GAS : SOUTH STREAM TECHNICAL TALKS STILL ON SCHEDULE - COMMISSION.
Despite Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger's recent comments that he will delay talks on the South Stream gas pipeline, EU and Russian officials are still planning to meet later this month to discuss the project's technical challenges, his office confirmed, on 10 March.
"It is still the aim to have the working group on South Stream at technical level in order to discuss the relevant legal and technical aspects," Commissioner Oettinger's spokesperson said during a briefing. "The Commission is interested in a solution, we've been given the political mandate by the member states to do so, but of course we need to take the developments as regards the overall relationship between the EU and Russia into account."
In an interview with the German newspaper Die Welt published on 10 March, Oettinger said he will delay talks on the pipeline project, which is meant to bring Russian gas into the EU through the Black Sea. He linked his comments to the Ukraine crisis, saying Europe does not have to fear a gas supply problem as officials are trying to find a solution to Russian troops taking control of Crimea.
The commissioner's comments were focused on the political aspects, his spokesperson clarified. Sources in Bulgaria have also told Europolitics Energy the future of South Stream is in jeopardy (see separate article)
Technical discussions between the two parties - the first one to be held later this month - are meant to bring the pipeline in line with EU rules. The Commission said, in December 2013, that all the intergovernmental agreements Russia signed with the participating member states (Austria, Bulgaria, Italy, Greece, Hungary, Croatia and Slovenia) are not in accordance with the EU's third energy package.