| ||For more than a year Croatians and Americans have been proposing that Croatia be an entry point of U.S. natural gas into the European market. The recent crises in the Ukraine has brought the matter to the forefront as it becomes more and more evident that dependency on Russian energy supplies places Europe at a marked disadvantage in negotiations with Russia.|
For years the European Union has been studying ways to reduce dependance on a single source of energy for much of the supply. A conference held in Prague in 2009 discussed "The New Silk road" as an alternative. Since that time several things have come together. The European Union has been standing up to monopolistic practices by the Russians. Russia has been pushing on the Ukraine. Russian gas is priced where European countries have had to revert to coal for electric power production thus setting back efforts to clean up the air. American shale gas has revolutionized the balance of supply. Croatia has come into European Union and begin to play her role in the solution of the problem. Croatians and Americans have been screaming for these solutions for over a year (1).
Representative Mike Turner from Ohio introduced a bill in the Engergy and Commerce Committee this week that would expedite the permit process to export U.S. natural gas to countries inside the World Trade Organization with which Croatia has been a member since 30 November 2000(2). Other congressmen such as Senator Mark Udall from Colorado and Representative Ted Poe from Texas have introduced similar bills in both houses of Congress.
Croatian Ambassador to the USA Joško Paro told Buzzfeed on 7th of March "The goal is not to prevent the Russian gas from being distributed to center Europe but to eliminate the monopoly and reduce the exclusive dependence on their natural gas ... Of course we are in favor of the American export for the simple reason that is the quantities that the U.S. as exporter can send to the European market, either via Croatia or other LNGs in Europe, would certainly create a beneficial pressure on the market, and would certainly temper the prices and would eliminate and reduce the dependence on the Russian gas (3).
Turner said "Helping our allies diversify their energy resources is vital to strengthening our strategic partnerships and bolstering security,” “Many of our allies are heavily reliant upon natural gas supplies from either one country or from unstable regions, which poses a threat to their security and their independence. Recent events taking place in Ukraine have shed increasing light on Europe’s vulnerability toward Russian natural gas exports. We have seen in Ukraine that Russia will use its energy resource dominance to expand its sphere of influence. Increasing U.S. natural gas exports will provide our allies with an alternative an reliable source of energy, helping to strengthen their independence and creating jobs right here at home. (4)”
“We are certainly supporting all of the legislation initiative led by Representative Turner,” Paro said. “All the countries of the center Europe, like Slovakia, Czech Republic, Hungary, are all highly dependent on Russian gas. We are not as much dependent as they are because we have our own sources of supply, but we certainly share the same interests in energy security with our neighbors.”
Mr Paro told Buzzfeed that even though Croatia has a contract with a lobbying firm, “We are doing it by ourselves and also in coordination with our central European partners ... From time to time we do coordinate our lobbying activities.” The Hungarians, the Slovaks, Czechs, Poles, Slovenes and the Baltic states are all engaged on the bill.
“It is absolutely true that the present Ukrainian crisis is something that will probably give a positive spin to the efforts to liberalize the exports,” he said. “So it is an interesting point that just a month before the crisis in Ukraine started, the PMs for Croatia, Hungary, and Ukraine were about to sign a trilateral agreement on the gas supply, which means that in perspective, the creation points or creation LNGs could also be an entry point for diversification of gas supply to Ukraine too via Hungary.”
Paro said that some European countries were paying an extremely high price on Russian gas, but said, “You cannot blame the Russians to provide the only source of energy or source of gas. This is the reality.”
Still, “The more you cooperate in commercial terms and the more there is a diversity in the supply, well, the less are the reasons for conflict,” Paro said. “That’s also very logical.”
“The more gas the merrier,” the Ambassador said.
(1) From an interview 3/8/2014