MAY 6 (The Conway Bulletin) – The European Union wants to take gas deliveries from Turkmenistan from 2019, part of a determined drive to use Central Asia to weaken Russia’s grip over its energy supplies.
On a trip to Ashgabat, Maros Sefcovic, a European Commission vice-president and its top energy official, said gas could be sent to Europe from Turkmenistan either through a proposed pipeline that runs along the Caspian Sea floor or via Iran and then through neighbouring Turkey.
“Europe expects supplies of Turkmen gas to begin by 2019,” he said after meeting Turkmen president Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov (May 1).
For years Europe and Turkmenistan have discussed the tantalising potential of Turkmen gas reaching European households, but Mr Sefcovic’s trip to Ashgabat and subsequent statement is the strongest indication yet that what once appeared rather fanciful could actually materialise.
And it would be a game-changer for Europe and Turkmenistan.
Europe is desperate to reduce Russia’s grip over its gas supplies, especially since the eruption of war in east Ukraine and the souring of relations with the Kremlin.
Turkmenistan, which holds the world’s fourth largest gas reserves and has been maturing its production process, is eager for more clients.
Currently China buys most of Turkmenistan’s gas. Europe, though, would be another large, stable client and it would propel Turkmenistan into the top division of global gas suppliers.
On his trip to Ashgabat, Mr Sefcovic also met with energy ministers from Azerbaijan and Turkey. The EU needs their support to pump Turkmen gas.
The stakes are high for both Europe and Turkmenistan.
This story was first published in issue 230 of the weekly Conway Bulletin newspaper.