Friday

15th Nov 2019

South Stream could stop Serbia joining EU, energy chief says

  • The South Stream pipe laying ship, the Castoro Sei, in Varna, Bulgaria (Photo: south-stream-offshore.com)

Serbia has defied EU calls to change the terms of its gas pipeline deal with Russia, but the European Energy Community (EEC) says it “cannot” join the EU unless it does so.

The European Commission in its annual enlargement report on Wednesday (8 October) repeated warnings to Belgrade “not [to] commence work” on the South Stream pipeline until it renegotiates its agreement with Russia.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 year's of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

It noted that the current terms violate EU laws designed to stop monopolies, such as Russia’s Gazprom, from inflating prices.

But Serbian foreign minister Ivica Dacic on a visit to Moscow on Tuesday said: "Everything is fine with South Stream. We are ready to build it. All preparatory works are running as planned”.

A Dacic spokeswoman on Wednesday also told EUobserver the South Stream dispute should be settled between the EU and Russia instead of involving individual South Stream countries.

“We believe that a satisfactory solution shall be reached through talks between the EU and the Russian Federation”, she said.

She noted the issue is “important” for Serbia’s EU entry prospects, but added that “it shall not directly, but only indirectly impact our accession process”.

She also put the value of the pipeline on a par with EU relations: “The South Stream project is of great importance for the Serbian economy, just as our co-operation with the European Union is”.

The EU earlier this year used the same legal argument to make Bulgaria stop construction.

But a Dutch-based spokesman for the South Stream consortium told this website that work on the offshore part of the project - from Anapa on Russia’s Black Sea coast to Varna in Bulgaria - is going ahead anyway.

“The production of pipes in Germany and Russia has been ongoing since April and over 9,000 pipes are stored in Burgas [Bulgaria] and Varna. Early September, we also started welding pipes together on board a vessel moored at the Port of Burgas, in preparation for pipe laying in Russian waters later this year”, he said.

“We are confident that South Stream will be implemented and aim for the first offshore pipeline to be in operation by the end of 2015”.

Obligations multiply

EU officials note that aside from South Stream, Serbia, as a member of the EEC, an EU-linked institution in Vienna, is obliged to transpose the EU anti-monopoly laws into national legislation by 1 January 2015.

For his part, Janez Kopac, the EEC director, told EUobserver that if it does not, the EEC “may initiate a dispute settlement procedure”.

He recalled that a recent dispute involving Bosnia ended in the EU freezing some of its pre-accession funds.

He added: “The EEC secretariat has repeatedly called on Serbia to amend the South Stream agreement and bring it in compliance with the energy acquis [EU laws]. It should be clear from the beginning that Serbia cannot accede to the EU without bringing this agreement into compliance”.

The South Stream row comes amid wider concerns that Serbia is drifting back toward Russia despite recent progress in its EU bid.

The EU enlargement report also said: “The commission underlines the importance of enlargement countries progressively aligning with the EU’s foreign policy positions”.

But MEPs at a European Parliament hearing on Wednesday noted that Serbia abstained from a recent UN vote on the non-recognition of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and has declined to join the EU’s Russia sanctions regime.

Strategic importance

Meanwhile, South Stream has acquired extra strategic importance in the context of Russia’s war on Ukraine.

It harms Ukraine by bypassing its gas transit network and gives Russia more political leverage in the EU by increasing energy dependency.

The EU institutions are sponsoring a competing project - the TAP pipeline from the Caspian Sea via Turkey to Europe - but TAP is not scheduled to start pumping gas until 2019.

Asked if the Russia-Ukraine crisis has had an impact on the project, a spokeswoman for the Swiss-based TAP consortium said: “TAP supports the EU’s energy security needs by opening a new gas transportation route able to bring new sources of gas to Europe”.

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.

News in Brief

  1. Hungary's Varhelyi will face more questions
  2. Police put former Berlusconi MEP Comi under house arrest
  3. MEPs criticise Poland for criminalising sex education
  4. UK will not name new commissioner before election
  5. Trump expected to delay EU car tariff decision
  6. Tusk: Post-Brexit UK will be a 'second-rate player'
  7. Police end Catalan separatist blockade of France-Spain road
  8. Poland arrests extremists for 'planning attacks on Muslims'

Column

These are the crunch issues for the 2019-2024 EU commission

These developments will largely determine who will be running the world in the coming decades and perhaps generations. If the Europeans can't find an answer over the five years, they will be toast. And we haven't even mentioned climate change.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  3. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  5. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  6. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  7. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  9. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021

Latest News

  1. Green MEPs unconvinced by Romanian commissioner
  2. EU states fell short on sharing refugees, say auditors
  3. Hungary's commissioner-to-be grilled over loyalty to Orban
  4. Widow's plea as EU diplomats debate Magnitsky Act
  5. Leftist MEPs call on EU to address crisis in Chile
  6. Mustard gas and cod: Last chance to stop Nord Stream 2?
  7. Cultural Battlefield
  8. Nationalists as much a threat to EU arts as resources

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us