Moldova and Turkmenistan introduce alternatives to Russia-EU pipeline politics

Europe and Central Asia are experiencing multiple parallel developments in their respective energy markets. Russian energy company Gazprom is currently fighting to safeguard its market share in Europe by pushing for new projects and diversifying transit routes. Russia provides about a third of the EU natural gas energy supply, about half of which is shipped through Ukraine. Along with drastic deterioration of Russia-Ukraine relations after Russian annexation of Crimea last year and the rise of pro-Russian rebels in Eastern Ukraine, Ukraine is no longer regarded as a stable energy route. Alternatively, Russia has pushed for the Nord Stream II project, indicated by Gazprom’s signing of a shareholders’ agreement with five European companies on building a pipeline under the Baltic Sea to Germany. Russian President Vladimir Putin has claimed that Nord Stream II is not directed at cutting Ukraine out of its current role as a pipeline hub for Europe. European leaders have remained ambivalent on the project, inducing the Russian side to offer more lenient pricing. As a result, Gazprom has issued a statement on its readiness to sell more natural gas in Europe at current spot prices in exchange of European support of Nord Stream II project.

Additionally, Moldova very recently became another member of the Gas Connectivity (CESEC) initiative, the European Commission project for central-eastern and south-eastern Europe aimed at diversifying gas routes in the region. The CESEC comprises several EU members Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia as well as non-EU states – Albania, Macedonia, Serbia, Ukraine and Moldova. In the CESEC framework, Moldova plans to build a pipeline delivering Romanian natural gas to Chisinau to decrease dependence on Russian energy.

Diversification of energy supply remains a major issue for Turkmenistan as well. The country, which remains under a stranglehold of Chinese gas exports (its only customer being China), is attempting to contract other external clients, particularly setting eyes on European market via the Trans-Caspian pipeline project, which is at this point in its pre-planning phase. Proclaiming his support for the project, Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhammadov stated that the possibility of advancing the project is under discussion. The project implies laying a 300 km pipeline under the Caspian Sea along the coast of Azerbaijan to deliver natural gas first to Turkey and then further to Europe.

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