Brussels takes the focus to South Stream

The main players behind the South Stream project are lobbying the European Parliament to give the final go-ahead for the multi-billion-dollar project, with the European Commission saying it's supporting the pipeline, but on particular terms.

It's become a battle of wills, with Gazprom and its South Stream partners on one side, and the European Commission on the other.

South Stream say they're ready to start building, but the EU has put a spanner in the works with its new energy market legislation, with Gunther Oettinger, Commissioner for energy at European Commission, saying the project should comply with particular internal market requirements, and that Gazprom, Russian monopoly gas exporter, needs to open up its supply pipelines to independent gas producers in Russia, for access to Europe.

“South Stream, when it is on the EU territory, it will be subject to the third internal market package. And as a transmission pipeline it will be subject to the internal market rules. If South Stream, for example, gives access to gas independent active in Russia, then South Stream would deliver on 2 criteria. Namely, diversification of routes and counterparties. That means a stronger contribution to Europeandiversification efforts.”

In turn, Aleksey Miller, CEO at Gazprom, noted Russia’s reliability as a gas producer and supplier to Europe, adding that its gas infrastructure investment – key future supply issue – underlined its commitment.

“A lot has been debated about the necessity of investment into Europe’s gas infrastructure. In the last decade the only partner that took risks and obligations for building gas transportation networks has been and still is Russia. That proves better than anything that Russia will be a partner to be relied on. In the 21st century we’ll be able to supply as much gas to Europe, as it will need.”

However, the project’s rival, Nabucco pipeline, aimed at by-passing Russia, has been granted an exclusion from the new EU rules, something Russia isn't happy with.