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Bulgaria tries to deserve "gas forgiveness" of Russia

21 May 2018
Tags:Bulgaria, Gas, Economics, Russia, Europe, Energy, Analytics

The Bulgarian president said that his country needs direct supplies of Russian gas - and this requires a separate gas pipeline. The irony is that this is exactly what Russia wanted to build just a few years ago, but Sofia betrayed Moscow and, under US pressure, banned construction. Under what conditions would Russia forgive Bulgaria and give permission for such a gas pipeline?

Bulgaria needs direct supplies of Russian gas through the Black Sea - for the sake of energy security and efficiency not only of itself, but of the whole EU. With such a statement, Bulgaria's President Rumen Radev first spoke in an interview with Kommersant, and then touched on this topic and in a conversation with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev during his visit to Moscow. On Tuesday, the Bulgarian president will meet with Vladimir Putin in Sochi. This will be the first bilateral meeting of the two presidents for 10 years.

"I hope that our governments will reconsider the possibility of direct gas supplies from Russia through the Black Sea," the Bulgarian president Tass quotes. According to Radev, the new gas pipeline can be called the "Bulgarian Stream".

Bulgarian wishes look frankly anecdotal. Several years ago, Gazprom was ready to do what Bulgaria is now asking. Then it was planned to build a South Stream gas pipeline with the capacity of 63 billion cubic meters, which was just supposed to go to the coast of Bulgaria - and thereby make Bulgaria a major European gas hub. Supplying, of course, with gas itself, this country, with a discount, not to mention 3 billion dollars of annual revenue for gas transit. Construction of the "South Stream" was launched in 2012 year, and the first gas on it was to go at the end of 2015 year. However, in 2014, Sofia, under US pressure, betrayed its Russian partner and banned the construction of a pipeline on its territory. Russia had to close the project and switch to cooperation with Turkey - the Turkish Stream gas pipeline, the construction of which is currently being actively developed, has emerged.

And now it turns out that the Bulgarian politicians again want to play the same game. To some extent they have a reason for this.

After the "Turkish flow" was decided to build not conditional 63 billion cubic meters of gas destined for Europe not in four, but in two lines with the capacity of not 31,5, but 30 billion cubic meters. Willing to download these volumes a lot. First of all, this is, of course, Ukraine, which dreams of preserving at least the remains of gas transit. The "Serbian gas pipeline" is a dream for the Serbs (although here it is a question of the continuation of the "Turkish flow"). And now Bulgaria has joined this list - she agrees to pumping at least 15,75 billion cubic meters (this is the power of one thread). Bulgaria justifies the advantages of pumping gas through its territory already built and operating GTS, which connects it with other countries of Central Europe.

"From an economic point of view, the route along the old" South Stream "of Russia is beneficial. The route was worked out, it is clear where and in what volumes gas will flow, all countries have previously concluded intergovernmental agreements, joint companies have been established. A pipe with an output of 15,75 billion cubic meters would ideally fit to meet the needs of the Balkans, "said Igor Yushkov, a leading expert at the National Energy Security Fund. This route allows directly supplying Bulgaria, as well as with Romania, Moldova, Serbia, Hungary - and, of course, bypassing Ukraine.

However, today the working option is the construction of the second thread of the Turkish Stream, which is sharpened for the needs of European consumers (the first line will be gas only for Turkey itself). In the intergovernmental agreement it is said that the second string will come ashore in the European part of Turkey and then continue to the border with Greece. "But where further to drive the gas - is still unclear. Perhaps, from Greece, gas will go to Italy, and possibly to Bulgaria. One of the options under consideration is to use the Transbalkan gas pipeline in reverse mode, according to which the Russian gas is now swinging through Bulgaria to Turkey, the other - to build a new pipeline. All these issues have not been resolved, "Yushkov said.

Still, the chances that Russia will go to change the route are extremely small - if only because of the negative experience of Bulgaria's participation in the South Stream project. "Bulgaria has shown itself as a non-independent country. Four years ago, we agreed with them on the South Stream project, the Bulgarians issued a building permit. And then the US senators come and negotiate with the Bulgarians, and they withdraw their permission and the entire project is closed, "Yushkov recalls.

While the curators of Bulgaria will not give guarantees that the new project will not be ripped off, Russia is unlikely to seriously discuss the project of the Bulgarian Stream. "Naturally, no one will be talking with the Americans now. But at least guarantees with the EU that it will not interfere with this project are required, "the expert of the NESB believes.

Why does Sofia raise this conversation? Because, until the second thread of the Turkish Stream has been built, Bulgaria still has a small, but a chance to revive the truncated project of the South Stream. "Knowingly, Gazprom was building the second thread of the" Turkish flow "slower than the first. And he stopped the pipe in the water area, although he could finish it to the shore, as well as the first thread, "says Igor Yushkov.

Bulgaria, the project of a new gas pipeline, of course, is very beneficial. However, Sofia must make a strong effort to Russia again got involved in this story. "Bulgarians should play politically in the direction of Russia. For example, if they took and voted against the extension of sanctions by the EU, this would guarantee Bulgaria a gas pipe. But they will not do this. Bulgaria itself does not want to do anything, "Yushkov said.

In his opinion, Sofia is waiting for the final decision on the issue of "Nord Stream - 2" to get its gas pipeline through the efforts of the Germans. "When it becomes clear that the" Nord Stream - 2 "is implemented, the Bulgarians will begin negotiations with Brussels. Their arguments will be that - they say, the Germans built a direct gas pipeline for themselves, it means that this is not an economic weapon of Russia, but an economic project. Consequently, the pipe can be built in any country within the framework of general EU legislation, including in Bulgaria. If Brussels agrees with these arguments, gives formal approval to the Bulgarian pipe, then it will be Russia's signal that it is possible to resume negotiations with Bulgaria, "concludes the source.

Olga Samofalova
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