The importance of gas infrastructure in the Baltic Sea Region for the V4 countries

Mariusz Ruszel,
D.Sc., Ph.D., Associate Professor,
Rzeszow University of Technology,

The Baltic Sea region is of strategic importance in the context of strengthening the energy security of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. Having access to the sea enables a tactical advantage to be built in geopolitical terms. From the perspective of the Visegrad Group (V4) countries, access to the Baltic Sea creates opportunities for access to the global liquefied gas (LNG) market. The geopolitical conditions have made the countries of this region dependent on natural gas supplies from the Russian Federation. Adequately developed gas infrastructure, combined with long-term contracts, has contributed to sustainable dependence. Changing this situation requires a consistent policy of diversification of natural gas supply sources and political cooperation in the international arena. Of all the V4 countries, only Poland has direct access to the Baltic Sea and may become the country that improves the energy security of the other CEE countries.

Firstly, Poland is consistently expanding its gas infrastructure in the Baltic Sea region. It has built an LNG terminal in Świnoujście, which enables the supply of 5 billion m3 of natural gas per year. The terminal can eventually be expanded to 10 billion m3. Currently, the Baltic Pipe pipeline is under construction, which will connect Norwegian natural gas deposits through Denmark with Poland. The capacity of the gas pipeline is to be 10 billion m3 per year. An FSRU terminal in Gdańsk with a capacity of 4 billion m3 is also planned. This means that if all gas infrastructure projects in the Baltic Sea region were completed, Poland would be able to supply nearly 24 billion m3 of natural gas per year.

Secondly, the Polish company PGNiG has signed gas contracts for the supply of liquefied natural gas from Qatar (Qatargas) as well as from the USA (Cheniere Marketing International, Port Arthur LNG, Venture Global LNG). Some of these contracts have been signed until 2043, and may contribute to the diversification of the structure of gas contracts in the V4 countries. The more natural gas from sources other than Russia that is supplied to this part of Europe, the greater the price pressure created. The gas market in the region will become a consumer market, as it is the exporters who will start to compete more and more for supplies, offering increasingly favourable conditions.

Thirdly, the V4 countries have signed long-term contracts with Russian Gazprom, which will gradually expire. If they fail to expand their gas infrastructure to diversify their gas supply sources, they will then extend their gas contracts with Russia. However, if the gas infrastructure in the Baltic Sea is expanded, followed by natural gas interconnections and pipelines within the V4 countries, then they will be able to switch suppliers and their negotiating position vis-à-vis Russia will increase.

Fourthly, by providing the V4 countries with alternative sources of natural gas supply, they increase their political independence from Russian influence. Geopolitical conditions cause the CEE region to be perceived as a zone of political influence of the Russian Federation. This means that there will be geo-economic competition between the USA and Russia, which may have geopolitical effects. However, under the conditions of the economic slowdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, many energy companies are in financial difficulties and the Nord Steam II gas pipeline has been delayed.

These factors indicate that the Baltic Sea region is of strategic importance for the V4 countries. Under certain conditions, access to the global gas market may contribute to diversification of gas supply. However, the question is how will individual countries want to use this access to other gas sources? Are all the V4 countries as determined as Poland? Will there be political cooperation between the V4 countries to strengthen energy security in the region? Each of the V4 countries has its own specific energy interests. It will be in the interest of the Russian Federation to strengthen these particularisms and to break down the cohesion and cooperation of the countries in the region through an appropriate pricing policy for gas contracts. Some V4 countries have been invited to cooperate as a transit country in the distribution of Russian natural gas through the Nord Stream II pipeline, as well as the Federal Republic of Germany to Central and Eastern European countries. The political commitment of the US to the region is also important. Therefore, the V4 countries should consistently expand their gas infrastructure, which will become part of the ‘North-South’ gas corridor. At the same time, it is important to seek to strengthen political trust between the V4 countries in order to fully exploit the potential offered by access to the Baltic Sea.


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