The “EU – energy – Turkey” Triangle. Does Energy really matter in Turkey’s Accession Process?

A Critical Perspective

Scientific Essay, 2010

15 Pages, Grade: A


Abstract: The aim of this paper is to analyze the dynamics at the core of the relation between Turkey and the European Union (EU), in terms of energy-related issues. The prospect of Turkey’s accession to the EU is one of the most controversial issues affecting the wider European political space. This essay would like to shed light on the impact of energy considerations on Turkey’s process of accession exploring three inter-related dimensions. First of all, a brief account of the EU’s patterns of energy consumption and strategies adopted will be offered. Secondly, the relevance of Turkey as “energy corridor” linking Eastern energy resources to Western markets will be assessed. Finally, EU member states’ standpoints on Turkey’s accession will be investigated trying to isolate the impact of energy-driven calculations. A liberal-intergovernmental approach will spell out patterns of divergence or convergence on Turkey’s accession evaluating the impact of the energy factor on Turkey’s EU eventual membership. In conclusion, this article will show whether or not energy can be considered the determiner for Turkey’s accession, pointing out that the “energy card” should not be overplayed since the EU’s acknowledgement of Turkey’s energy strategic could not automatically lead to full-membership.


Turkey’s accession into the EU’s institutional structure and decision-making process is one of the most controversial topic regarding EU’s foreign policy. Turkey’s membership might be considered as a “foreign policy quest” par excellence since it has several implications for different aspects included in the EU external relations. Among those, energy security concerns are deemed to be the ones to take better advantage from the eventual Turkey’s inclusion into the EU. Turkey’s position in the middle of the three most energy resources-aboundant areas, such as Middle East, Russia and the Caspian Basin, has defined Turkey’s international status as strategic partner in any effort towards energy cooperation. Given the EU’s high degree of energy-imports dependence, especially from a single provider such as Russia, and a growing energy-consumption trend, Turkey has assummed a more specific relevance in the eyes of the EU strategy for energy security and energy-providers diversification.

Regrettably, EU - Turkey relations have been hardly ever analyzed through the prism of the threefold dynamics such as EU and energy-related issues, Turkey and the “energy corridor” role, and finally Turkey and EU in the light of energy-led considerations and their weight onto Turkey’s process of accession. The author defines the “EU - energy - Turkey” triangle as the whole set of dynamics governing the relationships between EU and Turkey having energy as common denominator. The first side consists of the impact of energy-related considerations on the EU internal strategies and external relations; the second one deals with the role of Turkey as “energy corridor” and to what extent this particular function is significant to the EU energy strategy; thirdly, the last side of the triangle syntethizes the previous ones, thus re-affirming the mainstream idea that the accession of Turkey into the EU might be highly beneficial to link EU’energy needs to energy provisions alternative to Russia ones. However, the paper aims to go further, showing that the acknowledged relevance of Turkey in the context of the European energy politics does not automatically mean the certainty of Turkey’s full-membership.

EU - Energy - Turkey Triangle

The following sections will aim to analyze the constitutive parts of the “EU - energy - Turkey” triangle. The first section’s main goal is to get the reader familiar with EU’s energy-patterns of consumption in order to depict the overall situation of energy dependence and the specific over-dependence upon one single provider, namely Russia. Then, some EU measures carried out to outline a still un-existing European energy policy will be described, in order to point out the EU strategy of approachment to Caspian and Central Asian Republic energy resources as alternatives to dependence on Russia’s exports. As a consequence, the relevance of joint-projects aiming to revitalize and integrate existing energy infrastructures and set up new ones shed light on the importance of transit areas, among which Turkey is definitely the most reliable and significant for EU needs and interests.

In the matter of fact the second section concentrates on the role of Turkey in the energy security strategies followed by EU countries. Turkey objectively has structural features allowing her for being the corridor of non-Russian energy resources towards EU markets. However, Turkey’s “bridging” function might result useful also for Russia, the intervening variable in all the dynamics behind the EU- energy-Turkey triangle. In terms of energy cooperation, Turkey has remarkable trade off in dealing both with Russia and EU. In the first case, Turkey’s high level of dependence on Russian energy exports could be economically cushioned insofar as Turkey decides to take part to new Russian-led project-ventures; in the second case, the perspective of EU full-membership could more easily come to be true. Turkey’s current foreign policy, as demostrated by the agreement on two “rival” projects, namely Nabucco and South Stream, is currently in search for a new equilibrium among opposing tensions, such as Western/EU-orientation vs. national interest- orientation; EU full-membership vs. emerging regional power on the rise and finally embededness into the EU acquis vs. de-regulated conduct.

