A historic milestone for the future of Europe’s energy security and Türkiye’s role as a transit country was reached with the signing of the Nabucco Agreement on July 13, 2009. This was a development agreement signed in Ankara between the Turkish government and Austria, Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania for the transfer of natural gas to the territories of the European Union. This contract officially opened the Nabucco pipeline. According to Jose Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission during that time, Nabucco will provide energy security for Türkiye, South and Eastern Europe, and Central Europe.
Türkiye will play an essential role for the future of energy security in Europe, as most of the pipelines from energy-producing countries in the east to energy-consuming countries in the west pass through Turkish soil. This means that Türkiye will become a central energy hub for Europe soon.
The issue of energy security is one of the main concerns of the future of Europe given the increasing dependence of European countries on third parties, namely Russia, for natural gas. This dependence became apparent in January 2009, when the Russian government cut off gas supplies to Ukraine, which also cut off gas to Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, Serbia, and Croatia. Russia supplies more than a third of the EU’s gas needs, which is expected to increase by around 80% by 2030. In addition, 80 percent of Russian gas is transported through pipelines that pass through Ukraine, making the European Union dependent on Russia for natural gas supplies and Ukraine for transit.
There is no doubt that Russia’s position as the world’s largest producer and exporter of natural gas has given its government a key trump card in its relations with the European Union. That is why the European Union is looking for alternative sources and means of natural gas transmission to reduce its dependence and thus its vulnerability to Russia.
The future of Europe’s energy security can be seen from two different perspectives; the first is to find different sources of natural gas other than Russia, and the second is to create new means to transport that gas and deliver it to European markets by bypassing Russia. However, this does not mean that there are no other energy-related concerns for the EU apart from natural gas. In other words, reducing reliance on Russia is only one of the main concerns for the future of Europe’s energy security — but it is also the most urgent.
This is especially important as a new age in energy is about to emerge. As indicated in the statement of the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, on December 23, 2008, the era of cheap gas is over. On this basis, the European Union announced that Europe’s will is to end its dependency on Russian oil and gas imports, indicating a diversification strategy. With the introduction of this alternative strategy, Türkiye enters the equation.
It is possible to reduce the EU’s dependence on Russian gas imports by finding alternative suppliers and through multiple transport routes that pass-through Türkiye. Energy security is a critical variable shaping Türkiye’s strategic importance to the EU. The issue of energy security for the EU has not only highlighted the potential value of Türkiye but also highlighted the emerging dynamics for the future of Türkiye’s position in Europe.
Türkiye’s potential role in energy security in Europe
Türkiye’s location between the primary energy producers in the Caspian region, the Middle East, Russia, and the primary energy consumers in Europe has increased its role as a transit country. The proposal has a series of new implications for the position of Türkiye, which has been a candidate for EU membership since 1999, but negotiations have since stalled. Since 2010, the EU has opened 13 chapters of its legislation for negotiations with Türkiye and temporarily closed one. The issue of Türkiye’s membership in the European Union is not an easy task, and the road poses many obstacles. Therefore, Türkiye’s role in European energy security can be considered one of the benefits of Türkiye’s membership in the European Union.
The Turkish Stream project is of great importance in a combination of energy and international politics in many aspects, and its strategic importance will go beyond a pipeline. Turk Stream seems to be an opportunity for Türkiye to achieve the best balance between the West and Russia in a combination of converging and conflicting interests in a smart strategy. The Turkish Stream pipeline, with a capacity of 31.5 billion cubic meters, transports Russian gas in two separate routes to Türkiye and the other to Bulgaria, Serbia, and Hungary. Turk Stream guarantees Türkiye’s geostrategic position as an energy hub and aligns Ankara’s ambitions in this field with Russia’s efforts to be more present in the natural gas market of the European Union.
Accordingly, Türkiye’s role for Europe’s energy security can become a critical variable that will shape the nature and speed of Türkiye’s EU accession negotiations. It should be noted that Türkiye’s accession to the EU depends on Türkiye’s ability to successfully negotiate all chapters of EU law and the sustainability of its political reforms. These are the necessary conditions for Türkiye’s accession, but the preferences of the member states and the public perception of the EU about the benefits of Türkiye’s accession are equally important.
In short, the possible benefits of Türkiye’s accession to EU energy security can be considered as a potential added value to Türkiye’s membership. Türkiye appears as the central energy pole of Europe, and its importance increases in proportion to Europe’s dependence on imports to meet its energy needs.
Disclaimer. The views and opinions expressed in this op-ed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of MEPEI. Any content provided by our authors is of their opinion and is not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, individual, or anyone or anything.
About the author:
Amin Bagheri is a Research Fellow at the International Studies Association in Tehran. His primary research interest lies in international relations, transnational governance, international peace, and conflicts in the Middle East.