Turkey becomes an energy hub

Çiğdem Üstün
Although climate change does not hold an important place in the Turkish domestic debate, the environmentalist groups criticised the results of the Copenhagen meeting, which has been perceived as a disappointment regarding the EU’s efforts in environmental issues. It has been argued that the failure of the Copenhagen Accord is mainly due to the developed western countries’ aloof attitude towards climate change and the environmental problems that people are facing.[1] It has been argued by civil society organisations and the environmentalist groups that the deadlock has been created because of big market economy countries, such as the USA, China and India, refusing to sign a binding agreement which may affect their economic growth and interests in a global crisis situation. Also, it has been debated that the developing countries’ requests regarding funding and technological assistance have not been welcomed by developed countries, including EU member states.[2]
Energy policy
Regarding energy policies, Turkey emphasised the insecurity that is created by over-dependency on a single source and, therefore, Turkey has been active in energy relations with its neighbours in recent years to diversify its energy resources as much as possible. This is not done only to secure its energy supplies, but it is also perceived that an increased Turkish role in the region regarding the energy pipelines and agreements would increase Turkey’s role in European security. It is a fact that today the EU is producing less than its consumption and there is an urgent need to focus on an energy security and solidarity action plan for infrastructure needs, diversification of supplies, external energy relations, oil and gas stocks, crisis response mechanisms, best use of indigenous resources, and energy efficiency. In this framework, the geo-political situation of Turkey has been perceived not only as an important asset in securing energy supply for Europe, but also as a crucial tool for increasing Turkey’s say in energy policies in the region even though it is not an energy producing country. There are different views on Turkey’s policies in relation to the EU policies. One of the arguments is that Turkey’s policy is not in line with the EU’s expectations because Turkey realised that this can be a bargaining chip in its relations with the EU. On the other hand, it is argued that the pipeline projects such as Baku-Tiflis-Ceyhan (BTC), Nabucco, and Samsun-Ceyhan show that Turkey’s supply sources are diversified geographically, ranging from west to east and north to south, and diversified in terms of the type of supply as well, i.e., liquefied natural gas (LNG), oil, gas and natural gas. Therefore, Turkey’s main policy is the energy hub policy which is demonstrated through Turkey’s efforts to link Turkish pipelines with European ones, i.e., Turkey-Greece-Italy. The main policy in this framework has been increasing the use of potential in Iran, Iraq, Turkmenistan and Shah Deniz, although political problems in the region are preventing faster cooperation.
Turkish priorities in energy policies have been identified as secure supply and sustainability, competitive market creation and being an energy corridor. It is difficult to see any divergences between the opposition and the government sides regarding these priorities. However, regarding nuclear energy, there are some opposing views from the environmentalist groups and civil society organisations due to the pollution that would be created by the nuclear energy terminals. However, the government has been active in intensifying its relations, especially with Russia, to increase the number of nuclear power plants in Turkey.
One of the main policies of Turkey, which had been widely discussed in May 2010, was the agreement between Iran, Turkey and Brazil to send 1,200 kilograms of low-enriched uranium to Turkey as part of an exchange for more refined nuclear material from other countries. According to the agreement Iran will ship its low enriched uranium to Turkey in exchange for 20-percent uranium under a nuclear fuel swap. This has been perceived as demonstration of Turkey’s efforts to act as a bridge between east and west by using its geopolitical, identity related, cultural and religious assets.

[1] Kopenhag’dan sonra umut ‘yerel liderlerde’, 21 December 2009, available at: (last access: 31 May 2010).

[2] Sertaç Aktan: Türkiye Kopenhag’da herhangi bir hedef açıklamayacak, available at: (last access: 31 May 2010).