EU's Oettinger says "no problem" with South Stream-paper

VIENNA Thu May 8, 2014 12:56pm EDT

VIENNA May 8 (Reuters) - - European Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger is not troubled by plans to bring the Russian South Stream gas pipeline to Austria, although the Commission has raised some objections with Vienna, he told a newspaper.

Austrian energy firm OMV agreed last week with Russia's state-controlled Gazprom to bring the South Stream pipeline to Austria's Baumgarten gas hub, outmanoeuvring Italy, which had wanted it to end there.

The deal showed that while EU officials are calling for Europe to wean itself off Russian gas, private and state-owned firms are pushing ahead with projects to buy ever more.

"The pipeline is not a problem for me. We don't want to block it but it does not have priority either," Oettinger told Austrian paper Der Standard. "This isn't new gas, rather a different route that should no longer go through Ukraine."

He noted, however, the project had to meet EU requirements for environmental protection, tendering, competition and energy law, especially on giving access to third parties and splitting gas production from operating the infrastructure.

"We review these points even in agreements between some member states and Russia. We have already written to Austria to criticise several points that in our view are at odds with EU law," he said in an interview released ahead of publication on Friday.

Asked if he expected EU approval for South Stream, he said: "I don't yet have the basis for a final opinion. What is clear is that all investors are welcome whether they pay in dollars, euros or roubles." (Reporting by Michael Shields, editing by William Hardy)