Serbia is in a hurry to ease its energy dependence on Russia because sanctions against Moscow are forcing Belgrade to make plans to weaken oil and gas ties with its traditional ally, the British newspaper Financial Times reported, quoting the statement of the President of Serbia on the consideration taking over the control over the majority stake in the country’s biggest oil company – the Petroleum Industry of Serbia (NIS) from Russia’s Gazpromneft.
“Official Belgrade is also preparing a half-dozen other projects to diversify the country’s energy sources, including closer co-operation with Hungary, in a bid to cut its dependency on Russia, Aleksandar Vučić said. “It’s crazy that we didn’t think about connecting with each other and building this infrastructure network before,” said Vučić. “We were not in the habit of wars in Europe, but now it is different. Almost everything changed. That’s why we are in a hurry”, the Financial Times (FT) reports.
“From December EU sanctions mean Croatia will be barred from transporting Russian oil shipments to Serbia. And if Brussels overturns an exemption from a Russian ownership ban, Belgrade’s main oil company NIS will no longer be allowed to do business with EU entities; this would effectively shut down its operations as it receives all its oil via Croatia’s Adria pipeline. According to three sources with knowledge of the situation, several groups including the Serbian government and Hungary’s energy company MOL have considered buying the controlling stake from majority owner Gazpromneft, though talks on a sale have stalled. MOL declined to comment,” the FT goes on to say.
“But Vučić said Serbia, an EU membership candidate, needed to consider “all the possibilities”, including taking over NIS and sourcing alternative supplies. “If there were other sanctions against Russian-owned enterprises, it will be a huge problem for us,” Vučić told the Financial Times. “We will have to act anyway . . . we have to secure enough oil and gas to our people.” He added: “If nobody wants to work with NIS . . . then we’ll act, but it’s not the case so far.” Vučić is treading carefully because he wants to avoid confrontation while his country relies on gas imports from Russia, a traditional ally of Serbia, analysts said.”
“Having formed a new government last month after winning elections in April, Vučić plans to spend about €2bn a year upgrading energy infrastructure, including new oil and gas links to Bulgaria, Romania, North Macedonia and possibly Montenegro. Vučić held talks with Hungarian premier Viktor Orbán last month on strengthening energy ties, including an oil pipeline to hook up Serbia to Hungary’s network, and an electricity partnership. Serbia would like to take a 10-15 per cent stake in Hungary’s Paks nuclear power plant, where two new reactor blocks are under construction,” the Financial Times goes on to say.
“The plan could give Serbia access to up to 600MW of power generating capacity from Paks, although Vučić said there was no final decision on the issue yet. In return, Hungary would gain a similar stake in Serbia’s national power company, whose hydroelectric dams contribute about a quarter of Serbia’s power”, the FT concludes.
(Politika, Naslovi.net, FT, 06.11.2022)
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