EU, Russia to discuss concerns over South Stream pipeline

Jan. 17, 2014 at 12:03 AM   |   0 comments

MOSCOW, Jan. 17 (UPI) -- EU objections to Russia's agreements with countries hosting the South Stream gas pipeline were expected to be on the agenda during a Friday meeting in Moscow.

The subject was to be among the topics discussed by European Union Energy Commissioner Gunter Oettinger during his meeting with Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak at the Permanent Partnership Council on Energy in Moscow, Russian Ambassador to the EU Vladimir Chizhov said in Brussels this week.

The European Commission said in December the agreements negotiated between Russia and six EU countries hosting the onshore sections of South Stream -- Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Hungary and Slovenia -- are not in line with EU regulations and need to be renegotiated from scratch.

Russia, however, says it will not renegotiate them despite EU claims they violate the requirements of its Third Energy Package that firms already dominating natural gas supply, such as Russia's Gazprom, divest control of distribution networks and allow free access for third parties.

The pipeline will cross the Black Sea from Russia to Bulgaria and will pass through non-EU-member Serbia. The first gas supplies via the South Stream -- designed for a capacity to 63 billion cubic meters -- are scheduled for late 2015.

The six EU member states authorized Oettinger late last year to negotiate with Moscow on their behalf to harmonize the South Stream bilateral agreements with the Third Energy Package.

Chizov, speaking Monday at the European Policy Center in Brussels, said Moscow believes the Third Energy Package cannot be the single criterion for determining the regulatory compliance of the gas pipeline, since it also crosses Black Sea -- which is under no one's jurisdiction -- as well as Serbia.



Instead, he asserted, EU regulations should be harmonized with the bilateral agreements with the countries, and not vice versa, EurActiv reported.

"I have full respect for those six EU member states that signed intergovernmental agreements with Russia, but they were aware of the possible complications," he said. "If they really assign negotiating powers to the European Commission, we will talk to the Commission, not about the agreements but on the possibility of adapting the third Energy Package to those agreements."

Chizov has urged Serbia to stick to its bilateral agreement with Russia on South Stream, even though the country is scheduled to implement the Third Energy Package regulations beginning next year as part of its EU accession process, the Tanjug news agency reported.

Oettinger had told Tanjug Serbia needs to review its agreement with Russia to make it dovetail with EU regulations.

The dispute has put the countries hosting South Stream in a tight spot. If they don't fulfill their obligations to Russia, Moscow could sue them in international court, but if they go ahead with the pipeline construction without the legal blessing of the European Commission, they could face infringement proceedings in European courts.

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