The Russian state-controlled gas company, Gazprom and Italian energy group, ENI, are proposing a €10bn-plus pipeline to bring Russian gas to Europe in a move that will reignite concerns about the European Union’s dependence on Russian supplies.

With the backing of both Russian and Italian governments, the companies signed a memorandum of understanding at the weekend to begin a feasibility study for the pipeline.

The study, which will look at the political implications of the project, as well as its technical and economic viability, is expected to take about 18 months, with the pipeline taking three years to build.

The pipeline could be 3,200km long. Known as South Stream, it would run from southern Russia 900km under the Black Sea to Bulgaria. From there it could take either, or both, of two routes: 1,000km to Greece, from where the gas could go on to Italy or 1,300km north into central Europe.

The irony is that EU leaders keep being warned about over reliance on Russian gas at the same time as continuing to get more reliant on it.