№ 6 (June 2010)
Kazakhstan Ready To Support Nabucco With Gas
Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev knows a thing or two about changing things to his country's advantage. The latest evidence of this came last Sunday when he told German Chancellor Angela Merkel Kazakhstan was ready to supply its gas to Germany through the Nabbucco pipeline. Experts believe Kazakhstan could redirect some of its Caspian gas away from Russia to other destinations, including those not in the West.
By Viktoriya Panfilova
During her visit to Astana last Sunday, Merkel discussed a number of issues with Nazarbayev including those related to energy. She received assurances on the return of credits to German banks which were made to Kazakhstan before the crisis. Furthermore, the sides signed nine intergovernmental and inter-agency agreements and 34 economic agreements as well as a contract worth over 2 billion euros. Yet observers say that the most important thing to take place was the statement by the Kazakhstan head of state that the country is ready to join the transcontinental Nabucco gas pipeline project. The German concern RWE is one of the partners in building the pipeline. Naturally, Merkel is interested in seeing the project be successful. However, Nabucco still lacks a resource base.
The project envisions pumping natural gas from the Caspian Sea to European countries while avoiding any transport across Russia. Instead the pipeline will run from Turkmenistan across Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and Austria. It will augment the existing Baku-Tblisi-Ezerum pipeline.
The issue of Kazakhstan's participation in the Nabucco project was also discussed last autumn during a visit Nazarbayev took to Ankara. At that time he also left room for Kazakhstan to join the international project, but did not give a final decision on supplying Kazakhstan gas for the pipe.
The reason Astana is in no rush to make promises, Nazarbayev said, was due to sluggishness within the European Union. "Kazakhstan was never against Nabucco, the entire issue is that while there is a lot of talk about it in Europe, almost nothing is actually being done", he said during the joint press conference following the negotiations. Nazarbayev noted two conditions which had to be met for Kazakhstan to take part in the project: to at least extend the pipeline across the bed of the Caspian Sea through the Caucasus to the Black Sea and to at build liquified gas plants on the Kazakhstan coast of the Caspian Sea. "Nothing has been done about either of these issues except talk", the president said. He added that Turkmenistan, which has large reserves of gas, could also take part in Nabucco, "but sees no solution to these problems". "The European Union could be more active in working with us on these issues", he said.
Last year, Ashgabat signed a memorandum with Brussels stating Turkmenistan officials were ready to provide Nabucco with 10 billion cubic meters of gas a year. It was expected that a 30-year agreement would be signed in April. But this was not done: a number of unregulated points of contention still had to be resolved.