On the 23rd of April, the Deputy Minister of Energy of Turkey, H. Murat Mercan gave a presentation on “Turkey and the European Union Energy Policy” to an audience that not only included energy specialists but also political scientists that are interested in developments in the Eastern Mediterranean. The seminar was promoted both by SEESOX and by the European Studies Centre of St Antony’s College, University of Oxford.
Assoc. Prof. H. Murat Mercan is an industrial engineer by training and has been a founding member of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) of Turkey as well as Chairman of the Committee for Foreign Affairs of the Turkish Parliament from 2007-2011.
Mr Mercan started his presentation by emphasising the very close connection between foreign policy and energy policy and that having a foreign policy background has been very useful in his current job. He presented why in his view “Europe’s energy equation is unsolvable without Turkey”. He emphasised that although Turkey is “poor in natural energy” its geographic position makes it the main southern route for most energy sources from the east to Europe.
He gave a detailed explanation on the current pipeline projects either completed or in construction. The map summarises the situation.
Turkey is aiming at playing a significant role in the axis of the developments in the global energy sector while it is “putting tremendous efforts in diversification of the supplier countries for its own energy security”. It has become an “energy corridor” and a “new and critical actor of the multi-national oil and natural gas pipeline projects and international energy arena.”
While investing heavily in pipeline projects and other infrastructure projects to the tune of 10 Billion USD annually, Turkey has recently taken the decision to “go nuclear” with 2 nuclear power plants expected to be in operation by 2023 and a third being under consideration costing an additional 40 Billion USD. The construction of the Akkuyu Nuclear Power plant on the southern coast of Turkey will start in 2014, the contract having being given to the Russian company Rosatom with British Rolls Royce as a partner and the second will be near Sinop on the Black Sea coast in the north. At the same time Turkey is promoting renewable energy production, predominantly hydropower.
When addressing the second part of his presentation focusing on Turkey and the EU, Murat Mercan emphasised that he does not see the “interest” for Turkey to become a Member State although via the EU-Turkey positive agenda enhanced cooperation, it was agreed that the following five areas of cooperation will be pursued: long term energy scenarios and energy mix; market integration, cooperation, promotion of renewables and nuclear safety issues.
In several parts of the seminar Murat Mercan referred to the relations with Israel and Cyprus and repeatedly mentioned that the only “economically viable option” for Cypriot and Israeli gas to reach the European markets is via a pipeline through Turkey and that other options such as LNG should be abandoned. He also stressed the need to immediately open the Energy Chapter of the accession negotiations.
Androulla Kaminara, the discussant and the current EU Fellow at St Antony’s responded to the presentation. She responded to the presentation of the D. Minister by reminding that the EU is an important partner for Turkey for many reasons. Over 75% of foreign direct investments into Turkey are from the EU. She also referred to the latest progress report on Turkey’s accession and in particular the chapter on energy which outlines that “some progress can be reported in the energy sector” and that “Turkey is at a moderately advanced stage of alignment”.
With respect to the general EU Energy policy objectives, she stated that energy security and energy diversification are central in the design of the energy future of the EU. In order to export all the forecasted natural gas from the Levant Basin at least 4-5 pipelines will be required. It is thus difficult to imagine that either Cyprus or Israel will choose to “put all their eggs in one basket” and built 4-5 pipelines via Turkey.
The seminar was chaired by Dr Othon Anastasakis. The discussions and the question and answer session was very interesting and lively and they focused primarily on the geopolitical aspects of the choices ahead for Turkey as well as the implications for energy policy on developments such as the PKK agreement with the Turkish government and the construction of the pipeline from the Kurdish Region of Iraq to Turkey.