Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis stressed the importance of alternative energy supplies and of a common European energy strategy, at the energy summit that opened yesterday in Sofia and concludes today. Leaders from the EU, the Balkans and gas supplier countries sought to secure Europe's gas deliveries by diversifying sources and supply routes, although the summit was marked by political wrangling. Karamanlis placed special emphasis on the operation of alternative energy networks in the European Union and on a joint policy that will also rely on environmentally friendly sources. «Greece is willing to participate in any plan that is in this direction and to take full advantage of its geostrategic position in Southeastern Europe,» he said, noting the importance of natural gas interconnections between EU member states so as to create a solidarity system for the effective management of crises. In this context Karamanlis also referred to the new gas pipeline that will link Komotini in northern Greece with Haskovo in Bulgaria. The issue of energy security has topped the European political agenda since January when supplies of Russian natural gas to Europe were totally cut off by a payment dispute between Russia and Ukraine. «I am proud of the way the European Union handled the crisis... And now we must look to the future and ensure that this does not happen again,» European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said at the opening of the summit. But while the forum sought to inject fresh momentum into plans to build the Nabucco and South Stream gas pipelines, a last-minute decision by Russian Premier Vladimir Putin to skip the summit effectively stalled fruitful discussion on the Moscow-backed South Stream project to channel Russian gas to Europe via the Black Sea. Gazprom's representative at a business forum held in parallel to the summit, Stanislav Tsigankov, meanwhile put the ball in the EU court, urging it to come up with a clear position on the project to avoid further delays. «The EU talks about partnership, but these are only words,» he said, warning that if the European Union was not interested in South Stream, Gazprom would deliver its gas elsewhere.