Wednesday

16th Jan 2019

Putin's pipeline drives wedge between EU and Balkan hopefuls

  • Gazprom is building the offshore segment of South Stream despite the EU objections (Photo: south-stream-offshore.com)

Macedonia has become the latest Western Balkan country to receive a stark warning on the implications of building Russia’s South Stream gas pipeline for its EU future.

Janez Kopac, the head of the European Energy Community (EEC), said on Thursday (23 October) that Skopje’s South Stream agreement with Moscow is “not in compliance” with EU energy law.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

He noted that as an EEC treaty signatory it has “a legally binding commitment to implement these rules”.

He added, in comments to the Brussels-based dtt-net.com news agency, that “Macedonia will have to withdraw from the IGA [the South Stream accord] or renegotiate it if it wants to become a full EU member”.

The EEC is a Vienna-based body which counts the 28 EU states, the Western Balkan EU-aspirants, Moldova, and Ukraine among its members.

South Stream is to carry Russian gas under the Black Sea via Bulgaria and Serbia to the heart of the EU. But potential branch lines are to connect up with Bosnia, Macedonia, and Montenegro.

The EU says its current model - in which Russian firm Gazprom owns at least 51 percent and controls both production and distribution - goes against EU laws designed to stop monopolies from inflating prices.

The EEC’s Kopac spoke after a senior Gazprom executive met with Macedonian energy officials in Skopje earlier the same day.

Both sides voiced confidence the branch line will go ahead as planned.

For its part, the European Commission on 30 September wrote a formal letter to Macedonia to voice disquiet.

“South Stream, as any other major infrastructure project in Europe, may only be developed and operated fully in line with EU law”, an EU official noted.

“Pipelines developed and operated in conflict with EU law endanger the functioning of the internal market”.

The EEC and commission complaints come after similar criticism of Bosnia and Serbia.

“It should be clear from the beginning that Serbia cannot accede to the EU without bringing this [South Stream] agreement into compliance [with EU law]”, Kopac told EUobserver earlier this month.

Russian president Vladmir Putin has said he hopes to make a deal on the situation with EU leaders.

But in the meantime, Gazprom is pressing ahead with construction of the offshore portion of the pipeline despite the dispute.

EU leaders at a summit in Brussels also on Thursday fretted over how to improve the Union’s energy security in view of its gas dependence on Russia and Russia’s war on Ukraine.

Among other provisions, their joint conclusions, published in the small hours of Friday, say the “Southern Gas Corridor” is one of the EU's “critical projects of common interest … to ensure diversification of energy suppliers”.

The southern corridor is a competing scheme to South Stream which aims to bring gas from the Caspian Sea to Europe, bypassing Russia.

In light of Kopac’s forceful statements, the conclusions noted that EU states will “further strengthen the [European] Energy Community, which aims to expand the EU's energy acquis to enlargement and neighbourhood countries, in the light of the EU's security of supply concerns”.

They added that EU countries should use “foreign policy instruments to convey consistent messages related to energy security, in particular to strategic partners”.

Hungary moves ahead with South Stream pipeline

Hungarian PM Viktor Orban has reiterated his support for the Russian South Stream gas pipeline after parliament gave the green light to a law which paves the way for construction.

Stakeholder

Southern Gas Corridor poses devastating consequences

The Southern Gas Corridor, one of the biggest pipelines ever conceived, presents severe risks and locks in a fossil fuel model instead of promoting a de-carbonised future, NGOs say.

News in Brief

  1. Spanish PM calls for EU gender equality strategy
  2. Farage says bigger Brexit majority if second referendum
  3. Macron starts 'grand debate' tour after yellow vests protests
  4. Barnier: up to London to take Brexit forward
  5. Stimulus still needed, ECB's Draghi says in final report
  6. May's Brexit deal defeated by 230 votes
  7. German economy hit by global economic turbulence
  8. MEPs narrowly call for end to 'tampon tax'

Analysis

China's 2019 growth outlook

As China's growth seems to be slowing, some observers see the country amid what the New York Times called a "severe downturn". As they mistake China's secular deceleration with cyclical fluctuations, they miss the rapid increase in Chinese living standards.

Opinion

The Azov crisis will backfire

Vladimir Putin's nightmare of Petro Poroshenko's re-election will be even certain as Ukrainians rally around the flag. Next March's election is not just to elect a new president but also a commander-in-chief to deal with five more years of Putin.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General

Latest News

  1. MEPs allow Draghi's membership of secretive bank group
  2. EU parliament backs Morocco deal despite row
  3. Barnier open to 'future relations' talks if UK red lines shift
  4. German spies to monitor far-right AfD party
  5. On Morocco, will the EU ignore its own court?
  6. UK parliament rejects May's Brexit deal in historic defeat
  7. EU suggests majority vote on digital tax by 2025
  8. MEPs redouble appeal on sexual harassment

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us