Baku, Azerbaijan, June 21
By Elena Kosolapova – Trend:
A number of states are interested in the revival of the South Stream project, which envisages the supply of Russian gas to southeastern Europe, but the reasons that forced Russia to abandon its implementation in late 2014 still remain, Deputy Executive Director for Energy Studies at Russian Institute for Energy and Finance Alexei Belogoryev told Trend June 21.
Last week, Austrian media reported that Russia’s Gazprom and Austria’s OMV secretly discuss the possibility of revival of the South Stream project. OMV declined to comment on the issue and Gazprom said that this is not true.
“Rumors about the revival of South Stream are spreading from Europe. They are based on real initiatives of countries that previously participated in it – primarily, Austria, Hungary, and Serbia – and initially were against the rejection of this project,” Belogoryev told Trend.
According to him, Bulgaria, which was largely responsible for the disruption of this project earlier, also shows interest towards South Stream through its Energy Ministry.
Over the past two years, these countries have constantly reminded that there is interest in this project, and they suffered because Russia unilaterally discarded it, he noted.
Meanwhile, Belogoryev added, there are no clear signals from Russia about the resumption of South Stream, although, for Gazprom it would be economically much more interesting than the current Turkish Stream for gas supply to northern Italy and Central Europe.
“In this sense, if there was a chance of its resumption, I think Gazprom would not refuse it,” said the expert.
“However, Russia will be ready to resume this project only when it is provided with exemptions from the EU Third Energy Package,” said Belogoryev.
The European Commission’s refusal to grant these exemptions was the reason forcing Gazprom to abandon the South Stream’s implementation. The Third Energy Package norms, particularly, envisage that one supplier can use no more than 50 percent of pipeline capacity, and the rest should be auctioned.
Belogoryev said it is unlikely that this demand of the Russian side will be fulfilled at present, since the attitude towards South Stream hasn’t changed over the past two years in Europe, and the weight of its supporters – Austria, Hungary and Bulgaria – is not so great in the European Union.
“The main stumbling block is Germany, which is categorically against the project. This is related not to economic reasons, but to the fact that Russia initially positioned South Stream as a project based on which political and economic relations with the Balkan countries will develop, and Germany absolutely doesn’t want to see Russia’s strengthening in these countries,” added the expert.
Given the current realities in the EU, especially after Brexit, the implementation of South Stream will be impossible without Germany’s approval, said Belogoryev.
Moreover, Germany supports the Nord Stream 2, which to some extent can be considered as an alternative project for the supply of Russian gas to the countries of Central Europe, including Austria and Hungary.
According to him, Russian gas is already being supplied to the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and even in small volumes to Hungary via the Nord Stream 1. Thus, after the commissioning of Nord Stream 2, the only market remaining unreached by Gazprom will be the Italian market, concluded Belogoryev.
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