Russia seeks EU backing for gas pipeline

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An energy summit to be held in the Bulgarian capital on 24-25 April is expected to boost the South Stream gas pipeline project favoured by Russian state monopoly Gazprom, the Bulgarian press reports.

A few days ahead of the Sofia Energy Forum, uncertainty reigns as to the level of participation, the daily Standart writes today (21 April). 

Russia is trying to introduce language into the final declaration of the Sofia energy summit pushing for the Gazprom-favoured 'South Stream' gas pipeline project to be declared an EU priority, reported the daily Dnevnik, EurActiv's partner in Bulgaria. 

The European Commission does not agree with such wording, and prefers a more general commitment to diversification of energy sources and corridors, the daily adds. 

A statement by Gazprom's CEO to the Russian press confirmed Moscow's ambitions. 

Gazprom will ask the European Union to declare the 'South Stream' gas pipeline project its priority, the Russian gas monopoly's head, Alexei Miller, told Vesti today (21 April). He is quoted as saying that he sees no reason why the EU should say 'no' to such a proposal. 

"Until now, Brussels hasn't officially backed the [South Stream] project, but it has not declared itself against it either," Gazprom Vice-President Aleksandr Medvedev stated. 

The Gazprom-favoured South Stream project is expected to receive a boost at the Sofia summit, according to Banker, a Bulgarian weekly. The newspaper learned that a political declaration in support of the pipeline was being prepared and should be ready for signature by all the countries taking part in the project (Russia, Italy, Bulgaria, Greece, Serbia, Hungary and Austria). 

The political declaration can perhaps be considered symbolic, however, as other practical issues remain outstanding, such as the new contracts with Gazprom and its Bulgarian counterpart Bulgargaz, Banker writes. However, these issues too are highly likely to be resolved during the mandate of the present government, the weekly further elaborates. The cabinet's mandate ends in July this year. 

Balancing preferences 

In official statements, the Bulgarian authorities are careful to position the EU's favoured Nabucco project as a priority too, making it appear to be at the same level as South Stream, which is seen as a rival to Nabucco. 

Speaking for the German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov, who is hosting the meeting, said yesterday that his country, which was severely hit by the January gas crisis, wants to be a bridge between Central Asia and recipients in Europe thanks to its geographical position. 

"The importance of the issue was realised before the crisis […] For several years, Bulgaria has been making efforts to diversify in both sectors. I would like to mention as an example some projects such as South Stream and Nabucco," the Bulgarian president said. 

Russia to unveil new energy pact proposals 

Other items on the summit's agenda include shaping "a new European energy policy" and seeking "new international arrangements […] for energy security". 

As a consequence, Russia is expected to unveil details of its proposals for establishing a new legal framework between the EU and Russia in energy matters. 

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev yesterday announced in Helsinki that his country had issued a blueprint, replacing the Energy Charter, which would regulate international cooperation in energy matters, including transit. The document has been sent on the same day to the G8, the G20 and "its closest neighbours and partners," said Medvedev, quoted by the Kremlin website following talks with his Finnish colleague Tarja Hallonen. 

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