Russia Pushes Croatia to Sign Gas Deal

The Croatian government says that it will not endanger its EU integration process, despite pressure from Russia to sign an energy deal before entering the Union.President Neven Mimica said that the government would not make a deal with Russian gas companies that want Croatia to sign an energy agreement before it joins the European Union in 2013.

“There is no way that this government will do something that could jeopardize Croatia’s accession into the European Union,” he told the Zagreb based daily paper Jutarnji List.Jutarnji List previously exposed a document where the Russian gas company, Gazprom, requested Croatian authorities sign a deal that would enable a gas pipeline to pass through the country, despite EU opposition. The Union says the deal is not compatible with EU law.

The Russians, however, reassured their Croatian partners that the gas deal is above the law of the Union. On the other hand, experts argue that when the country enters the EU, it will have to change all international contracts that are not compatible with the European acquis.

The South Stream pipeline will transport Russian natural gas through the Black Sea to Bulgaria and then to Italy and Austria, with a path through several Balkan countries. The project is scheduled for completion in 2015.

It is estimated that its construction will cost between €19 billion and €24 billion. The pipeline will transport 63 billion cubic meters of natural gas annually, or 35 per cent of Russia’s total annual natural gas exports to Europe.

The Russian pipeline is viewed as a rival to the Nabucco project planned by the European Union and the United States as a method of reducing Europe’s energy dependence on Russia.

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