Foreign Policy Blogs

Azerbaijan and the diversification of Europe’s natural gas supply

It was recently reported that the Shah Deniz consortium has commenced natural gas deliveries to Europe.  Shahmar Hajiyev, an AIR Center expert, noted, “This is very important because Azerbaijan became the first country to supply Caspian natural gas to European energy markets.  It represents the future of the European Union’s energy supply.  Azerbaijan will supply 10 billion barrels of gas per year to the EU.   This is very important for Europe’s diversification process.”
 
According to Hajiyev, it is very important that the EU stop relying upon Russian oil for the sake of its own energy security: “It’s very dangerous for the EU to rely upon Russia.  What happened in the Ukraine shows that this is dangerous.  There was a huge crisis between Russia and the Ukraine.  The terms of the transit issue and later also the conflict with the separatists supported by Russia created major problems.  This showed the EU that relying upon Russia is dangerous for the EU.   Also, there was the price issue.   For all these reasons, they prefer to diversify their sources and Azerbaijan was the best option.”
 
Paolo Bergamaschi, a European energy expert, concurred: “the European Commission declared that the Southern Corridor is critical for the strategic security of the EU.  The pipeline is thus critical for the security of the EU, especially related to the diversification of supplies for we want to decrease the influence of Russian gas on Europe.  That is why the EU has pursued the support of the TAP pipeline to create an alternative to Russian gas.”
 
According to Bergamaschi, it is also good for the United States that the EU diversify its oil supply: “One of the foreign policy objectives of the US is to decrease Russian influence on the EU, so that is the purpose of this pipeline.  If I look at the Eastern Mediterranean and the many gas and oil fields all over, the discoveries of Turkey in the Black Sea, etc., there will be many markets.  I believe in a quick energy transition.  But if I must choose, I prefer the Azerbaijani gas for they won’t use it as an instrument to impose their foreign policy objectives like Russia does.  Azerbaijan is a friend of Europe and that is important for us.”
 
Hajiyev concurred: “The United States always supports the EU on energy security.  They also are against the Russian monopoly on the European market.  The US put sanctions on the Russian gas pipelines, for they would help Putin to improve his position and dominate the European gas market.  Therefore, the US supports the EU in its diversification to decrease the Russian monopoly on EU market.”
 
When asked how Azerbaijan supplying natural gas to the European Union will influence Israel, Hajiyev responded: “Azerbaijan and Israel are remarkably close.  Azerbaijan supplies 45 percent of Israel’s energy needs.  Israel will also build pipelines, but there are geopolitical issues, so we cannot say exactly when Israel will build the pipeline.  The Azerbaijani pipeline is ready.  Azerbaijan supplies 10 bcn to Europe every year.  They will increase to 20 bcn in the future.  It won’t contradict Israel, for the EU market is very big and there is room for more gas.  It is against the Russian interest, for Azerbaijan and Israel can jointly fill what Russia supplied.  In the end, these two countries will supply Europe and there will be no conflict of interest between Israel and Azerbaijan.  Israel needs 3-5 years to complete the project, if everything goes right.”
 
The Azerbaijani diaspora in the European Union countries also support first direct gas deliveries to Europe, which will serve to strengthen the diplomatic and economic relations between their motherland Azerbaijan and their host countries.  It will also reinforce the position of the Azerbaijani Diaspora organizations in the EU countries to promote more effectively these relations.
 

Author

Rachel Avraham

Rachel Avraham is a political analyst working at the Safadi Center for International Diplomacy, Research, Public Relations and Human Rights. For 7 years, she has been an Israel-based journalist, specializing in radical Islam, abuses of human rights and minority rights, counter-terrorism, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Syria, Iran, Kurdistan and other issues of importance. Avraham is the author of “Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab Media," a ground-breaking book endorsed by Former Israel Consul General Yitzchak Ben Gad and Israeli Communications Minister Ayoob Kara that discusses how the media exploits the life stories of Palestinian female terrorists in order to justify wanton acts of violence. Avraham has an MA in Middle Eastern Studies from Ben-Gurion University. She received her BA in Government and Politics with minors in Jewish Studies and Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Maryland at College Park.

Great Decisions Discussion group