Turkey warming to France as Nabucco seeks 7th partner

Nabucco Pipeline Project

Turkey is leaving the door open for the involvement of France in the multi-national Nabucco project amid plans to extend its scope to include a seventh partner.

“There could be one or more partners to the project,” Energy Minister Taner Yıldız told a group of journalists Thursday in his hometown Kayseri, one day after five transit countries undersigned project support agreements with the Nabucco International company.

Turkey’s Yıldız chaired Wednesday’s committee meeting where the Nabucco consortium and government representatives discussed plans to involve additional parties.

“We will evaluate different proposals as almost every party said we need to be more flexible,” said the minister, when asked about the possibility of the French involvement.

Turkey blocked French company Gaz de France’s participation in the European Union-backed Nabucco project for political reasons. The minister’s remarks, however, show a significant shift in the Turkish position toward France.

“I think the door is open not only to countries but also to companies,” Hungary’s National Development Minister Tamas Fellegi told the Daily News in an interview in Kayseri. He said the consortium behind the project should discuss this issue very frankly.

“I would not rule out any country just because of the basis of nationality or counter background. The Nabucco project, don’t forget, is a significant European Union project that is politically and financially supported by the EU. And France is a member of the EU,” he told the Daily News.

The idea came after some Nabucco participating states expressed intentions to involve additional parties especially from the side of gas supply countries.

“I think the participating countries should make the decision later this year,” said the Hungarian minister.

‘No financing without seeing the gas’

Nabucco cannot be finalized without source countries, said Yıldız, adding that finding supplies was as important as securing financing for the project.

The director-generals of the European Investment Bank and the International Bank of Reconstruction and Development were also present at the signing ceremony. Yıldız said the governments sustained “necessary” conditions for the financing of the project but added that was “not sufficient.”

“Financing cannot be done without seeing the source country, and indeed without seeing the natural gas,” he said.

None of the potential supply countries were present at the signing ceremony. Azerbaijan did not attend the event despite the Turkish Energy Ministry’s invitation.

Yıldız, however, downplayed concerns over Baku’s absence. “Azerbaijan was hosting an oil and gas conference, otherwise they would have come.”

‘Project support deals delayed due to Hungary’

Yıldız said the project support agreements, subjected to the Swiss law, were including close to 40 provisions from taxation, environment impact to technical details. He argued the deals were going to be signed earlier, putting the blame on Hungary for their delay.

Third parties in Europe that are not involved in Nabucco can conclude bilateral energy deals with supply countries and can transport this gas through Nabucco pipeline by leasing, said Yıldız.

“This is a commercial project. For example, Switzerland struck a gas deal with Iran and it will be able to lease the Nabucco pipeline to ship this gas back home,” he added.

The minister invited third countries to “find cheap gas and bring it home through Nabucco.” He also made it clear that Turkey was not in need of gas that would come from Nabucco, saying that Turkey would not be the party that would lose if the project did not come true.

‘Ball is not in Turkey’s court’

Yıldız responded to the statement by the U.S. envoy for Eurasian Energy, Richard Morningstar, who called on Turkey and Azerbaijan to sign a deal for the sale of natural gas.

“An agreement will be concluded between Nabucco consortium and Shah Deniz II. Turkey will not sign a deal on behalf of Nabucco,” said Yıldız. “Turkey is doing its share at the every phase of the project. It is not appropriate to throw the ball into Turkey’s court.”

Minister slams German decision to close nuclear plants

Energy Minister Taner Yıldız hit out at German plans to shut down all of the nation’s nuclear power plants within the next 11 years, saying, “It is like putting on the brakes while speeding on the highway.”

Yıldız criticized Germany for explaining differently to the public the reason for its closure of old plants.

“I see Germany’s main reason being that it will close expired plants. We also want the closure of 40-year-old plants. The closure of aging plants does not mean new ones cannot be opened,” added the minister.

The head of the Energy Market Regulatory Authority, or EPDK, said Germany took such an initiative due to political reasons. Hasan Köktaş said that Germany was meeting 23 percent of its electricity energy from nuclear plants and it was not possible for Germany to close its plants.

“Germany made such a decision in previous years and de-functioned two plants made in 1971, 1972. That was entirely because of technical reasons,” he added.

HDN