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Nabucco: Russia and Europe switch priorities19.03.2009 | 21:54
The Nabucco gas pipeline from Central Asia to the EU, which eventually should reduce Western Europe's dependence on Russia, is viewed as anti-Russian by Georgia. Admittedly, recently Mother Europe invited Russia to join the project. Gazprom declined. Have grounds emerged for Georgian politicians to be optimistic?
Gazprom received an invitation to take part in the Nabucco gas pipeline project, however did not accept it, so reported the deputy head of the Russian corporation, Aleksandr Medvedev, on the programme "Vesti" (News). He gave the following argument: "We have our own project, and Nabucco's shareholders have theirs." At the same time, he reiterated that in order to supply gas to the European market, Gazprom is currently building the "Nord Stream" on the Baltic seabed alongside the German companies E.On and BASF, and the "South Stream" on the Black Sea bed alongside the Italian firm ENI.
Certain circles within Europe think that the realization of the Russian gas projects would strengthen the continent's dependence on Russia. And Czech Republic's Prime Minister, Mirek Topolanek, recently called them a direct threat to the Nabucco project. Which characterizes the latter as an anti-Russian project. Georgia has always had the ambition to take the lead in its anti-Russian rhetoric. For example, the GHN news agency reports that Georgia's Foreign Minister, Grigol Vashadze, declared: "2009 started with a clash between Ukraine and Russia over energy issues. Russia once again tried to use its energy resources to perform blackmail. Russia wants to give the Nabucco project a political significance, whereas it is of economic significance, which will help Europe to no longer depend on Russia."
Tbilisi's rhetoric is not surprising. After all, the USA has also acted as a lobbyist for Nabucco, although it has objected to the involvement of Iran. And Turkey has linked its own far-reaching geopolitical plans with its participation in Nabucco. Therefore it is no surprise that the Georgian leadership has seen Nabucco as a kind of trump card which it will always be able to pull out should the need arise.
It is worth recalling that Nabucco offers the transportation of Central Asian and Caspian gas to European countries via Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and Austria. It should act as a continuation of the already constructed Baku-Tbilisi-Erzerum pipeline. Several leading EU members, in particular Germany, Italy and France, express doubts as to the need for constructing Nabucco, even though the European Union has already allocated 250 million euros for it. The total cost of the project is about 8 billion euros. The plans are that construction will be completed by 2013.
Here is what some Georgian experts said about the prospects for Nabucco when they discussed it at the House of Free Thought. As the expert on international relations, Tornike Sharashenidze, said, Nabucco is not only an economic, but also a political project, and is quite anti-Russian. In involving itself in this project, there will be several risks for Georgia, but it gives a guarantee of the country's security. And the editor of the newspaper Rezonansi, Lasha Tugushi, thinks that if there is ever another war between Russia and Georgia, the reason for it will not be a desire to make territorial conquests, but an attempt to shut off the energy corridor. "Meanwhile, the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan and Baku-Tbilisi-Erzerum projects meant that in August the Russians did not invade Tbilisi," the venerable journalist contradicted himself.
Russia has surprisingly reacted calmly to everything connected with Nabucco. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that Moscow would not protest the construction of the Nabucco gas pipeline. "If there is the gas to fill it, then why should it not be carried out," Lavrov told the Interfax news agency. "There more routes there are, the safer Europe's gas supply will be."
Meanwhile, immediately after Gazprom's refusal to join Nabucco reports emerged that its construction had been removed from the list of projects that would be subject to separate financing on account of funds that have not been spent out of the European Union's budget, a source in the EU Council of Ministers told RIA Novosti. No official comment followed. It turns out that Georgia has had its "favourite toy" snatched away. Not even a "toy", but a dream of anti-Russian gas highway.
In an interview with your GeorgiaTimes correspondent, the famous Georgian economist Gia Khukhashvili remarked that he was not surprised by this decision by the Europeans: "The West understands that without Russia's involvement, it is impossible to implement this project. Gazprom's position is also understandable: it has too many cards up its sleeve to make compromises like this one. We also have to admit the fairness of the Russians' arguments: they can build a pipeline, but what will it be filled with?" In reply to the question of what steps Georgia, Azerbaijan and Turkey, which had pinned so many hopes on Nabucco, could take now, Khukhashvili argued: "Azerbaijan will always find a way to deliver gas and the means to diversify, as the Russian direction will start functioning without any problems. Turkey has lost this round of the "tug-of-war" with Russia for influence in the Caucasus. As far as Georgia is concerned, we have to realize that we are not managing to realize our geopolitical function."