Azerbaijan and Turkey forced Europeans to rethink their plans for the Nabucco pipeline and several member states joined the Russian-sponsored South Stream pipeline.
Europeans aim to diversify their gas-supply routes to reduce central and eastern members’ dependence on Russia and to ensure security of supply. Europeans want Russia to abide by the EU’s market rules and to prevent it obstructing the construction of alternative gas-supply routes. In 2012, they were partially successful in achieving these objectives, mainly because of the continued construction of gas interconnectors (between states such as Hungary and Romania) and the implementation of measures that allow reverse flows (such as in Austria, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia). A liquid-natural-gas terminal in Poland, which will reduce its and possibly other Central Europeans’ dependence on Russian gas deliveries, is expected to be completed in 2014 despite financial problems.
However, the Nabucco project – one of the EU’s main projects to ensure gas supply from sources other than Russia – suffered another blow in 2012 after Azerbaijan and Turkey announced that they would build their own pipeline, the so-called Trans-Anatolian pipeline, connecting these two states rather than joining Nabucco (which was originally envisaged as a pipeline starting all the way from the Georgian-Turkish border). There is an alternative to the original route: a “Nabucco West” pipeline, which would be linked to the Trans-Anatolian pipeline and continue through Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Austria, and beyond. But even if final agreement on gas transportation is reached, the envisioned annual capacity of this “lighter” version will be half of that originally planned.
Moreover, the Nord Stream project, which links Russia and Germany through a seabed-laid pipeline in the Baltic Sea (and which thus increases rather than decreases the EU’s dependence on Russian gas) was given another boost as the second of the two pipelines became operational on 8 October 2012. Hungary, Bulgaria, and Slovenia also joined the Russian-sponsored South Stream project, which is seen as an alternative to Nabucco. Thus EU member states continue to seek bilateral solutions to their energy issues rather than joining forces to reduce their dependence on Russia.