Turkey’s Keys to the EU: An overview of Turkey’s energy security and how it could cooperate with the EU
The current situation vis-à-vis Ankara’s resources
Turkey is depending more and more on imports of energy. Indeed, currently Turkey provides only around 26% of its total energy demands from resources from its own territory (Republic of Turkey Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2019). The import of around 75% of energy from other countries – mainly Russia and Iran (Tradingeconomics.com, 2019) – implies relations of dependence on them, which changes and rewrites international power politics, and turn upside-down and dislocate the aims and goals of Turkey.
Since Turkey became one of the first members of the Council of Europe in 1949, it has tried to join the European Union for a long time. However, out of the 35 Chapters necessary for the negotiations to be completed, only 16 were opened by May 2016 (EUROPP, 2019). Turkey sees energy security as a very useful Chapter to open in the EU negotiations, since it would have the upper hand. Indeed, a great number of pipelines exporting gas to EU member states pass through Turkey. At the same time, the EU could help Turkey in terms of renewables and energy efficiency, nuclear energy and carbon markets (Iea.org, 2019).
Turkey is not using its domestic resources to their full potential
Regarding Turkey’s domestic energy security, it is important to state that Turkey is not using its domestic resources to their full potential. Moreover, Turkey is able to meet only around one fourth of its requirements from its own domestic resources. To worsen the situation, Turkey had the highest rate of growing energy demands among OECD countries between 2001 and 2016 (Oecd.org, 2018). The main domestic sources of Turkey’s energy come from coal, natural gas and hydropower (enerji.gov.tr, 2018). However, these sources are not used up to their potential.
Coal generates around one third of Turkey’s electricity (Ibid.). Turkey is currently able to provide most of the coal it needs, but since it is a fossil fuel, it will never be able to rely on it fully. In terms of foreign policy, and indeed from any other perspective too, coal is not a reliable source of energy. Unlike coal, hydropower is a safe and clean, renewable source of energy, and it is also highly available on Turkish soil. Currently, there are 636 hydropower plants, accounting for around 22-23% of the country’s overall energy needs (Ibid.). However, the plants installed do not even represent one third the hydropower plants Turkey could profit from (Ibid.). If Turkey chose to heavily invest in hydropower, and use the source to its maximum potential, the country could rely on domestic hydropower to obtain more than 66% of its energy needs (Ibid.).
Where Turkey could improve
Energy obtained from wind and biomass, or through solar power or geothermal springs, represents approximately 12-13% of Turkey’s energy requirements (Ibid.). Energy produced by wind adds up to one seventh of its potential (Ibid.). Despite being one of the top five countries for geothermal energy availability (Think GeoEnergy – Geothermal Energy News, 2018), Turkey does not at all make use of the full potential of its geothermal resources (enerji.gov.tr, 2018). Regarding biomass, Turkey is only able to fulfil one sixth of its potential (enerji.gov.tr, 2018). It could potentially raise the profits from 1.5-2 MTEP to 8.6 MTEP (Ibid.).
Thus, a question arises: which energy sector is Turkey investing in? Somewhat surprisingly, the answer is nuclear energy. Turkey is engaging with Russia to build a nuclear power plant in Akkuyu. In 2010, the two governments officialized the construction of the nuclear power plant. Russia is due to pay $20 billion (The National Interest, 2018), but the site will be owned by Russia, and Turkey will buy energy from the Russian power plant on its territory, which will amount to 10% of its energy needs (enerji.gov.tr, 2018). Also, there seem to be plans for the construction of another nuclear power plant. This will be built in the I?g?neada district (enerji.gov.tr, 2018), 12 km from the Bulgarian border. Apparently, Erdogan and Chinese President Xi Jinping have agreed to accelerate the process in 2017 (DailySabah, 2017). The Turkish President admitted he plans for constructions to begin in 2019 (enerji
The gas spider web
Nearly one third of Turkey’s energy needs comes from a network of six gas pipelines (Ibid.). On top of this, Turkey relies on gas also for diplomatic purposes. The Southern Gas Corridor (SGC) is a huge project that is due to bring gas from the Caspian region to Europe. This pipeline will ultimately include the South Caucasus Pipeline (SCP), the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline, and the Trans Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline. The Turkey-Greece Interconnector (ITG) is also divided into three sections, connecting Turkey to Greece, Greece to Italy, and Greece to Bulgaria. Meanwhile, the flow of natural gas from Russia is constituted by three gas pipelines, the Western Route, Blue Stream and the Turkstream gas pipeline project. Finally, the Iran-Turkey natural gas pipeline also constitutes an important influx of gas entering Turkey.
