When Russia cut off gas supply for several days due to the dispute with Ukraine in 2009, tens of thousands of households in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) were left without heating during the cold winter. Thirteen years later, a few months after the start of the invasion of Ukraine and while the countries of the European Union (EU) have made sufficient supplies for the coming winter, BiH still depends exclusively on supplies from Russia.
At the beginning of November, the Council of Ministers again refused to give consent for the construction of two new connections to gas pipelines from Serbia and Croatia. Because of this, BiH remained on only one gas connection – the one in Zvornik, which supplies Russian gas via Serbia.
Such dependence on only one source of gas leaves the country vulnerable to the influences and conditions set by Moscow, experts explain.
Benjamin Schmidt from Harvard University says that unlike European countries that have found new sources of gas, BiHremains dependent on Russia at a time when other countries are abandoning it due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“When we see countries like BiH, we are looking at a perfectly played Russian model in which Moscow prefers that European countries have a single source of natural gas or a single connection,” explains Schmidt.
Almir Becarevic, former director of “BH-Gas”, explains that BiH has had only one connection to international gas pipelines for more than 40 years. For decades, the only accurate entry of natural gas into BiH is Zvornik, and the only source of supply is the company “Gazprom”, which is owned by the Russian Federation.
Semin Petrovic from the Research and Development Center for Gas Technology Sarajevo says that such a situation has its clear consequences, but also a clear solution.
“Our security of supply is bad. In order to have any security of supply, you must have two entrances – two interconnections with neighboring countries and two sources of supply,” explains Petrovic.
Erdal Trhulj, former Minister of Energy in the Government of the Federation, recalls that BiH had a strategy that envisaged new sources of gas.
“It envisioned a connection to the Croatian gas pipeline in the south. Connection to gas terminals on Krk. The gas pipeline that distributes that gas has far-reaching political significance for BiH. BiH would then become a gas transit for Ukraine and Europe,” told Trhulj.
The connection to the Croatian gas pipeline, that is, to the European gas network “Southern Interconnection”, has been pending for years. Becarevic considers lobbyists from Republika Srpska (RS), but from the Federation of BiH (FBiH), as the culprits for the obstruction and shutdown of the “Southern Interconnection” project.
“I claim that there are forces in the Federation that wanted that project to fail. The Ministry of Energy and the Federal Government, but I will not say that they were not initially supportive of the project. When it came to the House of Peoples – that’s where it stopped, it simply bought time for these other policies that rule there in the Federal Government and that still support us to be only on Russian gas and only the direction of supply via Serbia,” says Becarevic.
”Connecting with Serbia is something that the RS sees as a solution to the energy problem in this entity. That solution would be financially supported by the Russian “Gazprom” and the plan is to make a connection on the border with Serbia in Raca, ” explains the director of Sarajevo-Gas Istocno Sarajevo, Nedeljko Elek.
“It is a strategic decision, because it is important that the gas pipeline flows through the territory of the RS. Approximately between 250 and 280 million euros is the value of that project. I don’t see any reason to stop that project because we get what we don’t have – a gas network,” says Elek and insists that the project is not a political way to strengthen Russia’s influence in BiH.
Financial support for BiH to reduce dependence on Russian energy was recently presented in Sarajevo by the President of the European Commission, Ursula Von der Leyen, who directly linked the current energy problem to the actions of official Moscow, Detektor writes.