Four Leaders Sign Agreement to Bring Green Azerbaijani Energy to Europe
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, Romanian Prime Minister Nicolae Ciuca and Georgiam Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili attend the signing of a memorandum in Bucharest on the establishment of a power line that will bring electricity from Azerbaijan, in Bucharest, Romania, December 17, 2022. Inquam Photos/Octav Ganea via REUTERS
BUCHAREST (Reuters) - The leaders of Azerbaijan, Georgia, Romania and Hungary signed an agreement on Saturday on the construction of an electric cable running under the Black Sea to carry green Azerbaijani energy from planned Caspian Sea windfarms to Europe.
The agreement involves a 1,100 km (685 mile), 1,000 MW cable running from Azerbaijan to Romania as part of wider European Union efforts to diversify energy resources away from Russia amid the Ukraine war.
Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said the European Commission had earmarked 2.3 billion euros ($2.4 billion) to support the construction of the cable, which would be the longest of its kind in the world, and Azerbaijan was inviting investors to build the turbines.
He said a feasibility study would be completed by the end of 2023 on the cable project, which would then take three to four years to build.
At the same meeting, Azerbaijan also said it plans to slightly increase its natural gas exports to Europe next year as Brussels seeks to replace falling energy supplies from Russia.
Romanian President Klaus Iohannis told the meeting: "Given the current security context marked by the military aggression against Ukraine, we need to cooperate better and show more solidarity to mitigate common challenges.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Romanian President Klaus Iohannis clap as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev finish signing a memorandum in Bucharest on the establishment of a power line that will bring electricity from Azerbaijan, in Bucharest, Romania, December 17, 2022. Inquam Photos/George Calin via REUTERS
"Our energy co-operation ... will enhance our energy resilience and ensure diversification of supply and transport routes," Iohannis told the meeting, also attended by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
Von der Leyen said the EU's strategy to turn its back on Russian fossil fuels and diversify towards what she called "reliable energy partners" was working. She said the EU was ready to provide financial support to the project pending the results of the feasibility study.
"To integrate a growing share of renewables, we need indeed stronger electricity interconnections. This is why the Black Sea energy cable between Romania, Georgia and Azerbaijan is so important," von der Leyen said.
Von der Leyen said the Black Sea cable could transform Georgia into an electricity hub and integrate it into the EU internal power market, while it could also help start rebuilding Ukraine's energy system and aid the country's reconstruction.