Erdogan’s ‘silk road of energy’ (Newtimes.az, 2018) – TANAP – will bring gas from areas of the Caspian Sea into Turkey from 2020. Since the SGC enters EU countries, it is increasing the European Union’s dependency on Turkey. Similarly, the ITG has been labeled as a ‘project of European interest’ (Energy, 2018), and the European Commission has invested 100m in the project (Hydrocarbons Technology, 2018). The ITG gives Turkey the chance to grow in importance for the European Union’s member states. Indeed, gas arriving in Greece and Italy through Turkish pipelines gets delivered subsequently to other member states of the European Union.gov.tr, 2018).
Turkey’s relations caused by its pipelines
In 1996 Ankara and Tehran signed a bilateral agreement agreeing on the purchase of Iranian natural gas to Turkey, starting from 2001 (enerji.gov.tr, 2018). Seventeen years later, Donald Trump’s government unilaterally imposed sanctions on Iran. This led to further tensions between the US and Turkey. Additionally, a very important pipeline exports natural gas and oil from Azerbaijan to Turkey through Georgia. The SCP (also known as BTE pipeline) and the BTC crude oil pipeline were meant to go through Armenia. In 2004, the US heavily supported the project (AzerNews.az, 2018), but Armenia’s ties with Russia led Armenia to refuse to allow the pipeline to cross its soil (RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty, 2017). Consequently, the BTC and the BTE go north from Azerbaijan to then return south again to reach Erzurum and Ceyhan.
This showed how Turkey can go around Russia’s will with the help – and benefit – of NATO allies like the US. This created a relation of interdependence between Georgia and Turkey, increasing their role in the region. Russia still controls stability in the southern Caucasus, although the SCP gave some breathing space to Azerbaijan and Georgia. Russia’s ties with Turkey in terms of energy security are not to be undermined. Blue Stream, Turkstream and Western Corridor, connecting Russia to Turkey through European territory and the Black Sea, underline Turkey’s dependency on Russia, which provided 31% of Turkey’s total refined petroleum imports in 2016 (Eia.gov, 2017), and 56% of the total gas imported in 2015 (Oxfordenergy.org, 2018). These impressively high statistics scare not only the European Union, but also the US and all the NATO allies.
Russian gas in Turkey
In 1986, Russia signed in Ankara an agreement to sell natural gas via the Western route – passing through continental European soil – for 25 years. This influx presented unexpected issues. Natural gas disputes between the Russia and Ukraine over the past few years have caused the supply of gas from the West Line to Turkey to be cut off from time to time (Ibid.). However, Turkey receives more natural gas via Blue Stream. Russia’s gas company, Gazprom, constructed and financed most of the pipeline, while Turkey’s gas company, BOTAS, only financed and constructed the part of the pipeline on Turkish territory (Ibid.).
While this gas influx began in 2003, Turkstream only began its construction in 2016, and in November 2018 Gazprom inaugurated the arrival of this pipeline to Turkey, to which Russia has agreed to send 14 billion m3 of gas without any change in the terms and conditions of existing contracts (enerji.gov.tr, 2018). While the problems encountered with the Western route could push Turkey to look elsewhere for gas, and to decrease dependency on Russia, Ankara insisted on increasing the natural gas influx from Russia. However, this also meant an increase in Turkey’s strategic and diplomatic role in the region, since the gas flowing into Turkey from Russia eventually circulates in neighboring countries.
