Bouzov VihrenRediscovering Neighborhoods

Energy Security and Energy Sovereignty of Southeastern European Countries


Energy security implies finding sufficient resources to meet the needs of energy and ensure its free transportation.  In the present-day context of deepening global confrontation, the energy sovereignty means free decision-making in this field. Only countries with energy sovereignty have energy security. Bulgaria was deprived of its energy sovereignty, which ensured Turkey’s domination. The priority of protecting national interests in Turkey’s foreign policy is based on the perception of cooperation with key geopolitical players in the world as complementary. The U.S. LNG is a utopian and false alternative for the Balkans and the EU countries.

Table of Contents:

1. Energy Security and Energy Policy

2. Energy Security Perspectives for the Southeastern European Countries


1. Energy Security and Energy Policy

The political sovereignty decline of nation states is a key characteristic feature of the globalization era – a single country cannot guarantee its own security and seeks for coalitions or alliances. Security can be defined as a process of support of a satisfactory control by the social subject (individuals, groups, organizations or society as a whole) over harmful effects of ‘the environment’. A security environment can be identified with the system of a subject’s social relationships.

For a state, this refers to its relationship with other participants in the international system. The content of the notion of security has become enlarged – it could not be limited to military aspects or the maintenance of legal order. New concepts of security have been drawn – they concern all aspects of the life of society. Energy security is among the priorities in today’s relations between countries and international corporations.

There is no accepted definition of energy security. Each country strives for energy security: in the present-day we are faced up with an increasing demand for energy sources along with an intensive development of economy and trade exchange. One research group of the U.S. Council of Foreign Relations defines this type of security as “access to energy at affordable prices”. It means that two conditions determine energy security or “reliable and affordable supply of energy”: finding sufficient energy resources to meet the basic needs of a country and  ensuring  their  free  transportation  from  the  place  of  production  to  the  place  of consumption [1].

The term “energy sovereignty” has different political interpretations, from a theoretical  aspect  it  could  be  related  to  the  freedom  of  a  country to  make  autonomous decisions about its energy security. “Energy policy” became something different and separate from “foreign policy”, but both are aspects of “security policy”. There are many arguments in favor of the thesis that energy security can be achieved only in countries which have gained sovereignty over decisions in this area.

The distribution of energy resources in the world is realized through a fierce and uncompromising competition. One can claim with a reason that the provision of energy in recent decades has been experiencing enormous difficulties – as a result of the jump in the population growth in developing countries, the uneven distribution of resources and the growing needs of industrialized countries. Different economic and political interests create difficulties in transporting energy to its consumers. Controversial interests distort the free market and bring force factors into it.


2. Energy Security Perspectives for the Southeastern European Countries

In the analysis below, I will try to justify some key theses and identify problems, as well as explore critically some basic solutions for them. These problems stem from the tension between the need to ensure energy security for each of the Southeastern European countries and the region as a whole, and on a wider scale – the energy security of the EU. The Theory of regional security complexes of the Copenhagen School will be used as a methodological tool [2].

The  energy security of all Balkan countries is linked to the context of the intensive conflicts in the Middle East and the Post-Soviet Space. The transport of Russian gas through Ukraine is diminishing and may be stopped in 2019, due to the West’s instigation of a new phase in the Russian-Ukrainian  conflict. Russia and Gazprom are looking for new gas transport routes, driven by the crisis demand in Eastern and Central European countries.

The dominant perspective so far is to rely on the “Turkish Stream” and the transfer of Russian gas through Turkey. The alternative is to import US liquefied gas, which however needs storage terminals and is much more expensive. One can conclude that here we have the classic situation of penetration of two superpowers in our region through alternative and mutually exclusive energy strategies. All attempts to diversify Russian gas dependence for the time are characterized by limited success – in 2019 limited quantities are expected in Bulgaria from Azerbaijan. But this opportunity cannot adequately meet the needs of the countries of our region. A condition for this is the construction of an interconnector on the Bulgarian-Greek border. The success of the Southern Gas Corridor is undermined by uncertainty about Azerbaijan’s reserves and conflicting relations in the region around Iran.

