Against the backdrop of the gas group meeting, the question of Europe’s dependence on Russian supplies has resurfaced.
Moscow’s energy spats with Georgia and Ukraine and a perceived lack of investment in Russian gas fields have pushed the EU to reduce its reliance. But, as the figures demonstrate, the demand remains strong. Russian giant Gazprom controls 94 percent of the country’s production of natural gas, 80 percent of which transits Ukraine, destined, notably for Europe. The EU imports 43 percent of its gas from Russia, a figure set to rise to 60 percent by 2030. With some two thirds of Russian gas exports headed Europe’s way, the dependence is, in many ways, reciprocal. Amid regular Russian tensions with Ukraine – a fresh dispute is threatening to disrupt gas supplies – pipelines taking alternative routes are being developed. A deal in 2005 betweeen Vladimir Putin and Gerhard Schroeder envisages the so-called North Stream, linking gas fields in the Barents Sea to Germany. Then there is the South Stream project being developed by Gazprom and Italian energy giant ENI, with gas being delivered from Western Siberia. Some 900 kilometres of underwater pipelines will go as far as Bulgaria before separating in two. One side will head up to Hungary and beyond. The other will cross the Adriatic Sea on its way to the south of Italy. Both should be completed within the next five years. In the meantime, further south, another pipeline plan is taking shape. Backed by the European Union and the United States, the Nabucco pipeline will stretch more than 3,000 kilometres from Turkey’s eastern borders to Austria. For the Europeans the project has a double advantage in that it avoids both Russia and Ukraine.