Russia and Croatia signed on Tuesday an intergovernmental agreement on building and operating the Croatian segment of the South Stream gas pipeline intended to supply natural gas to Europe.
The document was signed by Russian Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko and Croatian Minister of the Economy, Labor and Entrepreneurship Djuro Popijac in the presence of Russian and Croatian Prime Ministers Vladimir Putin and Jadranka Kosor.
The South Stream project, designed to annually pump 31 billion cubic meters of Central Asian and Russian natural gas to the Balkans and on to other European countries, involves Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, Italy and Greece.
The pipeline's capacity could be eventually increased to 63 billion cubic meters annually. The gas pipeline is expected to start operating in late 2015 and account for about 35% of Russian natural gas supplies to Europe.
The project is part of Russia's efforts to cut dependence on transit nations, particularly Ukraine. It is a rival project to the EU-backed Nabucco, which would bypass Russia.
Croatia consumes about 3.2 billion cubic meters of gas annually, with 60% of this amount covered by internal resources and the other 40% imported from Russia.
MOSCOW, March 2 (RIA Novosti)