Opposition groups inÂ MacedoniaÂ haveÂ been lobbying for Prime Minister NikolaÂ GruevskiÂ to resign. Meanwhile,Â Russian Foreign MinisterÂ SergeiÂ LavrovÂ has declared thatÂ the oppositionÂ protests are being organized by foreign forces, who are angry that the prime ministerÂ didn't join the rest of Europe in instituting sanctions against Russia.
In anÂ interview with a local newspaper,Â GruevskiÂ tried to distance himself from pro-Russian positions. When asked about people who came to his demonstration wearing T-shirts with Putin's photo on them, he responded that there were 100,000 people at the demonstration, and perhaps three or four were showing offÂ pro-Russian paraphernalia.
The "Turkish Stream" is intended to go through the Black Sea to Turkey, and then through Greece,Â Macedonia, Serbia, Hungary before reaching one of Europe's largest gas hubs inÂ Austria. The pipeline would be equipped to carry about 60 billion cubic meters per year (500 billion barrels), and would be able to replace the pipeline through UkraineÂ —Â whichÂ GazpromÂ says it will abandon in 2020.
But the project is still in itsÂ very beginning stages,Â andÂ GazpromÂ hasn't signed a single necessary agreement, nor clarified where the funding would come from.
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MacedonianÂ Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski — Photo:Â European People's Party
Under the current plan, it would be impossible to avoid Macedonia, yet the project isn't very attractive to theÂ Balkan country of just 2.1 million people. Macedonia only uses 150 million cubic meters of gas per year, which it currently gets from Russia. But asÂ GruevskiÂ correctly noted, Russian gas is expensive (at more than $500 for 1,000 cubic meters, it is one one Europe's most expensive gas sources). Macedonia is planning to access another pipeline that would give it access to cheaper Azerbaijani gas.
As a result, this small country, whose opinion on the project no one has really bothered to investigate, might end up playing the same role as Bulgaria played in the planning of anotherÂ GazpromÂ pipeline, South Stream. That is, completely blocking the project.
In fact, both Russian and European energy experts toldÂ KommersantÂ that it is unlikelyÂ any pipeline willÂ be builtÂ beyondÂ Turkey. InÂ the most ambitiousÂ scenario, experts sayÂ GazpromÂ would limit the project to two lines through the Black Sea to Turkey,Â since the company already has contracts with European companies to work on those lines. Moreover,Â getting additional contracts will be difficult, given the current sanctions against working with Russian companies. Therefore, unless the political climate changes, there is slim chance thatÂ GazpromÂ will be able to sign a contract for the construction of a third line.
Nonetheless, the goal of bypassing Ukraine by 2020 might still be feasible, by combining the shortened Turkish Stream with the "Eaststring"Â pipeline, which would send gas to the Balkans,Â and theÂ NordÂ Stream, which would supply gas to Central Europe. Taken together, all of these pipelines would only have a capacity of 50 billion cubic meters per year, but that would likely be enough since European demand for Russian gas continues to drop.
The bigger picture reminds usÂ that in all of these possibilitiesÂ GazpromÂ would have to find a wayÂ to work with Brussels, which ultimately has the broadest authority to control the delivery of Russian gas to the European Union.