Central and Southeastern European countries, largely dependent on Russian gas supplies, are starting work on a plan to build gas infrastructure, and should count on having at least three different sources of gas, the EU’s energy chief said on Monday (9 February).
The European Commission is working on proposals for a more close-knit energy union, based on connections between EU nations to share available energy and reduce reliance on Russia, which supplies around a third of EU energy needs.
Commission Vice President Maroš Šef?ovi?? said that a high-level working group for gas connectivity in central and eastern Europe, which had its first meeting in Sofia, should come up with an action plan on priority gas projects by June.
“We have decided that our goal should be that each country in this region would have a secure supply of gas of at least three sources,” Šef?ovi? told reporters after the meeting.
“We will make a quick inventory of all infrastructure projects, which should also be co-financed by European funds,” he said.
The meeting was held in Sofia in a show of support for the Balkan country and make clear Brussels was ready to help, after Russia canceled its South Stream gas pipeline, Šef?ovi? said.
Gazprom’s announcement in December that it was scrapping the South Stream project was a particular blow to Bulgaria, which relies heavily on Russian gas.
Bulgaria would have been one of the nations through which the pipeline passed, as Russia sought to sidestep Ukraine, its traditional gas shipment route to the European Union.
Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borisov said Sofia will discuss with the EU commission whether to propose to Russia to build the undersea section of South Stream and sell the gas aimed for Europe at a gas hub at its Black Sea city of Varna.
He said Bulgaria would need about €2.2 billion to build the hub, which can also distribute Azeri gas, as well as supplies from LNG terminals in Greece and possible gas from its own offshore fields in the Black Sea.
The country can also receive gas through a pipeline link with Romania from gas storage facilities in Slovakia and the Czech Republic, Borisov said.
Sofia was also speeding up efforts to build gas links with neighbouring Greece, Romania, Serbia and Turkey and would seek EU financial backing to also overhaul its gas network.
One of the big priorities of the Juncker Commission is to achieve an Energy Union by connecting infrastructures and completing the internal energy market to help drive down costs for citizens and businesses.
One of the big goals is to diversify the EU's energy sources, combine infrastructurs and unite negotiating power vis-à-vis supply countries such as Russia. The EU also aims at making Europe the number one in renewable energy.
The five priorities defined by the Commission are:
- Ensuring security of supply for Europe
- Deeper integration of EU national energy markets
- Reducing EU energy demand
- Reducing carbon emissions from the energy sector
- Promoting research and development in energy
- 25 Feb.: Commission to table proposals for an Energy Union
- By June: High-level working group to table action plan for gas connectivity in central and eastern Europe
- European Commission: Energy Union