Balkans Remain Battleground Between US, Russia
Once more, the Balkans make the headlines as American diplomacy is expected to strengthen its role in the area in a moment the Russian energy sector is actively cooperating in Macedonia and Shell is reportedly pulling out of Bosnia. The Anglo-Dutch company said that its $700 million exploration program will come to an end because of a changed oil and gas environment.
RUSSIA’S STROYTRANSGAZ CONTINUES CONSTRUCTION IN MACEDONIA
On Thursday, Russia’s Stroytransgaz released an update about its work on a gas pipeline in Macedonia known as “Klechovtse – Negotino", arguing that its project is 1,5 months ahead of schedule.
Stroytransgaz, which signed an agreement for the construction of turnkey section “Klechovtse – Block Valve Station VS 5” in the framework of an intergovernmental agreement between Russia and Macedonia, wrote that ‘this section will be the first and one of the key elements of the future gas pipeline system of the Republic of Macedonia and it will resolve the issue of gasification of the eastern part of the country.’
According to the note, Stroytransgaz welded 46 of 61 km of pipes in the section “Klechovtse – Block Valve Station VS 5” of the gas pipeline “Klechovtse – Negotino” in the Republic of Macedonia, adding that the project will more than double consumption of Russian gas in Macedonia, ‘up to 300 million cubic meters of gas per year’.
Russian newspapers wrote that Macedonia is investing $15 million in the project, while the remaining $60 million will be deducted from the debt owed by the former Soviet Union to the former Yugoslavia, as calculated under the Skopje agreements.
Stroytransgaz was also to take part to the construction of the Bulgarian section of the South Stream project.
SHELL REPORTEDLY PULLS OUT OF BOSNIA
Reuters wrote on Wednesday that Shell Exploration Co, part of oil major Royal Dutch Shell, is pulling out of oil exploration in Bosnia, when its Memorandum of Understanding aimed at reaching a deal on a petroleum license will expire in November.
The news agency also reported that the government would debate Shell's intentions.
SERBIA CALLS FOR STRONGER TIES WITH WASHINGTON
Also on Wednesday, Serbia’s Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic wrote an article in The Washington Times that Serbia and the Western Balkans need a renewed political attention of the United States and its support to speed up the European integration process, also taking an active role in the ongoing refugee crisis.
‘The United States must not leave the Western Balkans as unfinished business, but crown its own — and the region’s — decades-long efforts with the success of the region’s renewed prosperity, reintegration and EU integration’ reads a note released by Belgrade, commenting on the article.
Sergio Matalucci is an Associate Partner at Natural Gas Europe. He holds a BSc and MSc in Economics and Econometrics from Bocconi University, and a MA in Journalism from Aarhus University and City University London. He worked as a journalist in Italy, Denmark, the United Kingdom, and Belgium. Follow him on Twitter: @SergioMatalucci