EXCLUSIVE/ A telephone call between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras yesterday (5 February) covered the situation in Ukraine and the South Stream and Turkish Stream pipeline projects, the Kremlin announced. In the meantime, the Russian Ambassador to the EU provided EURACTIV with some insight on Russian plans.
The Kremlin communiqué provided little detail, except specifying that the two leaders discussed the Russian plans to replace South Stream with Turkish Stream, which would bring Russian gas across the Black Sea to Turkey, and from there, to a hub at the Turkish-Greek border.
One of the aims of the project is to bypass Ukraine, and another, to punish Bulgaria, which Russia blames for having obstructed the construction of South Stream.
EURACTIV asked Russian Ambassador to the EU Vladimir Chizhov to comment on these plans, and also recent statements by Commission Vice-President Maroš Šef?ovi?, who said that “Turkish Stream” was not a viable project.
Chizov said he was sure that when this idea was discussed during a visit of Putin to Turkey on 1 December 2014, “it was on the basis of certain calculations”.
If there is demand for Russian gas, the Turkish Stream project will work, Chizhov said, adding: “Of course, if (the) EU chooses to cut its consumption of Russian gas, there will be no point in building it.”
According to the Russian diplomat, the EU had not recognised Gazprom’s change of policy. Previously, the Russian gas exporter had insisted on being a part of the whole supply chain, starting upstream, all the way to downstream, to the consumer. The reason is that a lot of the profit is created in the downstream section, he admitted.
“Now, faced with draconian energy policy of the EU, including the infamous Third Energy Package, Gazprom has taken a more flexible view, and is prepared to deliver gas to the border of the EU, namely to that hub at the Turkish-Greek border. It could have been the Turkish-Bulgarian border, had the Bulgarian government been more consistent in its support of the project”, Chizhov said.
Asked about the risk that Russia would take by building expensive infrastructure to bring 63 billion cubic meters per year at the Greek-Turkish border, without a guarantee that the gas would flow further, Chizhov said there was no big problem, because one third of this amount would be consumed by Turkey.
As the diplomat explained, the existing Blue Stream across the Black Sea from Russia to Turkey [with a capacity of 16 bcm/y] does not provide gas for Istanbul and Eastern Thrace, the European part of Turkey. Therefore, part of the new capacity could find consumers there. “That area can consume a lot,” he said.
Another option, Chizhov said, was bringing that gas to the Mediterranean coast, building an LNG plant, and delivering it “to the rest of the world”.
But the diplomat conceded that ultimately the important factor would be the level of demand in the EU for Russian gas, over the longer term.
“The figures we have so far indicate that in 2014, Gazprom delivered more gas than before to EU countries. So there is a very visible trend of growth of gas supply from Russia to EU member states. And with gas prices going down, it may get increasingly attractive,” Chizhov said.