February 22, 2015
Soon after he was appointed Commission Vice President for the Energy Union, Maroš Šefčovič started lobbying Russia to return to the South Stream gas pipeline project. The same project was frozen by direct orders of former Commission President José Manuel Barroso.
First episode: Barroso stops South Stream by telling the former Bulgarian PM Plamen Oresharski that the commission will slam his country with infringements it cannot afford.
This happened against the background of the Ukraine crisis. The message was clear: the Commission doesn’t want to open its doors for a project detrimental to Ukraine.
Six months have elapsed. Barroso has been replaced by Jean-Claude Juncker, Oresharski has been replaced by Boyko Borissov. And the Ukraine crisis is at the brink of becoming an outright war.
So Borissov comes to Brussels and warns Šefčovič of an “energy catastrophe” for his country following the freezing of South Stream.’ Exactly one month before Putin said in Turkey that Russia is fed up with Bulgaria’s blocking the project, and that the Russian gas will arrive on European territory, but in Turkey instead. And the project is no longer called “South Stream, but Turkish Stream”.
The next day after his meeting with Borissov Šefčovič goes to Russia and asks Gazprom to revert to the old South Stream project. He was not successful, but what happened to the previous warnings to Bulgaria about infringements?
Russia obviously takes the message seriously, because Putin took in Budapest yesterday (17 February) a U-turn, announcing that Russia has not given up South Stream, which he had himself declared dead in December.
Now the Commission is having second thoughts about the project and has asked the Russian side to reconsider Bulgaria for implementing it, Putin said.
But I don’t think it was only Putin who made a U-turn. What made the Juncker Commission make a U-turn with respect to the Barroso commission? Isn’t this the recognition of a major mistake? Thanks to Barroso, and to the then energy commissioner Günther Oettinger, the new South Stream would be dependent, apart from Russia, from Turkey.