More partners for Nabucco

SOFIA – The EU is in talks with the five partners in the Nabucco gas pipeline to attract both Germany’s RWE and France’s Gaz de France as partners instead of just one of them, Bulgaria said yesterday. Johannes van Aartsen, the European Commission Nabucco coordinator, visited Sofia on Tuesday to discuss the participation of both a sixth and a seventh partner to the project, Bulgaria’s Economy Ministry said in a statement. The long-delayed -4.6 billion project which will go via Turkey and the Balkans to Austria is a key plank in European Union plans to ease dependence on Russian gas and diversify with Caspian or Middle Eastern supplies. The five signatory companies – Austria’s OMV, Hungary’s MOL, Romania’s Transgaz, Bulgaria’s Bulgargaz and Turkey’s Botas – have been in talks for months with RWE and Gaz de France on becoming the sixth partner. Some officials have not ruled out the option of seeking a seventh partner too. An announcement on the talks is expected by the end of the month. «The EU coordinator is visiting all the countries that are part of Nabucco to test the water for attracting two more partners instead of just one,» a spokeswoman at the Bulgarian ministry said. «Bulgaria expressed its agreement in principle to have both Gaz de France and RWE taking part,» the ministry said. Turkish government officials have said that RWE was the favorite to become the sixth partner but did not rule the option of seeking a seventh partner too. Turkey previously said it favored RWE rather than Gaz de France after Paris passed a bill making denial of Armenian genocide at the hands of Ottoman Turks a crime. Turkey denies there was systematic genocide against Armenians during World War One. Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Egypt and even Iraq have been mentioned as possible suppliers to the 31-billion-cubic-meter pipeline. But so far the five signatory countries to the project have not secured any gas and without supplies it would be difficult to raise funding, analysts say.