Amid reports that the EU may freeze further work on the South Stream gas pipeline, Serbian leader Aleksandar Vucic insisted that the project remained important for both Europe and Serbia.
Aleksandar Vucic, Serbian Deputy Prime Minister, said that Serbia was preserving vital national interests with regard to the construction of the South Stream gas pipeline in cooperation with Russia.
“Serbia will protect its interests, but we are not the major player and we do not get to decide on the most important issues,” Vucic said on Wednesday.
Vucic also expressed hope that everyone would realize that the South Stream is important for the whole of Europe as well as for Serbia’s economy.
“Those are fairytales that American oil shale or other sources will be providing gas for Europe within the next one or two years,” he added.
He spoke after Jose Manuel Barroso, the European Commission President, said during his visit to Bulgaria earlier this week that the European Union is set to freeze the South Stream project in the wake of growing tensions with Russia over Ukraine.
Sabine Berger, spokeswoman for Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger, told Serbian Tanjug news agency on Wednesday that the South Stream was not a priority for the EU.
“Our priority is to find new gas exporting countries to encourage diversification of supply,” Berger said.
Serbia imports around 90 per cent of its total gas needs and the only supply route is from Russia to Ukraine and then Hungary.
Work on the Serbian section of the Russian South Stream pipeline started last November.
When complete, the pipeline will pump gas from Russia under the Black Sea and through Bulgaria and Serbia towards Hungary, Slovenia and Italy.
Construction of the South Stream pipeline in Serbia will cost about 2 billion euro of which Serbia must pay half.
Serbia is maintaining a diplomatic silence over the Russian and Ukrainian standoff, attempting to preserve good relations with both the EU and Russia.