Turkey finds itself in an extremely favourable location
Turkey is bordered by the countries that have most of the planet’s energy resources. Indeed, to its East, Russia, Central Asia and the Middle East own about 47% of the world energy resources. On top of this, to its West Turkey borders on Europe, which consumes about 20% of the energy available on the earth (Shedding light on energy on the EU, 2018). It is obvious how important it is for Turkey to have cooperation with the EU. In this regard Ankara officially stated that “Energy is one of the most crucial subjects of Turkey-EU relations” (Xinhuanet.com, 2018). The EU would also benefit from energy cooperation with Turkey. Indeed, the EU could use Turkey to boost its market and bring stability to the Middle East, the Caspian and the Caucasus. Additionally, the EU could rely on an alternative supply route (ECFR, 2015).
Since 2006, Turkey has sought to speed up the accession negotiations by joining the EU Energy Community as an observer. Regarding the accession talks, in 2007 Ankara has closed the screening of the Chapter relating to Energy (EU Delegation to Turkey, n.d.). In 2015, a first meeting in this regard between Turkish and EU officials took place in Ankara, and a second one in Istanbul in 2016. In Istanbul, the Turkish Electricity Transmission Corporation – TEI?A – tightened its relations with the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Energy – ENTSO-E – by becoming its first observer member (Electric Energy Online, 2016). Moreover, Turkey’s role will increase, since “by 2021, Turkey is granted a role in the EU’s decision making mechanisms in relation to trade regulations” (Apps.dtic.mil, 2008).
History of Turkey-EU energy talks
Nevertheless, Turkey has always been rather reluctant to talk about energy in the framework of the Energy Community or the ENTSO-G (the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Gas). Turkey never actually had a desire to liberalize its gas market. Consequently, Turkey’s 2001 Natural Gas Law was never implemented, since Ankara wanted to prevent other companies – that may also be international – from having shares in the only state-owned company – BOTAS – that holds power over all the pipelines in Turkish soil (Mondaq.com, 2018). Consequently, Ankara failed to meet the EU standards which would have inevitably improved the status of Turkey’s application to the EU for full membership. However, Ankara’s 2013 Electricity Market Law liberalized most of the EU electricity market for competition by the end of 2015 (IEA, 2016), it tightened relations with ENTSO-E, and it increased the flow of gas towards the EU through the ITG (Entsoe.eu, n.d.).
While remaining reluctant for the privatization of BOTAS, gas has always been central in EU- Turkey energy talks (Barysch, n.d.). Indeed, Turkey proved itself to be essential to the EU in terms of the gas supply of the EU (Ibid.). In 2008, this fact became even more evident, following the EU’s decision to reduce its over-dependence on Russia. The project of the early 2000s to create the Nabucco pipeline would have been hugely welcomed by Brussels, since it sought to bring oil and gas to the European Union from Azerbaijan, Iraq, Turkmenistan and Iran. However, the South Corridor replaced the project and satisfied the EU. As a consequence, it proved Turkey’s desire and potential to become an exceptional regional energy hub (TOKU , 2019).
The Positive Agenda and Chapter 22 of the Acquis
In the context of the Positive Agenda, Commissioner Füle was enthusiastic about Ankara’s agreement on opening Chapter 22 of the acquis (Morelli, 2013), namely the part concerning Regional policy, and coordination of structural instruments. Remarkably, even countries opposed to Turkey’s EU membership supported talks on this issue (Esiweb.org, n.d.). Indeed, the goal of the European Commission is that of reaching talks on energy. Particularly, the opening of Chapter 15 (the ‘energy’ Chapter), which regards “rules and policies notably regarding […] the internal energy market […], energy efficiency, nuclear energy and nuclear safety and radiation protection” (European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations – European Commission, n.d.).
However, while Turkey believes that “the opening of the energy chapter [of the EU accession negotiations] will surely pave the way for negotiations with the EU on Turkey’s membership to the Energy Community” (Koranyi and Sartori, 2013), the process of energy cooperation with Turkey in the framework of the Energy Community “has nothing to do with the EU accession [and that] the one does not prejudge the other or vice versa” (Grabbe, 2002). Nevertheless, cooperation over gas led to a further deepening of EU-Turkey relations in 2015. A potential game-changer in favor of Turkey came into being when Moscow abandoned the Southstream project in favor of the Turkstream pipeline (U.S., 2018). Although only the segment that connects Russia with Turkey has been constructed, additional parts bringing gas to Europe could see Turkey playing a major role as the number one regional energy hub – a position craved by Ankara.
