Nabucco and other new gas pipelines may make Europe’s energy more secure, but market liberalisation matters too.
TRAGEDY and farce have too often been the hallmarks of European efforts to improve energy security. Dependence on Russia, which supplied a third of its gas imports through Kremlin-controlled east-west pipelines, seemed to be rising inexorably and worryingly. Squabbling between Russia and Ukraine led to repeated supply cuts. The Russians exploited energy to divide and rule their Western neighbours. Big energy companies in countries such as Germany and Austria sought cosy relations with Russia’s state-controlled gas giant, Gazprom.
The overlap between politics and profit was epitomised by Gerhard Schröder, a former German chancellor. Since 2005 he has been the front man for Nord Stream, the pipeline that is planned to run under the Baltic. Along with South Stream, a sister project across the Black Sea, Nord Stream would let Russia bypass troublesome transit countries, chiefly Ukraine. West European customers could benefit, but the plans alarm countries in the east that are at greater risk of Russian bullying.
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