EU calls for united stand against Russia in pipeline row

13th June 2014, Comments 0 comments

The EU called Friday on all 28 member states to stand united in resisting pressure from Russia over its South Stream pipeline after Bulgaria suspended work on the project.

"The European Union must speak with one voice," EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger said.

"We do not always have to give in to the Russians," Oettinger said, after Russia charged that Brussels had forced Bulgaria to stop work on the project as a way of putting pressure on Moscow over the Ukraine crisis.

Backed by Russian energy giant Gazprom, Italy's ENI and France's EDF, Moscow has planned for South Stream to bypass Ukraine where pipelines from Russia carry 15 percent of Europe's annual gas needs.

From Bulgaria, the pipeline would go through non-EU member Serbia -- where work continues -- then on to Italy, Austria and the rest of Europe.

The EU said earlier this month that Bulgaria had awarded contracts for its leg of the pipeline that breached the bloc's competition rules.

"The Russians know the EU rules in detail but they do not accept them," Oettinger said at a meeting with his EU colleagues.

"It is not the (European) Commission which is at fault here. We apply the rules that (member states) have approved," he said.

"We demand that EU laws on public works contracts, environmental protection and competition be respected," he added.

The commissioner has chaired several rounds of talks between Russia and Ukraine in an effort to resolve a bitter gas price dispute, but so far without success.

Gazprom has threatened to cut off supplies to Ukraine on Monday unless Kiev pays its outstanding bills and agrees a framework for future deliveries.

Analysts say there is little prospect of Bulgaria resuming work on South Stream until there is real progress on the Ukraine crisis.

© 2014 AFP

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