EU Energy Diplomacy and the Southern Gas Corridor: Normative and Geopolitical Challenges to the Union's External Energy Policy

Marco Siddi, Madalina Sisu Vicari

Tensions with Russia following the Ukraine crisis have led the European Union to take steps aimed at reducing its energy dependence on Moscow, particularly in the field of natural gas. Together with the launch of a European Energy Security Strategy and the plan to create an Energy Union, the EU has revitalized existing import diversification plans. This step change can be seen in the EU's renewed focus on the Southern Gas Corridor (SGC), linking South Eastern Europe to the gas reserves of the Caspian basin. The EU has also engaged in an active energy diplomacy to advance the project. However, the implementation of the SGC confronts the Union with a broad range of complexities. Brussels faces geopolitical competition from Moscow for access to Caspian resources; Russia is pushing forward the Turkish Stream project, which aims at supplying the same countries as the SGC. This competition has important security and political ramifications, which may increase volatility in the Black Sea region and ultimately undermine EU energy security. Moreover, EU energy diplomacy in support of the SGC involves partnerships with Caucasian and Central Asian autocracies (such as Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan), which questions the Union's declared commitment to human rights and the rule of law in the region. The paper tracks the key developments in the EU's energy diplomacy supporting the SGC and examines its main challenges from a normative and geopolitical perspective. It argues that the EU is unlikely to achieve significant import diversification through the SGC. On the other hand, the Union's pursuit of partnerships with Caspian autocracies undermines its normative goals and creates new energy dependencies on authoritarian regimes.

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