Serbia’s Prime Minister Ivica Dacic has confirmed the South Stream natural gas pipeline is the country’s utmost priority and voiced hopes the venture will boost Serbia’s economy.
Construction of the pipeline, expected to reach Serbia in December this year, has a widespread support in the Balkan country with 73 per cent of Serbians supporting the construction in a recent poll.
Speaking at a conference in Bulgaria’s capital Sofia, organised by Natural Gas Europe, Dacic said the South Stream pipeline is Serbia’s key objective and will help to contribute to Serbia's ambitions to become a regional energy hub.
South Stream, bringing natural gas from Russia across the Black Sea to Bulgarian Varna and then further through Serbia, Hungary and Slovenia to Italy and Austria, is competing with the Nabucco Pipeline, foreseen to go through Turkey to central Europe.
The project, officially launched in December 2012, will eventually span 2,446 km.
Dacic said South Stream is the most significant international project Serbia is currently involved in. "It will be key to the country's economic development, ensuring job creation, and energy security for the region,” he said while reassuring the country will take all necessary measures to ensure maximum environment protection.
Serbia, ravaged in the 1990s during the Yugoslavian conflict, believes the construction might help kick-start the much needed economic recovery. "We used to say energy for democracy. Today I can say that means we need energy for the industrial and economic rejuvenation of our regions and our country,” said Zorana Mihajlovic, Serbian Minister of Energy. “Without new infrastructure projects, it is not possible to expect economic recovery, or an influx of foreign direct investment."
Mihajlovic has further outlined Serbia’s aspirations to build new gas plants, which, the country believes, will create about 1000 jobs and bring €400m annual revenues in electricity exports. “We expect that the construction of South Stream will enable us to decrease natural gas prices in the Serbian market, which will further encourage development," she said.