BRUSSELS, June 25 (RIA Novosti) - The South Stream gas pipeline project to deliver Russian gas to Europe bypassing Ukraine should be put on hold until it is fully in line with EU norms, EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger said Wednesday.
"South Stream project should be suspended until full compliance with EU legislation," he said during a roundtable on EU energy policy.
On Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin called on European businesses not to politicize the South Stream pipeline construction, as it is an "all-European project" beneficial both for Russian and its European partners. The statement came shortly after Russia’s Gazprom and the Austrian oil and gas company signed a shareholder pact of the joint venture South Stream Austria, defining the principles of construction and further exploitation of the respective gas pipeline.
The South Stream pipeline is to carry Russian natural gas to export destinations in southern Europe across the Black Sea, bypassing Ukraine. The construction started in 2012 as a move to diversify export routes for the Russian gas. The total capacity of the pipeline is estimated at up to 63 billion cubic meters. The pipeline is expected to become fully operational in 2018.
The project stalled after the European Commission expressed its fears that Russia’s bilateral agreements with the European transit countries, namely Austria, Bulgaria, Hungary and Slovenia, violate the so-called Third Energy Package, which stipulates that the companies involved in gas production cannot be the owners of long distance pipelines in the region.