With Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s visit to Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, on April 13, Azerbaijan gained one more strategic partner in Europe, Report informs referring to an article posted on The Jamestown Foundation website.
Azerbaijani-Bosnian relations have intensified in recent years: Azerbaijan sent humanitarian aid to Bosnia during the pandemic and elevated its diplomatic mission in Sarajevo to an embassy in 2021.
“Russia’s war against Ukraine has significantly upended Europe’s security architecture and increased the relevancy of alternative energy supply and transport routes between Asia and Europe. Thus, while Azerbaijan is not able to fully substitute for Russia at the pan-European level in terms of gas supply, it does and can play a crucial role in this regard for individual states, both in the European Union and in the EU’s direct neighborhood, by reducing dependence on Russian gas,” reads the article.
As the EU is interested in providing and maintaining stability and security on the continent, it attaches great importance to Azerbaijan’s involvement in the Balkans (and Italy). This importance was re-affirmed in October 2022 by the historic visit to Baku of European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
At present, Azerbaijan is working quite closely with Bulgaria and Greece in the Balkans: At the end of 2022, it was announced that the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) had safely transported over 18 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas to Greece, Bulgaria and Italy since the start of commercial operations in 2020.
Bulgaria, which has a contract for 1 bcm of Azerbaijani gas, or one-third of the country’s annual needs, wants to increase that volume by up to 1 bcm more per year following the suspension of Russian gas flows to the country.
However, this is only scratching the surface as there is a huge potential for other projects, including the construction of the Gas Interconnector Romania-Serbia, which could also reduce regional dependence on Russia with the help of Azerbaijani gas.
On several occasions, North Macedonia has expressed its interest in importing gas from Azerbaijani; however, this is largely dependent on the completion of the Greece–North Macedonia interconnector. Moreover, the Ionian Adriatic Pipeline (IAP), which is currently under construction, will have the capability to transport Azerbaijani gas from Albania to Croatia via Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovina before delivering it to Central Europe, provided the necessary financial and political support is established.
Thus, amid the current geopolitical developments in Eurasia, Azerbaijan has a historic chance to extend its influence in the Caucasus and Caspian Sea region both eastward (Central Asia) and westward (Balkans). Increased energy supply to Europe and further development of critical connectivity projects (Middle Corridor) will only serve to elevate Baku’s aspirations and opportunities.