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Investigation into Baltic gas pipeline „could take some time”

Investigating the potential environmental harm that could be caused by a natural-gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea may be a lengthy process, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said.

„I've been through this with a number of different environmental groups and I know these things can take some time,” Bildt said today at a press conference in Warsaw with Anna Fotyga, his Polish counterpart. „The real work will be started when we have the proposal on the table - I can assure you that will be done very thoroughly.” Russia's state-run gas company, OAO Gazprom, is building a €5 billion ($6.6 billion) gas pipeline together with German utility E.ON AG and BASF AG. The pipeline will transport gas to Greifswald in northeastern Germany along the floor of the Baltic, bypassing transit countries like Ukraine and Belarus. Supplies of both oil and gas to the European Union from Russia were temporarily disrupted this year after a pricing dispute between the

Russian authorities and Belarus, through which Russia transports about a fifth of its gas exports. A similar disagreement with Ukraine disrupted gas shipments a year earlier. The EU became Russia's largest energy market in 2004, when 10 mainly eastern European countries joined the bloc. European Union Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs earlier this month called the planned 2010 start date for the pipeline „optimistic.” Poland's Fotyga reiterated the government's opposition to the pipeline. Former Polish Defense Minister Radoslaw Sikorski last year compared the project to the Hitler-Stalin pact that divided up Poland ahead of World War II. „We will use all the tools and methods available to us to back up our arguments,” Fotyga said at today's conference. „Our opinion of the pipeline is negative - we've made no secret about that.” (Bloomberg)