Slovakia Going “Against the Grain” of EU Energy Policy

Slovakia has been accused of disrupting transportation of supplies of Azerbaijani crude oil to the EU.

Although Azerbaijan is willing to increase its oil supplies to the EU, the Slovakian authorities are currently reluctant to permit Azeri crude oil to be delivered for further refining in the EU.

Slovakia is reluctant to give access to the oil via existing pipelines supposedly because it claims more time is needed to install additional storage capacity in Slovakia.

But others claim the real reason is that Slovakia does not want to aggravate Russia which already ships some of its EU-bound oil through Slovakia.

Some say that the so-called Azeri oil project “fits perfectly” with the EU’s policy to diversify energy suppliers and transportation routes in order to improve energy security.

But, it is claimed, implementation of the project is being delayed because of “nervousness” on the part of Slovakia who fear that by increasing transportation of Azeri oil they may risk punitive measures from Russia this winter in respect of energy supplies.

Critics say this is an example of how difficult it is for the European commission to co-ordinate energy policy objectives when individual member states “pursue their own agendas”.

James Wilson, director of the EU Ukraine business council, said, “The business council has approached the commission for assistance to coordinate the support of all member states involved in this project, so that early implementation can be achieved.”

His concerns are shared by Marat Terterov, director of Brussels-based European Geopolitical Forum, who said, “It is interesting to note that in this era of EU concerns about energy transit in Ukraine (for Russian gas supplies) and in Turkey (for Caspian energy) we are seeing that EU member states can also ‘get in on the game’.

“The case of Azeri oil shipments bound for the Kralupy refinery in the Czech Republic currently being interrupted, if not disrupted, allegedly on technical grounds by Slovakia demonstrates that EU member states also have the potential to become the source of transit risks.

“Slovakia’s actions appear to be going not only against the grain of EU energy solidarity but are likewise in breach of the EU treaty as well as Article 7 of the Energy Charter Treaty, which is based on the principle of ‘freedom of transit’.”

He added, “Slovakia, which was hit hard by the January 2009 Russia-Ukraine gas dispute, once again appears to find itself between a rock and a hard place.

“Allowing new shipments of Azeri crude to pass through its territory en route to other EU countries may result in a somewhat unwelcome response from Russia, which also supplies oil to the EU through Slovakia.

“Slovak officials know their vulnerability from an energy security perspective. Slovakia remains highly dependent on Russia for its energy supplies and is not yet sufficiently covered by EU reverse flow infrastructure to adequately compensate for any major reduction in energy supplies in the event of a disruption coming from the east.

“Thus it is inevitable that small and highly vulnerable EU member states – such as Slovakia – are likely to retain a pragmatic stance towards notions of EU energy solidarity as preached in Brussels, with the present approach of Slovak authorities towards Azeri crude shipments offering a prime example of such strategies.”

Author: Martin Banks,

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