BY MAMMAD EFENDIYEV, ECONOMICS SECTION
There came a long-awaited event for Azerbaijan. At its first meeting in 2018, held on February 6, the Board of Directors of the European Investment Bank (EIB) approved a loan of 1.5 billion euros for the implementation of the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) construction project. TAP worth 4.5 billion euros, is part of the Southern Gas Corridor, and will be connected to another pipeline - TANAP - on the Turkish-Greek border: the pipeline will be laid on the territory of Greece, Albania, on the Adriatic Sea, and then directed to the south Italy. It is expected that the construction of TANAP will be completed in 2018, and TAP - in 2020, in the same year Azerbaijani natural gas will be supplied to Europe.
The significance of this event lies in the fact that EIB has allocated a loan despite all the obstacles that our enemies are still trying to erect in the way of the project for the delivery of Azerbaijani gas to Europe. It is not by chance that in the governmental circles of the country, this event was highly appreciated.
Thus, the Ministry of Finance of the country named this event the bright example of Europe's confidence in Azerbaijan and the Southern Gas Corridor project. The statement stresses that the leading international financial institutions in Asia and Europe, including the Asian Development Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the World Bank and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), through loans on the basis of mutual guarantees supported the project of the Southern Gas Corridor.
Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov also welcomed the decision of the European Bank at a joint press conference with EU High Representative Federica Mogherini. Indeed, the decision of EIB, it would seem, should please everyone, because this is one of the last obstacles on the way of delivering Azerbaijani gas to Europe. Event that is eagerly awaited in Azerbaijan and the European Union.
But, unfortunately, not everyone sees this event as desirable. We have noted before that there are forces that hinder in every way the implementation of this global project. And now the project has already reached the home stretch, but these forces still do not stop. They themselves understand that all these efforts are already in vain, the project has passed all the approvals by the governments of several countries, the world's largest shareholder companies, and a large part of it has already been paid. In a word, the locomotive moving at full speed cannot be stopped.
Yes, and how to stop it, even if the head of the British Petroleum company, Bob Dudley, said recently that the Shah Deniz-2 project, the second stage of the development of the Shah Deniz gas field in Azerbaijan, will be launched in 2018. He openly admits that Shah Deniz-2, which is part of the megaproject South Gas Corridor, is one of the most complex projects BP has ever implemented. Six countries are involved in the project, 11 shareholder companies, 176 million man-hours have been spent in four years since the final investment decision was made. In general, Shah Deniz-2 is currently being implemented according to the schedule and within the budget.
Vitaly Beglyarbekov, Deputy Vice-President for Investments and Marketing of the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan (SOCAR), went even further. According to him, SOCAR is already studying the possibilities of the third phase of development of the Shah Deniz gas condensate project. Within the third phase, drilling will be conducted in deeper layers of the field, the discovery of gas deposits in which has already been done. True, the reserves have not yet been confirmed, but there are indications that the Shah Deniz-3 production may be higher than the originally expected 5 billion cubic metres of gas per year.
But all this has not prevented the group of opponents of the construction of TAP to arrange another clash with the police. As the reader has already guessed, this again occurred in the Italian province of Lecce, where the 'No TAP' campaign began because of a couple of dozen olive trees that the pipeline operator has already transferred to another site. Strangely, almost a year ago the State Council of Italy gave permission for the construction of a TAP, which allows not to take into account the negative opinion of local authorities and gives green light to the construction of a pipeline through which Azerbaijani gas should come to Italy. The Supreme Administrative Court of Italy also decided to continue construction of the gas pipeline.
And it is not difficult to understand why, against this background, future consumers of Azerbaijani gas in this Italian province are against the implementation of such an important project for them. Clearly, they are incited by those internal forces that wish to earn political points, fuelled by large external players. But one wants to remind them all again that their attempts are vain: Shah Deniz-2 and TANAP are already at the stage of completion, and TAP has long crossed the mark of 60%. Megaproject Southern Gas Corridor today has no alternative, its only possible competitor Turkish Stream cannot get the good of the European Commission. The organisers of these actions, of course, themselves perfectly understand the meaninglessness of their protests, but they cannot renounce the initiated work: voters can well blame them of being cowardly...