Caspian Energy Journal Caspian European Club
Tuesday, 02 February 2016 12:00

The Trans Caspian pipeline, important project for the region and beyond - Ralf Breth Featured

Caspian Energy (CE): Mr. Ambassador, you arrived in Turkmenistan last summer. What has impressed you in Turkmenistan, and which untapped opportunities have you seen in this country?

Ralf Breth, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Federal Republic of Germany to Turkmenistan:  Since my arrival I have been impressed by the landscape, the dedication to the historic legacy and the tradition, the will of the people to turn a young independent country into a success

story as well as the strong desire to be a constructive factor in the international relations.

Opportunities for Turkmenistan certainly are a more diversified economy, more tourism and an intensified exchange with other countries in the cultural and intellectual field.


CE: How successful was the 2015 year for your mission? Did it bring the interests of the two countries closer, or by contrast new challenges came into being? How would you evaluate the current level of bilateral cooperation between Germany and Turkmenistan?

Ralf Breth: In 2015 the relations developed in a satisfactory way. We continued to work together based on solid political relations; there are not any disturbing issues in the bilateral field. A German deputy minister attended the anniversary of the independence in October 2015. German companies continued to make business in many fields, in October the annual “Day of the German Economy” was held. The German Embassy organized several cultural events altogether known as the “German Spring” and the German government continued to support students and young professionals - in learning and improving their knowledge of the German language.


CE: Which opportunities for the German businesses do you see in Turkmenistan?

Ralf Breth: German companies continue to be strong in the high technology sector as well as in the consulting industry. Turkmenistan does offer opportunities for companies with competencies in the area of infrastructure, health industry, petrochemical industry or who do provide consulting services in infrastructure as well as in the in the financial sector.


CE: Since 1633, when Friedrich III, the Duke of today’s federal land Schleswig-Holstein, for the first time initiated establishing embassies in the countries of the Caspian region, and up to now the EU have had a keen interest in the region, particularly in the energy sector. What do you think about the present contribution of the Caspian to the global energy security system? How would you access the gas potential of Turkmenistan?

Ralf Breth: Though I am historically very interested I was not aware of the role the duke of Schleswig-

Holstein was playing in establishing embassies in the region. Certainly the need and the wish to establish safe and long term routes for trade has always been a strong motive to establish diplomatic and also consular relations. Nowadays Germany is part of the European Union and shares its policies with regard to Central Asia. As you certainly know the Union has agreed on a strategy on Central Asia which is regularly developed according to new needs. It goes without saying that the question of energy supply is very important for the relations between Germany together with the other EU countries and Turkmenistan. This is true even when Germany so far is only importing small quantities of oil and gas from Turkmenistan.

The entire Caspian region is paramount for the international energy supply. Some of the most important gas producers are situated here. Both, the producer and the consumer countries, want to diversify their energy relations. This way both sides become less dependent on one single major partner and thus have more room for maneuver. One important project for the region and beyond in this respect, the Trans Caspian pipeline, is subject to a number of legal and political questions before its implementation.

The gas potential of Turkmenistan is considerable. I learnt that just recently another big gas field was identified. For an emerging country huge energy resources are an indisputable asset, at the same time it remains important to use the benefits in order to diversify the economy; nothing is forever and the markets of the world do constantly face new challenges.


CE: Late last year Turkmenistan finalised the construction of the East-West gas pipeline, however currently the European investors show seem to show no signs to foster implementation of the Trans Caspian gas pipeline. Does it mean that the EU and Germany as EU’s largest economy have refused from energy resources of Turkmenistan in favour of its energy efficiency and renewable energy programme?

Ralf Breth:  The increased use of renewable energy does not exclude the use of fossil energy for many years to come. Currently Germany’s renewable energy share has reached approximately 28%.

This means Germany and its partner states in the EU will still need to import gas in the foreseeable future. The EU is still very interested in the project of the Trans Caspian pipeline. But many questions with regard to this project remain unsolved: The most relevant decisions have to be taken by the players around the Caspian Sea including Turkmenistan.


CE: How successful, in your opinion, are the negotiations on the legal status of the Caspian Sea? What impact does this process have on the development of economy of the Caspian littoral countries and their relations with Germany and other EU member states?

Ralf Breth:  We have heard that in 2016 there will be a new attempt to reach consensus over the legal status of the Caspian Sea. My country is not part of this process. Of course we would welcome a consensus on this issue. An agreement concerning the legal status of the Caspian

Sea would not only facilitate new opportunities to use its natural potential but could also create the sense of a joint responsibility for the Caspian Sea. It would open the door to a more intensive cooperation of the Caspian littoral states with my country and other EU member states. The Transcaspian pipeline would definitely benefit from an agreement and the European states form the Trans Caspian pipeline.


CE: Does Germany support the development of the Great Silk Road from China via Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey to the EU?

Ralf Breth:  It is obvious that the “Silk Road Concept” is a Chinese initiative. Germany -and I think I can say the entire EU- is interested in a comprehensive cooperation, based on joint interests, rules and standards. This does apply above all to the opportunities related to the infrastructure sector, connectivity and trade in the Eurasian region. Germany would like to ensure that China`s initiative contributes to stabilizing the wider region. We see the issue of connectivity as “bridge topic” that connects China`s G 20 chairmanship in 2016 with Germany`s chairmanship in 2017 and also is a common topic during Germanyґs OSCE chairmanship in 2016.


CE: What is the Germany’s stance on the new bank - Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank? Do you consider this factor positive for the economy of the EU and Germany in particular?

Ralf Breth:  Germany is a (non-regional) founding member of the AIIB and is representing the Euro group in the executive committee and has strong candidates for positions on all levels. The purpose of the bank is in the first place to foster the sustainable development of the Asian economies. There will be a focus on regional development in close cooperation with development agencies. German agencies like KfW bank and GIZ can play an important role in this respect. Given the enormous potential of the Asian continent and the strong interconnection of the European and the Asian economies positive developments in Asia have positive impacts on the European and particularly the German economy.


Thank you for the interview


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