News.Az interviews Dr. Friedemann Müller, German Institute for International and Security Affairs (Germany).
Caspian states try to represent its region as one of the more prospective for the Europe. What is this region for Europe?
The Caspian region is for Europe one with a preferential treatment. This goes back to the 1970s when the CSCE, today OSCE, was founded. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union it was Europe that argued that the Caspian region even if most of it lies in Asia is a part of the security and cooperation regime in Europe. All Caspian states became offered Partnership and Cooperation Agreements (PCA) with the EU while countries, for instance, in the Middle East do not have this privilege. The Energy Charter Treaty was negotiated during the 1990s with all Caspian region states and they all, besides Russia, have become members of the treaty. This is also not the case for Middle East countries. EU programs such as INOGATE or TRACECA are exclusively designed for the Southern states of the post-Soviet space. So the region is considered as one where the EU wants to build up a special relationship.
What is your opinion, who will finally win in the struggle between Russia and the West for the Caspian region and is energy resources?
I do hope that this struggle will not take place in future. Europe certainly wants to cooperate with te Caspian region but Europe is absolutely not against a cooperation between the region and Russia. The question is whether the whole space of Europe, the Caspian and Russia will find common rules for a fair cooperation. The very fact that Russia negotiated, influenced the text of the Energy Charter Treaty and finally signed it in 1994 but did not ratify it yet, instead left the treaty structure is, of course, not helpful in order to find a common basis for fair rules. I am, however, optimistic that we will negotiate a slightly different treaty with Russia and that we will find a common basis for a multilateral cooperation in the region.
> Caspian Region Map
Russia cooperates actively with Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan trying to prevent new energy routs outside Russian territory. Does the West still see Central Asia region as an energy partner despite all this efforts of Russia?
Europe, of course, is not interested that Russia gets a monopoly on European energy supply. A supply monopoly cannot be in the interest of the consumer for both reasons, political and economic, because a monopolist gains power while a fair cooperation should be free from unilateral power as far as possible. Insofar, Europe is extremely interested in getting a direct supply infrastructure from the Central Asian/Caspian region to Europe without Russia as the transit country, particularly as long as Russia is organized in a way that gives the state company Gazprom a legal export monopoly position. Europe definitely is making efforts to get this infrastructure realized before 2020 and still counts on the interest of Central Aisan states in a cooperation with Europe.
What are the prospects of Nabucco project?
I am not pessimistic about Nabucco. I would be if Azerbaijan remains to be the only certain supplier to the pipeline. But I do beliefe in additional options. Azerbaijan is extremely important because it was the first that committed itself to provide some billion cubic meters. In the longer run I count also on Iraq and maybe we get the Iran problem sufficiently solved within five years as to make possible either to buy Iranian natural gas or Turkmenian, even gas from Kazakhstan with Iran as a transit country. I do not believe into a trans Caspian pipeline for the time being due to Russia's resistance which, of course, could also be lifted in the long run.
> Nabucco Pipeline Map
Azerbaijan recently signed an agreement about gas export to Russia since January 2010. Is it a threat for Nabucco?
I do know that natural gas in Azerbaijan is limited. I am also sure that Azerbaijan is well advised to provide some natural gas to Nabucco, otherwise it loses much of the European interest in Azerbajan. Europe is the by far largest importer of natural gas in the world. It pays its bills. It does not link the import of natural gas to unfair political restrictions. There are many countries in the Middle East and Africa that want to supply their natural gas on the European market. It is not just natural gas but Europe is also a many times bigger economic market than Russia. If Azerbaijan wants to be present on this market it should not link itself exclusively to Russia.
What is Azerbaijan for Europe and its energy security interests?
When during the 1990s it became clear that the limited oil and natural gas reserves in the North Sea would lead soon to a production decline it was often argued among experts that Caspian energy is the ideal substitute to the decline of the North Sea. The Caspian region was considered as the natural partner for Europe because North and South of the Caspian region were also energy regions without an import demand. East of the region was China, far away and by that time not yet interested in the Caspian region. Insofar, Europe was very hopeful when the cnsortia of the century deal (Baku 1994) or the Kashagan project were given to be led by European oil companies. Things have changed to some degree. Russia wanted to import natural gas in order to monopolize the supply of Europe, China showed increasingly interest and the problem with Iran forbids a pipeline from the East Caspian to Europe via Iran. Insofar, the value of Azerbaijan has increased. It is closer to Europe and further to China. It is located on the West side of the Caspian Sea and does not need Iran or a trans Caspian pieline to reach the European market. Azerbaijan is the only Caspian littoral state which makes it relatively easy to cooperate. It is (besides Russia) also the only Caspian state that is a member of the Council of Europe. Insofar, we feel particularly close to Azerbaijan. This and the fact that the BTC pipeline is working and the BTE pipeline is also there gives Azerbaijan a very special role in Europe's energy supply security.