Italian EU presidency backs South Stream (Source euobserver.com) The Italian EU presidency is in favour of a controversial Russian pipeline, South Stream, which would circumvent Ukraine to bring gas to south-east Europe. “We think South Stream should go ahead, as it would improve the diversification of gas routes to Europe,” Italy’s state secretary for EU affairs Sandro Gozi said on Thursday (10 July) during a press event in Brussels. He echoed statements made by Italian foreign minister Federica Mogherini who visited Moscow on Wednesday and met with her Russian counterpart. She said the pipeline was “very important for the energy security of our country, as well as that of the entire European area”, but stressed that the project should comply with EU law. She also invited Russian leader Vladimir Putin to a meeting of Asian and European leaders in Milan in October. Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said during that Mogherini press conference that Italy and Russia “confirm our goal on completing the construction project of the South Stream gas pipeline … and to continue active work in order to remove all issues that may arise, including in regard to the dialogue with the European Commission.” Work on the South Stream pipeline was halted in Bulgaria last month after the EU commission said it was in breach of the bloc’s energy and public procurement laws. Energy commissioner Gunther Oettinger said at the time that the ongoing Ukraine crisis has also made the EU wary of going ahead with the project. South Stream would deprive Ukraine of transit revenues from the gas pipelines that cross its territory and bring about 80 percent of Russian gas exports to EU countries. It would also enable it to cut off supplies to Ukraine to exert political pressure, without affecting its EU gas clients.