Europe embraces Azerbaijan’s autocracy in great gas hunt

EU bid to move away from Russian fossil fuels takes it to Baku, to secure reliable gas supplies to EU via Southern Gas Corridor

EC president Ursula von der Leyen and Azerbaijan president Ilham Aliyev sign the gas memorandum
EC president Ursula von der Leyen and Azerbaijan president Ilham Aliyev sign the gas memorandum

The European Commission has embraced the autocratic regime of Azerbaijan’s Ilham Aliyev, as its search for gas in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine took Ursula von der Leyen to Baku.

There, the EC president and energy commisisioner for energy Kadri Simson, met Aliyev to sign a new Memorandum of Understanding on a Strategic Partnership in the Field of Energy in a bid to move away Europe away from Russian fossil fuels.

“Not only are we looking to strengthen our existing partnership which guarantees stable and reliable gas supplies to the EU via the Southern Gas Corridor. We are also laying the foundations of a long-term partnership on energy efficiency and clean energy, as we both pursue the objectives of the Paris Agreement. But energy is only one of the areas where we can enhance our cooperation with Azerbaijan and I look forward to tap the full potential of our relationship,” Von der Leyen said.

In May, Brussels hosted rare face-to-face talks between Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, whose countries are locked in a dispute over the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Nagorno-Karabakh hosts an ethnic Armenian enclave within territory internationally recognized as Azerbaijan’s.

Russia’s gas deliveries to Europe amounted to 155 billion cubic meters (bcm) in 2021, but current EU plans call for Azerbaijan to supply only a fraction of that, just 12 bcm, by the end of this year.

Currently, the EU and Azerbaijan are also negotiating a new comprehensive agreement, which will allow for enhanced cooperation in a wide range of areas, including economic diversification, investment, trade and making full use of the potential of civil society, while underscoring importance of human rights and rule of law.

The memorandum doubles the capacity of the Southern Gas Corridor to deliver at least 20 billion cubic metres to the EU annually by 2027. Azerbaijan is already now increasing deliveries of natural gas to the EU, from 8.1 billion cubic metres in 2021 to an expected 12 bcm in 2022.

The Commission has long supported the expansion of the Southern Gas Corridor as a major contribution to secure, reliable and predictable natural gas supplies in South Eastern Europe and, potentially, also in the Western Balkans, via the Trans Adriatic Pipeline,” the EC said.