Let us discuss some key assumptions about the prospects for energy security development for the countries of Southeastern Europe. The first one is that the political pressure from the United States and the western countries on our region will increase. It will become more and more direct and brutal. Trump will want to sell liquefied gas at any cost to all US-dominated countries. It is true that for more than 10 years “the gap between the EU and Russia has widened with regard to organizing principles in terms of energy cooperation and the management of interdependencies” [3]. This puts limits on the autonomous decision-making of EU members in our region.

Under these conditions, it can be argued that a country that does not hold back and subdue this pressure will lose its energy sovereignty. This was the case of Bulgaria. Its current elite did not protect national interests and energy security under the severe geopolitical pressure by abandoning the “South Stream” project and the Belene Nuclear Power Plant. The political confrontation that led to the suspension of the first project was international in nature and related to the U.S. and the EU pressure in favor of Ukraine’s privileged position as a transit country for Russian gas and ultimately to push Russian projects beyond Europe’s borders. It was clear that South Stream would make the Ukrainian gas transmission system superfluous. This also applies to the geostrategic position of Ukraine.

With the termination of this project, Bulgaria has contributed to the change of the geopolitical  architecture  of  Southeastern  Europe.  This  was  reflected  in  Turkey’s transformation into an energy distribution center in the Balkans and in attempts to construct alliances of Southeast European countries in their desire to get involved in the distribution of Russian gas. Such steps have been made by Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Serbia.

Bulgaria’s attempts to play its game with the proposed energy hub “Balkan” near Varna had limited results of a propaganda action that was not supported either by Russia or by the EU-dominant countries elite. It was only positive that it was motivated by the accelerated completion of the interconnector system with Turkey. A positive perspective is the continuation of a Turkish Stream pipeline to Bulgaria.

The termination of the project to build a second nuclear power plant in Belene has been fully coordinated with the US Secretary of State since Obama’s Hillary Clinton. The most serious argument of the project adversaries was that Bulgaria had low energy needs and would not need a second nuclear power station. However, the objective circumstance that the reactors in Kozloduy had a limited life and the latter was extended would soon leak. As such, Bulgaria was approaching an energy crash. Turkey has also recently announced a project to build a nuclear power plant in Thrace. With independent energy diplomacy Turkey seized Bulgaria’s lost function as a major gas distributor and exporter of nuclear power to the Balkan countries.

Secondly, it could be justified that only Turkey has won energy sovereignty among the countries of the Balkans. Other Balkan countries remain under pressure to ignore the opportunities that are most beneficial to their population. Romania has its own energy supply, but the infrastructure for production is sold out and it cannot be considered as possessing energy sovereignty. A dominant perspective is turning Turkey into a major energy and gas distribution center for the Balkans and Southeastern Europe.

It has a sufficiently developed pipeline network that, along with the Turkish Stream, will provide the opportunity to transport Russian and Azeri gas to the Balkan and EU-countries.

The country is a major distributor of Azeri and Iranian gas. Leaders from Balkan countries and the EU took part in the latest World Petroleum Congress in Turkey in the summer of 2017. Turkey tries to overcome old conflicts in the Balkans because of commercial interest. Some of the Balkan countries in their relations with Turkey are still captured by local stereotypes with a long history [4]. The implementation of these projects will deprive Ukraine of its role and the geostrategic importance of its gas transmission network, which, due to political uncertainty, may be abandoned completely.

The priority of protecting national interests in Turkey’s foreign policy is also based on the perception of cooperation with key geopolitical players in the world as complementary. The country does not make requests to exit from NATO, despite the conflicts with the US and some of EU countries. The country does not leave the EU membership negotiations, even insists on their restart. At the same time, Turkey seeks to be associated with the Shanghai organization and other formations considered as hostile by the West. The answer to the American racketeering to buy their missile system was eloquent enough – turning to the Russian S-400 missile systems. Germany still has no courage to respond in a similar way to the US sanctions against “North Stream 2”, which are designed to lead to the purchase of several times more expensive liquefied gas.

