The Atlantic Council this week convenes its 3rd annual Black Sea Energy and Economic Forum, where business and policy leaders will discuss Eurasia's leading economic and energy challenges.
The timing of this year's event could not be better, with developments in the region and beyond vying for attention—some clearly outlined at the recent launch of the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline.
"I warmly welcome today's event," said European Union Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger, noting that TAP's sponsors are now recognizing the need for their project to deliver "more than commercial benefits."
Oettinger made clear his concern, saying that he welcomed TAP's interest in contributing to security of supply of "not only Italy but now, potentially, also the South East Europe region."
The Southern Corridor
The commissioner also noted TAP's part in the larger scheme of things, calling it a part of the Southern Corridor, which will carry Azerbaijani gas delivered at the Greek–Turkish border to Italy.
"For the Southern Gas Corridor, the aim of public policy must be to get the Azerbaijani gas delivered securely to the borders of the European Union," said Oettinger.
"Therefore," he said, "we need to agree with the countries on the route on a stable framework for the transport of gas." Among countries on that route, Oettinger mentioned Turkey in particular.
The commissioner noted that Turkey and Azerbaijan recently agreed terms for the transit and sale of gas in Turkey from the Shah Deniz field in Azerbaijan.
"This is good for Europe, as gas from Azerbaijan will arrive on the European Union's border and be distributed within Europe throughout the EU internal market," said Oettinger.
"But it is not sufficient, and it does not change our focus," said Oettinger. "We want to see sufficient dedicated pipeline capacity that links Azerbaijan to Europe."
Goodwill not enough
In a word, Turkish goodwill apparently is not sufficient for Oettinger. Nor, for that matter is Russian goodwill—something that the commissioner spelled out with care.
"If for some reason Azerbaijani gas does not reach the western border of Turkey, TAP will need to transport Russian gas reaching Turkey via Blue Stream or via the Bulgarian transit pipeline," he said.
"Don't get me wrong, this is not a bad thing," Oettinger said. "But it would mean that TAP's contribution to Europe's security of supply would be less than it could be."
It is precisely that security of supply and the roles of nations in the region—especially Russia, Turkey, and Azerbaijan—that will come under discussion at the Atlantic Council conference in Istanbul.
For good measure, talks in Istanbul will take place optimistically, under the theme of "Freedom, Prosperity, and Stability."