EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - The Czech EU presidency is to invite five leaders to a summit promoting the non-Russian Nabucco gas pipeline project. But a Bulgarian event pushing the pro-Russian South Stream pipeline could be a damp squib.
The presidents or prime ministers of Turkey, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Georgia will this week be asked to join an EU "troika" in Prague on 8 May to cultivate closer relations.
Iraq, Egypt and Uzbekistan will be asked to participate at a lower diplomatic level as observers. An observer status invitation is also being mooted for Russia.
Christened the "Southern Corridor" energy summit, the meeting will focus on the future of Nabucco - a 2,000 km-long pipeline to ship gas from Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan to the EU via Turkey from 2014.
Gas from Iraq, Egypt, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Iran may at a later date be hooked up to Nabucco, which is designed to break Russia's monopoly on Caspian zone gas exports to the EU.
EU relations with Turkmenistan - the owner of some of the largest gas fields - are improving, with Ashgabat last week signing a memo with German firm RWE to develop resources.
The European Parliament will on Wednesday (22 April) also vote on launching a new EU-Turkmenistan trade pact.
Meanwhile, Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov is facing uncertainty over plans to host around 27 countries at an alternative energy summit in Sofia on 24 April.
The star guest - Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who was to stay in the presidential apartments - on Tuesday (21 April) pulled out, saying he would rather meet the Bulgarian premier in Moscow next week.
The commission's Mr Barroso has, three days before the event, yet to confirm his presence. The Sheikh of Qatar - a major gas supplier - and the heads of some Caucasus and Central Asian countries are expected, however.
Bulgarian daily Dnevnik reports that Russia is trying to get wording into the Sofia summit declaration describing the South Stream pipeline as an EU "priority" project, but that commission negotiators have not agreed.
South Stream is designed to bring Russian gas under the Black Sea via Bulgaria to Italy and Austria. The 1,100 km-long pipeline is to start work in 2015, with some analysts seeing it as a rival to the monopoly-busting Nabucco pipe.