ECONOMY

Balkan neighbors present environment studies for oil pipeline across peninsula

TIRANA (AP) – Albania, Bulgaria and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) yesterday presented environmental studies for an oil pipeline to cross the three Balkan countries that will ship crude oil from the Caspian Sea to the West. Experts from the three countries meeting in Albania’s capital also discussed the project’s technical and financial aspects, said a statement from Albania’s Ministry of Industry and Energy. In December, the three countries approved the long-delayed project, pledging their governments’ support for the $1.2 billion pipeline. Some $900 million has already been secured from international banks, a statement said. Construction of the 913-kilometer (567-mile) pipeline is expected to begin this year and last between three and four years. An environmentalist group staged a protest outside the Ministry of Industry, saying Albania’s main source of income should be tourism, not the pipeline. The 143 kilometers (89 miles) of pipeline that will cross Albania’s territory from Qafe Thana in the east to Vlore in the west will bring the country about $50-60 million annually in transit fees in addition to the oil supply. The pipeline, linking Bulgaria’s Black Sea port of Burgas with the Albanian port of Vlore on the Adriatic Sea, will bypass the busy Bosporus strait in Turkey. The trans-Balkan pipeline is part of a larger infrastructure project that also includes a highway between the Black Sea and the Adriatic coast, a gas conduit, power lines and fiber-optic cables. The pipeline will ship 750,000 barrels of oil per day, or 35 million metric tons (38.6 million US tons) per year, from Russia and Central Asia to the markets in Western Europe and North America. Last week, Russia, Bulgaria and Greece signed a deal for another 285-kilometer (177-mile) oil pipeline, but experts say they are confident that would not threaten this project, as the Caspian region is expected to yield as much as 110 million tons per year from 2005.