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Moscow preparing for conflict with European Union over South Stream gas pipeline

January 15, 2014, 12:01 UTC+3 World Service) ¶ 15/1 Tass ¶ MOSCOW
On Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin met Hungarian Prime Minister with Viktor Orban
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MOSCOW, January 15. /ITAR-TASS World Service/. The Kremlin is preparing for conflict with the European Union over the South Stream gas pipeline, the Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper writes. On Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin met Hungarian Prime Minister with Viktor Orban, who, along with other project participants, actually refused from the initial agreements with Moscow and gave them to Brussels for revision. On Tuesday, the European Commission demanded from the Russian authorities to change the terms of bilateral gas agreements between Russia and the European countries on the territory of which the South Stream gas pipeline was to be built. At the beginning of December 2013, the European Union recognized the interstate agreements on the construction of the pipeline as not conforming to the EU norms, the newspaper writes.

On Friday, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak will hold difficult talks with European Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger, the newspaper emphasizes. The main theme at them will be the conflict over South Stream, the construction of which, in the opinion of the European Union, is contrary to the EU internal law. The Russian Energy Ministry’s position on this issue is uncompromising. “South Stream is a cross-border infrastructure facility, and it is not subject to EU legislation. The EU current legislation on energy does not determine the regulatory regime of the cross-border infrastructure to which South Stream belongs, it is aimed only at the regulation of the network infrastructure within the EU,” representatives of the Russian Energy Ministry told the newspaper.

However, Brussels has another position. “The EU commissioner will remind minister Novak that these bilateral intergovernmental agreements should be reviewed,” European Commission spokesperson Sabine Berger told a briefing in Brussels on Tuesday.

Partner of the RusEnergy consulting firm Michael Krutikhin, quoted by Nezavisimaya Gazeta, believes that because of the firm position of Moscow and Brussels, negotiations on the South Stream pipeline could be dragged out significantly. “All Russian proposals are more like an ultimatum. So far, neither the European Commission nor Gazprom want to make concessions. The EU has noted that concessions are possible only if Russia takes a flexible stance. So far there is little evidence that it is going to act this way,” the expert said.


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