February 25th, 2010

Countries step up cooperation, sign joint declaration at Budapest energy summit

Participants of an energy summit held in Budapest on Wednesday signed a joint declaration on stepping up cooperation and making energy security a priority.

Hungary’s Prime Minister Gordon Bajnai said the signing of a joint declaration was a milestone in regional energy cooperation.

The declaration includes the establishment of a north-south-east gas supply triangle, proposed by Bajnai at the summit. The three corners of the triangle would be the Nabucco pipeline in the east, the liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal in Poland in the north and an LNG terminal in Croatia in the south. The central European North-South Energy Corridor, a planned gasline, would connect the three corners, according to plans.

Plans of support were also made for an LNG terminal in Romania’s Constanca.

At the request of Serbia, the declaration has an appendix, which states that some participant countries, including Hungary, will also sign up to the South Stream project, built on Russian gas.

“Cooperation is wide-ranging and strong,” Bajnai said after the extended summit of the Visegrad Four countries.

Bajnai said the joint plans require “huge investments” and participants will be increasingly seeking funds from the EU Cohesion Fund for energy infrastructure projects and linking up networks.

The eight countries represented by their government heads included the Visegrad Four group of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, as well as Bulgaria, Croatia, Serbia and Romania.

Representatives of Austria, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as the United States and the International Energy Agency were also in attendance.

Nobuo Tanaka, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency, said the Nabucco gas pipeline would be a better option for improving Europe’s gas supply than the Russian-backed South Stream.

Serbian Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic said Serbia would support both the Nabucco and the South Stream project, which would give alternative routes and sources for participants.

Slovakia welcomed the Visegrad group’s support for the North-South Energy Corridor. Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico called on Hungary to accelerate the linkup of Hungarian and Slovak gas pipelines, which would form an important part of the Visegrad networks.

Croatian Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor said Croatia’s European Union accession in the near future and new agreements on regional energy cooperation would make it a strong player in South-east Europe. Kosor conceded that the economic crisis had slowed Croatian energy projects, but he said it had not halted them.

Hungary’s main opposition Fidesz, leading in polls before the spring elections, supports the goals of the joint declaration adopted at the summit, spokesman Zsolt Nemeth said. Fidesz leader Viktor Orban met Kosor, Cvetkovic, and Romanian Prime Minister Emil Boc on the sidelines of the summit.

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