MOSCOW, October 22. /TASS/. The European Commission (EC) welcomes the construction of the Nord Stream pipeline through which natural gas will be supplied directly to Germany and other Western European countries, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said on Thursday in an interview to the Rossiya 24 TV channel. At the same time, the EC criticised the South Stream gas pipeline, which would be beneficial to small EU member states that have an advantageous position of Russian gas transit countries.
According to him, the European Commission has been very critical of South Stream. Now, the staunchest opponents of its construction "do not so strongly object to the Nord Stream" gas pipeline. It’s because the project involves major companies from Russia and Western Europe, the minister said. "And we have the impression that maybe due to the fact that the Balkan countries are not as big and influential as EU members, our project may be cancelled, and the other project is criticised less because it involves major players," Szijjarto said.
The main argument of the South Stream critics is that the pipeline was planned to be built bypassing Ukraine. However, the Nord Stream pipeline will also bypass Ukraine, only not from the south, but from the north, the Hungarian foreign minister said. "There is no difference. It’s a very good example of double standards in Europe," he added.
Szijjarto also said that 85% of gas consumed by Hungary is supplied to the country by Russia. The fuel transit goes through the territory of Ukraine. "We understand that Russia intends to close this transit channel through Ukraine, and it’s a major challenge for us, because the South Stream project, unfortunately, will not be implemented," he said.
On September 4, Russia’s natural gas monopoly Gazprom signed a shareholder agreement on the Nord Stream-2 pipeline project. The capacity of the gas pipeline will be 55 billion cubic metres a year. It will be pumping gas through the Baltic Sea directly to Germany, the UK, the Netherlands, France, Denmark and other countries, bypassing Ukraine. Thus, the strategic energy flows will bypass Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and Ukraine.
The Gazprom-controlled Nord Stream-2 project envisages two pipelines directly from Russia to Germany, bypassing transit countries including Ukraine and Poland, with an annual capacity of almost 15% of current EU demand when it starts in 2019, Bloomberg reported in early September. The link would reduce Russia’s dependence on Ukraine, a linchpin in gas supplies to Europe, amid a conflict between the ex-Soviet nations. "The insecurity in this context stems from the egoism of some nations and their complete disregard for the interest of other nations," according to Poland’s President Andrzej Duda. "That makes it hard to believe in Europe’s unity," he said then. Before Gazprom can start pumping gas via Nord Stream-2, Russia will need to reach an accord with the EU to comply with the bloc’s energy rules, which require that gas marketing and transport be separated.