Cevikoz: Deal with Azerbaijan alone will not be enough for the EU

Cevikoz: Deal with Azerbaijan alone will not be enough for the EU
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The former ambassador spoke to +Gerceknews about the EU's energy diversification move
Turkey's former ambassador to Azerbaijan Unal Cevikoz spoke to +GercekNews about the recently inked EU-Azerbaijan Memorandum of Understanding that aims to double the natural gas import of the block in 15 years. 

EU and Azerbaijan signed a deal to double Azerbaijan’s natural gas supply to the bloc by 2027 in a bid to decrease its energy dependence on Russia. The deal will see Baku pumping 20 billion cubic meters of gas to the EU annually. What are your thoughts on this move?

I think this is simply because of the Russian military aggression against Ukraine and the developments beginning on the 24th of February this year. This triggered a serious concern in all European countries, particularly in Germany, which is mainly dependent on Russian gas imports. And as the war developed it seemed that the European countries are probably going to have some energy shortage this winter and that, of course, requires some kind of diversification attempt for the European Union. Germany immediately decided to diminish its dependence on Russian gas and many other European countries also chose to do the same. And that is the reason why now Europe and the European Union are also looking for other opportunities to diversify their energy import possibilities. One of them is of course the Azerbaijani gas, the Caspian gas. Azerbaijan already has a deal with the European Union. The Caspian gas corridor connects Baku to Tbilisi to Erzurum and then extends to Anatolia with the Trans-Anatolian pipeline. After it leaves Turkey in the Balkans it becomes the Trans-Adriatic pipeline, TAP, and TAP actually is the main source of Caspian gas from Azerbaijan to Europe. I think it has a capacity of around 10 billion cubic meters per year and Azerbaijan in 2021 has I think delivered around 8.2 billion cubic meters of natural gas through TAP to Europe.

Now that all the European countries and European Union is looking for diversification possibilities and ways to diminish their dependence on Russian gas exports they chose to apply to Azerbaijan. That is the reason why they signed the deal, the memorandum of understanding, and according to this memorandum of understanding in a couple of years, they are going to increase the capacity of the TAP to up to 20 billion cubic meters a year which is, of course, a possibility. This gas of course goes through the Trans-Caucuses pipeline through TANAP, the Trans-Anatolian pipeline, and then through TAP reaches Europe.

I think it is one of the deals but that's not going to be enough for the European Union. The European Union is also looking for other opportunities.

They are also looking for ways to expand their options and they have reached out to Qatar to increase their LNG (Liquified Natural Gas) imports. But the deal and the memorandum of understanding signed in Baku between the European Union and Azerbaijan is a positive development in terms of diminishing or reducing the dependence of the European Union on Russian gas exports.

You mentioned the Southern Gas Corridor extensively there. Turkey is a transit country, a part of that route, do you think this deal will affect Turkey and its role as a transit country? will this effect be positive or negative? What can we expect to see in the coming years?

Turkey is of course a very important country. Geographically it's the main transit country, but it may also become a hub as far as energy exports from the East to the West are concerned. the Trans-Anatolian pipeline plus the Trans-Adriatic pipeline is only one of the options and it is only connecting Azerbaijan and the Caspian gas to Europe. But there are several other options. For example, people are talking about expanding the capacity of the trans-Anatolian pipeline as well because I think it has a capacity of only about 16 billion cubic meters a year. That is a possibility and of course, it all depends on how Azerbaijan is going to supply and whether they will be able to supply, fill and increase the capacity of TANAP as well. For that of course they are looking for options to add the Turkmenistan gas to the Azerbaijani exports as well.

There is another option which is much more important than TANAP. It is the Eastern Mediterranean. The East Med is probably one of the best alternatives which could respond to the emanating energy crisis particularly in Europe this winter.

It's not going to happen of course overnight but it is one of the options which has been talked about and which has been worked on for a couple of years already. But there are many political problems as far as the Eastern Mediterranean gas is concerned. I think the best option for these Mediterranean gas to be transported to Europe is via Turkey. Think of Israeli offshore gas capabilities, like the Leviathan, and also the Egyptian gas capability which is offshore in the Eastern Mediterranean. If they are connected there's an enormous capacity and this capacity can certainly be connected to Turkey and it can also be connected to TANAP in the future in order to export the Eastern Mediterranean gas to Europe. I think that is the most important project that Turkey has to support and work on seriously. But as I said certainly there are several political problems.

One of the problems is Cyprus. As long as the Cyprus issue is unresolved, I believe the Greek Cypriots will try to hamper the development of that project. The other political problems are the current political situation between Turkey-Israel and between Turkey and Egypt. You know that since 2013 Turkey does not have an ambassador in Cairo. There have been two rounds of talks between the Turkish and Egyptian foreign ministries to normalize Turkish-Egyptian relations again and to exchange ambassadors. But I hear that it's not reaching any substantial outcome so far. The other issue is, of course, the Turkish Israeli relations which have also been interrupted after the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident. It was normalized in 2016 but only about 18 months later in spring 2018 again the two countries withdrew their ambassadors and still in Ankara and in Tel Aviv we do not have ambassadors. So, if the Turkish-Israeli and the Turkish-Egyptian political relations are again upgraded to the level of ambassadorial representation and if the bilateral relations between these two countries and Turkey are normalized I think there would be a very good opportunity to discuss the Eastern Mediterranean gas option. I think Europe should be looking for opportunities to solve the dilemma that Turkey is facing in the Eastern Mediterranean because it is also for the benefit of Europe as well. 

I want to play the devil's advocate here. Of course, we're talking about energy policies, natural gas, etc. but these are all fossil fuels and the EU has put a target of reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050. We know that they are planning to double the amount that they're receiving from Azerbaijan in 15 years. The projects that you mentioned will also take time, at least a decade, to fully materialize. So, what do you think? On the one hand, they're trying to reduce their carbon emissions, on the other hand, we're seeing them increasing their emissions, but they're claiming that this is for the short term. do you think this could be some kind of a “Russian rush?” If the war concludes today or very shortly will we still see these kinds of initiatives take place or will they go back to reducing their emissions?

Well first of all the Green Deal actually is still on the agenda and the European Union is not going to give up this project. But the Green Deal is not a very short-term project. It has to continue for quite a while and the minimization and the reduction of carbon gas emissions is intended to be withdrawn down to zero by the year 2050. That takes about around 30 years now. 30 years actually is not a very short time. but in that period it is so obvious that all the European countries and actually many countries in the world will continue to be dependent on hydrocarbon resources. That's the reason why they're trying to balance the situation. Because the implementation of the Green Deal requires serious infrastructure investments and the infrastructure developments are not going very quickly. The other reason why they're looking again for diversifying their possibilities on hydrocarbon resources is simply that there is an acute situation. Nobody expected that there would be a war between Russia and Ukraine. The Russian military aggression against Ukraine has created an acute situation and that probably is going to interrupt, or perhaps intervene, and certainly delay the Green Deal projects of the European Union for a while. That is the reason why in order to find a solution to the acute problem in the short run they will be looking for more options to develop their imports on hydrocarbon resources. That's the reason why the European Union has approached Azerbaijan.

Unal Cevikoz represented Turkey on the ambassadorial level in the United Kingdom, Azerbaijan, and Iraq. He currently serves as a deputy of the Republican People's Party (CHP) in the Grand National Assembly of Turkey. He also holds positions in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), the Foreign Affairs Committee and the EU Harmonization Committee of the Turkish Parliament.