NewsShifting away from Russian supplies: Putin's ally diverges from the Kremlin

Shifting away from Russian supplies: Putin's ally diverges from the Kremlin

Serbia wants to become independent from Russian gas supplies.
Serbia wants to become independent from Russian gas supplies.
Images source: © Getty Images | Oliver Bunic

7:46 PM EST, December 10, 2023

Gas has started flowing to Serbia from Azerbaijan as part of efforts to diversify Serbia's energy sources. The presidents of Serbia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, and a representative of the EU were present at the launch ceremony on Sunday. Previously reliant on Russian gas, Belgrade now seeks to expand its energy sources.

At the ceremony held in southern Serbia, the country's Minister of Energy and Mining, Dubravka Dziedović Handanović, underscored, "This project holds significant importance for gas supplies to eastern and central Serbia, and to Central and Eastern Europe."

"In only a year, we managed to accomplish the tasks at hand, coordinate gas supply with our friends from Azerbaijan, and synchronize with our friends from Bulgaria for the online network connection," the Serbian minister added.

European energy map redefined

The Bulgarian President, Rumen Radev, considers the operational gas interconnector between Serbia and Bulgaria as a game-changer for Europe's energy map.

"The connection not only assures diversified and secure supply for our two nations but for the entire region. It’s not a coincidence the European Commission recognizes it as a project of mutual interest for our countries and the Community," Radev commented.

The Azerbaijani President, Ilham Aliyev, emphasized that the interconnector's launch would foster Serbia's advancement and strengthen energy security across the continent. "Today's ceremony symbolizes friendship and partnership," Aliyev announced.

He also promised that by 2027, Azerbaijan would double its gas exports to Europe. "We reached an export scope of over eight billion cubic meters, and this will surpass 12 billion this year," the Azerbaijani president highlighted.

The construction of the 68-mile pipeline, stretching from Niš, Serbia, to Dimitrovgrad, Bulgaria, was completed in 12 months. The total length of the pipeline, originating from Novi Iskar near Sofia to Niš, is 105 miles and the project cost 85.5 million euros. The European Union granted a non-refundable award of 49.6 million euros for the pipeline construction, and the European Investment Bank approved a loan of 25 million euros for the section traversing Serbia.

Serbia contributed 15 million euros towards the project implementation and another 7.5 million euros for preliminary work and design. The new gas interconnector is capable of transmitting 1.8 billion cubic meters of natural gas annually, which covers 60 percent of Serbia's yearly consumption.

Serbia's dependence on Russian gas

Serbia has traditionally relied on Russian gas. National production met less than 13 percent of the demand, with the remainder imported exclusively from Russia. Gas was delivered to Serbia via the Turkish Stream pipeline. Even amidst the Ukraine conflict, Serbia adhered to a neutral stance towards Russia. Serbian airline, Air Serbia, maintained regular flights to and from Russia.

The last long-term contract with Gazprom expired at the end of 2021. In November 2021, the Presidents of Serbia and Russia agreed that for the subsequent six months, Serbia would continue paying $270 for every 1000 cubic meters of natural gas. A three-year contract was signed in May 2022, under which Serbia agreed to pay Russia between $310 and $408 per 1000 cubic meters of gas, as noted by President Aleksandar Vučić.

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