Austria is interested in the implementation of the South Stream natural gas pipeline project, which would help to diversify routes of gas supplies to Europe, Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz said on Monday.
Speaking to journalists before the session of the foreign ministers of the EU member states in Luxembourg, Kurz said Europe needs not only as many suppliers as possible, but to diversify routes of the natural gas supplies as well, and therefore Austria with at least five more European countries support the South Stream project.
The project was put on hold, when on June 9, Bulgaria said it suspended preparation works on the construction of its section of the South Stream upon the instructions from the European Union.
The European Union’s executive body, the European Commission, first voiced its intention to suspend the implementation of the South Stream project in the EU member states, primarily in Bulgaria, on June 2.
European Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger’s spokeswoman Sabine Berger said the commission’s move to suspend the implementation of the pipeline project was based on two reasons.
Firstly, she said, the commission was concerned whether the project conformed to the norms of the EU’s Third Energy Package. Secondly, Brussels suspected Sofia of violating European regulations for holding tenders for construction of infrastructure projects and of granting privileged opportunities to Russian and Bulgarian companies.
An unnamed source in the EU Council told ITAR-TASS last week that leaders of the European Union’s 28 member states plan to discuss the issue of the South Stream project implementation at the June 26-27 summit in the Belgian capital of Brussels. He said the issue would be discussed with the aim of reducing the energy dependence of the EU member states on Russia.
Russian state energy giant Gazprom is implementing the South Stream project to diversify deliveries of natural gas to Europe bypassing Ukraine with the aim of reducing dependence on transit countries.
The South Stream Transport B.V. company is an international joint venture organized to carry out planning, construction and subsequent operation of the gas pipeline that will be laid through the Black Sea to Bulgaria and on to Italy and Austria.
Gazprom’s share in the joint venture totals 50%, Italy’s Eni holds 20%, France’s EDF and Germany’s Wintershall Holding GmbH hold 15% each.
The sea section of South Stream will run along the bottom of the Black Sea from the Russkaya compressor plant on the Russian coast to Bulgaria’s coast. The overall length of the sea section will total over 900 kilometers (560 miles), the maximum depth will exceed two kilometers and the annual design capacity stands at 63 billion cubic meters.
The first supplies of natural gas via the pipeline are scheduled for late 2015.