The European Union is united on the natural gas pipelines its members aim to build in a bid to diversify bloc's supply and import routes, Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs said on Friday, Jan. 30.
Pipes for the Nord Stream route arrive in Rügen, Germany
Piebalgs spoke of unity after German Chancellor Angela Merkel asked the 27-member bloc to support the Nord Stream pipeline, which would bring Russian natural gas under the Baltic Sea directly to Germany.
Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, whose country chairs the EU until June 30, said Tuesday that Nord Stream, as a pipeline deepening the EU's reliance on Russian gas, was "a direct threat to the Nabucco project" that would skip Russia as a supplier.
Speaking to reporters at an energy security conference in the northeastern Czech city of Ostrava, Piebalgs said that the EU has backed Nord Stream as "one of the alternative routes."
"There is an agreement on this pipeline. It is not controversial," Piebalgs said, adding that Germany also supports Nabucco as Germany's gas firm RWE is a member of its consortium.
"The difference of opinion is not (as) big as people feel. The EU is rather united on this pipeline policy," he told reporters.
Topolanek, also present at the energy meeting, declined to comment on Merkel's letter.
Poland , Baltic states biggest opponents
Poland and the Baltic states have been the chief opponents of the Nord Stream pipeline, which bypasses them.
Piebalgs said that while Poland would prefer other routes, Warsaw was "not hostile" to the Russian-German line. "Nobody says we do not need additional gas supplies to Germany or the Netherlands," he said.
Playing down Topolanek's previous statements, Czech Vice-Premier for European Affairs Alexandr Vondra said that Europe's growing demand for gas would make use of both pipelines.
The Nord Stream and Nabucco pipelines, which would bring gas from the Caspian via Turkey, "are not in competition," he said.
The European Commission on Wednesday proposed 250 million euros for Nabucco but the eight-billion-euro project faces hurdles despite the backing.
The EU is yet to strike a transit deal with Turkey and competes for Nabucco's supply in the Caspian with Russia, which offered Central Asian countries market-level prices.
"Our chance is that each and every producer also looks for diversification," Piebalgs said.
The EU backs Nabucco over a South Stream pipeline that would carry Russian gas to Italy under the Black Sea and via Greece.
"We take note of it but definitely Nabucco is most important for us because it brings not only new source ... but it also brings a new route," the commissioner said.