On Tuesday Foreign Secretary William Hague will be one of the first European politicians to visit Azerbaijan after Ilham Aliyev’s internationally condemned re-election as President. Hague will be there to attend the ceremony for the signing of a pipeline agreement that will see two trillion cubic meters of gas pumped from Azerbaijan to Europe.

Hague will be attending a signing ceremony in Baku for the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) as the BP-led Shah Deniz consortium finalises the investment agreement. This is a key part of the Euro-Caspian Mega Pipeline,1 which would move 16bn cubic meters per year of offshore gas from the coast of Azerbaijan to Southern Italy.2 The huge pipeline network would cross six countries and go under the Adriatic Sea. Azerbaijan’s oil production peaked at 800,000 barrels per day in 2009 and has now declined to 660,000. This means gas will play a key role in maintaining Aliyev’s rule.3

This ceremony will make Europe the primary consumer of Azerbaijani gas for at least the next 35 years and the pipeline infrastructure may continue to be used even after Azerbaijan’s gas deposits are depleted. It was recently announced that the Transcaspian Pipeline, which would move gas under the Caspian Sea from Turkmenistan to Europe, is on the list of European Energy Projects of Common Interest. These projects are earmarked to receive €5.85 billion between them.4

Hague’s trip has been criticised, coming so soon after the internationally condemned Azerbaijani Presidential elections. The vote descended into farce when a government phone app appeared to release the election results the day before polls opened. In addition several videos showing ballot-box stuffing and carousel voting emerged. The observation mission of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) found there were widespread violations during the election and concluded it fell far short of international standards.5

In the eighteen months running up to the election the Azeri authorities conducted what Human Rights Watch called “a deliberate, abusive strategy to limit dissent”.6 There are now 142 political prisoners in the country two of whom were expected to be election candidates until their incarceration forced them to withdraw, according to the Human Rights Club of Baku, who have conducted extensive research.7 The Azerbaijan authorities have used false charges to arrest many of these prisoners, including possession of narcotics and weapons, as well as hooliganism.

Azerbaijani activists have taken to twitter to call for William Hague not to put energy deals before human rights. Former Azerbaijani Political Prisoner and eminent writer, Emin Milli tweeted “As a former prisoner of conscience I wonder if you will talk with Aliyev @presidentaz only about oil/gas deals? I expect more”. A letter from UK and Azerbaijani campaigners and journalists has been sent to William Hague calling on him not to attend the TAP signing ceremony and instead to spend his time talking to Azerbaijani civil society.

An international coalition of affected communities and human rights and environmental organisations is opposing the Euro-Caspian Mega Pipeline. The infrastructure will lock Europe into fossil fuel dependency for at least the next 30 years and put over a billion tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere by 2048.8 It will also lead to the creation of militarised zones created along vast sections of the route. Last week a session at the Italian Parliament ended in chaos as the 5 Stars Movement attempted to postpone voting on the ratification of the pipeline agreement, arguing the pipeline would harm the economy and environment of the coastal region of Puglia.

Emma Hughes, Platform, London: “Hague’s trip follows hot on the heels of another undemocratic election in Azerbaijan. Making energy deals with this corrupt dictatorship means that the UK’s “dash for gas” is contributing significantly to the political repression of democracyactivists in Azerbaijan.”

Rasul Jafarov, Human Rights Club, Baku: “We know that Hague’s visit will focus on oil and gas, but we hope he will raise the issue of political prisoners with Aliyev.”

Elena Gerebizza, Re:Common, Italy: “The Euro-Caspian Mega Pipeline will serve the interests of oil and gas multinationals and financial markets. It has nothing to do with access to energy for European citizens. This pipeline is one of the gas mega-projects that communities in Italy are opposing as a threat to their way of life, and to economic activities that are based on agriculture, tourism and fisheries along the beautiful coast of Puglia.”

 

For more information contact Emma Hughes on 07801140192 / [email protected]

 Notes:

  1. Platform: http://platformlondon.org/p-publications/europes-gas-grab-the-euro-caspian-mega-pipeline/
  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.
  1. Platts: http://www.platts.com/latest-news/oil/Baku/BP-stabilizes-Azeri-ACG-crude-oil-production-26995889
  1. European Commission: http://ec.europa.eu/energy/infrastructure/pci/pci_en.htm
  1. OSCE: http://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/106901
  1. Human Rights Watch http://www.hrw.org/news/2013/06/19/eu-and-azerbaijan-mismatched-objectives
  1. The Civic Solidarity Platform: http://www.civicsolidarity.org/article/800/azerbaijan-updated-list-political-prisoners
  1. 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
  1. 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/