The agreement to link the Black Sea port of Constanta (Romania) and the oil hub of Trieste (Italy) was signed in Zagreb by ministers from Italy, Croatia, Slovenia, Serbia and Romania and Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs.
The pipeline is expected to be completed in 2012 and has an estimated cost of up to €2.6 billion, according to financial experts.
The 1,300km 'Pan-European Oil Pipeline' links the Black Sea directly into the continental EU pipeline system, unlike other competing projects that avoid the Bosphorus straits. It is expected that it will be able to supply up to 100 millon tonnes of oil annually from the Caspian oilfields to Western Europe.
At present the EU imports 51% of its oil from the Middle East and North Africa, with a further 23% coming from Russia, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). Thus, the Commission views the new pipeline of 'great strategic importance', as the EU seeks to lessen its dependency on these countries.
Commissioner Piebalgs said the pipeline was "a good example of enhanced co-operation among the members of the Energy Community" and that by reducing oi- tanker congestion, the chances of a serious accident in the Bosphurus Straits and the Black, Aegean and Adriatic Seas will be significantly reduced.
The new oil pipeline will complement the Nabucco project to supply Western Europe with gas from the Caspian region, also due to be fully operational by 2012 (EurActiv 27 June 2006).
There are several competing projects to transport oil from the Caspian. Earlier this year Russia, Greece and Bulgaria agreed to build an oil pipeline linking the Bulgarian port of Burgas and the Greek port of Alexandroupolis, which should also reduce congestion in the Bosphorus Strait (EurActiv 16 March 2007).
The Commission will present a new regional policy for cooperation in the Black Sea – the ‘Black Sea Synergy’ – on 11 April 2007 with the aim of completing the ring of cooperation initiatives in the European Neighbourhood by adding to the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership in the south, and the Northern Dimension.