The European Commission signed a deal with Azerbaijan on Monday to double imports of natural gas by 2027.
The announcement came after European commission president Ursula von der Leyen visited Baku Monday morning for talks on increasing energy supplies to the EU.
The deal, which intends to bring imports of Azeri natural gas to at least 20 billion cubic metres a year in 15 years, will help the EU reduce its reliance on Russian energy.
“Today, with this new Memorandum of Understanding, we are opening a new chapter in our energy cooperation with Azerbaijan, a key partner in our efforts to move away from Russian fossil fuels,” von der Leyen said.
Monday’s announcement is part of a broader push by the EU to find alternative suppliers of energy since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Concerns in Brussels about a complete Russian gas shut-off grew last week after the Nord Stream 1 pipeline began scheduled maintenance, bringing supplies to a halt.
Work on the pipeline from Russia to Germany is due to continue until the end of this week, but the Russian Foreign Ministry has said that the future of the pipeline is linked to sanctions against Moscow.
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“Amid Russia’s continued weaponisation of its energy supplies, diversification of our energy imports is a top priority for the EU,” the European Commission said in a statement Friday ahead of the trip.
Moscow has denied it is using gas as a weapon against the EU, however Russian supplies have fallen by more than 60 per cent in recent weeks.
The shutdown of Nord Stream 1, which is a crucial supply link for Russian gas to Germany and beyond, has added to concerns that Moscow could potentially end its supplies of gas to the bloc altogether.
According to a document seen by Reuters, the deal between Baku and the EU will increase gas flow into the bloc through the Southern Gas Corridor pipeline.
“The Sides aspire to support bilateral trade of natural gas, including through exports to the European Union, via the Southern Gas Corridor, of at least 20 billion cubic metres of gas annually by 2027, in accordance with commercial viability and market demand,” the document said.
Last year, the pipeline transported 8 billion cubic metres of gas into the EU.
The increase would require Azerbaijan to increase its domestic gas production.
Azerbaijan is already increasing deliveries of natural gas to the EU from 8.1 billion cubic metres (bcm) in 2021 to an expected 12bcm in 2022, the Commission said.
The country, which borders Georgia, Turkey, Armenia, Russia, Iran and the Caspian Sea, started exporting natural gas to Europe via the Trans Adriatic Pipeline at the end of 2020.
At the time, Azerbaijan said it planned to send 10 billion cubic meters of gas to Europe every year, mostly to Italy, but also to Greece and Bulgaria.