European Commission thinks EU-Russia accords on South Stream need to be renegotiated

The South Stream gas pipeline is not on the priority list of the European Commission, European Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger's spokesperson Sabine Berger told Interfax on Friday.

The South Stream gas pipeline is not on the priority list of the European Commission, European Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger's spokesperson Sabine Berger told Interfax on Friday.

Leaked briefing hints at EU stance

Writing yesterday in an article that aroused significant international interest, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, the international business editor of The Daily Telegraph, opined that the $50bn South Stream project was close to being frozen. The author drew his conclusions from a leaked briefing by the European Commission's chief, Jose Manuel Barroso, to Bulgarian politicians, "warning the country not to stand in the way of the EU's tough new line on the project, or attempt to undercut a unified EU response over Ukraine.” Russian magazine Expert published its article on South Stream's future yesterday as well.

"Our priority is to reach new supplier countries in order to foster diversification, for example through developing the Southern Gas Corridor that provides a link to the Caspian region," Berger said.

"In general the Commission welcomes any new gas pipeline if it fully complies with EU law," she said. "Major infrastructure projects in the EU need to respect EU legislation, e.g. in the field of Internal Energy Market rules/Third Energy Package, environment, public procurement, competition," Berger noted.

"The South Stream has to respect EU legislation as any other pipeline project. This is why the Commission is of the view that the bilateral intergovernmental agreements between EU member states concerned and Russia need to be renegotiated. In the beginning of this year it was therefore decided to set up a working group with the objective to find a sound legal framework for the South Stream pipeline on EU territory," Berger said.

"There are exchanges on technical and legal issues on expert level in the scope of this working group, but there are currently no political negotiations on South Stream," she said.

Experts held the latest round of Russia-EU South Stream consultations in Brussels on April 8. Deputy Director of the Energy Ministry's International Affairs Department Talyat Aliyev represented Russia at the meeting.

Russian Permanent Representative to the European Union Vladimir Chizhov told reporters on Wednesday, "The relevance of the South Stream project had grown against the backdrop of the Ukrainian crisis, as the Kiev authorities, including Mr. Yatsenyuk, were hinting at the possibility to disrupt Russian gas transit to the EU and those hints might turn into reality at any moment."

Read more: Alternative South Stream route could run through Crimea

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