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Slovakia moves ahead to receive gas from Azerbaijan through Ukraine

Slovakia is laying the groundwork to receive natural gas from Azerbaijan through Ukraine, to further diversify its supplies, to be less dependent on Russia and to revive earnings from the transit service to other countries. This was said by Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico in Bratislava on Monday, 13 May, after he visited Azerbaijan on 6-7 May as the head of a large government and business delegation.

“We wish to be a bridge between the European Union and Azerbaijan,” he declared after meeting with Azerbaijani President, Ilham Aliyev. The next steps would depend on the talks among the Russian, Ukrainian and Azeri gas firms on pricing and conditions, he added.

Mr Fico emphasised on Monday that after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the significant decrease in gas supplies from Russia to Europe hurt Slovakia, which had been fully dependent on Russian natural gas before the military conflict and had been serving as an important gas transit route to Europe.

According to the pipeline operator Eustream, the volume of Russian natural gas coming into or through Slovakia dropped to 17 billion cubic metres (bcm) in the financial year ending in July 2023, a roughly two-thirds decrease from the last pre-war year.

Beyond 2024, Ukraine appears highly unlikely to extend a deal on allowing Russian natural gas to transit to Europe, which puts extreme pressure on Slovakia to seek alternative sources and transit revenue. Government officials underlined that they would make every effort to become the 9th country to receive Azeri gas exports.

Some of the Azeri gas would continue via transit to other countries such as neighbouring Austria. Mr Fico had said he would discuss the issue with his Austrian counterpart and that the scheme could also benefit the Czech Republic, Italy and others that had received gas via Slovakia in the past.

The premier said the volumes of natural gas from Azerbaijan would not be as large as pre-war Russian shipments through Slovakia, but that even 5 or 10 bcm were important “revenue for the Slovakian budget” through the State’s 51 per cent ownership of Eustream, through the company SPP.

Slovakian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy Denisa Saková, a member of the delegation of Mr Fico to Baku, also participated in the gas imports negotiations and later opened the Business Forum in the Azeri capital on Tuesday, 7 May. In cooperation with the Slovak Investment and Trade Agency (SARIO), she prepared a business mission aimed at enhancing bilateral relations with those states of the region, which have high economic potentials.

Ms Saková pointed out that Slovakia is a firm supporter of the ‘Solidarity Ring’ diversification project, an initiative also backed by the European Commission to increase the security of natural gas supplies for the European Union and the Central and South-Eastern European regions.

“This solution would effectively help to strengthen the diversification of natural gas transport routes and sources in the countries of Central and South-Eastern Europe, which are dependent on gas supplies from Russia,” stated Ms Saková.

In fact, the Solidarity Ring aims to upgrade the transmission network systems of Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Slovakia to enable additional gas deliveries from alternative sources (Azerbaijan) for European customers.

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