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Minister Černač Attends Launch of South Stream Construction (adds)

Anapa, 07 December (STA) - A Slovenian delegation including Infrastructure and Spatial Planning Minister Zvone Černač attended in Anapa, Russia, on Friday the symbolic launch of the construction of the South Stream natural gas pipeline, part of which will run through Slovenia.

Černač was accompanied by Infrastructure Ministry state secretary Igor Šalamun, the heads of gas suppliers Geoplin and Plinovodi Boštjan Napast and Marjan Eberlinc, as well as by Aljoša Ivančič, the chairman of Comita, which is to lay optical fiber cables along the Slovenian stretch of the pipeline.

Addressing around 200 guests at the site which marks the beginning of the Black Sea underwater section of the pipeline, Russian President Vladimir Putin highlighted the project's importance for the energy sector in Europe and Russia and the wide political support as reflected in the number of international contracts involved.

The pipeline is expected to be 2,600 kilometres long, with its main route running under the Black Sea and through Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, Slovenia and Italy.

The underwater section of the pipeline will be constructed by Russian gas giant Gazprom, French EDF, Germany's Wintershall and Italy's Eni, while the land section will be the responsibility of Gazprom and companies from individual countries.

Estimates from 2010 put the value of the project at EUR 16bn, with the investment in Slovenia exceeding EUR 1bn in value.

Eberlinc of Plinovodi said the construction of the Slovenian section, which will be 266 kilometres long, is expected to start in 2015, while it could be opened in 2017.

Among the tasks ahead of Slovenia is the adoption of appropriate building permits, with Černač expressing confidence today and stressing that this will be done in line with legislation and in coordination with experts and public stakeholders.

Eberlinc and Černač agree that the pipeline, which will circumvent transit countries such as Ukraine and enable the supply of 63bn cubic metres of gas to Europe a year, means additional energy stability for Europe.

According to Černač, there is no reason to fear that the project will make Europe even more dependent on Russian gas, as Europe presently gets slightly less than a third of the gas it needs from Russia.

"The project secures long-term and stable supply given the increased need expected in the coming 20 years," the minister told the STA.

He added that the South Stream is also important for Slovenia in terms of the economy, the strengthening of cooperation with Russia and other countries, as well as for growth in the coming years.

"The project, worth around EUR 1bn, will also boost other related activities," he explained.

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