ZAGREB, Croatia, Jan. 11 (UPI) -- The outgoing president of Croatia could join the consortium managing a section of the South Stream gas pipeline should the country join the project.
"Russia would like to see the leading positions in the South Stream and Nord Stream gas pipelines to be held by former high-placed officials of the countries, across which these pipelines will pass," reports Croatian newspaper Jutarnji List.
South Stream is part of a Russian effort, along with Nord Stream, to diversify gas transit options for Europe. Ukraine hosts 80 percent of all Russian gas bound for Europe currently. A January 2009 gas row between Moscow and Kiev left European customers in the cold for weeks.
The move would be consistent with developments for the Nord Stream pipeline to Germany, Russia's RIA Novosti notes. Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder chairs the shareholder committee at the Nord Stream consortium.
Alexander Medvedev, the deputy chief executive officer at Russian gas giant Gazprom, said negotiations with Croatia on South Stream could be finished during the first quarter of 2011. Croatian President Stjepan Mesic ends his tenure Feb. 18.
Croatia imports 40 percent of its annual gas needs from Russian currently.