Russian gas exports could bypass Ukraine

The EU and Russia have resumed talks on gas pipeline under the Black Sea. The "South Stream" project will deliver natural gas from the Caucasus to Hungary, bypassing Ukraine.

The European Commission and Russia bilaterally will seek a solution to "South Stream" project, without revising intergovernmental agreements with transit countries as was insisted by European officials. This was reported today by "Vedomosti" sources citing exclusive comments of officials from the Russian Ministry of Energy and Gunther Oettinger, European Commissioner for Energy.

At the beginning of December last year, the European Commission announced unexpectedly that intergovernmental agreements on the "South Stream" project do not comply with the European legislation and must be completely reviewed. This applied to the agreements with Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, Slovenia and Croatia.

The EU officials claimed that the agreements do not take into account the requirements of the Third Energy Package (the laws mandatory on the EU territory) requiring access of alternative gas suppliers to all pipelines and prohibiting a gas supplier to control pipelines and set tariffs.

Harsh statements of euro-bureaucrats failed; moreover, Bulgaria, Hungary and Slovenia emerged with a single statement, that at the time of signing in 2008-2009 the agreements with Russia were in line with EU law.

“The project ["South Stream"] has a political support,” said the official response of the Hungarian Ministry of Energy, received back in December by “Vedomosti”.

On Friday, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak and EU Commissioner Oettinger agreed to establish a working group to discuss the legal and technical issues of the project. The working group will focus on making the "South Stream" functional in line with the EU legislation, said Deputy Energy Minister Anatoly Yanovsky to "Vedomosti". The work period for the group has not been set yet, informed the publication the representative of EU Commissioner for Energy; the relations between Russia and the European Commission are now in constructive phase. Russia's position is as follows: the intergovernmental agreements are based on the international law and take precedence over the EU legislation.

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