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news 10 Jun 15

Gazprom in Talks With Serbia on Turkish Stream Pipeline

As the West urges Serbia to reduce its dependence on Russian gas, Russia’s Gazprom says it is still in talks with Serbia on a pipeline to transport Russian gas to the Balkans and Central Europe.

Igor Jovanovic

Gazprom Deputy Director Alexander Medvedev said in Moscow on June 9 that talks with Serbia on the Turkish Stream were continuing - but did not specify details.

"Do you think we were just drinking brandy there?" Medvedev asked, referring to the Russian delegation's last visit to Serbia.

Gazprom director Alexey Miller visited Belgrade on May 28 when he attended the European Business Congress meeting.

The Russian media cited Medvedev as saying that the Turkish Stream pipeline would cost around 3.3 billion euros to build.

He added that by 2025 Europe could face a shortage of some 80 billion cubic meters of gas, and the US could not deliver it more than 50 billion cubic meters per year.

Europe will therefore soon have to talk with Russia not only about the Turkish Stream pipeline but also about additional quantities of gas, Medvedev reportedly said.

The US and Germany want Serbia to cut its energy dependence on Russia, which for now is its sole supplier, via Ukraine and Hungary.

Russia has announced that owing to its conflicts with Ukraine it intends to stop the gas supply from flowing via Ukraine in 2019.

Before his visit to the US in June, Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic on May 28 said Serbia had accepted US suggestions about the need to reduce dependence on Russian gas and join the US-backed gas pipeline, which will carry gas from Azerbaijan to Europe.

Some analysts said Vucic’s statement was a sign of a change in Serbian foreign and energy policy, but the Prime Minister later insisted that he was not “turning his back on Russia” but only mulling new ways to diversify gas supply routes and increase energy safety.

Serbian Energy Minister Aleksandar Antic said in Belgrade on May 28 that Serbia was interested in any projects that “could bring gas to the region” and that the idea should not be “politicized”.

The minister added that the government’s priority was a gas interconnection with Bulgaria in order to connect to TAP and TANAP pipelines, which carry gas from Azerbaijan.

But Dusan Bajatovic, the head of the state-owned gas company Srbijagas, said on May 28 that TAP would not have enough gas for the Western Balkans, and that “there is still no real replacement for natural gas, primarily from Russia, in the European market”.

On the other hand, it is unclear whether the EU would allow Russia to build the Turkish Stream pipeline, which is seen as a substitute for the now abandoned South Stream pipeline.

This was intended to transport Russian gas to Central Europe through Bulgaria and Serbia.

Russia abandoned the project last December after the EU announced that the pipeline did not accord with EU legislation.

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