Ankara is blackmailing the European Union over the proposed Nabucco gas pipeline, which would deliver gas supplies from the Caspian Sea and Middle East to the bloc through Turkey rather than Russia, German Economy Minister Michael Glos said Tuesday, Jan. 20.
Ankara is engaged in "political blackmail," Glos said at an energy forum in Berlin. He accused Turkey of using the proposed 3,400-kilometer (2,112-mile) pipeline as leverage in its mired bid for EU membership.
Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was in Brussels on Monday for the first time in four years to revive his country's membership talks, said his government would "review our position" on the $12 billon (9.3 billion euro) Nabucco pipeline if its bid to join the EU were impaired.
Membership or a "privileged partnership"?
Turkey started EU accession negotiations in 2005 but has recently been criticized for making little progress due to domestic debates and a diminishing will for further expansion among EU members.
Ankara has opened talks on 10 out of the 35 policy areas it needs for EU entry but has provisionally completed negotiations on just one. The EU has frozen eight chapters as Ankara refuses to open its ports and airports to Greek Cypriots.
Some EU members, including France, have come out against Turkey's accession into the 27-member bloc and instead have called for offering the mainly Muslim country of 70 million special treatment that falls short of full membership.
Under a policy setup by her predecessor, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has officially accepted the ongoing accession talks. But before becoming chancellor she and other members of Germany's conservative parties, including Glos, promoted offering Turkey a "privileged partnership" rather than membership in the bloc.
Barroso: EU must prepare for next winter
Glos' blackmail accusations come as European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso urged EU members to reduce their dependency on "insecure" suppliers.
Diversifying the supply of gas away from Russia has become a priority for the EU in the wake of a recent row between Russia and Ukraine that left millions of Europeans without heating in the middle of a winter cold snap this month.
Barroso had harsh words for leaders in Moscow and Kyiv, who mystified officials in Brussels by repeatedly failing to honor their commitments during the standoff.
"This is the first time in my life that I saw agreements being systematically not implemented," he said. "I am very disappointed about the way the leaderships in those two countries negotiated."
Barroso said Europe should "prepare for next winter" by diversifying its energy sources and approving measures designed to improve the bloc's energy security. Asked whether the EU should reduce its dependency on Russian gas arriving from the Ukraine, he said, "Yes, of course."
"One of the conclusions that we have to draw is that gas coming from Russia through Ukraine was not secure," he said.
Gas flowing normally to EU
The EU imports about a quarter of its gas supplies from Russia, 80 percent of which travels through Ukraine on its was to western Europe.
Germany, Europe's biggest economy, receives more Russian gas than any other European country and relies on Moscow for almost 40 percent of its imports. Energy companies in the EU and Ukraine have said it could take up to three days for new gas deliveries to reach customers and EU monitors verified that gas was normally flowing to the bloc.
German and Russian firms are also working on bypassing both these countries with the North Stream pipeline, scheduled to bring 55 billion cubic meters of gas from Russia under the Baltic Sea to Germany by 2012.