This is the story of a trade that brings natural gas from the Central Asian country of Turkmenistan through Russia and Ukraine to the European Union (EU). Far from being open to scrutiny by the citizens of these countries, this trade has long been controlled by a handful of people and a series of mysterious intermediary companies. Although the business is worth billions of dollars a year, it is still unclear where much of this money goes.
The EU is increasingly reliant on gas supplies from the former Soviet Union. The gas price dispute between Russia and Ukraine in the winter of 2005/6 sent shivers of anxiety across Europe that, in the depths of winter, the continent might not get enough fuel to keep warm and power its industries. Yet the dependence of EU countries on gas from Russia and Central Asia is only likely to grow. This report poses a difficult question for the EU and its neighbours: can they meet their energy needs without funding corruption and undermining good governance in the countries that supply or transport this energy? The time has come for transparency in the natural gas trade, to the benefit of citizens across the region.
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