While the passions around the Nord Stream-2 are not subsiding, and Washington is looking for new ways to stop the project, Russia has launched the second part of the Turkish Stream (TurkStream) in the Southern Balkans. Thus, this large-scale project takes its final shape, writes Alex Ivanov, Moscow correspondent.
On 1 January, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic launched the Serbian section of the Turkish Stream - an interconnector gas pipeline that expanded the Serbian national gas transportation system.
In the new year, 2021, Serbia joined a number of Balkan countries that use one of the main Russian energy resources, overcame dependence on Ukrainian gas transit and ensured energy stability.
“The number of European countries that receive Russian gas with the help of Turkish Stream has grown to six. Now, along with Bulgaria, Greece, Northern Macedonia and Romania, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina have provided themselves with such an opportunity, said Alexey Miller, Chairman of the Gazprom Management Board. From Russia, gas is supplied via the Turkish Stream offshore gas pipeline to Turkey, from there to Bulgaria, and through the national gas transportation system of Bulgaria, it enters Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Two lines of the Turkish Stream will supply 15.75 billion cubic metres of gas per year, about 3 of them will be received by Serbia. Russian gas will allow the Serbs to attract foreign investors, help improve the environmental situation in the country and raise the standard of living of citizens. The festive launch of gas went like clockwork, but Russia and Serbia took a long time to reach this strategically important moment.
According to the initial plan, the entire volume of gas from the second line was planned to serve by transit through Turkey to the border with Bulgaria, where it would be done in the upgraded Bulgarian gas transport system, which is capable of transmitting 12 billion cubic meters of gas on border with Serbia. After the distribution of gas through its territory, the rest of the gas was to be supplied to the border with Hungary. By 2019, it was planned to synchronize all work on the construction of the Turkish Stream branches and simultaneously modernize the Bulgarian and Serbian gas transmission systems.
However, when the gas pipeline was already built by the Russian company Gazprom in 2019, work had only just begun in Serbia, while in Bulgaria it was not carried out at all. Gazprom, as a reliable supplier, booked additional capacities for gas transportation through the Ukrainian corridor for gas supplies to Serbia in 2020, although this was not profitable for Russia either in terms of the economy, or even more so in the political aspect.
In 2020, work on connecting Serbia and Bulgaria to the Turkish Stream was intensified, but in the fall of 2020 it turned out that Serbia (for various reasons) does not have time to fulfill its obligations before March-April 2021. This meant that in order to organize Russian gas supplies to Serbia in 2021, Gazprom would again have to ask Ukraine, contrary to its political and reputational interests, to sell additional transit capacity to deliver gas to Serbia. President Aleksandar Vucic personally had to solve the problem.
Already in November 2020, a Russian-Serbian working group was established, working under the direct control of the Serbian leader. After President Vucic took the situation into his own hands, the construction of the gas pipeline in the country began at a new pace. The round-the-clock work of specialists and builders of the two countries has brought a corresponding result.
In total, about 6 billion cubic metres of gas will be supplied to the domestic markets of these countries. The corresponding amount of fuel can be excluded from the alternative flow in transit through Ukraine. For the Serbian consumer, the launch of the "Balkan Stream" is especially important because the price of a cubic meter of gas will now drop from $ 240 to $ 155 at the exit from Bulgaria (the cost of internal transit will be added to them, about $ 12-14). This also means a revision of the cost of connecting households to gas. Alexander Vucic called this event "great and important for Serbia" and sincerely thanked the Russian leadership. "This is an important day for our country. I would like to thank our Russian friends who participated in the construction of the gas pipeline together with us. I congratulate you on your great work, it is of great importance for the industry, the development of the Serbian economy, as well as all the inhabitants of Serbia," he said at the launch ceremony of the gas pipeline.
Russia is completing its ambitious project in the Balkans. All the countries that wanted to get gas already have it. Turkish Stream is there in the Balkans. At the time, it was not possible to implement the South Stream, but now there is another route and it works.