Macedonia Closer to Joining South Stream
Macedonia appears to be very close to being included in the South Stream gas transit pipeline after its government held talks with Gazprom officials on Friday.
"It is quite likely that Macedonia will be involved in gas pipeline "South Stream", with a number of options reviewed how to do this, whether as its arm or as transit line. We need to complete the technical analyses on the pipeline profitability, followed by the signing of an inter-governmental agreement with Russia on its realization," Macedonian Deputy PM and Finance Minister Zoran Stavreski said, as cited by the Macedonian agency MINA, after Friday's meeting with representatives of Russian energy giant Gazprom in Skopje.
Stavreski has clearly defined Friday's talks as a step forward in the realization of the gas pipeline in Macedonia and it was almost certain that the country would be involved in the project.
"Gazprom's arrival in Macedonia will make the country more attractive to investors due to the stability in supply with environment-friendly and cheap energy, but will at the same time result in the development of Macedonia's economy," he declared .
Macedonia government has already established "Makedonija Gas", a special company to work together with "Gazprom" on South Stream. Depending on the gas needs of Kosovo and Albania, a South Stream arm towards Macedonia or a transit route would be constructed.
Gazprom head of project management Leonid Chugunov is quoted as saying that a period of at least one year was required for technical preparations in order to decide which of the two options to use.
In June 2010, a delegation to Moscow led by Macedonia's President George Ivanov sounded out the possibilities for joining the project.
The Russian government has signed intergovernmental agreements with Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, Greece, Slovenia, Croatia and Austria to implement the land phase of the project, which aims to ship up to 63 billion cubic meters of Russian gas per year under the Black Sea to central and southern Europe.
In June, Macedonian President Ivanov met his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev, and other high-ranking Russian officials, including the head of Russian gas company Gazprom Alexei Miller.
The South Stream pipeline, a project of Gazprom, Italy's Eni, and France's EDF, is projected to deliver gas from Russia through the Black Sea and then on to Southern Italy and Austria in two branches. Up to now, plans include the pipeline branching up in Bulgarian territory northwards to Serbia, Hungary and ultimately Austria, and southwards through Greece and ultimately southern Italy.
As Romania has already joined the project, inclusion of Macedonia could help Russia completely circumvent Bulgaria in the execution of the project if relations with the government in Sofia become strained.
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What do big Eurasian energy pipelines have in common with U.S. military projects? Once they're proposed, they refuse to die -- they assume a life of their own, and haunt us until someone finally manages to drive a stake into their heart. And by that time, the chessboard has wholly changed, forcing everyone to adjust to a new set of rules..
So it appears to be with the proposed Nabucco natural gas pipeline, a 2,100-mile system intended to help diversify Europe's energy supply away from Russia. Liquefied natural gas is lapping up on Europe's shores; other, cheaper proposed pipelines can transport Baku gas to the continent; and Russia itself, cognizant of massive changes in the global energy market, has moved the playing field some 4,500 miles east, to China. Yet Nabucco's diehard supporters, including the United States, refuse to get over the champagne days of the Baku-Ceyhan oil pipeline and its victory over Moscow.
In Istanbul today, Richard Morningstar, the U.S. State Department's Eurasian energy envoy, rightly made all the gestures of reading out a requiem for Nabucco. He suggested, without saying so explicitly, that the only way the pipeline can work is if an unlikely confluence of events occurs by March: Iraq would have to form a new government, and strike an energy-sharing deal with Kurdistan, so that Kurdish gas can go north. It's a set of conditionals that verge on Paul Wolfowitz's war-cost ledger sheet. Yet, while obviously prepared to brandish the stake, Morningstar doesn't appear ready actually to hammer it in. "Nabucco is the best option for a new European pipeline," Morningstar told his audience, which is "why it is important to do everything possible to line up additional early sources of gas from Iraq and elsewhere."