Gerhard Roiss, CEO of top Austrian gas company OMV, on Monday defended the South Stream gas pipeline project and stressed Europe's dependence on Russian energy.
In light of the recent turmoil between Russia and Ukraine, Roiss said a supply of energy to Europe without Russia in the picture is an unrealistic scenario.
Europe currently receives one third of its gas from Russia, in some regions even up to 100 percent, and Europe provides cars and machines as an economic exchange.
"One should not make this economic integration into a political football," he told the Wirtschaftsblatt economic newspaper, adding that it was a basis for economic prosperity.
His comments came the day before a visit to Austria by Russian President Vladimir Putin, with whom he is expected to sign a contract agreed upon in April on bringing the South Stream gas pipeline, which would not pass through Ukraine, to Austria.
Roiss renewed his backing for the project and called for its acceleration, while acknowledging it would still have to conform to European law.
The European Commission has said the project could potentially be approved, but Roiss acknowledged a main sticking point is due to both its ownership and operation remaining in the hands of Russian-owned Gazprom, which is against EU law.
He said while the laws of the EU undoubtedly should be applied to such instances, exceptions could be made in some areas, though the onus would be on Gazprom to negotiate.
Roiss also called for the construction of a larger number of gas pipelines in the continent to create a "real cross-border flow" as he believed the current network of gas highways "isn't working."
Additionally, wherever large gas supplies exist, investors should be given the opportunity to build gas highways, he said.