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Turkey's Role in Solving the Energy Crisis - Sarper Göksal

According to Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency, the first "global energy crisis" began on February 24, 2022. It, brought not only the meaning of war, which began with Russia's invasion of Ukraine but also a massive burden on the global economy, which faced a corresponding energy supply shock and high energy prices. Europe was undoubtedly the most affected by the sanctions imposed on Russia after Russia invaded Ukraine; the dependence of European countries on Russia, especially for energy and natural gas, led Europe to seek to diversify its sources.

Turkey is in a position to play an essential role in the natural gas predicament of Europe, which is most affected by the global energy crisis. Assoc. Prof. Dr. İsmail Sarı stated that the energy crisis caused by the Russian-Ukrainian War would bring new gas corridors to the agenda in the Middle East, and Turkey will play a role in these gas corridors. The energy supply shock in Europe due to the current war situation has led European countries to turn to gas resources in the Middle East to secure gas supplies before the winter season. On the other hand, due to the European Union (EU)'s plan to end the dependence of European countries on Russian gas within the next five years, it has become inevitable to look for alternatives in other geographies.

In the Trans Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP) project, which is seen as the most crucial alternative to secure gas supply, Turkey is acting as a transit country for natural gas. TANAP is a pipeline that aims to transport Azerbaijani natural gas to Europe via Turkey, in other words, to turn Turkey into Europe's energy transit route. TANAP is not only about transferring Azerbaijani gas to Europe; it also aims to significantly contribute to Turkey's and Europe's growing energy demand and security of supply. One factor that makes TANAP so essential is the European Union. EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen stated that the EU is turning to more reliable energy suppliers and will continue to work on substituting Russian gas. Ursula von der Leyen's statement that the EU is prepared for the possibility of a complete cut-off of Russian gas is a radical and revisionist move because the EU is heavily dependent on Russian gas. The EU imports around 155 billion cubic meters of natural gas from Russia annually. The EU imports 45 percent of its gas purchases and 40 percent of its consumption from Russia. In short, the EU needs a total of 387.5 billion cubic meters of gas. The EU's complete cut-off of cooperation with Russia has also highlighted the importance of TANAP in averting the gas crisis. In this context, the EU's contacts with Azerbaijan accelerated, and a goodwill agreement was signed to increase natural gas purchases from Azerbaijan and double the existing capacity. The EU will get its gas supply from Azerbaijan, but the transfer of this gas will be done through Turkey because Turkey connects Europe to a gas-rich country like Azerbaijan.

TANAP starts the transportation of Azerbaijani gas from the Turkish-Georgian border, passes through 20 provinces until Western Thrace, and ends at the Turkish-Greek border. Azerbaijani natural gas will be transferred to the Trans Adriatic Natural Gas Pipeline (TAP) at the Turkish Greek border and transported to the Adriatic Sea via Greece, Albania, Italy, and Italy to other European countries. Although the share of Russia in the natural gas imports of European countries such as North Macedonia and Bulgaria is 100%, these countries will be given priority in the use of gas from TANAP and TAP in case of a Russian gas cut-off. In addition, Russia's share in Italy's natural gas imports is 33%; in the event of a Russian gas cut-off, the gas that would be transferred to Italy through TAP would mean that Italy would be another priority country for gas transfers.

According to Gulmira Rzayeva, Research Fellow at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, Turkey can quickly ship gas from Azerbaijan to Europe via land and sea. In addition, the European leg of TANAP, TAP, has an annual capacity of 10 billion cubic meters. Of course, this is not enough to meet Europe's gas needs. However, according to President Erdogan, TANAP's transport capacity is planned to be increased to 24 and then 31 billion cubic meters in the future.

On the other hand, Algeria is at the forefront of Europe's search for alternative sources to Russian gas. Turkey's capacity to transfer natural gas will increase in the future, but in the meantime, Europe will have to look for other alternatives. There are three significant pipelines carrying natural gas from Algeria to Europe. The first one is the Maghreb-Europe Gas Line. It has an annual capacity of 12 billion cubic meters and transports Algerian natural gas to Morocco, Spain, and Portugal. Another is the Medgaz Pipeline. This line, which will transfer natural gas between Algeria and Spain, has an annual capacity of 10 billion cubic meters. Last but not least is the Trans-Mediterranean Gas Line. This line transfers natural gas from Algeria to Tunisia and Italy and has an annual capacity of 33 billion cubic meters. In short, Algeria has come to the rescue of European countries such as Spain and Portugal, where TANAP and TAP could not provide the gas transfer.

In sum, it is undeniable that Europe needs an alternative source to Russian gas, not only in the short term but also in the long term. It will be difficult for the EU to cooperate with other countries and look for alternative sources to substitute Russian gas. However, other regions such as Turkey and Algeria have a high contribution capacity and can play an essential role in solving the gas crisis. Turkey is the only country that can bring the Caspian Sea gas resources to European markets without involving Russia could reestablish Turkey as a regional actor and as one of the decision-makers that will make a name for itself in global politics and resolve disputes. However, Turkey's rise to diplomatic prominence is not easy; political, financial, and infrastructural challenges can be overcome. Overcoming these obstacles as soon as possible is beneficial both for Turkey's position in the international arena and for Europe's gas supply.


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