It can be argued that such a policy, which leaves the camp controversy from the time of the first “Cold War” in the past, is a path to building a new security architecture based on the balance of strengths and interests. Countries with a responsible elite and power to defend their national interests cannot be easily conquered. Serbia is also trying to pursue such a policy, but it will hardly have the strength to withstand the brutal pressure of the West to recognize Kosovo and to give up its relationship with Russia.

The  third  argument  is  that  the  idea  of  using  US  liquefied  gas  as  an  alternative  to diversifying gas supplies to the Balkans and the EU is utopian and symbolizes the loss of energy sovereignty. It is strongly urged by President Trump and his team, who have set themselves  the  goal  of  making  other  countries  to  “make  America  great  again”  by subordinating their economic interests to the interests of the United States. It is also promoted by senior EU officials who believe that LNG supply will diversify the EU gas market and will increase energy independence in the region. The US plans to increase its liquefied gas exports four times in the next few years, and to build terminals to surround the new “zone of interest”.

To achieve this, they are trying to force the suspension of the “North Stream 2” and the “Turkish Stream” projects. With Trump coming to power, the United States is planning to supply the countries of the Balkans, the Baltic, Poland and Central Europa, with liquefied gas.

The implementation of this US policy requires these countries to be attracted to NATO and separated from the influence of Russia. This is the condition for the US to have direct access to their ports. LNG points are planned in Croatia, Greece and Poland. That is why the planned change with the pro-Western government in Macedonia was also implemented. A global geopolitical game is underway to remove Russia from Europe’s gas markets. The Baltic countries have already introduced preferences for the United States.

However, this requires huge costs to be paid by the EU countries and they will hardly swallow it. This operation is the second after the “shale revolution”, and one can state that it will be so unprofitable and utopian. At present the elites of France and Germany are looking for options to oppose the US dictatorship. In the Balkan region, this process can also be  significant because German influence has traditions [5]. The double standard and confrontation with Turkey bring new demarcation lines within the EU.

In conclusion, one can justifiably say that Turkey’s independent policy and its efforts to get rid of US custody has so far offered the most realistic alternative to guaranteeing energy security in the Balkans. There is no other way to achieve this goal than negotiating favorable terms for the purchase of Russian and Azeri gas at preferential prices from Turkey.

REFERENCES1.    Deutch, J., J. Shlesinger. (2006). National Security Consequences of U.S. Oil Dependency. Report of an Independent Task Force N 58, Council of Foreign Relations, ISBN 0-876-09365-9.2.    Buzan, B., O. Weaver. (2003). Regions and Powers: The Structure of International Security, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 10 0-511-07663-0.

3.    Mangott, G., K. Westphal (2008). The Relevance of the Wider Black Sea Region to EU and Russian Energy Issues. The Wider Black Sea Region in the 21st Century: Strategic, Economic and Energy Perspectives (eds. Hamilton, D. and G. Mangott), Washington, D.C.: Center for Transatlantic Relations, pp. 147-177, ISBN 10: 0-9801871-3-3.

4.    Dimitrov,  D.  (2014).  Neoplatonism  and  Christianity  in  the  East:  Philosophical  and  Theological Challenges for the Bishops. Routledge Handbook of Neoplatonism. ( P. Remes, D. Slaveva Griffin), Oxford: Routledge, pp. 525-540, ISBN-13: 978-1844656264.

5.    Markovska,  A.  (2018).  German  Influence  in  the  Balkans.  A  “Civilian  Power  as  a  Factor  for Disintegration of Yougoslavia. Southeast Europe: History, Culture, Politics and Economy” (eds. D. Dimitrov, M. Palangurski, N. Hristova, V. Hristova, V. Bouzov), Proceedings of an International Conference, Bologna: Filodritto Editore, pp. 50-62, ISBN 978-88-85813-05-2.



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About the author

Bouzov, Vihren, Dr. habil., is a professor of Legal Philosophy and Logic of Social Sciences and Doctor of Sciences in National Security at St. Cyril and St. Methodius University of Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria.