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EU may invite Russia to join Nabucco

The European Parlament wants Russia to join the Nabucco pipeline project, planned to pump gas from Central Asia to Europe, a European diplomatic source said on Tuesday.

The $10 billion Nabucco pipeline, backed by the European Union and the US, was originally intended to link energy-rich Central Asia to Europe through Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Austria, bypassing Russia and Ukraine. Construction has been tentatively scheduled to begin in 2010.

According to the source, the proposal has been outlined in a report on the EU’s strategic energy review prepared by European parliament experts and expected to be voted on by lawmakers on Wednesday in Strasbourg. The report drafted by French liberal MEP, Anne Laperrouze, throws into doubt the readiness by some Caspian Sea states to fill the EU pipeline with gas.

According to western media, the European Commission is against Russia participating in the Nabucco project, viewed as a rival to Russia’s South Stream pipeline and due to bring Central Asia and Russian gas to the Balkans and on to other European countries, believing that the move will strengthen the EU’s energy dependence on Moscow.

In an EU parliament statement, however, Laperrouze said “I advocate an approach geared to conciliation in dialogue with Russia, which supplies 42% of the EU’s gas,” adding that Nabucco will have more chance if the EU worked with Moscow.

And with some key EU member states, in particular, Germany, Italy and France expressing their doubts as to the need for the Nabucco pipeline at all, a researcher at the NATO defense college in Rome, Andrew Monaghan, cautioned an EU parliamentary session on January 26 to weigh up all the alternatives in gas supplies.

“We shouldn’t just move away from Russia without knowing where we are going. If we just exchange Ukraine by Turkey, we will still have all our eggs in one basket,” Monaghan said.

The recent gas dispute between Russia and Ukraine over gas prices and a new contract on natural gas supplies affected around 20 European countries, and has prompted the European Union to intensify talks on the construction of an alternative gas supply route to Europe. (