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Hungary, France call for EU energy policy

French President Nicolas Sarkozy called here Friday for a real European Union energy policy, at a news conference held jointly with Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány, according to MTI News Agency. France wants to join Nabucco – Sarkozy says.

France plans to use its time at the helm of the EU -- the latter half of 2008 -- to bring about that joint energy policy, Sarkozy said. Sarkozy underlined the need for renewable and nuclear energy to pay a bigger role in strategic plans to shift away from hydrocarbons. The Hungarian prime minister agreed that a common energy policy was a vital interest of all European Union members and called for supply routes able to compete with Russia, combined with coordinated procurement by the EU members. Both leaders also underlined the importance of reforms. Sarkozy said that the more open a country the more it will grow. Gyurcsány called for a strong Europe, one able to compete with Asia and the United States on its own terms.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Friday that Gaz de France wanted to join the Nabucco project to build a trans-Caspian natural gas pipeline bypassing Russia. The $6 billion pipeline project is expected to link energy-rich Central Asia to Europe through Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Austria. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2009, so that the pipeline could go on stream in 2012. The statement the president made during his visit to Hungary was confirmed by Jean-Marie Dauger, managing director of the French energy company. The European Union expects the project to diversify its supply routes away from Russia and to boost European energy security.

Nabucco, planned as an arm of the South Caucasus pipeline, is seen as a rival to the gas pipeline deal recently clinched by Russia, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan, the region’s major gas producers, May 12. The three former Soviet allies agreed to build a pipeline along the Caspian Sea coast to pump billions of cubic meters of natural gas from Turkmenistan to Kazakhstan into Russia’s network of pipelines running to Europe. (