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Russia, EU meet over Brussels challenge to South Stream project law

January 24, 2014, 14:25 UTC+3 BRUSSELS

Experts have discussed an EU ruling that challenges legal foundations of the planned South Stream pipeline taking Russian gas to Europe

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BRUSSELS, January 24. /ITAR-TASS/. Experts from Russia and the European Union have met for the first time to discuss an EU ruling that challenges legal foundations of the planned South Stream pipeline taking Russian gas to Europe.

They convened to resolve a decision from Brussels that an agreement between Russian exporting monopoly Gazprom and EU transit route countries infringes EU law contained in the over-arching Third Energy Package. National agreements have been signed with Bulgaria, Hungary, Serbia, Austria, Slovenia and Croatia.

Points of contention

Contention centers on third party access to the pipeline, capacity distribution and tariff regulation. Resolution of these issues will become the basis for future decisions of national regulating authorities and the European Commission.

The Gazprom-led project will have capacity to deliver 63 billion cubic meters across the Black Sea to Southern and Central Europe, diversifying natural gas transportation routes and excluding transit risks.

Its surface route will cross Bulgaria into Serbia, Hungary and Slovenia to terminate at the gas distribution station in the Italian town of Tarvisio. Spur branches will be laid from the main line to connect with Croatia, a 51 kilometer-section, and with the Republika Srpska, travelling 109 kilometers.

Legal basis for the project

The working group’s task is to find a solid legal base for South Stream’s operations in the EU compliant with European regulatory requirements so the project’s legal integrity can be guaranteed, said press officer for the EC’s energy policy department Nicole Bockstaller.

Its first session was led by Russian Deputy Minister of Energy Anatoly Yanovsky and the head of the EU’s energy department, Dominique Ristori. The second meeting is scheduled for February.

Marlene Holzner, speaking for EU Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger, announced in December last year that agreements with national jurisdictions needed revision. Russia's Ministry of Energy received official notification from the EU on December 5 citing contravention of the Third Energy Package, triggering a Russian response.

South Stream is due to start operations by the end of 2015.

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