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SOFIA, November 15 (Itar-Tass) — Bulgaria has signed a new long-term contract for supplies of Russia gas, Prime Minister Boyko Boris told a news conference in Sofia here on Thursday.
The contract envisions a decrease in the price of natural gas by 20 percent, in the first place due to direct supplies without intermediaries. "The price of gas supplies to Bulgaria is the lowest for the countries of this category /Central Europe - eds Itar-Tass/," said Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller, adding that the company had decreased the price for future strategic partnership in the gas sphere.
The document envisions the possibility to decrease the mandatory gas intake under the contract after six years in case of the growth of domestic gas production in Bulgaria /at present, some 30 percent of the demand is met by domestic producers/.
The new contract replaces the expired one, under which gas had been supplied by the Overgas company /in which Gazprom had a 50-percent stake and a Bulgarian businessman had another 50-percent stake, and the contract with Germany's Zarubezhgaz Management und Beteiligungsgesellschaft.
In 2011, Russian gas supplies to Bulgaria made up 2.81 billion cubic meters, with Overgas accounting for 2.5 billion cubic meters.
On Thursday, Russia and Bulgaria signed a protocol on the final investment decision on the South Stream gas pipeline project. The document was inked after the talks between Executive Director of the Bulgarian State Energy Holding Mikhail Andonov and Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller.
"The construction of the gas pipeline will begin somewhat later, but we've signed the investment decision today, which means the two sides have started the project implementation stage. I congratulate everybody on this landmark event. Bulgaria is becoming the largest country to transport Russian natural gas to Europe. Most importantly, gas will be supplied directly to Bulgaria. Therefore, Bulgarian consumers will receive Russian gas in full measure always and on time," the Gazprom CEO said.
"We are really becoming neighbor countries; in effect, we're building one gas border. Under no conditions henceforth will Bulgaria find itself in a situation when Bulgarian consumers may be left without natural gas," Miller said meaning the 2009 gas crisis, when Ukraine interrupted gas supplies to Bulgaria.
"It is very important for us to conclude the gas supply contract directly with the producer. Over the past few years, we've lost millions because of intermediaries at the expense of the Bulgarian consumer. We received a discount on gas in the amount of 20 percent from January 1, 2013, and are signing a contract for ten years, but in the sixth year, we'll have the right to cut gas consumption due to domestic production," the Bulgarian prime minister said in comments on the new gas supply contract.
In a telephone conversation, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov praised bilateral interaction in the South Stream gas pipeline project.
"Putin and Borisov discussed the topical issues of bilateral relations in a productive vein, paying special attention to energy cooperation," the Kremlin press service reported.
To diversify the route of natural gas supplies, Gazprom is implementing the project to build a gas pipeline across the Black Sea to countries of South and Central Europe. The offshore stretch of the pipeline will run across the bottom of the Black Sea from the Russkaya booster station on the Russian coast to the Bulgarian coast. The total length of the Black Sea section will reach over 900 kilometers, the maximum depth is more than two kilometers, and rated throughput capacity is 63 billion cubic meters.
The supplies are to begin in late 2015.
Gazprom signed separate intergovernmental agreements with Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, Greece, Slovenia, Croatia and Austria to implement the land phase of the project.
Bulgaria became the last country among the South Stream project participants to sign the protocol on the final investment decision, which paves the way for the beginning of the gas pipeline construction.