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Putin, Berlusconi say Germany welcome to join South Stream

Published on October 09, 2010

Germany is welcome to take part in the Russian-led South Stream pipeline that aims to transport Russian gas to Europe, the prime ministers of Russia and Italy said on Saturday.

Press reports have said Wintershall, the oil and gas subsidiary of Germany’s BASF, is interested in the pipeline and may take a stake of up to 20 percent by the end of the year.

“As for the participation of one German company, I think that this would be an absolutely positive contribution,” Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi told his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in talks in Saint Petersburg.

“This would show an interest from the European Union in this very important project which is designed to deliver gas to the European Union,” he added in comments broadcast on Russian state television.

Putin replied that this was “perfect” and would be worked on by the participants in the South Stream project.

The company involved was not named but Wintershall has been the one German firm repeatedly cited in recent press reports. Reports that a stake has been offered to German power firm RWE were denied in July.

Wintershall’s involvement may be seen as a blow for the competing EU-backed Nabucco pipeline which aims to reduce European dependency on Russian energy by transporting gas from Central Asia and the Caucasus direct to Europe.

Any deal with Germany would however boost the credibility of South Stream which already involves Russian giant Gazprom Italian energy company ENI and and French group EDF.

The South Stream pipeline plans to carry Russian gas under the Black Sea and into the Balkans to create a new energy route to Europe that will by-pass Ukraine.

Russian officials have on occasion shown disdain for the Nabucco project, wondering where the gas to fill it will come from even if it is built.