Ministry official says Russian gas supplies unquestionable also beyond 2010

18.02.2009. 14:43

ZAGREB, (Hina) - A Russian-Croatian government commission for economic, scientific and technological cooperation decided at its fifth session, held in Moscow on Tuesday and Wednesday, that the provision of Russian natural gas to Croatia after the expiry of its current contract with Gazprom would be unquestionable, an official of the Croatian Economy Ministry told Hina on Wednesday.

The commission also decided to consider the possibility of one section of the South Stream gas pipeline running through Croatia and discuss the possibility of making a cost-benefit analysis for the DruzbaAdria project, said Tomislav Mazal, a ministry spokesman and advisor to Economy Minister Damir Polancec.

The Croatian delegation attending the Moscow talks was headed by Deputy Prime Minister and Economy Minister Damir Polancec, and the Russian delegation was led by Sergey Shoigu, Minister of Civil Defence, Emergency Situations and Disasters.

The Croatian delegation said that Croatia was interested in increasing Russian gas supplies from the current 1.15 billion cubic metres per year to 2.7 billion cubic metres, said Mazal, adding that the increase referred to the period until 2020, when Croatia is expected to need six billion cubic metres of natural gas annually.

The current annual consumption of natural gas in Croatia is 3.4 billion cubic metres.

The gas quantities Croatia has been receiving from Russia under the existing contract with Gazprom, which expires at the end of 2010, remain unquestionable after the expiry of the contract, Mazal said, adding that the biggest obstacle to increasing gas supplies was the fact that the pipeline carrying gas from Russia was overloaded.

The two sides agreed to form a task force consisting of Croatian experts and representatives of Gazprom who are expected to determine by September 30 the amount of natural gas to be supplied to Croatia as of 2011.

As for the South Stream gas pipeline, the Croatian delegation was told that its route had still not been determined and that there was a possibility for Croatia to participate in the project.

It was agreed that a team made up of representatives of the Croatian Economy Ministry, the Croatian gas company Plinacro and Gazprom should determine the direction of a possible South Stream section running through Croatia.

The construction of the South Stream will secure additional quantities of gas for Croatia, even if the pipeline eventually bypasses Croatia, said Mazal.

The Croatian delegation also expressed readiness to discuss the Druzba Adria project.

The launching of that project is supported by the state of technology which enables the processing of ballast water in tankers and the fact that as of November 1, the Adriatic Oil Pipeline (JANAF) system will be reversible, which is an important technical condition for the implementation of the project, Mazal said.

It was agreed that representatives of JANAF, the Croatian Economy Ministry and Transneft should make a cost-benefit analysis to be used in the adoption of a final decision on DruzbaAdria, Mazal said.

The joint government commission also discussed Russia's debt to Croatia, which Croatia inherited from the former Yugoslav federation.

The debt is being cleared through the delivery of USD 5 million worth of equipment for the Sisak Thermal Power Plant. It was also decided that a USD 15.7 million debt claimed by JANAF be redirected to the Croatian Power Company (HEP) to be used for the Sisak Thermal Power Plant.

Representatives of Nexe Grupa of Croatia and the Russian company Karbonat signed a letter of intent on the construction of a cement factory for Nexe Grupa in Russia, and an agreement on cooperation in customs affairs.

The joint government commission also signed a protocol on the session and agreed to hold its next session in Croatia in 2010.