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Monday, June 29, 2009

German ex-FM Fischer to promote Nabucco

BERLIN, June 26, 2009 (UPI) - Former German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer has been hired to lobby for the EU gas pipeline Nabucco. Fischer, a former Green Party leader, is due to sign a six-figure contract with the Nabucco pipeline consortium for a political and PR consulting job, the German Manager Magazine reports in its Friday issue. Germany's RWE and Austrian OMV will pay the salary of the former politician who has been teaching at Princeton University for the past three years. The 2,000-mile Nabucco pipeline is a key European energy project. It is intended to bring 31 billion cubic meters of gas per year from the Caspian Sea to Austria via Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary. The EU with Nabucco wants to decrease Europe's energy dependence on Russia. Washington also backs Nabucco. Differences between the consortium and transit countries and Russia's repeated efforts to torpedo Nabucco have delayed a final agreement on the project. Nabucco is also in danger because gas supplies are not yet secured. Kazakhstan's Deputy Energy Minister Acet Magauov said at the NATO summit in Astana Friday that Kazakhstan will not have gas to supply the pipeline, Radio Free Europe reports. EU officials are nevertheless optimistic that a deal on Nabucco can be signed this year. The magazine writes that Fischer is employed first and foremost to massage Turkey, a key transit country. Ankara has been bargaining with its support for the project, linking it to a quicker EU accession process and demanding 15 percent of the pipeline's gas as transit fees. The consortium may hope that Fischer is able to drive back Turkey's demands. "Fischer is highly regarded in Turkey because he was always open to it joining the EU," Manager Magazine writes. That pretty much makes Fischer a competitor of his ex-boss and political ally, former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who is lobbying for the Russian-backed Nord Stream pipeline aimed at connecting Russia and Germany directly under the Baltic Sea. Schroeder heads the advisory board for the Nord Stream consortium, made up of Russia's state-controlled energy giant Gazprom, Germany's Eon and Dutch Gasunie. His decision to back Nord Stream for money was harshly criticized at the time, because Schroeder had signed an agreement with the Kremlin to green-light the pipeline while still in office.

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