news 20 Dec 13

EU Presses Serbia on South Stream Pipeline

The Energy Commissioner has told Serbia to revise its South Stream pipeline contract if it wants to avoid unnecessary obstacles on its path to EU membership.

BIRN
Belgrade

Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger has urged Serbia to revise its agreement on the South Stream gas project in line with EU legislation, if it wants to avoid problems in its accession talks.

"Serbia is a member of our [European] energy community and has to accept the rules of our market," Oettinger told a debate on EU energy policy in Brussels on Wednesday.

This month, the European Commission said the Russian-led South Stream gas project cannot operate on EU territory unless it complies with the bloc's energy law.

Under EU law, energy suppliers may not function as pipeline operators, thus holding a monopoly on gas supplies.

The European Commission stepped in after Russian energy giant Gazprom signed contracts on the pipeline with seven European countries - Hungary, Bulgaria, Croatia, Slovenia, Austria, Greece, and Serbia.

Commissioner Oettinger is due to travel to Moscow in January for more talks with Russia on the project. At the same time, Serbia is due to open accession talks with the EU in January. Chapter 15 in the talks will deal with the energy sector.

The Commissioner said the EU was not against the South Stream pipeline but only insisted on respect for its rules.

"It will be better for Russia to have a regular pipeline with gas flowing, and not end up with a problematic pipeline without gas," he added.

Work on the Serbian section of the pipeline started last month. When complete, the pipeline will pump gas from Russia under the Black Sea, then through Bulgaria and Serbia towards Hungary, Slovenia and Italy.

The job of building the pipeline section in Serbia, which has a projected capacity to carry 40.5 billion cubic metres of natural gas a year, will take two years.

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