Oettinger: EC not opposed to South Stream


European Union Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger has assured that the European Commission is not in opposition to the South Stream gas pipeline project. On Thursday, the energy ministers of Hungary, Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Serbia and Slovenia met with Oettinger to discuss concerns by the EC that the pipeline project is in violation of EU laws regarding third-party access.

Speaking at a press conference in Brussels, Oettinger noted that the EC considered the South Stream gas pipeline an important addition to the pan-European energy network. “However, we would like to guarantee that EU rules on environment, the single market, and energy, will be observed.”

Commenting on the dispute over the compatibility of the pipeline with EU law, Oettinger rejected accusations that the EC had been more benevolent toward the Nord Stream gas pipeline project.

The commissioner is reportedly seeking official permission to negotiate on the six nations' behalf when he meets with Russian Minister of Economy and Energy Dragomir Stoinev on the topic of the pipeline.

Today he was at a brief visit in Brussels to meet with the European Commissioner for Energy Gunther Oettinger and the energy ministers of all EU countries, through which South Stream would pass.

Stoinev said that Oettinger expects from all involved EU countries letter, authorising him to negotiate with Russia on their behalf.

Oettinger also commented on the political turmoil in Ukraine vis-a-vis Ukrainian and Slovakian authorities' plans for a pipeline running to the countries, saying that the reverse-flow pipeline deal designed to reduce Ukraine’s reliance on Russian gas.

“We have a draft memorandum of understanding due to be accepted by the governments over the next few days. I am confident that it will be possible despite the developments in Kiev,” Oettinger said.

EC officials and Ukraine’s energy minister said last month a deal to ship gas from the European Union through Slovakia to Ukraine was all but agreed upon and merely needed to be signed by both sides. Since then, Kiev has said it is not ready to sign a broader deal with Europe called the Eastern Partnership, a four-year-old program of outreach to former Soviet states.

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