There is no doubt that the largest-ever natural gas discovery in the Black Sea will open a new era in Turkey. Being dependent on outside energy suppliers means having to pay a significant amount of income to these outside actors.
With a domestic supply, the budget deficit will disappear, and that will make Turkey economically a much stronger country.
This is just a beginning. Treasury and Finance Minister and former Energy Minister Berat Albayrak, whose efforts made the discovery possible, told me in a phone conversation that the amount of natural gas resources will grow with drilling and that 320 billion cubic meters (bcm) is only the beginning of the process.
The field not only contains 320 bcm of natural gas but also suggests that Turkey could find additional reserves within the same area.
Albayrak also said in a TV interview that the finding will take the Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO) and Turkey's Petroleum Pipeline Company (BOTAŞ) to a new league. He added that “with the further development of these discoveries in the near future, the balance sheets of both TPAO and BOTAŞ can be both domestic and foreign and will pave the way for the initial public offerings (IPO) process.”
Turkey’s location is very strategic. It is at the conjunction of Europe and Asia, the Middle East and the Mediterranean. There is a huge power struggle going on in this area.
The U.S. seems to have withdrawn from that part of the world, at least physically, which makes the struggle even tenser. Russia, France, Egypt and Greece are trying to get more of the U.S.’ share.
Hence the discovery will embolden Ankara to pursue its interests in the Eastern Mediterranean. Turkey has a stronger hand now in the energy struggle. It might also lead the European Union to closer cooperation with Turkey.
I asked EU Ambassador to Turkey Christian Berger, who is finishing his post in Turkey next week, about the EU’s attitude toward the discovery. He told me that if that discovery makes Turkey more prosperous, the EU would be happy to work with an economically stronger ally.
Hence I see this discovery as a multifunctional gain. It will make the country more independent in terms of energy and it will help boost the economy. These improvements will enhance national self-esteem, which will pave the way for better relations with the EU and the West.
In difficult times, countries tend to look inward, but in good times, countries tend to become more extroverted. My guess is that Turkey will go that way.
But in order to have good relations, Turkey and Greece should resolve their issues. Greece should see that its maximalist demands are far from realistic. A hot conflict might be a disaster for this region; hence Athens should avoid the current hostile attitude toward Ankara.
The issues between Greece and Turkey should be resolved with dialogue, not confrontation.