Slovenia: Yes to South Stream, but as an EU Member State
The prospects for the construction of the South Stream natural pipeline in Slovenia looked even firmer last week at the event South Stream: The Evolution of a Pipeline, which took place in the country's capital Ljubljana, where policymakers and corporate stakeholders pledged their support for the project.
In a very brief but affirmative speech, Mr. Samo Omerzel, Minister of Infrastructure and Spatial Planning, Government of Slovenia, pledged his government's backing of South Stream, saying its construction was in the interests of Slovenia. However, in reference to how the project would abide with the EU's Third Energy Package, he commented that as Slovenia was a member of the European Union it was still obliged to abide by the acquis communautaire.
South Stream's local partner in Slovenia also provided an update on the progress of the pipeline project, presented by Mr. Marjan Eberlinc, General Manager, Plinovodi d.o.o., the project's Slovene partner, who said South Stream was a project that enjoyed a lot of support from a wide array of development perspectives.
Key events, he outlined, included the agreement between the governments of Slovenia and the Russian Federation, agreement on a visibility study and its implementation, and the agreement of the partners to form the “South Stream Slovenia” company and adoption of the final decision on the investment.
Mr. Eberlinc emphasized that the first talks over South Stream in 2008-09 had always taken into account European legislation and directives. “Our agreement, according to the data we possess, is in line with the European Commission except for certain details which we believe that the Republic of Slovenia will resolve.”
Gazprom's Deputy Head of Project Management Department, Alexander Syromyatin, also provided his company's overview of the project's development.
He commented, “This is probably the greatest project of its kind in the world. When we were making plans for this project we are taking into consideration both Slovene companies and the economy.
“As you know, natural gas is an important part of the energy supply in Europe and, accordingly, the demand shall increase in the future, overcoming supply. For this reason, not only the increasing demand but also falling production is a challenge,” he continued, noting falling natural gas production in the North Sea.
“In two decades the EU will need to import up to 200 BCM/year more than it does now. With a capacity of 63 BCM, the South Stream pipeline will help increase energy security and make a contribution to fill part of this shortage,” said Mr. Syromyatin.
Citing the results of a public opinion survey carried out in Slovenia of public and stakeholder perceptions of South Stream, Ben Shimson, Director, World Thinks, noted 71% support for the pipeline among those 55 and older, while 38% of respondents aged 18-24 also supported South Stream's implementation in Slovenia.