Barroso in Ashgabat

Interesting piece from EUobserver which is somewhat skeptical about Manuel Barroso’s upcoming charm visit to the capital of Turkmenistan, as the EU begins its effort to secure future natural gas exports potentially for the Nabucco pipeline.  But there’s something fishy about the article … you can’t argue that the Turkmens think a trans-Caspian route is “unrealistic” and yet the preposterous South Stream project is going forward?  Given the nod to Brussels lobbyists Brunswick at the end of the article, this looks quite a lot like a placement on behalf of parties that really don’t want Europe making independent ties with Turkmenistan.

A Turkmen diplomatic source told this website that Mr Berdymukhammedov is unsure why the commission is sending over its big gun at a time when the EU has “no new offer” and “no new ideas” on how to get Turkmenistan to join its flagship Nabucco pipeline project, however.

“After the signing of Tapi [a Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India gas project], the Europeans are a bit nervous about possible reserves and whether the gas will flow … It’s just a political meeting: Barroso wants to put his weight on the scale to convince Turkmenistan to go with the Trans-Caspian pipeline,” the contact said, referring to a component pipeline seen as key to getting Nabucco off the ground.

Ashgabat believes that the Trans-Caspian pipeline is an “unrealistic”option, not least because of opposition from Russia, which would haveto give its approval as one of the Caspian Sea littoral states, theTurkmen diplomat added. “It will be politically difficult to give thismessage immediately after the European visit. So some time will probablypass before such a statement is made,” the source said. (…)

A European Commission source noted that President Barroso will bring upthe issue of human rights and democratic reforms at the meeting: “Therehas been a timid and modest start to reforms, it’s moving, albeit at aslow pace, and the President will encourage his Turkmen counterpart totake this further.”