The gas agreement Serbia has signed with Russia during President Aleksandar Vucic’s visit to Moscow will also turn Serbia into a gas exporter – says Radojka Nikolic, editor-in-chief of Biznis magazine.
According to her, this means that Serbia will charge transit fees to other countries, like Hungary has done in the past.
“So far, Serbia has had gas agreements that only made it possible for us to import gas. Serbia is now becoming an exporter of gas, which automatically means the inclusion of Serbia in the new Turkish Stream gas pipeline,” Nikolic told Tanjug.
She recalled that Turkish Stream should enter Serbia from Bulgaria, and that six months ago, pipes were laid under the Black Sea, marking the beginning of the pipeline’s construction.
Also in early July, an agreement was signed with Hungary allowing that country to import Russian gas from Serbia, which is very significant for Serbia, because it makes it a transit country, Nikolic said.
She explained that transit fees that Hungary in the past collected by delivering Russian gas to Serbia will in the future be collected by Serbia as it delivers gas to Hungary.
“But not only is this about exporting gas to Hungary from Serbia, but also, at least two more (pipeline) branches are possible, to export gas to the Serb Republic and to Croatia, and from there perhaps to some other European countries, depending on the capacity,” says Nikolic.
She stressed that this was a big investment and that the first part of the pipeline should be completed in three or four months – while the entire Turkish gas pipeline will take “a while longer.”
“This part, which concerns us, will be finished sometime by the end of 2019 when the existing agreement between Russia and Ukraine expires. And in that sense this is a great opportunity for Serbia to become a transit country for Russian gas to other countries,” Nikolic said.
In addition, she added, it is very important that Serbia has in the meantime increased its consumption of gas – “a completely logical consequence of the country’s economic growth.”
This growth is still minimal, amounting to two percent this year, while the 2018 forecast is 3.5 percent, Nikolic noted.
“Hopefully it will be so. Then we would count ourselves among the countries that have faster economic growth, perhaps faster than others in the region. For now, we are lagging behind the region growth-wise, but in any case, this gas agreement means that economic growth, which is gradually realized, is being counted on,” Nikolic said.
And along with Serbia becoming a transit country for Russian gas, trade with Russia is also very significant, she stressed. In the first nine months of this year it approached about USD 2 billion, with Serbia exporting goods worth about USD 750 million to Russia, while imports were worth about USD 1.1 billion.
“Imports have increased somewhat, but our exports to Russia have increased much more, between 27 or 28 percent,” Nikolic added.
She thinks that this is a very significant trend, and observed that Russia has been under EU sanctions for four or five years, describing as “a shame” that Serbia is “only now reaching this slightly higher level of exports to Russia.”
Nikolic also noted that all arrangements that Serbia has with Russia regarding free export and gas transit expire in 2021, “when Serbia will have to harmonize its regulations with EU regulations on its path to EU membership.”
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