Tensions in Bulgaria’s ruling axis over South Stream out in the open

A few days after the European Commission (EC) announced an infringement procedure against Bulgaria over its choice of a contractor to build the land section of the South Stream pipeline project in the country, tensions between current ruling axis partners the Bulgarian Socialist Party and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms are becoming clearer.

At a news conference soon after reports emerged of the EC initiating the infringement procedure, the BSP – holder of the mandate to govern – indicated that it was willing to go ahead with its South Stream plans in spite of EC objections.

EC President Jose Barroso has made clear the Commission’s intentions about ensuring that EU countries keep to the rules regarding South Stream.

Barroso, speaking on June 5, said: “The Commission will also ensure that all energy infrastructure and projects in the European Union such as South Stream comply 100 per cent with European rules on energy competition public procurements and so on.

“We have just launched an infringement procedure against Bulgaria which shows that we mean business. Other infringements procedures related to other countries will follow if some of the obstacles to the respect of our internal market are not removed meanwhile. The European Union needs to speak and act as one in context with its suppliers letting ourselves divided is against the self interest of our countries and is also detrimental for the European internal market,” Barroso said.

In Sofia, Lyutvi Mestan, leader of the MRF – at the same news conference at which the MRF delivered a shock to the BSP by calling for early parliamentary elections – sent a sharp message about defying Brussels over South Stream.

“As a consistent Euro-Atlantic party, the MRF insists that nothing in Bulgaria is done ‘despite Brussels’,” Mestan said.

Sergei Stanishev, the beleaguered leader of the BSP, whose party was handed a resounding defeat in European Parliament elections and now reluctantly is conceding to being “ready” for talks with the MRF and other parties on early elections, told a June 6 news conference that, “to me, the politicisation of the South Stream gas pipeline project is not right and neither is it fair towards Bulgaria, it does not meet our national interest”.

According to Stanishev, “the project is being connected with the political situation in Ukraine and with Russia-Ukraine relations…Bulgaria is a country that was seriously affected by the gas crisis in 2009 and we drew a serious conclusion for ourselves, which should be also valid for the EU”.

Referring to tensions around the project at the EC, Stanishev said that tEuropean legislation should be observed and that Bulgaria was observing it.

“I was not by chance that we insisted for the EC to enter into a dialogue with Russia in terms of the third energy package and the functioning of the project itself,” Stanishev said.

“We stay firm to the European beginning but we also stay firm to our national interests, because this is an important investment project in Bulgaria,” he said.

(Photo: gazprom.ru)



The Sofia Globe staff

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