EU says new energy sources crucial after South Stream
During his Turkey visit on Dec. 1, Russian President Putin warned that the project to build South Stream could be canceled if Bulgaria keeps failing to give the final approval.The sudden announcement by Russia that it will shelve the huge South Stream gas pipeline project shows the need for the EU to find new energy sources, European Commission Vice President Kristalina Georgieva Dec. 1 told Agence France-Presse.
But the European Union said that despite President Vladimir Putin’s shock decision, Brussels will continue internal talks to resolve the problems that Putin blamed for the collapse of the multi-billion dollar project.
“Russia’s decision to stop South Stream and the way it was taken show why the diversification of the energy sources is important for Europe,” Georgieva, whose native Bulgaria is at the heart of the dispute over the pipeline, told reporters. “The Commission will closely examine the consequences of this decision and how we can speed up the interconnection of Member States.”
The project was to have bypassed the crisis-hit Ukraine, going through Bulgaria, non-EU Serbia, Italy, Austria and then to the rest of the European Union. But Bulgaria changed its mind on the pipeline in June after the EU said Sofia had breached the bloc’s competition rules by the way it awarded contracts for its leg of the pipeline.
During his Turkey visit on Dec. 1, Putin warned that the project to build South Stream could be canceled if Bulgaria keeps failing to give the final approval. Moscow could later build a new link and possibly work with Turkey on creating a gas hub on the border with Greece, Putin said. He argued that the EU’s opposition to the South Stream pipeline – which would have run under the Black Sea to Bulgaria and further on to southern Europe – meant Russia had no other choice but to scrap it.
Russia’s state owned energy giant Gazprom separately announced late Dec. 1 that Moscow canceled the construction of South Stream. Instead, Russia will build a 63 billion cubic meter capacity natural gas pipeline to Turkey, bypassing Ukraine, said the company’s CEO Aleksey Miller in a written statement.
‘No details yet’
Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yıldız said no details were talked about concerning the potential share of Turkey’s state-run national grid BOTAŞ in the planned pipeline at a press meeting Dec. 1.
“There is a possibility for the pipeline to come through the Thracian region from Turkey’s exclusive economic zone. Maybe, there will be changes at the ending routes of the South Stream pipeline. We’ll see what will happen in the future,” Yıldız said.
Meanwhile, Bulgaria’s president yesterday played down any responsibility for Russia shelving the multi-billion dollar South Stream gas pipeline project to deliver Russian gas to Europe, the AFP reported Dec. 1.
“It is clear to everyone that South Stream is not a project only between Russia and Bulgaria, but between Russia and the EU ... The decision is entirely in the hands of Russia and the European Union,” Rosen Plevneliev told journalists.
“South Stream is one of the projects that can happen in the European Union only and solely if they comply with European legislation,” Plevneliev noted.
“So far Russia has not given any indication that it wants to meet the European legislation,” he added. The Bulgarian government said meanwhile that it has not received an official confirmation from Moscow that the entire project has been scrapped and would not comment before then. “For me, the project is not closed until we see Russia’s official stance,” Economy Minister Bozhidar Lukarski told journalists.
The deputy head of the Bulgarian parliamentary energy commission, Martin Dimitrov, suggested meanwhile that Putin may be bluffing. “This is a tactical move on the part of Putin and Russia to build pressure on the EU and Bulgaria. They have not at all given up South Stream,” he said.
The pipeline was intended to bring 63 billion cubic meters of Russian gas underneath the Black Sea and through the Balkans, crossing Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary and Slovenia and then Austria to connect with the main European pipeline network, bypassing the crisis-hit Ukraine.
EU Energy Union Vice President Maros Sefcovic said separately that a Dec. 9 meeting aimed at sorting out the Bulgaria problem “will take place regardless of the announcement by Russia to stop the project.”
“The ever-changing energy landscape in the EU is yet another reason for the EU to build a resilient Energy Union with a forward-looking climate policy,” he added.