The European Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs has signed an agreement with five southern European countries to build a pipeline which will transport oil directly from the Black Sea to central European markets.

The Pan-European Oil Pipeline is aimed at linking the Black Sea port of Constanta, Romania to the oil hub of Trieste, Italy. The EC said that the pipeline will be of great strategic importance, as pipelines from Trieste head north to Austria, Germany and the Czech Republic.

As well as Mr Piebalgs, the agreement was signed by government officials from Italy, Croatia, Slovenia, Serbia and Romania. The 1,300 kilometer pipeline, due to be completed in 2012, is expected to cost in the region of E2.6 billion and is expected to deliver up to 100 million tonnes of oil per year to the European market.