How energy talks would benefit Turkey
Although gas represents an important piece in the puzzle of the EU-Turkey energy relations, it is not the only object of energy discussions. Indeed, the EU is very keen on promoting itself as world leader in sustainable energy, therefore it would be enthusiastic about cooperating on decarbonisation. This aim of the EU is also commercial. Turkey represents a great opportunity for EU companies that deal with renewable energy and energy efficiency. This is because no other state has ever invested in this sector on Turkish soil (Turkish Policy Quarterly, 2018).
EU-Turkey cooperation in terms of energy would benefit Ankara on many levels. First, with its expertise it could help by supporting the implementation of Turkey’s nuclear energy plans (World- nuclear.org, 2018). Also, instead of increasing its dependency on coal, Turkey could experience investments in its renewable energy plans. It is interesting to note that interactions vis-à-vis coal and nuclear energy have never been discussed during talks. Talking about renewable energy could lead to an increase in political cooperation, and to NGOs from both territories working together to augment environment consciousness in Turkey. Moreover, Turkey’s tightening of relations with the EU would reassure investors in Turkey, hence improving development in the energy sector (Wearden, 2018).
Russia’s role in the context
The reality is that Russia is the true winner here. It exports gas to Ankara through three pipelines, and it is the biggest gas exporter to the EU. In 2018, Putin celebrated the start of the constructions of a nuclear power plant in Akkuyu – which could account for 10% of Turkey’s energy needs – and in November Turkstream’s first pipeline connecting Russia with Turkey was constructed – the second segment arriving in Europe will come along soon. And this is only in the energy sphere, as Moscow showed its efficiency in increasing its influence on other levels, for example the S-400 missile deal with Turkey (U.S., 2017), or its role in Syria.
Whether the aim is Turkey joining the EU or not, both the EU and Turkey should cooperate to decrease Russia’s influence in their territories. Indeed, the biggest benefits of energy talks can be visible in the international arena. Regarding renewable energy, reassuring investors or augmenting the flow of gas to the EU are all important elements, but what is vital are the diplomatic stances that follow from the domestic or international realm. Differentiating and varying sources of energy also means dealing with Iran. The bottom line is that Turkey and the EU need to cooperate in talking with Trump’s administration to explain how sanctions on Iran not only affect Turkey’s dependency on Russia, but also the EU’s legitimate aims of not depending on Russia. Talks with the EU about energy could be a strong argument that could potentially change France’s and Germany’s mind on fraternizing with Ankara.
Ankara would benefit from energy talks with the EU
Understanding on the side of the US should not be slow in coming, since Russia’s strategy to be the number one player relied on in terms of energy by NATO members has been heavily opposed by the US. Convincing the US to normalize its relations with Iran, or simply lifting the sanctions, would mean that Turkey and the EU could decrease their dependency on Russia while maintaining good relations with the biggest NATO member state. However, Turkey would also need to work to be included in the project of the pipeline that Israel is planning to construct across the Mediterranean Sea to reach Cyprus, Greece and Italy. Maintaining the status quo would mean discarding all of Ankara’s plans should this Israeli pipeline come to life.
Holding hands with Iran while talking with Israel and the US seems hard now. However, if Turkey was to make this diplomatic effort, Russia would suffer a substantial loss of influence on Turkish soil. As a chance or consequential fact, this would also increase relations with the EU – which is craving less dependency on Russia. The punchline is that cooperation on energy with the EU would give Turkey the chance to have a strong ally that is interested in lifting sanctions on Iran, to be included in the Israeli pipeline, to depend less on Russia, to potentially increase and improve its relations with the US (which would hugely benefit Ankara, starting with Syria, and the lifting of US sanction on Turkey), and domestically increase its renewable energy efficiency. And, why not, maybe even becoming a full member of the European Union.
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Autore dell’articolo*: Sam Andrea Williams, studente in ‘International Relations’ alla University of Kent, nonché visiting student presso la Bogazici Universitesi, Istanbul.
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