Barroso, Eastern EU Leaders Set Start of North-South Energy Corridor

Bulgaria in EU | February 4, 2011, Friday // 07:03|  views

L-R: Hungary PM Viktor Orban, Czech PM Petr Necas, Slovakia PM Iveta Radicova, EC President Barroso, Romanian President Traian Basescu, Bulgarian PM Boyko Borisov, Polish PM Donald Tusk in Brussels. EPA/BGNES

EC President Jose Manuel Barroso and the leaders of six EU member states in Eastern Europe including Bulgaria have agreed to set the start of the so called "North-South Gas Corridor."

The new EU energy security initiative was formally approved by Barroso and six leaders of Eastern European states at a dinner at the EC headquarters in Brussels late Thrusday night.

The meeting was in the format "Visegrad+" (i.e. the Visegrad Four - Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary - plus Bulgaria and Romania), and was attended by Hungary PM Viktor Orban, Czech PM Petr Necas, Slovakia PM Iveta Radicova, Romanian President Traian Basescu, Bulgarian PM Boyko Borisov, and Polish PM Donald Tusk.

The strategic concept behind the North-South natural gas interconnection first announced formally by EC President Barroso on January 31, 2011, is to link the energy systems in the area located among the Baltic Sea in the North, the Adriatic in the Southwest and the Black Sea in the Southeast, covering Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria, as well as possibly Austria and EU hopeful Croatia.

"This is the latest practical example of Europe's value added to its citizens," Barroso said when he first announced the project.

In the longer term, the European Commission foresees an extension of this integration process to non-EU signatories in the Energy Community Treaty (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Serbia and Kosovo).

The North-South corridor will first focus on natural gas transit and interconnections but will also deal with oil transit and electricity.

It is expected to have a special role in EU's energy strategy, and to boost the energy security and independence of the countries in the Eastern part of the EU, and to help their economic development. Its realization will practically make the region of Central and Eastern Europe less vulnerable to a supply cut through the Russia/Ukraine/Belarus route.

The Russia-Ukraine energy war in January 2009 in particular taught the eastern part of the EU a very tough lesson in that regard as it exposed its dependence of natural gas supplies from Russia and the underdevelopment of their energy links.

The project for the North-South energy corridor in the Eastern EU is supposed to be formally approved by the Union by the end of 2011, and to be able to rely on getting EU funding. Until then, it will be handled by a special working group.

The EU Observer has pointed out that the North-South corridor is also part of a wider plan to boost the attractiveness of South Eastern Europe for investors or producers, as well to reduce energy poverty as a considerable share of the population in South Eastern Europe spends a relatively high share of income on energy, leading to energy poverty.

Before reaching the EU level, preparatory work has been carried out in the Visegrad+ format, which gathers the four countries of the Visegrad group (Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary) as well as EU members Austria, Bulgaria, Romania and, Slovenia and EU hopefuls Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

A declaration signed in February 2010 expresses those countries' joint support for North-South interconnections. Among the projects mentioned are planned Croatian and Polish Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminals, the Constanta LNG terminal in Romania and other LNG and compressed natural gas (CNG) projects in the wider Black Sea region.

Other projects cited are plans to further promote Nabucco and NETS, a Hungarian project to unite Central and South Eastern Europe's natural gas transmission networks by creating a common gas transmission system operator (TSO).

Barroso's meeting in Brussels with the six Eastern EU leaders including Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov took place a day before the regular sitting of the European Council, scheduled for Friday.

The sitting of EU's state leaders will tackle two main issues - energy and innovations. Policies regarding EU's Energy Strategy for 2020 are expected to be discussed, including the transition towards an effective low-carbon economy.

The measures towards improving the Union's energy market, and more precisely the missing key energy connections, as well as the EU countries' more effective coordination in the external energy policy.

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Tags: Baltic Sea, Adriatic Sea, Black Sea, Croatia, Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania, Hungary, Poland, electricity, oil, natural gas, North-South Energy Corridor, north-south, Eastern Europe, EC, EU, Jose Manuel Barroso, Boyko Borisov, Traian Basescu, Petr Necas, Viktor Orban, Iveta Racovska, Donalk Tusk


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