EU moves step closer to non-Russia gas link-up
By Barbara Lewis
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Europe moved a step closer to loosening Russia's grip on European Union energy supplies after Italy, Albania and Greece signed an agreement supporting the construction of a pipeline to deliver gas from Azerbaijan.
At a ceremony in New York on Thursday, the three countries signed a memorandum of understanding bringing the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) closer to reality, although building was not likely to commence until 2014 or 2015.
The deal improves TAP's chances against Nabucco West, the other remaining contender in the race to become the first pipeline to deliver Azeri gas to Europe, diversifying the supply. Nabucco West would run from the Turkish border via a northerly gas hub in Austria while TAP would link to Europe via Italy.
TAP's managing director Kjetil Tungland called the agreement "a testament to TAP's commercial and technical strengths" and the European commissioner for energy, Guenther Oettinger, said it represented a significant breakthrough.
"This is another important step towards our aim to get gas directly from the Caspian region," Oettinger said on Friday.
Nabucco West spokesman Christian Dolezal said Nabucco still had "the most advanced legal framework" and therefore remained in a strong position to challenge TAP. "We consider this a benchmark in the Southern Corridor," he said.
BID TO DIVERSIFY SUPPLIES
The Southern Corridor is the Commission's name for whichever project is selected to help wean the continent off its dependence on Russia, which supplies more than 30 percent of all EU gas imports, including nearly 100 percent in six EU states. Continued...