Bulgarian PM says hopeful for ‘minimum damages’ from Belene lawsuit
Bulgarian Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski said on September 13 that he was confident that Bulgaria’s legal counsel “will do everything possible to minimise the damages” from the arbitration lawsuit filed by Russian contractor Atomstroyexport after Bulgaria decided to shelve plans to build a second nuclear power plant at Belene on the Danube River.
Oresharski was asked to clarify, during Question Time in Parliament, a statement he made during a televised interview, when he said that Bulgaria could be liable to pay damages of up to 2.4 billion leva (about 1.23 billion euro) as a result of mothballing the Belene project.
Atomstroyexport, the foreign arm Russia’s state-owned nuclear corporation Rosatom, has filed a 870-million-euro lawsuit, claiming the damages for equipment ordered for Belene but not paid by Bulgaria. The company was reported to be considering increasing it damages claim to one billion euro.
“The figures are a tentative estimate and are part of the context of another issue. This was not an attempt to forecast the result of the lawsuit, rather a debate about the commitments and legacy inherited [from the previous government],” Oresharski said.
“It would have been better if there was no issue. I will be concerned until I see the final result, which I hope will be beneficial for my country,” he said.
Oresharski also said that the costs of the Belene project were now being revised anew by the Economy Ministry, but gave no timeline for when the results of the revision would be announced.
Bulgarian Socialist Party leader Sergei Stanishev has recently reaffirmed the determination of his party, currently in power, that the Belene nuclear power station project should go ahead. Speaking in Koprinka at the 10th annual national convention of Russophiles on September 7, Stanishev underlined support for the Russian-linked Belene project.
A January 2013 national referendum on the issue drew a turnout too low to be decisive. The issue was referred to Parliament where the centre-right GERB party held to its opposition to Belene, on which the then-government had pulled the plug because of a prolonged failure to attract any investors and the conclusion that the project could not be economically viable for Bulgaria.
(Belene nuclear plant site, screengrab from Bulgarian National Television)