Nabucco pipeline a matter of EU ambition: Yushchenko

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Ukraine's former president Viktor Yushchenko urged the EU on Thursday to get serious about the uncertain Nabucco natural gas pipeline designed to bypass Russia to bring Caspian gas to Europe.

"I would say that Nabucco has the chance to be realised only under one condition: When the EU will have the necessary will and they will not look at this project as something which is additional," Ukraine's Orange Revolution hero said on the sidelined of the XXI Krynica Economic Forum in southern Poland, dubbed the "Davos of the East".

"It's a question of ambition and of creating an honest (energy) security mechanism," Yushchenko said.

The Nabucco pipeline designed to pump up to 31 billion cubic metres of gas per year from the Caspian Sea via Turkey to Austria -- thereby avoiding Russia and Ukraine -- is meant to help diversify gas sources for the 27-member European Union.

It would reduce dependency on Russia, as well as on Ukraine as a transit country.

Politically-charged gas transit rows between Moscow and Kiev have hit supplies to the EU over recent years thus compromising its energy security.

The initial plan was for the pipeline, estimated to cost about eight billion euros (11.25 billion dollars), to begin pumping gas by 2015, but this target has since been pushed back to 2017.

Nabucco is in competition with the South Stream pipeline plan pushed by Russian gas Goliath Gazprom and Italy's ENI, which also aims to pump Caspian supplies to Europe.

"If you make a South Stream (pipeline), then after the (supply) monopoly of Russia you also give to Russia a transport monopoly," Yushchenko warned.

"So I would like to ask how are you (taking responsibility) for the energy security of your countries, for the diversification of risks?" he quipped.

In July, Poland -- the EU's rotating president until the year's end -- brokered a deal on the bloc's talks with Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan on gas supplies for Nabucco.

EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger recently spoke of ongoing centralised, European Commission-led negotiations with Azerbaijan, which he said has promised stable supplies at favourable rates for the long term.

The talks come amid a controversial new push by Brussels to prevent big EU members from negotiating their own direct energy deals, with for example Libya or Russia.

The EU, home to half a billion consumers and about 20 million companies in 27 states, imports 80 percent of its oil and 60 percent of its gas requirements.

© 2011 AFP

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