Updated 7:17 p.m. Moscow Time
BELGRADE, October 16 (RIA Novosti) - The South Stream pipeline project on deliveries of Russian natural gas to Europe via the Black Sea route will benefit European consumers, delays in its implementation are caused by political wrangle, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday.
"I am absolutely convinced that this project benefits European consumers because it drastically reduces transit risks," Putin said during an official visit to Serbia.
"The issues hampering South Stream construction are of political nature. This is a clear example of how politics could harm economy," Putin stressed.
The European Commission has long been trying to hamper the project saying it violates the European Union's Third Energy Package, which stipulates that pipelines in its member countries cannot belong to natural gas producers. Moscow insists that the construction of the pipeline does not contradict the regulations in any way.
Most recently Brussels has told Serbia, which is to become a transit country for Russian gas supplies, that its EU accession prospects could suffer if it went ahead with the project, estimated to bring Belgrade more than $2.5 million in investments, according to Vladimir Putin.
The pipeline's route is expected to come ashore in Bulgaria and continue to Serbia, where it divides, with the first branch going through Hungary to Austria and the second through Hungary and Slovenia to Italy. Under the plan, pipeline sections are also to be constructed in Croatia and the Bosnian Serb Republic.
Intergovernmental agreements were earlier signed with Serbia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Greece, Slovenia, Austria and Croatia for the construction of the pipeline's onshore sections. However, in August, Bulgaria suspended operations, saying that they did not meet EU requirements.