Ambassador Ahmet Akif OKTAY 25.04.2019

Mr. Commissioner,

Mme. Director,

Esteemed Panelists,

Distinguished Guests,

I would like to start by thanking the Antall József Knowledge Center for organizing this highly topical panel and inviting me to address you. I am certainly very pleased to be among you this afternoon.

I would also like thank our panelists, Professor Mitat Çelikpala and Assistant Professor Muzaffer Şenel, for making this event possible with their participation.

Throughout human history, energy has been the driving force of economic development and prosperity. It is said that we are now going through the fourth industrial revolution. Energy is still indispensable, though the main question now is how to use it more efficiently and without further upsetting our planet’s ecological balances.

We know that the energy consumption of developing or newly industrialized countries in particular, has been growing very rapidly. And the more massive a country is, the more energy it needs. The most prominent example is, of course, China. However, it is not as well known that for many years, Turkey has been the second country in the world with the fastest growth rate of energy consumption, averaging around 5-6 percent annually. This is basically due to correspondingly high economic growth rates and rising incomes.

However, we do have a small problem. Turkey does not sit on top of rich oil or natural gas reserves. Our domestic oil production is nowhere near meeting our demands. Therefore, we are a net importer of energy, to the tune of more than 70 percent of our energy consumption.

Turkey does have enormous wind and solar energy potential, and the share of these renewables in our energy mix is significantly increasing. Nevertheless, we still have to import oil and natural gas for a long time to come. Moreover, we happen to be located very near to some of the largest proven oil and gas deposits in the World.

These factors mean that it is a necessity for Turkey to carefully monitor and also try to shape the global geopolitics of energy. They also mean that Turkey’s choices, goals and strategies are of close interest to other players in this field.

Let me briefly touch upon the main elements of Turkey’s energy strategy. From a broad perspective, Turkey, along with many other countries, wants to decrease its dependence on energy imports. It wants to increase its own capacity for energy production to the point of self-sufficiency, by moving away from fossil fuels and towards clean and renewable energy resources. And it wants to become a major energy hub, serving as a transit, storage and distribution center between Asia and Europe.

This last goal is actually more than a choice: Due to its location between two continents, and along major sea lanes, Turkey is almost forced to assume such a role. For instance, without Turkey’s active cooperation and participation, almost all of the proposed energy projects between Eastern Mediterranean or the Caspian Sea and Europe are doomed to remain on paper.

A look at the map also shows that Turkey’s role is critical to the diversification and safety of Europe’s energy supply routes. Mega projects from Baku-Tibilisi Ceyhan oil pipeline to TANAP and Turkstream have already transformed Turkey into a safe and reliable conduit for meeting Europe’s energy needs.

Against this background, it seems unbelievable that the European Union has so far failed to open the all important energy chapter in its accession talks with Turkey.

But with or without the EU, Turkey is determined to pursue its own energy strategy, with a view to achieving certain goals by 2023, which is the centenary of our Republic. In order to implement this strategy, Turkey has developed and put into practice a Strategic Plan covering the period of 2015-2019 and a National Energy and Minerals Policy which was launched in April 2017.

The three main pillars of Turkey’s energy strategy is boosting supply security, increasing domestic energy production and making the energy market more predictable.

Under these headings, a number of more concrete goals have also been set. They include, among others, building a storage capacity for 10 billion cubic meters of natural gas and 5 million tons of oil, saving up to 8,5 billion dollars in energy costs, increasing the share of renewables in electricity production to 30 percent, and tapping nuclear energy with 3 new power plants.

Let me underline that these goals are not just wishful thinking. They are well within our capabilities. On all these fronts, substantial progress has already been made.

As we work towards our goals by developing our energy infrastructure, we also pay close attention to the developments beyond our borders. We are aware that particularly in the eastern Mediterranean, there are increasing attempts to change the status quo as far as the extraction and marketing of energy resources are concerned.

The recent discoveries of oil and gas reserves under the seabed seems to have whetted the appetite of a number of regional countries for making quick money and striking it rich. Some countries from outside the region are also being attracted to this perceived economic bonanza. This situation is creating new dynamics that could lead to not only cooperation but also friction and tension.

Turkey has one of the longest coastlines in the Mediterranean. We have legitimate rights emanating from our continental shelf and exclusive economic zone. There are also a number of unresolved international disputes in our region. When or how or whether these problems are resolved have a direct bearing on our interests. Therefore, we are highly sensitive to unilateral steps to claim ownership of parts of eastern Mediterranean which overlap with and encroach on the maritime sovereignty areas of Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

In the absence of solutions to existing disputes and a region-wide consensus on the modalities of extracting and transporting the hydrocarbon resources, making oil and gas deals in a haste does not sound like a wise thing to do. It also risks heightening regional tensions.

For our part, we have repeatedly warned all relevant parties that we are determined to defend our rights in the eastern Mediterranean by all means. But we suspect they already know that any regional formation that aims to develop the eastern Mediterranean energy resources by excluding Turkey stands little or no chance of success in reality.

Since we live in an increasingly interconnected world, what happens in eastern Mediterranean may, and possibly will, influence what happens elsewhere, if there is any truth to the so-called “butterfly effect.” In any case, it is safe to say that the geopolitics of energy will continue to be a key determinant of the global distribution of power among states in the foreseeable future.

I believe these and other important aspects of the new “Great Game of Energy” will be among the issues to be taken up by this panel. As I look forward to a lively discussion, I wish you all a very informative and productive afternoon. Thank you very much.


Ahmet Akif Oktay Ambassador
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