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Serbia as a Future European Energy Hub

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Energy transit as the strategic opportunity for Serbia

The Balkans represent a significant potential energy hub | Image from Wall Street International.

7 July 2021 (Wall Street International)*Based on the fact that three EU energy corridors pass through it, the Balkans nowadays represent a significant potential energy hub.

Along with the importance of Central-South-Eastern Electricity connection and the North-South gas interconnections and Oil supply, the justification in proving the statement could unambiguously be found in the emerging Southern Gas Corridor, which will supply the countries of Central and Western Europe with gas, and is expected to soon be not only a geopolitical but also an important energy bridge connecting Europe with the wider regions of the Caucasus and the Middle East.

However, the key external factors in energy geopolitics in the region at the moment include EU, Russia and China. Although all of these three take part in financing and building the energy structure and especially in Western Balkan countries, their focus on the energy sector is substantially different.

While the EU is focused on infrastructure projects that can contribute to de-carbonization in the energy sector, China prefers mining and thermal power generation. Russia focuses on the gas and oil sector and currently dominates it, especially in Serbia.

In spite of the fact that already in 2013 Russia, with its prominent position in the energy sector in the area, nominated it as a region of strategic importance in its foreign policy, the European Union has the widest range of instruments at its disposal to influence energy geopolitics in the region.

Yet, its decarbonisation policy is opposed by China’s financial interference, constantly increasing in the region since the commencement of implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative, predominantly in coal and lignite-fired power plants.

Towards the Balkans gas hub

From a regional perspective, there are five gas pipeline projects that are of exceptional importance. These are TANAP, TAP, IAP and Turk Stream gas pipelines as well as the floating LNG terminal project on the Krk island.

The significance of the Trans-Anatolian Pipeline is due to the fact that it is connected a the Greek-Turkish border to the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) which will transport gas from Azerbaijan through Northern Greece, Albania and the Adriatic Sea to southern Italy, where it will connect to the gas network there.

The TAP is considered of particular importance for Albania adding to its geostrategic position in the area. Furthermore, as part of the strategic Southern Gas Corridor, it could potentially reduce the gas dependence from the Russian Federation, satisfying the need of the countries to build cross-border gas infrastructure, which is particularly relevant in the cases of Serbia and North Macedonia.

However, the Turk Stream which can be perceived as the Russian response to the Southern Gas Corridor could be also important from the region from the perspective of diversification. Especially the second route of this twin pipeline which extends from Turkey toward the South European and Central European Markets. (runs through Bulgaria Serbia Hungary, all way to Austria).

As to the Ionian Adriatic Pipeline, disregarding certain allegations that it does not have adequate justifications, in combination with the LNG terminal at the Krk island it is considered as very important for the development of the region.

*Aleksandra Pećinar
Historian. United Nations mandated-University for Peace –European Center for Peace and Development, Serbia -Adviser for Geostrategic Issues in South-East Europe.
National Research Foundation “Eleftherios K. Venizelos”, Greece – Official Representative for Serbia Author of “Diplomatic and allied relations of Serbia and Greece (1912-1918)”, Ministry of Defense of Republic of Serbia..

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