabucco West on the one hand has regional importance for Southeastern Europe, to directly develop interconnectivity and to connect national grids with one backbone, one strong gas highway. At the same time, it has a European dimension, to add a fourth additional corridor [in addition to those from Russia, Norway and North Africa] for the benefit of all European customers, so that European customers can get Nabucco gas. And it has a third European dimension: the link to Turkey, to the Caspian, to provide gas from the Caspian region via Turkey to Europe.
Our cooperation with TANAP [the Trans-Anatolian gas pipeline, a Turkish-Azerbaijani project] started very early, immediately after TANAP was established. We can provide from our database, from our engineering base for Nabucco classic-related engineering results, study results, etc., for the Turkish section of Nabucco classic for the benefit of TANAP. That’s offered to TANAP for sale and we are in discussions with them.
Could TANAP become possible in such a short time without the expertise of Nabucco classic?
This is something I would not like to judge. They have very qualified people there and SOCAR - and also, in a next step, BP, Statoil and Total, as potential future shareholders of TANAP - have quite an expertise, and I assume that if they join forces and use what’s already available, they can recover and reschedule their timetable to ours. That would be most important, because we have to link.
TANAP is your natural partner, because it was part of Nabucco classic?
How about the Reuters article saying that Azerbaijan would be wise to choose the Trans-Adriatic TAP pipeline project, because Baku wants good relations with Moscow. The context is of course that Nabucco is seen as a competitor to Gazprom’s favoured project South Stream, and that the Shah Deniz consortium has to decide in a month or so.
South Steam for me for the time being is not a concrete project. I haven’t seen a route for South Steam and I don’t know where South Steam stands for the time being. What I know is that one of eight selection criteria for Shah Deniz is Azerbaijan’s strategic considerations. And as far as I’m informed, Azerbaijan’s strategic consideration is diversification of exports. Which in my understanding is to bring gas to as many countries as possible, to as many business partners as possible, and not simply send 10 billion cubic metres to one client [Italy, the main destination for the TAP gas].
Maybe when Shah Deniz will make its decision, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev will come to Brussels. Do you think he has a better case of being acclaimed by a bigger number of EU countries?
That’s something we have to see. I don’t want to make any statements and interfere in this topic. I’m confident we have provided a comprehensive and convincing documentation to Shah Deniz and SOCAR and I’m confident that we will be selected.
Bulgarian President Rossen Plevneliev was here at the 22 May EU summit on energy. He voiced his country’s strong support for Nabucco and said that 16 countries would benefit from the project. Does this figure correspond to your estimation?
That’s absolutely correct. Sixteen countries will benefit directly and the overall related market is even bigger. The 16 countries include the Southeastern countries, including the Western Balkans, Greece, Italy and also the Visegrad group: Slovakia, Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland. I would even add France and other countries. So yes, he is right, at least this number of countries would benefit.