French ITGI backing revitalizes ‘Turkish Stream’ prospects

The Russian-Turkish natural gas pipeline plan envisioned to also cross through Greece, a possibility that seemed unrealistic just several months ago during the tenure of the country’s former energy minister, Panagiotis Lafazanis – an anti-eurozone advocate who went on to form his own radical leftist party – has now emerged as a solid prospect, as was noted by energy minister Panos Skourletis yesterday, for the first time. France’s lobbying in support of the project’s development has been pivotal to the apparent shift.

Most recently, the plan has received heavy French support, both political and corporate, through President Francois Hollande and EDF-Edison, respectively. French support has promoted developing the pipeline through EU territory, exclusively, from the Greek-Turkish border area, across northern Greece to the country’s west, where it could be linked to the neglected Greek-Italian ITGI pipeline. Development of the ITGI project, approved in the past by the European Commission, is now also being brought back into the picture as a result of the role it could play in connection with the Russian-Turkish pipeline.

A previous plan for the Russian-Turkish pipeline’s crossing into central Europe envisioned a vertical route cutting through the Balkans, from Greece, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (Fyrom), Serbia, and Hungary.

The French corporate group EDF has lobbied hard in Brussels over the past few months, supporting  the change of plan favoring a route across northern Greece and over to Italy. EDF has stressed Italy will comprise part of the route, while also noting the endorsed yet forgotten ITGI plan, dating back to the previous decade, could finally be actualized.

Of course, Russia and Turkey will need to overcome certain differences if the project is to stand a chance of progressing. Russian sources believe the impasse is manageable, while Greek officials estimate the project can progress.

A visit by Gazprom’s CEO Alexey Miller to Milan for a meeting with Edison’s managing director Bruno Lescoeur one month ago injected new momentum into the Russian-Turkish pipeline’s prospects.