The European Commission will lead negotiations with the two countries on behalf of the whole 27-nation bloc on the proposed pipeline, which is part of a planned corridor of links known as the Southern Corridor, designed to reduce EU dependence on Russian gas imports. "Europe is now speaking with one voice.
The trans-Caspian pipeline is a major project in the Southern Corridor to bring new sources of gas to Europe. We have the intention of achieving this as soon as possible," EU energy chief Guenther Oettinger said in a statement. A series of projects have been competing to carry gas to Western Europe as alternatives to supplies from dominant producer Russia. They gathered momentum after a row between Russia and transit nation Ukraine led to the cut-off of supplies to western Europe in 2009.
The new agreement could be particularly beneficial for the Nabucco pipeline, a project with the backing of the European Commission which would carry gas through Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary into Austria and western Europe. Analysts have said the pipeline could struggle to find enough gas for its planned 31 billion cubic metre (bcm) capacity, with no other gas available in the near term. That has meant the size of the Nabucco project — the most ambitious of the three schemes — could be a problem.