April 25 (UPI) -- Leaders from the European Union said Tuesday they welcomed Georgia, a former Soviet republic, as the latest member of the European energy community.
All 89 members of the Georgian Parliament ratified an agreement Monday to align energy policies with the European Union.
"The Energy Community welcomes Georgia's accession and the commitment for approximating Georgia's energy sector with the European Union energy market rules," the energy committee announced.
A treaty for accession to the energy community notes that Georgia isn't directly connected to the energy networks in the EU and solutions are necessary, mainly as they relate to natural gas moving through territory in the Black Sea country.
Georgia in 2014 opened a transport terminal for a pipeline tied to infrastructure associated with the Shah Deniz gas field off the coast of Azerbaijan, a field that Europe views as a means to diversify a natural gas market dependent on Russia. For Georgia, it's part of a broader shift away from the Kremlin through a tilt toward NATO and the EU.
The region in Eastern Europe has seen conflicts in the past centered in part on Russian energy infrastructure. Georgia in 2008 launched a military attack on the self-proclaimed republic of South Ossetia, sending ripples through the regional energy sector due to the proximity of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, the second longest in the world.
NATO in December sponsored a working group in Georgia's capital, Tbilisi, to review energy security risks between consumers and potential and existing transit countries like Azerbaijan and Georgia.
NATO leaders and energy ministers gathered at the event said energy security is emerging as a fundamental component of broader security in a globalized world.
Georgia's ratification of the EU energy treaty follows an investment decision by the partners behind the Nord Stream gas pipeline through the Baltic Sea. Russian energy company Gazprom aims to twin the network to Europe.