Written by Nilsu Eledağ
Energy policies have been raised as salient issues in the European Union since the late 1980s and were subsequently mentioned with climate mitigation policies in the 2000s. In addition to their development in the world economy, energy policies have also continued to evolve in domestic markets. Even though climate change concerns joined the agenda, due to the crises experienced in the last 20 years, carbon regulation at the border and decarbonisation efforts have not yielded the expected results (Misik, 2022). The Euro crisis, Brexit, and finally the Russian invasion of Ukraine have changed the European Union’s agenda and challenged the European Commission’s energy security strategy. Some of the sanctions imposed on Russia by the EU in response to the invasion of Ukraine in 2022 have negatively affected European energy security. Due to this recent crisis, alternative options to importing natural gas from Russia and implementing renewable energy development strategies are being explored. One of these alternatives is Türkiye. Türkiye, which has been experiencing negative developments in its EU candidacy status since the change of government system in 2017 and whose relations with the EU have come to a standstill, has a critical role to play in trilateral relations between Russia, Ukraine, and the EU. Since Türkiye is the alternative transit country to Russian energy corridors, it is a potential partner for the EU when it comes to energy security (Yorucu & Mehmet, 2018).
European energy security and its features
While energy security is important at the national and international levels, it is also an area of tension between countries’ national interests. The EU has difficulties in this context, but it also uses the Union’s common action to its advantage. The EU’s energy policies aim to reduce dependency through diversifying energy supply while adhering to the climate change agenda. Despite being criticized for seeking out quick, fossil fuel-based solutions in the short term, the EU also aims for renewable energy technologies in compliance with the green deal (Heshmati & Abolhosseini, 2017).
The main elements of European energy policies are availability, accessibility, energy supply and sustainability of supply, and energy efficiency (Godzimirski, 2014). Depending on these elements, the security of the gas supply, the diversity of gas deliveries, and pricing appropriate to purchasing power are fundamental issues of energy policies (Yorucu & Mehmet, 2018).
The Russian Federation is one of Europe’s main countries supplying natural gas. Ukraine is a transit country in the transportation of natural gas to Europe. Against the backdrop of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022 and the follow-up sanctions imposed on Russia, the EU has been scrambling to reduce its dependence on Russia to ensure European energy security. Consequently, Türkiye’s status as a transit country for multiple pipelines in the Southern Energy corridor has strengthened its role for European energy security.
Türkiye’s potential role for European energy security
Until now, a single energy market was a mere peripheral issue; now, it has become one of the main focuses of the Union. In addition, the creation of a single energy market in the European Union can stabilise the access of European users to energy. That is why the EU is seeking ways to save energy and promote environmentally friendly energy use. For instance, apart from clean energy, there is also the supply of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), which will be beneficial in the long term, by relieving the European gas market (Godzimirski, 2014).
Türkiye, as a transit country that can provide European energy security, has increased its role in the region by assuming a mediator position, especially between Russia and Ukraine. Türkiye is responsible for the gas energy hub in the Caspian and Levant basins, and it is one of the critical partners among the Black Sea bordering countries. The Turkish Stream pipeline project on the Black Sea increases cooperation between Ankara and Moscow. This cooperation can provide an alternative way: Russia would still be able to import gas and the EU would not face a deeper energy security concern (Yorucu & Mehmet, 2018). The EU did not take any concrete steps to advance cooperation with Türkiye in terms of energy security, instead, in July 2022 the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, held a meeting with Azerbaijan on energy security. Azerbaijan has subsequently increased its supply via the Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP) through Türkiye and Greece.
The Greek-Bulgarian pipeline is another pipeline through which Azerbaijani gas passes through Türkiye. Whilst it is true that, in the words of Ursula von der Leyen, the Greek-Bulgarian pipeline means a reduction of dependency on Russian gas,the EU thereby creates a partial reliance on Türkiye as a transit country. In light of worsening relations between Türkiye and the EU over the years, this dependency could indicate a challenge to the EU in the future (Dorian, 2022).
The energy crisis caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine is not global, but an EU crisis, which may lead to consequences for Europeans’ access to energy and, not least, for political leaders themselves (Osička & Černoch, 2022).
There are steps taken by the European Union to ensure energy security and de-escalate the ongoing energy crisis. However, the agreements made on the use of LNG in the long term should be considered more thoroughly. In line with the statements of the European Union, it has yet to find the right supply line. In addition to alternatives, such as the negotiations with Azerbaijan or the Greece-Bulgaria pipeline, Türkiye is also a promising option for the supply lines in the broad picture.
The energy supply route chosen by the European Union will determine Türkiye’s potential role in European energy security. Meanwhile, the EU has so far been unwilling to reach an agreement with Türkiye for political reasons. The European Union has to choose a supply line that does not endanger its energy security, but uncertainty still remains.