The EU plans to ask Azerbaijan for possible emergency gas supplies, as it is in a hurry to arrange contingency plans should a Russian invasion of Ukraine hit energy supplies.
Kadri Simson, the EU’s energy commissioner, will fly to Baku early next month for talks with Azeri ministers of energy and natural resources, in an effort to garner support.
The planned talks with an ally of Moscow are an indication of the depth of concern in the EU on the risk of a renewed rise in energy prices as a result of a Russian war with Ukraine.
Russia supplies about 40 percent of EU gas needs, giving it a huge swing over European energy markets. Brussels is worried that any sanctions against Moscow in response to an invasion could provoke countermeasures gas supply limited.
Samson will be in Baku next Friday to attend a long-planned ministerial conference. But she also intends to hold talks with Azerbaijan’s energy and natural resources ministers, Parviz Shahbazov and Mukhtar Babayev, to investigate the country’s willingness to expand shipments to the EU via the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (which runs from Turkey to Southern Europe walks). EU official said.
“We expect these discussions to focus on Azerbaijan’s role in diversifying gas supplies to Europe,” the official added. “This includes the potential to increase the gas supply via the Trans Adriatic Pipeline to the EU. TAP’s annual capacity is currently about 10 bcm and it has been a stable and reliable supplier to the EU. ”
Azerbaijan is a former Soviet state and has close ties with Moscow. Russian peacekeepers are currently patrolling parts of the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region that Baku claims, following a war last spring with neighboring Armenia, which Kremlin’s leverage in the region.
“Azerbaijan has always been seen as a way to diversify away from Russia and strengthen the EU’s energy mix. It is not surprising that they would knock on Azeri doors, ”says Emre Peker, European director at Eurasia Group.
“Politically speaking, I think Baku will be open to the idea, but they will have to manage the dynamics around it very carefully so as not to upset Moscow.”
The talks shed light on the EU’s anxious search for additional sources of gas as relations with Russia deteriorate. The Biden administration has warned that Russian President Vladimir Putin is planning an invasion of Ukraine after amassing 106,000 troops at its border.
In response, the EU was in talks with the US about what Washington describes as a “massive” package of Western sanctions in response to Russian aggression. But EU member states are keenly aware of their vulnerability to interruptions in supplies from their largest host if the conflict worsens.
The EU and the US have held talks with Qatar and other major gas exporters to plan contingency measures, focusing on securing additional seaborne liquefied natural gas cargoes. Simson said she would travel to Washington DC on February 7 to hold further discussions on energy supplies at the EU-US Energy Council.
Fatih Birol, head of the International Energy Agency, said this month that Russia is already suffocating gas supplies to Europe, pointing out that Russian gas exports to Europe have declined by 25 percent year-on-year in the last three months of 2021.
The IEA believes Russia is holding back at least one-third of the gas it could send to Europe.
Analysis of the Bruegel think tank this week has shown that, if normal temperatures are accepted, a boost to LNG imports could prevent the worst gas shortages in Europe this winter, but that it will not be possible to replace every molecule lost if Russia all its supplies.