Pan-European Oil Pipeline Agreement Signed

ZAGREB, Croatia, April 3, 2007 (ENS) - Five southeast European countries today signed an agreement to begin work on the Pan-European Oil Pipeline, which is designed to limit oil pollution risks in the Black and Mediterranean seas.

Top officials from Croatia, Italy, Romania, Serbia, and Slovenia signed the pipeline agreement during a wide ranging energy forum in Zagreb.

The 1,400 kilometer pipeline will link the Black Sea port of Constanta in Romania to the oil hub of Trieste in Italy.

From Trieste, existing pipelines head north to Austria, Germany and the Czech Republic.

Because the pipeline links the Black Sea with Central European markets, it will avoid an increase in oil tanker traffic through Turkey's already over-crowded Bosphorus straits.

Bosphorus

The Bosphorus separates Asiatic Turkey from European Turkey and links the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara leading out to the Mediterranean. (Photo courtesy Government of Canada)
Turkish Coast Guard figures show that in 2004, approximately 53,000 vessels crossed the straits, more than 8,000 of them carrying dangerous cargo, mostly oil or liquid petroleum gas. Turkish officials have warned for years that the straits cannot handle an increase in tanker traffic.

The European Commission today also gave its support to the Pan-European Oil Pipeline. EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs signed the agreement, saying the pipeline is of "great strategic importance to the European Union."

The pipeline would significantly reduce the chances of a serious accident in the Bosphorus Straits, the Black, Aegean and Adriatic Seas, Commissioner Piebalgs said.

"This project is a good example of enhanced co-operation among the members of the energy community," he said.

Estimated to cost between 1.5 billion and 2.62 billion euros (US$2 to $3.5 billion) the pipeline is due for completion by 2012. It will carry crude oil sourced mainly in Russia, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan.

Trieste

Oil tanker at the Port of Trieste (Photo courtesy Gian Rinaldo Carli)
Most parts of the pipeline are already built except for a connection between the city of Pitesti, Romania and the city of Pancevo, Serbia, and a section between Croatia's northern Adriatic region through Slovenia to Trieste.

Signing of the pipeline construction agreement has been delayed several times, in part due to objections from the government of Slovenia, which is concerned about a 29 kilometer (20 mile) section that crosses environmentally sensitive karst terrain. The limestone caves and formations are an important visitor attraction for Slovenia.

Today's energy forum gathered stakeholders not only from the Southeast European region but also from Russia, the Caspian region and Central Asia.

The conference was held as part of the Southeast Europe Cooperation Process. It involves Albania, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro, Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia and Greece, and Moldova as an observer. Croatia is acting as chairman for the year 2007.