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Georgia signs Sofia Energy Declaration

By Temuri Kiguradze
Monday, April 27
Twenty-eight oil and gas producing and transit countries signed a common declaration in the Bulgarian capital Sofia on April 25. The declaration is designed to “develop a working and lasting bond of co-operation between producer, transit and consumer countries, intended to increase each participant's country energy security and that of all Europe.”

The Georgian delegation, headed by President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili, also signed this document. "For the first time, we will establish institutional ties with the EU. Energy plays a central role in this. In such a manner, Georgia's geopolitical strategy is being formed. It is oriented toward multi-vectored development both in the direction of Euro-Atlantic organizations and all our neighbours," Saakashvili said after the summit.

The Georgian President also underlined the importance of Georgia in the transit of Asian gas to EU countries. This importance also was recognised by the participants of the summit. “We stress the geopolitical importance of the Black Sea and Caspian regions for European energy security and for the diversification of sources and routes of gas supplies; South East Europe has a strategic location, linking producers - Russia, countries in Central Asia, the Caspian sea region, the Middle East and North Africa, the transit countries of the Black sea region and the Caucasus - with the European energy markets,” says the Sofia Declaration, which also notes that participant countries are going to “support the realization of all infrastructure projects which aim at diversifying the supply of hydrocarbons to Europe, in order to provide energy security for all countries involved.”

Bulgarian President Georgi Purvanov, the initiator of the summit, stated that the text of the declaration had been reached “by the consensus of all participants,” and doesn’t imply support for any one concrete project or plan. The media coverage of the summit paid great attention to the competition between two energy projects – the Russian backed South Stream, which will provide the EU with Russian gas and the EU-mediated NABUCCO project which connects European customers with Asian gas through Georgia. However no specific projects were mentioned in the declaration. “It’s hard to describe NABUCCO and South Stream as alternative projects. With both these routes we have to take into consideration the interests of different countries. The final decision on South Stream will depend on the political will of various countries and its financing,” said President Purvanov.

“It has to be welcome that European countries are interested in the projects discussed in Sofia and Georgia’s participation in them, however the declaration adopted in Bulgaria was purely technical and was not followed by any concrete decisions,” considers Georgian political and economic expert Gia Khukhashvili, speaking to The Messenger on April 26. He also commented that it is “a little bit clumsy that the Georgian President personally participates in technical summits like this.”

The summit united representatives of the US, Russia, EU, Egypt, Qatar and other countries as well as the European Commission and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. The summit, entitled "Natural Gas for Europe. Security and Partnership," lasted two days and ended on April 25.