The formal signing of the agreement between the Shah Deniz consortium and the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline looks likely to happen in mid-October. This means it will coincide with the Azerbaijan elections and will effectively silence those in the EU Commission who wish to speak out about Azerbaijan’s political prisoners and fraudulent elections. Azerbaijani democracy activists accuse the country’s dictator, Ilham Aliyev, of manipulating the timing to ensure the EU is not critical of his regime’s appalling record on human rights and democracy.
Research by Human Rights Watch shows that since March 2012 at least 22 political activists, journalists, social media bloggers, human-rights defenders and others who criticised the government have been arrested or convicted in an attempt to silence the opposition in the run up to the presidential elections.2
Aliyev said in Brussels last week that Azerbaijan has 2 trillion bcm of gas reserves, which he intends to pump to Europe. At the same meeting European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso spoke about the “very good exchange he had with Aliyev” and praised the country for the huge progress it had made on democracy and human rights. 3
A new briefing released today by oil and gas watchdog Platform4 Europe’s Keystone XL? The Planned Mega-Pipelines outlines the impacts of this huge piece of infrastructure for both democracy and the climate. This mega-pipeline would lock Europe into fossil fuel dependency for at least the next 30 years. It would put an extra 1100 million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere by 2048- the equivalent of 2.5 years of total emissions from five of the countries it runs through: Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey, Greece and Albania.5
According to activists No Dash for Gas 6 the mega-pipeline would lead to a rise in fuel poverty in the UK by increasing dependence for people in Western and Central Europe on gas imports. This would increase the monopoly of big energy companies and see gas prices rise even higher, pushing more people into fuel poverty.
Khadija Ismayilova, investigative journalist, Baku:
“The TAP signing is scheduled for late October, the same time as the Azerbaijani Presidential elections and perfect timing for Aliyev. We will hear hardly anything from the EU about human rights and election rigging until after that moment. Aliyev needed the decision making for the Southern Gas Corridor Pipeline to be moved and he got it”
Emma Hughes, Campaigner Platform London:
“Aliyev is manipulating the timing of the TAP decision to ensure European governments remain silent about the arrests, repression and fraudulent elections that he relies upon to stay in power. Azeri activists are being beaten and arrested for talking out, yet the EU refuses to stand with them.”
Ewa Jasewicz, No Dash for Gas Activist
“This mega-pipeline in light of European government’s dash for gas and fracking will raise fuel bills, crash carbon targets and prevent us reaching the clean community controlled energy we need to avoid climate disaster and have affordable energy to live.”
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1. The pipeline would run from 26 new gas wells in the Azeri Caspian Sea, where fossil fuel would be forced westwards through the South Caucasus Pipeline Expansion across Azerbaijan & Georgia. From there, the new Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline would pump the gas across the entire length of Turkey, to the border with Greece. From here a further line would run: the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline across Greece and Albania to Italy.
4. Platform’s briefing can be downloaded at: http://platformlondon.org/p-publications/europes-keystone-xl-the-planned-mega-pipeline/ In September 2012 Platform released The Oil Road: Journeys from the Caspian Sea to the City of London a book which follows the route of the BTC oil pipeline and the oil as its moved from Azerbaijan to Europe: http://platformlondon.org/p-publications/the-oil-road-journeys-from-the-caspian-to-the-city/
5. This is calculated according to figures taken from TAP’s website: http://www.trans-adriatic-pipeline.com/tap-project/key-features/capacity/ and figures on the level of though-put from TANAP: http://www.jamestown.org/programs/edm/single/?tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=39545&tx_ttnews%5BbackPid%5D=27&cHash=2e9f386bf569ef7ea670cde5a5c3784c#.UcwbceuieFc