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EU's Barroso calls for new energy link for Central-Eastern Europe

Feb 20, 2011 - Alvise Armellini - McClatchy-Tribune Regional News - Energy Central

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said he would unveil the proposal later on Thursday at dinner in Brussels with prime ministers from Romania, Bulgaria and the Visegrad Group -- made up of Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

"The North-South initiative will connect and integrate the power sources of the Baltic, Adriatic and Black Sea, ensure the free and diversified flow of energy within Central and Eastern Europe and thus enhance the economic security of the region and of our Union as a whole," he said in a statement.

The new links would reduce CEE countries' dependence on energy imports from Russia -- a key strategic objective for most governments in the region.

Barroso said the commission would set up an expert panel to draw up "deadlines for North-South interconnections for gas, oil and electricity," with an aim to have EU states endorse the plans in the second half of 2011.

Barroso's move comes on the eve of an EU summit where leaders are expected to discuss financing for new infrastructure needed to complete the bloc's energy policy.

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