Putin urges wider European participation in Baltic gas pipeline

Oct 04, 2005 02:00 AM

Russian President Vladimir Putin called for wider European participation in a Baltic gas pipeline project which Poland and others fear leaves them vulnerable to the whims of the Kremlin.
“The participants of the project do not need additional resources,” Putin told, referring to an ambitious plan to build a gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea. “But we are interested in widening the number of participants because this makes the project more balanced, reliable and stable,” he added during a joint news conference with Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt. “It is obvious that this project will enhance Europe’s energy security because it diversifies energy sources and makes the final product cheaper.”

Russia and Germany in September signed a deal to build the Baltic pipeline, which would give Europe an additional source of Russian natural gas and help Moscow to bypass current routes through Poland and Ukraine.
Warsaw has vigorously protested against the construction of the pipeline saying Moscow could use gas supplies to exert political pressure on Europe and Poland in particular, straining relations between the former Soviet allies.

Putin insisted there was no political motivation behind plans to construct the new pipeline.
“We are not doing anything to harm anyone,” he said clearly referring to Polish objections. “We only assume Europe’s acute need to create favourable conditions for economic development.”

Given the political uncertainty in Germany after the inconclusive election, Moscow is interested in getting wider European support for the project.
“Not only Germany, but other European countries as well have shown interest in developing this project,” Putin said. He said Russia’s gas monopoly Gazprom was negotiating the construction of a storage facility for Russian gas with Belgium.

“If the project is implemented, it will become a major element in the big North European gas pipeline project, because the gas will arrive to the facility through that very pipeline,” he said.
“It can be used for consumers in Belgium and for supplies to other European countries including the possibility of constructing new sub-Baltic pipelines from other western European countries,” he added.

Verhofstadt said Belgium was keen to develop a role as a centre for gas distribution in Western Europe.
Asked whether Europe was safe from Russian blackmail over gas supplies, Putin referred to Russian gas cooperation with Finland.
“Over 90 % of Finland’s needs in gas are satisfied with Russian supplies,” he said. “Everyone is happy.”

Source: MosNews
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