The prospective 3500 km Caspian Sea - Italy natural gas pipeline known as the Southern Gas Corridor is coming under increased criticism from European environmental and human rights groups for being at odds with EU climate change and human rights goals.
Activists ask how the EU can remain committed to reducing carbon emissions by 40 percent compared to 1990 levels by 2030, contending that the €3 billion earmarked to support the pipeline should be spent on renewable power technology and energy efficiency initiatives.
"The Southern Gas Corridor clashes with the [climate] science", says Anna Roggenbuck, EIB policy officer at Bankwatch, a network of environmental groups in central and eastern Europe that monitors public lending institutions.
"Once built, this infrastructure will stay till 2050 and simply increase the cost of supply to the European Union, and will perpetuate the use of gas, [while] colliding with EU energy and climate change targets."
The European Commission has long touted the energy security aspects of the Southern Gas Corridor, maintaining that the pipeline will diversify gas suppliers to the continent, reducing dependence on Russia.
Another bone of contention is the route of the pipeline, which will run through traditional communities in Albania, Greece and Italy. Villagers there are complaining about the lack of consultation and insufficient compensation. Critics also point to the autocratic nature of the Azerbaijan regime, where there has been long-standing criticism of the human rights record of the president, Ilham Aliyev. Financial support for Azerbaijan in this project would be inconsistent with the founding mandate of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, which stipulates that it must work only in countries that are committed to the democratic process.