On the eve of the 4 February EU energy summit, several prime ministers will gather in Brussels to mark their agreement for the North-South gas corridor, a project aimed at removing internal bottlenecks for gas transport. The announcement was made by Commission President José Manuel Barroso yesterday (31 January).
Speaking to the press alongside visiting Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, Barroso said he was looking forward to welcoming back his guest and "a number of other prime ministers" in order "to agree on the creation of a North-South energy corridor".
"This is the latest practical example of Europe's value added to its citizens," said Barroso.
The EU summit on Friday will touch upon two main issues, energy and innovation. Before that, Barroso will meet with the prime ministers of Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, as well as the president of Romania, to discuss North-South energy interconnections.
The strategic concept behind the North-South natural gas interconnection is to link the Baltic Sea area (including Poland) to the Adriatic and Aegean Seas and further to the Black Sea, covering Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania, as well as possibly Austria and EU hopeful Croatia.
In the longer term, the Commission foresees an extension of this integration process to non-EU signatories in the Energy Community Treaty (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Serbia and Kosovo).
Thanks to the North-South corridor, the Commission expects the region of Central and Eastern Europe to become less vulnerable to a supply cut through the Russia/Ukraine/Belarus route (see 'Background').
The North-South corridor is also part of a wider plan to boost the attractiveness of South Eastern Europe for investors or producers, as well to reduce energy poverty. Indeed, a considerable share of the population in South Eastern Europe spends a relatively high share of income on energy, leading to energy poverty.
Before reaching the EU level, preparatory work has been carried out in the Visegrad+ format, which gathers the four countries of the Visegrad group (Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary) as well as EU members Austria, Bulgaria, Romania and, Slovenia and EU hopefuls Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
A declaration signed in February 2010 expresses those countries' joint support for North-South interconnections. Among the projects mentioned are planned Croatian and Polish Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminals, the Constanta LNG terminal in Romania and other LNG and compressed natural gas (CNG) projects in the wider Black Sea region.
Other projects cited are plans to further promote Nabucco and NETS, a Hungarian project to unite Central and South Eastern Europe's natural gas transmission networks by creating a common gas transmission system operator (TSO).
On 28 January the prime ministers of Hungary, Viktor Orbán, and Slovakia, Iveta Radi?ová, signed an agreement for a section of the North-South gas pipeline that crosses their countries.