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"Europe must not forget: gas is coming from East"!
Iurie Gotisan, May 30, 2006

Officials of Western Europe are testing different methods aimed to strengthen their positions in energy sector and to reduce the dependence on Russian energy resources, especially on natural gas, after the feud of many European governments, diplomats and entrepreneurs for formation and development of the energy map of Europe, for more or less Russian natural gas, for more or less capital invested by Russians in Europe. The energy security was one of key issues discussed at the Russia-European Union summit that took place in Sochi on May 24-25. Despite ardent debates, the sides have failed to reach a compromise. Perhaps the hot side was reserved for the July-scheduled G8 summit in Sankt-Petersburg.

The nominal volume of Russian investments abroad amounted to 25 billion dollars in late 2004. However, it should be noted that the Russian investments rose very rapidly in 2005. In addition, about 60% of the 25 billion dollars have been invested in E.U. member states. Russian companies have invested more than 4 billion dollars between 2002 and 2004 in new E.U. members, especially in energy sector in these countries. Finally, most of Russian investments went to the energy sector, and this gives politico-strategic meanings to the whole problem. The present economy of the E.U. is based on importation of 55% of energy resources, while in the horizon of 2020 the dependence of the enlarged E.U. (eventually with 30 countries) may grow up to 75%.

If states with good economic location in the West such as Germany, France or Italy hold more levers to balance the relations with Russia, (given the fact that Russia imports production from these states massively), countries in central-east-European area are much more vulnerable. Perhaps the provider of energy resources must receive the necessary respect when they do not have at least one cubic metre of natural gas, like in the case of Bulgaria, Poland or Lithuania and when payments for imported gas exceed the value of the state budget, like in case of Moldova. We have had a rich chronicle of incidents related to delivery of energy resources to these countries in the past years, and both Russia and Ukraine, whose territory is crossed by important transportation networks, have played the role of protagonist.

If there are alternative resources for crude oil, the natural gas is coming from the East exclusively. New E.U. members do not change very much the direction of their relations with Russia, given the relative weakness of economies of these countries and especially the Russian investments in their energy sectors. The giant Gazprom, a company operating the field in which the economy of the European continent is exposed at the highest level, is the main vector in this regard.

Poland, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Lithuania and Latvia are the main investment targets of Russia among central-east-European countries. Although Russian investors in Poland represent less than 3% of the total of foreign direct investments, the phenomenon seems to be more impressive in absolute figures - 1.5 billion dollars. And more impressive is the fact that the overall investments of Gazprom in Poland, either direct or financial, accounts for 1.3 billion dollars. The case of Poland reveals through excellence that the energy is the privileged direction for Russian capital in Central and Eastern Europe and Gazprom company is the carrying vector.

In Bulgaria Gazprom owns 50% of the national company of transportation and trading of natural gas Topenegro, while Lukoil has acquired 58% of shares in the biggest refinery Neftokhim Burgas. Gazprom has also signed an agreement with the Lithuanian Government to take over 34% of shares in the national natural gas distribution company. The similar company from Estonia was friendly divided between Gazprom, German Ruhrgas and Finnish Fortum Oil and Gas. Gazprom together with Lukoil and Transneftprodukt have capitalised 70% of Russian investments in Latvia, where the Russian oil company Sibnefti (assimilated by Yukos) targets at a very important oil terminal in the Baltic Sea1.

In Slovakia, Sibnefti has taken over 49% of the capital of Transpetrol, a company which administrates the oil pipe Druzhba, the main means of exportation of Russian petroleum, in the territory of this country. Many experts indicate the strategic value of this acquisition knowing the plan of Russia to get connected to the Omisalj (Croatia) oil terminal, which is the place where the projected oil pipe for Caspian crude oil, with the start point in the Constanta port, should arrive. Associated with Ruhrgas and Gaz de France, Gazprom owns 49% in the Slovakian gas dealer and holds the right to sell 17% of shares of western shareholders. Finally, Gazprom controls the GasInvest dealer in the Czech Republic and it intends to take over the Czech gas transporter Transgaz in partnership with West-European companies.

Romania was not a priority for Russian investments in energy sector until recently because it has internal resources through exception, while bilateral relations have been preserved at not very high levels. However, Bucharest depends more than 50% on Russia's natural gas. The gas is imported by Imex Oil and Conef firm, which is the major shareholder of Alro Slatina headed by Russian businessman Vitali Matsitski. He controls the aluminium industry in Romania, notably Alro, Alprom Slatina and Alum Tulcea through some financial companies, including the most important one Marco Group. Romania imported 4.5 billion cubic metres of Russian gas in 2005, a quantity that Moldova imports in 2-3 years.

In Moldova, Gazprom owns 50%+1 shares in the domestic natural gas distribution society MoldovaGaz, the Moldovan Government controls 35.33%, while the committee for the administration of property of Transnistria owns 13.44%. The remaining shares belong to 1,705 individual shareholders, including Alexandr Reazanov, a deputy chairman of Gazprom (6,850 shares), Viktor Dedesko, deputy department director of Gazprom (774 shares), Alexei Procofiev, member of the Board of Directors MoldovaGaz SA (320 shares) Alexandr Bojemolov, member of the Board of Directors of Gazprom-Cran (646 shares). In 2005, the Tiraspol administration has withdrawn from the joint stock society and posted intention to transmit its shares to Gazprom, with which it should create a new joint venture to supply and transit gas in the region. However, the transaction was not legalised and Gazprom holds the shares in trust management.

Now E.U. officials are trying to create a passage for natural gas from the Caspian Sea, Azerbaijan and Iran to Europe via some potential gas pipes like the Turkish-Greek-Italian one or the gas pipe Nabucco, with a 4.5-billion-euro budget, which starts from Turkey through Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary and will arrive in Austria. However, these are only plans and there are few technical-economic researches capable to establish the exact costs and transportation and distribution taxes. In addition, as regards the transportation of natural gas, Greece is promoting the creation of a pipe to reach Austria through the Western Balkans (Albania, Serbia, Croatia, and Slovenia). The gas pipe is "blessed" by E.U., though it is at the first stage of projecting. However, the political instability in countries that it will cross is a factor that delays the promotion of the gas pipe for the time being.

1 Electronic Publications of Pan-European Institute, 2/2003





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