Erdoğan knocks EU politicians at pipeline opening

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan held the opening ceremony of the Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP) in central Turkey on Tuesday, inaugurating the first pipeline to carry gas from Azerbaijan to Europe.

Construction of TANAP, a joint project by the Azeri state-owned energy company and majority stakeholder SOCAR alongside Turkish state pipeline corporation BOTAŞ and BP, began in 2015.

The pipeline will connect the South Caucasus Pipeline, originating in the giant Shah Deniz gas fields in the Caspian sea, to the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline, which is expected to begin pumping through Greece to Albania and Italy upon completion in 2020.

The TANAP pipeline

TANAP is projected to transport an initial 10 billion cubic metres of gas to Europe and 6 billion to Turkey per year, making it a major stride towards Turkey’s longstanding goal of becoming a regional energy hub, and a significant advance for energy security in Europe.

With added investment, the total amount transported could rise to 31 billion cubic meters, said Erdoğan.

It was therefore perhaps a sign of Turkey’s faltering relations with Europe that, while the Azeri, Georgian, Ukrainian and Serbian presidents were present for the opening ceremony, no leaders from the European Union (EU) attended.

In fact, Erdoğan used the occasion as an opportunity to rail against European politicians, starting with the government of Austria, which expelled 40 imams and shut down seven mosques including one belonging to a Turkish association last week.

The Turkish president went on to express his unease with what he said were efforts by European politicians to provoke xenophobia and anti-Muslim sentiments for short term gain.

Besides that, the event marked a significant success for a Turkish-Azeri partnership hailed by Erdoğan. The inauguration of TANAP was also greeted warmly by U.S. Bureau of Energy Resources official Sandra Oudkirk, who was enthusiastic that the project would improve Europe’s energy security and reduce reliance on gas exports from Russia.

The 1,850 km pipeline passes through 20 Turkish provinces and under the Sea of Marmara, and will offload the gas destined for Turkish consumers near the central Anatolian city of Eskişehir.