Southern Corridor Summit produces agreement

The Southern Corridor Summit on May 8 in Prague produced "an agreement on a common strategy and clear scheduling for the completion of relevant projects," said EC Pres. Jose Manuel Barroso.

Doris Leblond
OGJ Correspondent

PARIS, May 14 -- The Southern Corridor Summit on May 8 in Prague produced "an agreement on a common strategy and clear scheduling for the completion of relevant projects" contributing to diversification of energy sources and routes for the European gas supplies, said European Commission Pres. Jose Manuel Barroso.

The southern gas corridor is one of the European Union's highest energy security priorities to develop gas supplies from Caspian and Middle Eastern sources and possibly other countries in the longer term. The Prague summit brought together Barroso and the EU's revolving president, Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, with potential partners from Azerbaijan, Egypt, Georgia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

It also was attended by Russia, the US, and Ukraine as observers as well as members of the international financial institutions.

A joint declaration was signed by the EU presidents and the leaders of Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey, and Egypt but not by gas-rich Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, or Uzbekistan. Iraq's oil minister did not sign either, but Barroso indicated EU negotiations for a memorandum of understanding to export Iraqi gas to Europe.

Barroso declared, "Today we have commitments from producer, transit, and consumer countries. We now need to work quickly on the follow-up." Pending gas line projects were bolstered by the signing of the declaration.

By midyear, Barroso wants to see the signing in Turkey of the intergovernmental agreement on the Nabucco gas line slated to bring gas from Central Asia to the EU while avoiding Russia. By yearend, he also expects strong support for the Italy-Greece interconnector project as well as conclusion of a feasibility study on the possible shape of the Caspian Development Corp. initiative in cooperation with international financial institutions. This should lead to concrete proposals for obtaining sufficient gas volumes to be transported through the Southern Corridor including encouraging the market-based participation of public and private companies.

Barroso called the Southern Corridor "a new Silk Road" opening the potential for enhanced relations with the countries of the Southern Caucasus and Central Asia.

The memorandum of understanding between the EU and Iraq would receive strong support as well as cooperation between the EU and Egypt to determine specific projects to develop Egypt's gas reserves and the export potential for the EU via the Southern Corridor.

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