Turkey's position was, is and will be key for international energy projects in the region, said Volkan Ozdemir, head of the Ankara-based Institute for Energy Markets and Policies (EPPEN) in Bulgaria's capital Sofia on Wednesday.
At the Energy Experts Round Table, which was hosted by Russian news agency TASS and Bulgaria's news agency BTA, Ozdemir cited the TurkStream natural gas project as one of these key projects that will ensure Turkey's energy security by eliminating future transit risks.
"Energy security is very expensive," he said.
The TurkStream project has enhanced Turkey-Russia relations to ensure the transmission of Russian gas to Turkey and to Europe.
He acknowledged that the project will bring mutual interdependence between Russia and Turkey but will also benefit other European countries, particularly Bulgaria, Serbia and Hungary.
He stressed that both energy diversification and diversification of supply routes are very important for importers like Turkey and Bulgaria.
Through the TurkStream 2 with reverse flows, Turkey will become a transit for Bulgaria after 33 years. Back in 1987, Turkey began receiving natural gas via Bulgaria, he explained.
- "Russian gas is discriminated"
Alexey Grivach, deputy director of Russia’s National Energy Security Fund, who also spoke during the conference, said that natural gas politics is a major problem for Europe and the Balkans region.
"Politics in natural gas is adding costs to all sides - producers, the transit sides and the end customer," Grivach argued.
He urged for the de-escalation of such politics against Russian supplies for the sake of secure, safe and affordable gas.
"Russian supplies are the most stable, affordable and secure for Europe and energy should be secure safe and affordable. This is what Russian gas offers, but it's discriminated against like the TurkStream, South Stream and Nord Stream [projects]. It's unfair competition," he said.
The third energy package that the EU introduced to promote and enlarge competition merely limited competition and brought additional cost to customers, he argued.
"Energy became less affordable and the prices increased in the final market," he said.
During the session, a senior expert from Bulgaria's natural gas transmission and storage system operator, Bulgartransgaz, Dimitar Shterev, also echoed the importance of the TurkStream project and hailed it as the start of a new phase in gas projects in the Balkans.
Bulgaria aims to secure a link to the joint Russia-Turkey TurkStream pipeline project to Serbia and Hungary via expansion of the pipeline infrastructure that is set to transfer natural gas from Turkey to Serbia across Bulgaria.
"The South Stream [precursor to the TurkStream that was cancelled by the EU] was changed into the TurkStream. We needed to do everything possible in order to take the necessary transit quantities through Turkey so they could be transferred through our territory on a commercial basis," Shterev said.
He said "its implementation [the TurkStream project] is extremely important for our country, our economy and development."
Through this project, he said that Bulgaria would retrieve the transit that was taken away through the cancellation of the South Stream.
Bulgaria's former Economy and Energy Minister Rumen Ovcharov lamented over the cancellation of major projects in the country that now necessitates the government formulating a long-term, "logical" energy policy.
He referred to the cancelled South Stream project and the Belene Nuclear Power Plant that once saw Bulgaria at the heart of energy in the Balkans.
A consortium led by Saudi Arabia's Arkad Engineering and Construction won the tender to build the pipeline for the expansion of the gas transmission network to carry Russian gas across Bulgaria, according to Bulgartransgaz on April 3.
The TurkStream twin pipeline will have a total capacity of 31.5 billion cubic meters out of which 15.75 billion cubic meters of gas will be sent to Turkey while the remaining share will be transferred to Europe via Turkey.
By Murat Temizer in Sofia, Bulgaria