Monday

16th Sep 2019

Juncker calls Putin's bluff on South Stream

  • "The ball is in Russia's court" on South Stream, according to EU commission president Juncker (Photo: south-stream-offshore.com)

European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker on Thursday (4 December) called Vladimir Putin's bluff on a ditched gas pipeline project, South Stream.

Juncker said the commission's view is that "South Stream can be built" and that this is "nothing new."

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

"The ball is in Russia's court," Juncker said.

He also said he will not accept that Bulgaria, who already started construction on its part of the pipeline, be blackmailed by Russia.

The remarks come after Russian president Vladimir Putin earlier this week announced he is scrapping the project altogether because Bulgaria is not granting all the necessary permits. He urged the Bulgarian government to seek compensation from the EU over the lost investment.

Earlier this year, the EU commission told Bulgaria to suspend work on the pipeline, citing concerns that EU public tender rules were breached.

Juncker, who took office on 1 November, said that "as regards South Stream, the European Union and Bulgaria are working together to solve the outstanding issues. These outstanding issues are not insurmountable."

Asked whether he also ceased to consider Russia as a "strategic partner" but rather a "strategic problem", as the new EU council chief, Donald Tusk, recently put it, Juncker said: "Yes, Russia is a strategic problem. But I hope it can soon become a strategic partner again, we will do our best to achieve this."

Bulgarian prime minister Bojko Borisov, speaking alongside Juncker, said Russia has not given any official notification about the cancellation of the project.

Borisov said Putin's statements were "premature" and gave reassurances that Bulgaria - and the EU commission - want South Stream to be built.

The pipeline, which would cross the Black Sea, has been often criticised as a political project that makes no commercial sense because of the high construction costs. It is aimed at circumventing Ukraine, currently the main transit country for EU's gas imports from Russia.

But with the ongoing war in Ukraine, Putin may no longer feel the need to pressure Kiev with an alternative gas pipeline. And with the EU sanctions taking a toll on the Russian economy, funds are scarce for him to go ahead with the project.

Speaking in Moscow on Thursday in his annual address to the nation, Putin blamed the West for seeking to destroy the Russian economy and praised his people for their resilience.

He suggested the West was so determined to destroy Russia that sanctions would have been imposed even without the crisis in Ukraine.

But he also promised amnesty for people who repatriated their capital, with no questions asked on how they earned it.

Capital flight from Russia is expected to reach €100bn this year and the Kremlin may resort to capital controls.

Analysis

How should the EU handle Russia now?

Should the West help the Russian opposition to try topple the regime, or make new deals with Putin, as France is keen to do?

News in Brief

  1. Nearly 100 refugees evacuated from Libya to Italy
  2. Juncker to meet Johnson on Monday
  3. First Hungary 'Article 7' hearing set for Monday
  4. Vestager picks Danish EU ambassador as cabinet head
  5. Commissioner hearings will start 30 September
  6. Italy says EU countries agree to take in rescued migrants
  7. Germany to organise Libya conference on arms embargo
  8. European Parliament to support another Brexit delay

Opinion

Time to pay attention to Belarus

Belarus may be hosting the European Games, but Vladimir Putin is not playing games when it comes to Belarus' independence. The West needs to get serious as well.

Analysis

EU should stop an insane US-Iran war

"If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!", US president Donald Trump tweeted on Monday (20 May).

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  2. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  6. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  8. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  9. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  10. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  11. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat

Latest News

  1. Brexit and new commission in focus This WEEK
  2. As recession looms Europe needs more spending
  3. How should the EU handle Russia now?
  4. EU defence bravado criticised by auditors
  5. Central European leaders demand EU Balkan accession
  6. Luxembourg's cannabis legalisation is EU opportunity
  7. The Catalan National Day has been a success. Why?
  8. Why I'm voting against the von der Leyen commission

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us