Poland has signed a deal to build the first gas pipeline connecting the Baltic states to the EU energy market. The pipeline will integrate EU and Baltic energy markets and reduce dependence on Russian gas.
The 558 million euro ($636 million) gas pipeline will end the energy isolation of the Baltic countries by connecting the gas markets of Poland and Lithuania, the European Commission said on Thursday.
"Today we have done much more than bringing the energy isolation of the Baltic States to an end. We have brought the region further together," European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said.
The 534-kilometer (332-mile) Gas Interconnector Poland-Lithuania (GIPL) will be backed by a 305 million euro investment from the European Commission, which has set out the goal of creating an integrated European gas market and ensuring members have multiple supplies of energy. Once the GIPL is built, it will connect the Lithuanian, Estonian and Latvian gas network with the EU.
The pipeline is scheduled to be completed by December 2019 and will eventually connect to Finland through a feeder line from Estonia. The starting capacity will be 2.4 billion cubic meters a year from Poland to Lithuania, and 1 billion cubic meters per year from Lithuania to Poland.
The deal reached between the leaders of Poland, Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia comes amid rising concern over dependency on Russia for gas.
The countries have increasingly voiced concern over aggressive Russian actions in Ukraine and along NATO's borders and what it could mean for their security, especially as Moscow has not been shy using energy as an economic and political card in the past.
While Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are currently totally dependant on Russia for gas, Poland gets roughly 60 percent of its gas from Russia and Central Asia. On Monday Poland opened a 720 million euro ($820 million) liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal on the Baltic sea.
The first shipment of LNG is expected to arrive from Qatar in December.
cw/msh (AFP, dpa)