European Commission looking into South Stream Bulgarian tender

The European Commission was looking into the public procurement tender to pick a contractor for the Bulgarian stretch of the South Stream gas pipeline, but no formal investigation has been opened at this point, the spokesperson for internal market commissioner Michel Barnier, Chantal Hughes, has said.

“We have been recently made aware that there are some concerns around the public procurement aspects of the Bulgarian part of the South Stream project. Our experts are looking into the issue. It is far too early at this stage to say exactly what rules apply and whether any of these have or not been breached,” Hughes said during the daily Commission briefing on January 14.

Bulgaria announced the tender on December 21 2013, with a deadline of January 10 2014 for potential bidders to submit letters of interest, drawing criticism from some quarters that the period was too short and the bulk of it was covered by the winter festive season.

Bulgarian Energy Holding, which hold equal stakes with Russia’s Gazprom in the project company that will build the Bulgarian stretch of the pipeline, said that 11 companies submitted letters of interest before the deadline expired.

“My understanding is that, in most cases, the minimum [period to express interest] is around 10 days, but it can be more depending on what the context is. The first thing to do in this case is to determine whether or not European public procurement rules apply and that is not necessarily completely straightforward because we’re talking about issues to do with exclusivity of rights, we’re talking about an international government agreement,” Hughes said.

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