THE EU’S ENERGY PRIORITIES IN THE SOUTHERN CAUCASUS
Roman Melikian, Ph.D. (Political Science), Lecturer at the Academy of State Administration under the President of the Republic of Armenia (Erevan, Armenia)
The recent geopolitical events, and primarily those unfolding along the West-Russia trajectory, have dramatically changed the forecast of how long the EU can continue using Russian energy resources. The European countries wish to slowly free themselves from their energy dependence on Russia and make new adjustments to the conceptual approaches to this problem. In particular, the EU has been actively fortifying its position in the Black Sea-Caspian Region by dividing it into two key strategic components—the Southern Caucasus and the Caspian.
The Eastern Partnership Program, which extends to Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Moldova, Armenia, and Belarus, has implied close cooperation between these post-Soviet countries and the EU at all levels from the very beginning. The Europeans find these countries easier to understand in historical and cultural terms than the Central Asian countries.
The energy-rich countries (Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and Iran) and countries with considerable transit capacities (Turkey and Georgia) have found themselves in the epicenter of the European establishment’s attention. At the beginning of 2014, several important new projects for the South Caucasian Region were articulated (Nabucco, Nabucco West, TAP, Shah Deniz-2, and others).
The EU is now faced with making an urgent choice between its former dependence on Russia or undertaking gradual modernization by finding new energy partners. In this respect, the most radical part of European society is willing to engage in any economically promising cooperation (in the form of low energy prices), as long as it is not with Russia or the U.S.
The rest of society holds a more moderate position in favor of diversifying suppliers; it is not against either Russian energy resources or American shale gas, but is also considering alternative energy sources.
It should be noted that, on the whole, the EU inclines more toward the second scenario.
However, after making its South Caucasian choice, the EU is not rushing to invest huge sums in the implementation of the energy projects that, as already noted, are being actively discussed by some countries of the region. Moreover, the American factor continues to play an important role: the U.S. is striving to squeeze Russia out of the European energy zone. In so doing, it is clearly striving to monopolize the European regional gas market.
Keywords: energy priorities, European energy resources, the EU, the Southern Caucasus, shale gas, energy resources, energy dynamics, energy dependence.