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Commission Taking Over South Stream Talks, Slovenia Remains Active

Brussels, 12 December (STA) - Infrastructure Minister Samo Omerzel said after Thursday's talks with EU Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger that Slovenia was actively addressing the EU law compliance issues related to the South Stream pipeline plans, while the commissioner announced the Commission would take over the negotiations with Russia.

Following the informal meeting between Oettinger and representatives of the six EU members involved in the project, Omerzel stressed the importance of the planned gas pipeline for "the diversification of routes" and for security in energy supply.

The infrastructure and spatial planning minister repeated Slovenia's view that Slovenia's bilateral agreement with Russia will be compliant with EU law once the EU energy package is fully transposed into the national legislation and correctly implemented.

He added he was surprised by the Commissioner's letter to the Russian side in which the agreements of all the countries involved are labelled incompliant with EU rules, explaining Slovenia was still waiting for an official response from the European Commission.

Together with Bulgaria and Hungary, Slovenia has expressed support for a joint European approach to the project in which the Commission would play a key role in efforts to effectively execute the project.

Oettinger meanwhile said after today's meeting, which also featured representatives from Austria, Croatia and Greece, who had been called to renegotiate the agreements with Russia, that it had been agreed now that the Commission would take the lead in the negotiations with Russia to make sure that the EU's legal order is respected.

He announced talks in Moscow in January, saying that the EU was not against the South Stream, which would complement other European networks, and rejected accusations that stricter criteria are being used than in the case of the Nord Stream, an offshore natural gas pipeline from Russia to Germany.

The commissioner pointed out that the Commission can okay temporary exemptions from specific rules, provided that such exemptions are requested. While this happened in the case of the Nord Stream, no such requests were issued for the South Stream, he said.

The European Commission has been highlighting the need to decouple transmission and production, allow third parties to access the pipeline and secure an appropriate system for determining prices or charges for the use of the pipeline as the key problem areas in the bilateral agreements signed with Russia.

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