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EU Official Raps Russia Gas Plan 23 janvier 2015

Posted by Acturca in Energy / Energie, EU / UE, Russia / Russie, Turkey / Turquie.
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The Wall Street Journal Europe (USA) Friday-Sunday, January 23-25, 2015, p. 8

By Stephen Fidler in Davos, Switzerland, and Gabriele Steinhauser in Brussels

Maros Sefcovic Says a Pipeline From Russia Through Turkey Wouldn’t Have Enough Demand. Russia’s plan to build a new pipeline through Turkey and bypass Ukraine as a transit country for shipping gas to the European Union won’t work, the EU’s energy chief said on Thursday.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Maros Sefcovic said the capacity foreseen for the project, some 63 billion cubic meters of natural gas a year, surpasses demand from potential customers, including Turkey and South Eastern Europe.

“A first assessment is that this would not work,” Mr. Sefcovic said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced in December that Moscow was dropping plans to build a big pipeline, known as South Stream, through the Black Sea to Bulgaria due to disagreements with the EU over control of the project. Instead, Mr. Putin said, Russia and its state- owned energy company OAO Gazprom would pursue an alternative transit route, provisionally dubbed Turk Stream, that would deliver gas to the border between Turkey and Greece.

Gazprom has been keen to find new ways to ship gas to the EU—its biggest foreign customer— that avoid Ukraine, whose troubles with Russia have led to supply cuts in the past. That ambition is shared by countries in Southeastern Europe, such as Bulgaria, that rely on Russia and the Ukraine route for much, if not all, of their gas supply. It has, however, raised concerns in Brussels, where policy makers don’t want to undermine Kiev’s remaining leverage against Moscow or fortify the EU’s dependence on Russian gas.

Mr. Sefcovic dismissed warnings from Gazprom’s Chief Executive Alexei Miller following a meeting between the two in Moscow last week that the EU needed to start building pipelines to the Turkish-Greek border “today” if it wanted to receive Russian gas beyond 2019, when the company’s contract with Ukraine expires.

“I believe the Russians will have to look at this option again and come up with a viable economic solution that’s also acceptable to the European partners,” he said.

In the meantime, the EU is intensifying efforts to come up with its own strategy to ensure energy supplies to countries in its southeast. Ukraine will announce on Friday that it can now import around 40 million cubic meters of gas a day from the EU, up from 31.5 million cubic meters until now, Mr. Sefcovic said. Ukrainian gas company Naftogaz said on Thursday that just 33%, or around 500 million cubic meters, of the gas it purchased in December came from Russia, a steep drop from 95% a year earlier.

To ensure that shipments from Russia to Ukraine continue beyond an EU-brokered deal that expires at the end of March, negotiations between the two sides should start very soon, Mr. Sefcovic said, with experts kicking off talks before the end of January.

“We are ready to play this role of honest broker,” he said, adding that involvement by the European Commission, the EU’s executive, could help Kiev secure the necessary financing from international financial institutions. Both the commission and the International Monetary Fund are currently working on a new multibillion aid package for Kiev.

In February, the EU will also start work on an “energy master plan” for its southern, central and eastern member states, Mr. Sefcovic said. On Feb. 9, energy ministers from the region will meet for talks in Sofia, Bulgaria, followed later that week by a visit to Baku, Azerbaijan, an important alternative supplier for the EU.

At the end of February, the commission will publish its vision for what he called an “energy union,” Mr. Sefcovic’s main project for his five- year term, along with a draft plan for building pipelines between EU member states. Such “interconnectors” will allow gas to be shipped between countries, similar to what Slovakia and Hungary have been doing for Ukraine, and cut individual states’ dependence on single suppliers to supply routes.

“We are tired of being worried every summer if we would have enough energy in the winter,” Mr. Sefcovic said. “The biggest economy in the world shouldn’t have such a worry and the biggest customer who pays €400 billion ($644 billion) a year shouldn’t be worried if somebody will keep energy flowing when we pay for it.”

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