Europe offers grants for energy security

Funds would back Central and Southeastern European gas infrastructure.

By Daniel J. Graeber

BRUSSELS, July 14 (UPI) -- More than $150 million in grants support the development of energy infrastructure projects in Central and Southeastern Europe, the European Commission said.

"The completion of a truly competitive EU-wide energy market is essential in order to turn the Energy Union into a reality," European Commissioner for Energy Miguel Arias Canete said in a statement Tuesday. "But without reliable and well-connected energy networks this will not happen."


The commission said member states agreed to a proposal to allocate around $160 million for energy infrastructure projects, with the bulk of the funds supporting projects in Central and Southeastern Europe, as well as those in the Baltic region.

Memoranda of understanding were signed last week with regional countries calling in part for more momentum behind the construction of what was described as "missing" gas links. The commission said the grants will cover gas storage projects in Bulgaria and links between Poland and the Czech Republic.

"The overall goal of the projects selected for financial support is to enhance the security of supply and improve market integration through the diversification of sources and routes," the commission said.

European leaders have expressed concerns about the role Russia plays in the region, charging Russian natural gas company Gazprom of holding regional monopolies that control both the supplies and delivery mechanisms through Europe.


Europe gets about a quarter of its gas needs met by Gazprom and the majority of that volume runs through Soviet-era pipelines in Ukraine. Russia, for its part, is pursuing gas networks that avoid geopolitically sensitive territory in Ukraine, though European energy officials said last week new projects must be "realistic and feasible."

Gas links through Bulgaria, and pipelines stemming from Azerbaijan, are among the projects included in the European energy diversification strategy. British energy company BP has awarded more than $1 billion in development contracts since selecting the Trans-Adriatic pipeline as its option for Azeri gas in 2013.

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