Turkey and EU Energy Security

Map of existing and planned oil and gas pipelines in the Caucasus region (view larger version). Graphics by AY Deezy. - This image is subject to a Creative Commons license.

March 8, 2010
By Arzu Yorkan
By Arzu Yorkan

Concern about the security of energy supplies began with the oil crises of the 1970s. More recent events, namely the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Gulf Wars, and the attacks of September 11, 2001, have changed the shape of such fears. They have made energy security an important item on the national security agendas of many countries. Energy security has become synonymous with national and economic security.

Energy security an national security

Today, the reliable, affordable, and sustainable flow of energy is crucial to a nation’s security. However, there are many physical, social, geopolitical, and environmental challenges involved: Major consumers increasingly rely on energy imports; many producer countries are politically and economically unstable; there is a dependency on a limited number of oil and gas pipelines and, in turn, the risk of sabotage or terrorist attacks; the market power of exporting countries is increasing; there is price volatility; the demand in developing countries is on the rise; there are geopolitical problems; and then there is climate change.

More specifically, the European Union is facing the following threats: A high and growing dependency on imports of gas and oil; its efforts to create a fully integrated energy market; political unrest and economic stagnation in supplier countries; and the necessity to switch to clean technology. In order to secure its energy supplies, the EU needs to diversify its suppliers and its transit routes and has to develop a closer dialogue with producers and transit regions. In this, what is the role of Turkey as a potential major hub?

The EU needs to diversify its energy suppliers and transit routes

Turkey is close to 70% of the world’s proven gas and oil reserves and thus forms a natural bridge between producers in Central Asia, the Caspian basin, the Middle East, Africa – and Europe. Using the benefits of its strategic position, Turkey can substantially contribute to the energy security of the EU. It is not only a transit country for supplies from the Middle East and Central Asia but also an alternative route for Russian resources.

In order to create a fully integrated internal energy market it is key to connect gas pipelines and electricity grids within Europe. To achieve this, the EU has given priority to the Trans European Energy Networks (TEN-E) project. Although the EU has made some important progress, it still needs to integrate the energy markets of the southern and eastern European countries. To achieve this, in 2006, the EU created the Energy Community Treaty. Its aim is to establish interconnected grids and pipelines throughout Europe, and further into the Middle East and the Caspian region. Located at the junction, Turkey is in a position to support the EU and help create a pan-European energy market.

Turkey's strategic position

Turkey is a secure and stable country, a democracy with a secular system and moderate Islamic values, and a longstanding member of NATO. Compared with other countries in the region these are significant assets. Turkey could help the EU to bring stability not only to the Middle East but also the Caspian and Caucasus regions. By delivering resources from those regions to Western markets, Turkey can help to raise their prosperity, thus improving political and economic stability.

Turkey has close ties to the Caspian region, Central Asian, and the Middle East. Its longstanding cultural, historic, and economic interrelationships in the area means that Turkey is an ideal intermediary for the EU in its efforts to develop an energy dialogue. In respect to pipelines, namely the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline and the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzerum pipeline, Turkey has close economic, political, and military links with Azerbaijan and Georgia. The good relations between Turkey and those two countries, plus between Turkey and Turkmenistan, and Turkey and Kazakhstan, can be an important asset for the EU’s external energy policy. Last but not least, Turkey itself has a rapidly growing energy market and has thus become a centre for international and regional energy co-operation. Thus, to collaborate with Turkey offers the EU the opportunity to increase its influence in the region and secure its energy supplies.

Arzu Yorkan is a PhD Candidate at the Otto-Suhr Institute for Political Science, Freie Universität Berlin. As an energy expert she is working for two think tanks in Istanbul, www.tasam.org and www.bilgesam.org.


Europäische Energiepolitik

Der Abschied von Kohle, Öl, Gas und Atomkraft ist machbar. Der Übergang ins Zeitalter der Erneuerbaren Energien muss politisch vorangetrieben werden. Es geht um Investitionsanreize und Zukunftsmärkte, um Energiesicherheit und Machtfragen, um technische Innovationen und gesellschaftliches Umdenken.

This project has been funded with support from the European Commission.
This publication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.