Opportunities for Transatlantic Cooperation in the Caspian Region

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV.COM Ltd.

Richard L. Morningstar, a lecturer at Stanford Law School, analyses the potential of the Caspian Region to lessen Europe’s over-dependence on Russian gas, particularly considering the potential of gas-rich nations such as Kazakhstan.

The author writes that in July 2006, the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) Pipeline, which runs from the Caspian port of Baku, through Azerbaijan and Georgia to the Mediterranean port of Ceyhan on the Turkish Coast, became operational. The successful completion of this oil pipeline and the opening in the near future of a gas pipeline mirroring the BTC route, to ship Azerbaijani gas to Turkey, and perhaps ultimately to Europe, make clear the critical importance of the Caspian region to the US and Europe, according to the author.

Since the 1990s, he writes, successive American administrations have focused attention on this region. Policymakers understood the link between geopolitics, the development of energy resources and commercial interests.

Whereas US Caspian policy is intended to increase the worldwide supply of natural resources, not to direct specific Caspian resources to America, the author believes that Caspian resources, particularly natural gas, should be even more important to Europe than the US. The huge natural gas resources that can be found in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and the Western Caspian are critical, because they can ultimately lessen Europe’s over-dependence on Russian gas. 

As Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs recently pointed out in a Wall Street Journal interview, by 2015 Kazakhstan could be producing 20% more gas per year than is consumed by Germany. Also, the region is the only one apart from the Persian Gulf where oil production is likely to increase over the coming decades, the author concludes.

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