Putin’s plans for TurkStream pipeline face EU resistance

European countries are fighting back hard against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s plans to use TurkStream pipeline to deepen its influence in the Balkans, said Dimitar Bechev, an analyst on Russia, in an article he penned for Foreign Policy on Tuesday.

The TurkStream pipeline, when completed, will consist of two lines with the capacity to transport 31.5 billion cubic metres of gas from Russia. The first line will carry 15.75 billion cubic metres of gas to Turkey while the second line will transfer Russian gas to Europe through Turkey.

The pipeline, which is expected to be operational by the end of 2019, will likely transport gas to Europe through Bulgaria and then on to Serbia, Hungary, and Austria.

TurkStream is a commercial and geopolitical coup for the Russians, according to Bechev, who said the pipeline strengthens Gazprom’s position in Turkey while deepening strategic partnership between Ankara and Moscow at a time when many analysts say Turkey is drifting away from the West.

The pipeline may strengthen Putin’s hand in the Balkans as well, however, keeping in mind that it will terminate in the European Union, Gazprom needs to conform to EU’s anti-monopoly rules, which are largely imposed to diversify Europe’s energy supplies and to decrease dependency on Russian gas.

Putin in January sealed a deal for a joint venture between Gazprom and the Serbian Srbijagas, while in March to discuss another 300-mile stretch, which requires an estimated $1.6 billion investment. Russia will not provide the cash, given that Sofia has not returned some 125 million euro ($141 million) Moscow gave for the now shelved South Stream project, while securing the required funds from the EU is also unlikely.

Meanwhile, the Energy Community, a Vienna-based watchdog tasked with bringing candidate countries’ legislation in line with European rules, has already warned that the TurkStream plans break EU rules, Bechev said, adding that a deal with Russia for Turkstream might slow down Serbia’s accession talks with the EU.