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EU ready to begin consultations with Bulgaria on South Stream

August 21, 2014, 7:32 UTC+3 SOFIA

On Monday, the Bulgarian Ministry of Economy and Energy ordered all work on the South Stream gas pipeline project to be halted

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© ITAR-TASS/Ruslan Shamukov

SOFIA, August 20 /ITAR-TASS/. EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger on Wednesday welcomed the Bulgarian interim government’s decision to suspend all work on the South Stream project.

“Commissioner Oettinger welcomed Bulgaria’s decision and said Brussels was ready to participate in discussions with the Bulgarian authorities in order to implement the South Stream gas pipeline project,” the government press service said after a meeting with Oettinger and Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Development Ekaterina Zaharieva in Brussels.

On Monday, the Bulgarian Ministry of Economy and Energy ordered all work on the South Stream gas pipeline project to be halted until it brought in compliance with the European Commission’s requirements.

Interim Minister of Economy and Energy Vassil Shtonov signed a letter addressed to the Bulgarian Energy Holding which forbade it to make any related contracts and urged it to provide every assistance to the European Commission in bringing the project in line with European legislation.

“The project will be suspended until it meets the European Commission’s requirements,” the minister said.

Shtonov said last week that the project would be implemented as it was “important for both Bulgaria and Russia, and for the whole European community”.

“But all parties involved must understand that the project should be implemented by European rules. The project will be suspended until it meets the requirements put forth by the European Commission,” Shtonov said.

He hopes that “progress will be made in the next two months”.

“It is very important to sit down at the negotiating table and work together with Russia and the European Commission. Actually, there are not so many problems to solve,” he added.

Bulgaria needs the South Stream gas pipeline, however, it will be built according to European rules, Zaharieva said in an interview to BTV television in August.

“The European Commission suspects Bulgaria of violating EU legislation in the South Stream gas pipeline construction, in particular, non-observance of competition rules. However, this does not mean that the project should be halted. We guarantee full assistance to the EC and will provide all the needed information to the commission so that it could look into the validity of their claims; we have voiced recommendations on the necessary changes in the project to continue South Stream construction,” Zaharieva said.

The vice premier confirmed that former Regional Development Minister Desislava Terzieva at the close of her office term signed the permission for the construction of the gas pipeline’s receiving terminal in the area of Pasha Dere near Varna and a compressor station.

“Clearly, the work under the project continues, the land has been sold and the construction beginning permit has been issued. But we so far have not seen the signed agreement, and the presidential administration has not received it either. Now we have requested the full relevant information. I’d like to emphasise that the project is important for Bulgaria and Europe, but it should be correctly structured to be not halted by the European Commission,” the vice premier said. 

The contract to build the South Stream gas pipeline in Bulgaria is fully in line with European legislation, the Bulgarian Ministry of Economy and Energy said earlier.

“The position of the ministry has been stated many times - the implementation of the South Stream project is important for Bulgaria both for diversifying gas supplies and from the economic point of view,” the ministry said.

“This is why during the talks with Russia in October 2013 Bulgaria, as an EU member state, could reach an agreement between the Bulgarian Energy Holding and Gazprom, under which the South Stream design company will make the gas pipeline capacity available for use by a third party as required by the Third Energy Package. This clearly shows compliance with our commitment to abide by European legislation,” the ministry said.

South Stream project

The main gas pipeline section in Bulgaria will be 541 kilometres long. The project provides for building a receiving terminal and three compressor stations near Varna, Lozen and Rasovo with the aggregate capacity of 300 MW.

South Stream will be built across the Black Sea to South and Central European countries to diversify gas supplies to Europe and reduce the dependence on transit countries.

The offshore section of the pipeline, which will run in part along the seabed and reach the maximum depth of 2,200 m, will be 931 km long. Each of the four parallel strings of the pipeline will consist of 75,000 pipes, each 12 m long, 81 cm in diameter, 39 mm thick and weighing 9 tonnes.

The construction of South Stream started on December 7, 2012 is scheduled to be completed by 2015. The overall capacity of the marine section of the pipeline will be 63 billion cubic metres a year. Its cost is about 16 billion euro. The pipeline will go on onshore in the area of the Bulgarian city of Varna.

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