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CORRESPONDENCE FROM ASTANAThe European Union wants to attract Kazakhstan into the Trans-Caspian Gas pipeline project

Ştefania Ciocîrlan (Translated by Cosmin Ghidoveanu)
Ziarul BURSA #English Section /

The European Union wants to attract Kazakhstan into the Trans-Caspian Gas pipeline project

Yesterday, in Astana, Gunther Oettinger, the European Commissioner for Energy, reaffirmed that the priority of the EU is the construction of a "Southern Corridor" by which natural gas from Central Asia would reach the European markets

The European Union is trying to convince Kazakhstan to join the project of the Trans-Caspian pipeline, a gas pipeline which is intended to transport natural gas from Central Asia to the European markets, thus avoiding the traditional routes controlled by Russia.

The Trans-Caspian pipeline would connect the shores of Turkmenistan to Azerbaijan, underneath the Caspian Sea, and carry the gas to the European markets, via Turkey. From there, another gas pipeline, Nabucco, is projected to begin, which some European states hope will reduce the dependency of Europe on the Russian gas.

For this purpose, the EU has recently invited Kazakhstan to participate in the project of the Trans-Caspian pipeline, Gunther Oettinger, the European Commissioner for Energy announced yesterday, in Astana, at the Kazenergy Eurasian Forum.

The event, which has reached its sixth edition, brings together high ranking officials of the government in Astana, representatives of some of the biggest energy companies such as KazMunayGas, Exxonmobil or Chevron, as well as officials of the European and Central Asian states.

"The priority of the EU is the construction of a < < Southern Corridor > > (ed. note: a network of gas pipelines that would connect Europe and Central Asia) through which the natural gas of Central-Asian states and of the region of the Caspian Sea would reach the European markets", Gunther Oettinger said yesterday, emphasizing that the dependence of the EU on natural gas imports would increase over the long run, as its own output of gas is declining. "Europe imports 80% of its oil and 60% of its natural gas, and this dependence will increase. Given this context, we are resolute in working with our partners to make sure that the Southern Corridor becomes a reality in the future. We will support the regional pipeline projects", the European Commissioner for Energy said yesterday.

The invitation which the EU yesterday extended to Kazakhstan comes as, about three weeks ago, on September 12th, the European Commission was empowered to negotiate with Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan their participation in the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline project.

"Several weeks ago, a major step forward has been made when the European countries gave the European Commission a mandate to negotiate with Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan for their participation in the Trans-Caspian pipeline. Few people are aware that this is the first time the European Union proposed such a treaty", Oettinger said, referring to the mandate received by the European Commission, on September 12th.

The importance of this mandate, analysts say, lies in the fact that the European Union will have "just one voice" in its negotiations with the Central Asian states, unlike the case where some European states or companies had negotiated on their own behalf.

"The EU placed the relationship with the states in the Central Asian region on its list of priorities. Kazakhstan and the EU have never been closer as partners. It is important to emphasize that the EU is the largest direct investor in Kazakhstan and that, at the same time, it is the largest single market for it, providing solid business opportunities and a stable socio-economic climate. Kazakhstan is interested in consolidating its market opportunities", the European energy commissioner said yesterday.

Kazakhstan is a net exporter of gas. Most of the country"s gas reserves are located in the Western area of the country, near the Caspian Sea, and about 25% of the proven reserves are located in the Karachaganak field, according to information from the website of KazMunayGas.

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