TurkStream pipeline presents valuable opportunity for Europe - analyst

Progress in the TurkStream pipeline project, which once complete will pump billions of cubic metres of natural gas under the Black Sea from Russia to Turkey and on to Greece, is good news for Europe as it can enhance energy security, Center for Strategic and International Studies Senior Fellow Nikos Tsafos argued in an article published on Wednesday.

“For a continent bitterly—and, often, needlessly— divided by pipelines, TurkStream offers an opportunity to depoliticize gas and show that new infrastructure can be a win-win for Russia and Europe,” Tsafos said.

The Russian and Turkish presidents celebrated the inauguration of the underwater section of the pipeline in November. Once the project reaches completion – expected in 2019 – the project’s two pipelines will transport a maximum annual amount of 31.5 billion cubic metres of gas, half to Turkey and the other half to Europe through Greece.

A similar project, Nord Stream, was met with opposition from Europe due to fears the new supply route would increase Russia’s political influence over its European customers.

However, the Nord Stream project has in fact presented European states with opportunities as energy supply lines diversified, and a similar dynamic could be put into play when TurkStream goes online, said Tsafos.

“When TurkStream comes online, we can expect flows to shift as they did with the Nord Stream 1 pipeline The Trans-Balkan pipeline might no longer send gas to Turkey. With time, Bulgaria and Greece could receive their Russian gas through Turkey rather than via Ukraine—and eventually, other countries might as well. What happened in Central Europe after Nord Stream 1 could happen in the Balkans with TurkStream,” he said.

While the existence of the new energy supply route would do nothing to mitigate Russia’s aggressive foreign policy, for Tsafos, it would still hold a number of advantages for European states.

“In simple terms, TurkStream can enhance liquidity and competition in Southeast Europe, just like Nord Stream 1 did in Central Europe. It can improve supply security, allowing countries like Romania and Ukraine access to additional supply sources,” he added.

“It can lessen the need for new infrastructure, as long as the existing infrastructure is used better—which will only happen with strong regulatory oversight, allowing access to infrastructure and enabling virtual trades that shrink price gaps between countries.”