Business calls for consortium to take over gas lines

Stakeholders in the transport of Siberian gas to western Europe should form a consortium to manage the pipelines, a leader of German business said in Berlin on Friday.

Klaus Mangold, who chairs the Business Council on the East, said the consortium should unite the Russian and Ukrainian gas companies and the German utilities which are their biggest customers. He said other nations could be involved if they wished.

The proposal to form a consortium was first made in 2002 but failed to win political favour.

Mangold’s council, representing Germany’s biggest companies doing business in former Soviet states, said a consortium would place gas transport functions on a reliable basis.

Consortia are common in Germany, with several companies combining their operations under a general manager while remaining legally separate and dividing up costs and profits under a main contract.

Chancellor Angela Merkel is to bring up this week’s cut-off by the Russians of gas supplies when she meets with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin when he visits Berlin next Friday, her deputy spokesperson Thomas Steg said.

Putin is set to visit a Berlin farm products trade fair, Green Week.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso phoned Putin on Friday and was told Russia would resume pumping gas via Ukraine after turning off the tap in a dispute over money.

Russian supplies to Germany via a more northerly route through Belarus have continued uninterrupted.

The German utilities have formed a joint company with Russian gas monopoly Gazprom to build a new pipeline, the Nord Stream project, under the Baltic Sea from Russia to the German coast. Steel pipes are already being massed on the coast, ready to be put in the water.
- Sapa-dpa

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