Putin in energy summit

ZAGREB (AFP) – Russian President Vladimir Putin is to visit Croatia on Sunday to attend a summit on the future of energy in Southeastern Europe along with eight counterparts from the region. «The summit’s aim is for regional officials to express their views on actual problems of energy and the supply of energy,» Croatian President Stipe Mesic, who organized the Zagreb gathering, said in a statement. No agreement is expected to be adopted at the meeting, which will also be attended by the presidents of Albania, Bulgaria, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania and Serbia. Greece is to be represented by a deputy minister, while the European Commission will monitor the event. «The supply of energy is so vital that it is difficult to separate it from economic, political or social aspects of a modern society,» said Zagreb University professor Radovan Vukadinovic. «Putin’s presence in Zagreb actually confirms the importance of the issue. Russia is today one of the main (energy) suppliers for Western Europe and other countries,» Vukadinovic, an international relations expert, told AFP. The summit comes a month after Zagreb and Budapest pledged to intensify cooperation on the construction of a gas terminal at a Croatian port that would help to diversify Europe’s energy sources. Croatia and Hungary are considering jointly constructing a gas pipeline from the Adriatic Sea to mainland Europe in order to decrease reliance on Russian gas. The project requires the construction of an LNG terminal that could receive tankers from around the world and transport gas via pipelines to Central and Western Europe. Pipelines Under another regional energy project backed by the European Union, a 1,300-kilometer (800-mile) pipeline is being planned to link the Romanian Black Sea port of Constanta and the Italian Adriatic port of Trieste running through Romania, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia and Italy. The five countries pledged in April to boost cooperation on the project to build the so-called Pan-European Pipeline (PEOP). A third project that directly concerns Moscow, but has stagnated for years, aims to integrate two oil pipelines that will allow Russian oil exports to go directly to a northern Croatian tanker port. In 2002, an agreement was signed between Belarus, Croatia, Hungary, Russia, Slovakia and Ukraine to cooperate in the project to integrate the Druzhba and Adria pipelines. The 3,200-kilometer (1,990-mile) pipeline would link the Russian town of Samara and the northern Croatian port of Omisalj on the island of Krk. It would have a capacity of 15 million tons a year. However, the Croatian government rejected the project as unacceptable for environmental standards in the country, which relies heavily on its booming tourist industry. Croatia’s parliament was set to decide on the withdrawal from the deal back in 2005, but this is yet to be confirmed. Putin’s visit to Balkans comes only two weeks after his US counterpart George W. Bush visited Albania but Vukadinovic said it was unlikely that the Russian leader was vying for influence in the region. Vukadinovic said if that were his intention, Putin would have gone to Belgrade, a traditional ally that has won Russian support over the future status of its disputed province of Kosovo.

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