Europe and Turkey say they agree on the need for the Nabucco gas pipeline. This came after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had suggested Ankara review its support for Nabucco. That would be if the energy portion of Turkey’s talks to join the European Union remains blocked.
With the EU presidency no longer held by the French, who in previous years have proposed less than full EU membership for Turkey, Erdogan has made a rare visit to Brussels. Erdogan said: “Accession to the EU is a top priority for Turkey and I hope this will be a very different year for us with the Czech and Swedish presidencies. I hope there will be a leap.’‘ The EU views the gas pipeline project as vital to its energy diversification hopes. And what about Turkey’s hopes? Persistent disputes with Cyprus now have Nicosia saying it will not let the accession talks’ energy chapter go ahead. Yet the Nabucco project is seen as one of Europe’s best hopes for limiting its dependence on Russian gas. European Commission President José Manuel Barroso said: “I really believe that we have here a great field for cooperation between Turkey and the European Union. The EU has a very important market for energy, Turkey is a crucial country for transit, also because of its geography, and I think that there is a win-win situation here.” Under pressure to speed up reforms, Turkey began EU accession talks in 2005. It has opened 10 out of the 35 negotiating chapters and has provisionally completed just one. The EU has frozen eight chapters over Turkey’s refusal to open its ports and airports to Greek Cypriots.