The EU Commission’s energy deal with the autocratic regime of Azerbaijan, set to increase the EU’s dependency on natural gas imports from the country, is “questionable”, the Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation told The Shift.
After the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February and a wide-ranging round of economic sanctions issued against the Russian Federation, the EU has been scrambling for alternative energy sources, exposing the bloc’s dependency on Russian fossil fuels.
The ruling Aliyev family in Azerbaijan, linked to the establishment of a massive money-laundering operation, efforts to bribe European politicians, suppression of the free press, and a brutal conflict with Armenia, has now stepped in to fill the vacuum by Russia.
“The EU’s decision to sanction Russia and then sign an agreement with another state run by a kleptocrat is questionable, as it is partly replacing energy reliance on one kleptocratic state with a long-term reliance on another,” the Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation said in response to questions from The Shift.
The Foundation was not the only voice against the deal signed with the regime. While she has not commented on the issue at present, the President of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, had previously told Lovin Malta that the EU should steer clear of autocratic regimes when looking for alternatives to Russian fossil fuels.
Besides Metsola, other members of the European Parliament have spoken up after the deal with Azerbaijan was signed. Greens/EFA MEP Hannah Neumann described the EU Commission’s description of Azerbaijan as a “trustworthy country” as little more than “whitewashing”.
When there is #war, we often have to choose between bad options and very bad options. That‘s a sad reality.
Let‘s not make the old „whitewashing“ mistakes and declare a bad option a „trustworthy“ one. Azerbaijan is an authoritarian regime with a terrible human rights record. https://t.co/mV4drskhDZ
— Hannah Neumann (@HNeumannMEP) July 19, 2022
“When there is war, we often have to choose between bad options and very bad options. That’s a sad reality. Let‘s not make the old ‘whitewashing’ mistakes and declare a bad option a ‘trustworthy’ one. Azerbaijan is an authoritarian regime with a terrible human rights record,” Neumann wrote on Twitter.
Leftist MEP Sira Rego, a vocal campaigner for more stringent climate change targets, highlighted the parallels between the EU Commission’s previous efforts at presenting natural gas as a green source of energy and the efforts to polish Azerbaijan’s image as a “trustworthy” energy partner.
While the MoU states there are no “binding legal or financial obligations and commitments” between the EU Commission and Azerbaijan, the gist of the agreement outlines the EU’s plans to double the amount of natural gas imported from Azerbaijan in 2021.
If the plan is followed through, the EU Commission is planning on importing at least 20 billion cubic metres of gas every year by 2027.
“The technical implications of the MoU themselves need closer examination. Increased gas supply from Azerbaijan is overwhelmed by the remaining shortfall. The MoU aims to increase importation from Azerbaijan from 8 billion cubic metres to 20 billion cubic metres by 2027, in contrast to the 155 billion cubic metres imported from Russia in 2021,” a spokesperson for the Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation said.
“How can this be anything more than a badly-advised PR stunt that benefits the Aliyev family rather than the people of the EU and Azerbaijan?”
In May, the Foundation participated in the launch of the climate change campaign initiated by Friends of the Earth Malta, calling out the Melita TransGas Pipeline project, which would connect Malta to Europe’s natural gas grid.
The gas pipeline would also mean that the shareholders of the Electrogas power station, including Azerbaijan’s state-owned oil company SOCAR, would stand to gain an estimated €84 million in tax-free compensation for the assets they would have to hand over once the pipeline is built.
The Electrogas project was also directly linked with the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia by the public inquiry board that assessed the State’s role in her murder.
“Meeting the EU’s energy needs is crucial, but, as Malta’s experience has shown, there is a human and financial cost to dealing with a kleptocratic government that has no regard for human rights,” the Foundation said.
“Notoriously, Azerbaijan’s state-owned company, SOCAR, has an agreement to supply LNG to Malta that is costing Maltese taxpayers tens of millions of euros each year, a monopoly energy deal that was wrongly approved by the European Commission,” it added.