* Nazarbayev stresses Kazakhstan’s interest in pipeline
* Germany’s Merkel welcomes trade with Kazakhstan
By Raushan Nurshayeva
ASTANA, July 18 (Reuters) - Kazakhstan’s leader said on Sunday the European Union was doing too little to bring to life the Nabucco pipeline, which aims to take Caspian Sea gas to Europe and reduce the bloc’s independence on Russia. “In Europe there is a lot of talk on Nabucco ... but in reality little gets done,” Nursultan Nazarbayev said at a joint news briefing with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the Kazakh capital, adding that his comments were not criticism.
Kazakhstan remains close to Russia nearly two decades after the breakup of the Soviet Union, but energy has become a bone of contention. Its willingness to join Nabucco could hamper its relations with Russia, Europe’s biggest gas supplier.
Nabucco shareholders have struggled to reach the gas supply deals they need to secure financing for around 70 percent of project costs for the 7.9 billion-euro ($10.25 billion), 3,300-km (2,000-mile) pipeline.
Nazarbayev added that for Kazakhstan to supply the pipeline, expected to open by end-2014, the Nabucco consortium would have to either extend the link under the Caspian Sea or set up liquefied natural gas (LNG) plants. “But nothing is happening with either of those issues besides talk,” he said.
Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Iran are all viewed as potential suppliers for the pipeline, which is expected to carry 31 billion cubic metres a year.
Merkel, who was at the end of a five-day tour to Russia, China and Kazakhstan in the aim of boosting trade and energy supplies, said she welcomed trade with Astana.
“We’ll support new business with state export guarantees,” she said, referring to Germany’s promise to refund exporting companies if the importing country dodges the bill.
Nazarbayev said he was disappointed so few German companies had invested in Kazakhstan and said he would welcome their involvement in the metals and chemicals sectors.
Nabucco’s consortium includes Germany’s RWE (RWEG.DE), Austria’s OMV (OMVV.VI), Hungary’s MOL MOLB.BU, Bulgarian EnergyHolding, Romania’s Transgaz TGNM.BX and Botas of Turkey. (Additional reporting by Andreas Rinke, writing by Amie Ferris-Rotman; editing by Andrew Roche)