The final section will take into account the ways in which the EU has tried to tie Turkey in her infrastructural energy web. Several initiatives where Turkey is the fundamental member will be described in order to show the EU acknowledgement of Turkey’s strategic importance and the commitment towards deeper inclusion and closer relations with Turkey as regard to energy-led strategies. Following, a liber- intergovernmental approach will be used to depict different EU member states’ stances as regard to Turkey’s accession, trying to isolate the weight of energy-related considerations. The outcome will show an overall agreement on the strategic role of Turkey in the regional energy politics as well as a general balancing among member states’s stances “in favour and against” as regard to Turkey’s accession in terms of her importance for EU energy diversification. Finally, in order to give a prelimanary answer to the paper’s interrogative, this essay will conclude highlighting the lack of casuality between Turkey’s key-role in the EU energy supply diversification and Turkey’s full-membership. All in all, if the first two sides of the EU-energy-Turkey triangle are linked by a consequentiality nexus - EU over-dependence on Russia, diversification strategies, Turkey as energy corridor - the third side, where the logic of consequence is generally used to explain the relations between EU and Turkey in terms of energy matters, does not offer the same degree of predictability.

EU ’ s Energy Consumption and Strategies

According to the Directorate General for Energy and Transport, in 2006 the EU total energy consumption was 1176 Mtoe1. Oil and gas remain the most dominant sources, counting the 37% and 24% respectively of the total energy consumption. Despite the increased usage of nuclear and renewable energy, the EU-27 is a net energy importer. Import dependency is an increasing trend: given the on-going depletion of North See off-shore fields, the EU imports the 60% of the oil consumed, mainly from OPEC countries (38%), Russia (33%), Norway (16%) and Kazakhstan (5%). In spite of domestic gas production ability to cover two fifhts of the consumption needs, the EU imports the 26% of the gas consumed, mainly from Russia (42%), Norway (24%), Algeria (18%) and Nigeria (5%). Russia also provides the 26% of the coal imported (DG Energy & Transport, Report 2008: 8). However, according to 2009 Statistical Pocketbook, revised data reveal a more worrying situation. Yet in 2006 the EU-27 resulted dependent on oil and gas imports for the 84% and 61% respectively, of her consumption. What is more interesting is the rate of import dependency from a single provider, namely the Russian Federation (RF). In the matter of fact in 2006, the EU has imported from Russia the 33.5% (equivalent of 4.121 million barrels) of her total oil imports and the 42% (equivalent of 310.299 Mcb2 ) of her total gas imports. Either for oil or gas, Russian import shares are higher than the sum of Middle East and North African countries’ import shares (DG Energy & Transport, Statistical Pocketbook 2009: 31).

The actual dependence on Russian energy exports, energy commodities’ price volatility and political instability in Middle East countries pushed the energy-security topic on top of EU policy-makers’ agenda. In 1991 the Energy Charter Declaration called for an higher degree of cooperation in energy matters in order to foster suppliers diversification. The outcome was the 1994 Energy Charter Treaty, a legally binding multilateral agreement signed by 51 states and entried into force in 19983. Since then, the EU has tried to develop a more integrated and coordinated European energy policy, especially through closer ties with energy providers. In particular after 2003, when the former High Representative for the European Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana, officially stated that “ Energy dependence is a special concern for Europe ” (European Security Strategy, 2003: 4), the EU established several cooperation frameworks with energy supplier. The 2003 St. Petersburg Summit added to the existing “EU-Russia Energy Dialogue” the establishment of four “Common Spaces”, among them the econonomic basket focuses mainly on energy security and terms of trade. One year after, the already existing framework of cooperation with neighbouring countries was set up as the new European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) and enlarged to South Caucasus countries, once acknowledged their acquired relevance in the field of energy production and transit4.


1 Million tons of oil equivalent.

2 Million cubic meters.

3 It deals with inter-governmental cooperation in the energy sector, covering four main areas: protection of foreign investments based on the most-favoured nation treatment; no-discriminatory conditions for trade in energy materials and products; reliability of cross-border energy transit flows through pipelines, grids or other means of transportation; promotion of energy efficiency and minimization of environmental impact. Available at www.encharter.or; accessed on December 17, 2009.

4 As a matter of fact “ Enhancing our strategic energy partnership with neighbouring countries is a major element of the European Neighbourhood Policy ” since “ Neighbouring countries play a vital role in the security of the EU ’ s energy supply ” (ENP-Strategy Paper, 2004: 17).

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The “EU – energy – Turkey” Triangle. Does Energy really matter in Turkey’s Accession Process?
A Critical Perspective
Bilkent University
EU policies
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turkey”, triangle, does, energy, turkey’s, accession, process, critical, perspective
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Arianna Catalano (Author), 2010, The “EU – energy – Turkey” Triangle. Does Energy really matter in Turkey’s Accession Process?, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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