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Poland: Construction Of Gas Pipeline From Russia Continues On Schedule

Warsaw, 8 January 1998 (RFE/RL) -- The construction of the Yamal-Europe gas pipeline across Poland proceeds on schedule, despite protests of some Polish farmers.

Barbara Jezierska, spokeswoman for the Polish company Europolgaz that builds the pipeline, yesterday told reporters in Warsaw that about one fourth of the pipeline or some 160 km has been already installed. She said the company has had to deal with demands by the rural "Self Defense" union and two other rural groups for more money for the land on which the pipeline was being installed. But she said that these demands have failed to stop the work. The three groups have called for a more than fivefold increase in payments ( 100,000 zloties or $28,571 per hectar instead of 16,000 zloties or $4,571) which the company agreed to pay for the land after lengthy negotiations with farmers. Jezierska said Europolgaz has already signed 3,712 agreements with various landowners and only 127 additional agreements have to be signed to complete the project.

Witold Michalowski, chairman of the Rural Real Estate Owners which is one of the contending groups, has said Europolgaz company used police to disperse farmers protesting against construction of the pipeline in at least three Polish villages. But Jezierska said that the farmers staged the protests despite the fact that they took the money for the rental of land to the company. "We have a legal right to resort to the use of the police," she added. Poland signed the deal with Gazprom on the construction of the pipeline on August 25, 1993. Two years later Poland concluded a deal on the delivery of 250 thousand million cubic meters of gas from Russia to Poland until the year 2012. Part of the delivery is to be free as a compensation for the transit of Russian gas to Europe.

Self-Defense leader Andrzej Lepper says that the agreement signed between Poland and Gazprom should be renegotiated. The agreement has also been criticized by some Solidarity officials who claim the deal made Poland dependent on Russian gas only. But there is no sign that the government would renege on the agreement. The Yamal-Europe project involves Gazprom partners in the Commonwealth of Independent States, Western and Eastern Europe. The construction of the first part of the pipeline is expected to be completed in 1999-2000. Russia's gas reserves make up over 33 percent of the world stock. Its share in the gas output is 22 percent. Gazprom is licensed to produce 73 percent of Russia's gas. It meets 19 per cent of Europe's gas demand.