Oil Report

Bulgaria, Hungary urge faster work on Nabucco

SOFIA, June 27 (Reuters) - Bulgaria and Hungary called on Friday for faster work and stronger political support for the Nabucco gas pipeline project, aimed at easing Europe’s dependence on Russian gas.

The European Union has made the 7.9 billion euro ($12.43 billion) pipeline a priority but senior Bulgarian and Hungarian officials said stronger commitment was needed for the plan to materialise.

“We believe there is a certain slowdown in the activities on the project. It is very important to spur political support for it,” Bulgarian Economy and Energy Minister Petar Dimitrov said after meeting Hungarian coordinator for Nabucco Mihaly Bayer.

The pipeline is due to bring 30 billion cubic metres of Caspian or Middle Eastern gas annually from Turkey to an Austrian gas hub via Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary, and become operational in 2013.

But the project faces a number of serious challenges -- securing supplies, with only Azerbaijan committed, Russia’s South Stream rival route and U.S. hostility to sourcing Iranian gas, although Washington backs the project.

Dimitrov said the European Commission should play a more active role and proposed a high-level meeting between gas supplying, transiting and consuming nations in Sofia to pave out differences and speed up work on Nabucco.

“The problems Nabucco faces are not purely economic and they could not be solved only by the companies that are participating,” he said.

A consortium made up of Austria's OMV OMVV.VIE, Germany's RWE RWEG.DE, Hungary's MOL MOLB.BU, Turkey's Botas, Bulgaria's Bulgargaz and Romania's Transgaz TGN_r.BX will build and operate the 3,300 km pipeline.

Among potential suppliers are Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Egypt and Iraq. (Reporting by Tsvetelia Ilieva)