Russia joined Bulgaria and Greece in announcing recently the construction of a Burgas-Alexandropolis pipeline to carry Caspian oil from Russia towards Western Europe. The move shows Moscow still finds it hard to get along with alternative transport projects involving Caspian oil which try to dodge Russia’s energy near-monopoly in Europe.

Once again, Romania finds itself out of the equation at a time when the Nabucco project, among the few to introduce the country on oil routes, is mired.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, Greek PM Kostas Karamanlis and Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov have announced that their countries’ Burgas-Alexandropolis project would be signed before the end of 2006.

The pipeline will link the ports of Burgas (Bulgaria) and Alexandropolis (Greece) and is valued at some 700 million euro. The project has been discussed for more than 14 years but remained unfinished so far because of various clashes of opinions between the three parties.

The pipeline will transport oil to the Mediterrannean sea at a low price, thus contributing to an improved domination of Moscow on the European energy market and a stronger role for Greece and Bulgaria as an energy hub in the Balkans.

Russia is also insisting on the project because of an increasing commotion in the Bosphorus Strait which is crossed by all oil tankers transporting Caspian oil to Western Europe.

If built, the pipeline would have a length of 155 km with a capacity of 800,000 barrels/day. Almost half of the pipeline would cross Bulgaria.

September becomes a busy month in terms of drawing the lines of future energy pipelines through the Balkans.

Another important reunion is announced for September 13, when officials from Albania, Macedonia and Bulgaria are due to do the finishing touches to an inter-governmental accord on the AMBO project.

The AMBO pipeline eyes the transportation of energy from the Caspian Sea to Burgas and on to Vlore in Albania.

The pipeline will stretch some 850 km with a capacity of 35 million cubic meters/year. The estimated costs rise to about 1.5 billion US dollars.

Meanwhile, the Nabucco project, the pipeline due to transport natural gas from Central Asia to Western Europe via Romania, has given no sign of activity for more than a year.

While the five companies involved in the project signed an association accord to kickstart their collaboration in August last year, nothing has happened ever since.

Nabucco would transport some 25 billion cubic meters/year, would provide 11 cubic meters yearly to each of the transit countries and would cost 4.6 billion euro.