Sunday

17th Oct 2021

EU puts pressure on Serbia to stop South Stream gas pipeline

  • Russia plans to start building the Serbian segment this year (Photo: south-stream.info)

The European Commission is to tell Serbia its accession prospects will suffer if it builds South Stream, a Russian gas pipeline.

It says in its annual enlargement report, out on Wednesday (8 October), that “the intergovernmental agreement signed between Serbia and Russia to build the South Stream pipeline is not compatible with the acquis [EU laws]”.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

“Serbia should not commence work on constructing South Stream until this agreement is aligned with the acquis”.

It makes the same point in a “strategy paper”, also to get published on Wednesday, which will shape accession talks over the next 12 months.

An EU source said the paper names “economic …competitiveness” as one of three conditions for progress in negotiations.

“We will make reference to the … importance of unbundling, price transparency, and third party access to [energy] transmission networks”, the source noted.

Under EU law, energy firms are not allowed to own both the fuel and its means of distribution in one bundle. They also have to let competitors use their pipelines to stop monopolies inflating prices.

Russia signed the South Stream accord with Serbia in 2008 and plans to begin construction this year.

It has signed similar agreements with EU states Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Hungary and Slovenia, as well as a memorandum of understanding with Republika Srpska, the ethnic Serb part of Bosnia.

The commission has warned the EU host countries they risk fines if they go ahead, prompting Bulgaria to halt construction.

Its leverage on Serbia, where South Stream is to bring €2 billion in foreign investment, is limited to the pace of accession talks.

“We are telling all candidate countries: ‘Listen: If you go ahead with South Stream, you are breaching EU legislation, which is not helpful, especially when you come to open the energy chapter in the accession talks”, a second EU official said.

Serbia has in recent years captured war crimes fugitives and began normalising relations with Kosovo in return for progress in its EU bid.

Its foreign ministry could not comment on Monday. But the EU leverage risks waning after incoming commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said there will be no new EU members in the next five years.

The outgoing enlargement commissioner, Stefan Fuele, also noted on Monday that EU countries are suffering “enlargement fatigue”.

The EU acquis aside, Russia’s war on Ukraine has increased concerns over the politics of South Stream.

The pipeline is to bypass the EU-aspirant gas transit state, damaging its strategic importance, and to increase EU dependence on Russian gas.

The EU’s incoming foreign affairs chief, Federica Mogherini, said in her European Parliament hearing on Monday (6 October) the “political conditions are not right” for the project even if it complied with EU law.

An EU official told EUobserver that Brussels is unhappy Serbia did not join EU sanctions on Russia in what looks like a South Stream concession.

“We also have issues on Serbia’s non-alignment with EU foreign policy statements and actions”, the contact said.

Italian EU presidency backs South Stream

The Italian EU presidency has backed a controversial Russian pipeline, South Stream, which would circumvent Ukraine to bring gas to south-east Europe.

Serbia starts EU membership talks

Serbia has officially begun EU membership talks at a ceremony described by its PM as the country's "most important moment" since WWII.

Russian gas less mighty than it looks, EU says

A Russian gas cut-off would have a “substantial impact”, but even the most vulnerable countries - Bulgaria, Estonia, and Finland - could get through the winter.

EU enlargement heading into chilly period

The EU commission is not recommending any fresh steps on Western Balkan enlargement in the next 12 months, with one official saying the policy is in "de facto freeze".

News in Brief

  1. Poland legalises refugee pushbacks
  2. Report: China's Xi to snub UK climate summit
  3. Norway killings 'appeared to be' Islamist 'terrorism'
  4. Le Pen vows to 'dismantle' wind-power plants
  5. Slovenia PM tweets antisemitic conspiracy theory
  6. Italy sentences ship captain for Libya pushback
  7. Polish PM and von der Leyen to clash in Brussels next week
  8. MEPs call for improved roaming rules

Vietnam jails journalist critical of EU trade deal

A journalist who had demanded the EU postpone its trade deal with Vietnam until human rights improved has been sentenced to 15 years in jail. The EU Commission says it first needs to conduct a detailed analysis before responding.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew report reveals bad environmental habits
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersImproving the integration of young refugees
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNATO Secretary General guest at the Session of the Nordic Council
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCan you love whoever you want in care homes?
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals

Latest News

  1. MEPs urge Sassoli to sue EU Commission on rule of law
  2. MEPs seek EU law on bogus anti-media litigation
  3. Africa seeks EU help on global vaccine-waiver
  4. Giant of 20th century European design recognised by EU
  5. Italy on edge as neo-fascists stir violence
  6. Gas-price spike will backfire on industry, energy guru says
  7. Scientists raise alarm on Greenland's ice-sheet loss
  8. EU calls for ban on Arctic oil and gas drilling

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us