7 June 2014, 12:53

European Commission can't stop South Stream

European Commission can't stop South Stream

Despite all attempts to blackmail Gazprom into submission, the European Commission can't block the construction of the South Stream pipeline. The stakeholders of the pipeline, national governments and energy companies will do their best to thwart any attempt of stopping the project for the sake of American interests in Europe.

The unelected members of the European Commission know that their mandates are expiring. They are trying to ensure that they will be hired by American academia or pro-American think-tanks in Europe, because such institutions offer generous remuneration and zero responsibility, making them ideal employers for the former bureaucrats. The key to a stellar career in pro-American institutions is hating Russia, and some European bureaucrats are happy to oblige defying the rules of logic, common sense and basic diplomacy.

For instance, Gunther Oettinger, the European Commissioner for energy told the press that the EU position on South Stream will depend on Russia's political stance on Ukraine. He didn't elaborate on the reasons why the construction of a pipeline that doesn't cross Ukraine must depend on Russia's political decisions regarding the crisis in Kiev and sadly journalists were too afraid to ask.

Gazprom's reaction was swift. Alexey Miller, the CEO of the company, pointed out that the Commission has overstepped the boundaries of its jurisdiction and that it can't force European countries to abandon their participation in the project. Given that Gazprom has recently received a request to extend South Stream to Austria, it seems that there the interests of European countries are at odds with the interests of European unelected bureaucracy.

Having lost one battle, the European Commission sought to continue the war and launched a new two-pronged attack on the project. It seems that Gazprom received informal threats that European banks will pull the plug on their credit lines for South Stream construction. During its recent press conference, Gazprom stressed that "if banks don't want profit, it's their choice", pointing out that the company will be able to finance the pipeline on its own. Earlier this week, Vladimir Putin gave a helping hand to the Russian energy giant, promising to increase the company's capital using the country's currency reserves. One could come to a conclusion that Gazprom won this round.

Another line of attack is the "infringement procedure" launched by the EU against Bulgaria. The Commission accuses Bulgaria of rigging the tenders for pipeline construction in order to benefit Russian and Bulgarian companies. This is an obvious attempt to delay or sabotage the South Stream project by any means possible. European Commission is again overstepping its jurisdiction. Unsurprisingly, the government of Bulgaria decided to press ahead with construction and will most likely fight the European Commission in court.

Alexey Miller has repeatedly stated that South Stream construction can't be stopped. Every failed attempt to block the project is a proof that Gazprom's CEO is right: Europe needs the gas, Russia wants to sell it. The US and the European Commissioners working for the US interests can't change this state of affairs.

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