The 3,300km pipeline will travel across five countries from the Caspian to Austria, carrying principally Azerbaijani gas. The EU and five regional countries signed an agreement in Vienna to drive the project forward on June 26, and it is hoped that first gas will flow through the line in 2011.

Gas is essential to the European economy. The European Commission is actively guiding investments into transmission and is hoping to assist in overcoming the technical and commercial issues involved in bringing gas through many jurisdictions to the EU, said EU energy commissioner Andris Piebalgs.

The memorandum in Vienna was signed by Austria, Turkey, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria. When complete, it is thought that the Nabucco line will carry between 4.5 and 13bcm in gas per annum. However the EU is playing down the impact the route could have on Russia by insisting that there is enough demand for gas in Europe to satisfy Gazprom’s export needs.