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Home >> Opinion
UPDATED: 09:59, July 02, 2007
Russia plays "energy card"
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Russia is interested in partnership and cooperation, in the field of energy, with the countries of Southeastern Europe and all of Europe, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on June 24th, at the Energy Summit of Southeast European Countries held in Zagreb, the capital and the largest city of Croatia.

Putin hopes precise aims will be outlined for cooperation among Russia, the Balkan countries, and the European Union in the field of energy and transport of energy sources.

Putin attended the 15th Anniversary Summit of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) on June 25th. He announced at the summit that "energy security and sustainable energy supplies were among the most important factors of progress."

Sources suggested that Russia's recurrent energy plan aims at continuously consolidating the nation's status as a world energy power, so that it could further increase its involvement in international and regional affairs.

Energy security was at the top of the agenda in the two summits since the world's energy demand and supply are not balanced. "As one of the world major energy producers and transport countries, Russia should do its best to help other countries to solve energy problems," said Putin. Putin also called for a project to create a Black Sea electric energy ring which could synchronize the energy systems of Western, Central and Southern Europe, with the energy systems of the Commonwealth of Independent States and Baltic states; and lay a foundation for building a single energy market in Europe.

Before Putin's visit to the two summits, Russian energy giant, Gazprom, and Italy's ENI, signed a memorandum on June 23rd, on the construction of a new natural gas pipeline extending from Russia to Europe, across the Black Sea to Rome.

Under this plan, more than 900 kilometers (550 miles) of pipeline could be laid down under the sea and across Bulgaria, before splitting off in two directions: north through Hungary to reach Austria, and south through Greece and on to Otranto, a port near the southeastern tip of Italy. It could carry approximately 30 billion cubic meters of natural gas a year. The project is expected to be completed in three years.

Italy's Minister of Industry, Pierluigi Bersani, considers the pipeline to be "a deal between Russia and Europe," and will increase Europe's energy security.

Although the project needs a couple of months for practical study, the project is the focus of both the Energy Summit of Southeast European Countries and the Summit of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC).

Bulgaria and Greece announced in March that the two nations would participate in the construction of the project. Greek Prime Minister, Costas Karamanlis, said that the pipeline will benefit all European countries, and will also help strengthen energy security and the diversity of natural gas corridors to the European Union.

According to public opinion, the pipeline will have similar roles to the North Europe Gas Pipeline, as it will not only help Russia cut down its reliance on the countries it bypasses while transporting natural gas, and send natural gas directly to Western, Central and Southern Europe. It could also avoid a negative impact on the export of natural gas due to political factors, as well as reduce export costs.

Putin once said, "As one of the most important securers of energy, Russia will not neglect any energy problem." After Russia raised natural gas prices for Belarus, Russia signed an agreement with Greece and Bulgaria in March to construct a trans-Balkan oil pipeline which will enable Russian oil firms to sidestep bottlenecks and boost oil exports. Later on, Russia announced a deal with Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, to re-build the gas pipeline from Central Asia to Russia.

Analysts say Russia is gaining an advantage in safeguarding national energy security and promoting energy export diversity, as its comprehensive strength continues to grow.

By People's Daily Online

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