Polish minister sacked over Russian gas project
WARSAW - Agence France-Presse
In this Jan. 11, 2013 file picture Poland's Treasury Minister Mikolaj Budzanowski talks to The Associated Press in Warsaw, Poland. Poland's Prime Minister Donald Tusk has fired the treasury minister, saying his oversight of state run companies was insufficient. AP photoPolish Prime Minister Donald Tusk sacked Friday the treasury minister for failing to inform him of a key Russian gas pipeline project. "In order to reestablish the treasury ministry's full control over the state's key companies, I've decided to dismiss Mikolaj Budzanowski," Tusk told reporters.
Budzanowski left Tusk out of the loop regarding a plan by Russian gas giant Gazprom to build a new pipeline to western Europe via Poland. The premier selected current deputy administration minister Wlodzimierz Karpinski to take his place. Russian President Vladimir Putin stunned Poland earlier this month by announcing plans to build a new branch of the Yamal Europe gas pipeline leading through Belarus and Poland.
Gazprom and Europol Gaz, which runs Yamal Europe and is owned by Gazprom and Poland's PGNiG, signed a memorandum on the project in St. Petersburg on April 5.
Tusk said he was not told about the move.
But he stressed Friday that the the non-binding memorandum "did not jeopardise Poland's interests in any way." Gazprom said construction on the pipeline leading to Slovakia and Hungary could start as early as 2018-2019, with an eventual capacity of 15 billion cubic metres a year.
Poland is concerned the pipeline will serve as a way to exert pressure on Ukraine, currently the largest transit country for Russian gas, in the longstanding dispute over gas prices between Moscow and Kiev.
Poland uses about 14 billion cubic metres of gas a year, of which 60 percent is imported from Russia.
In a bid to diversify its gas sources, Poland recently started construction on a sea terminal for liquefied gas, gas storage facilities and connecting its distribution system to neighbouring countries.