Bulgaria to offer South Stream restart plan

Bulgaria intends to offer the European Commission a plan that would lead to the resuscitation of the South Stream pipeline, albeit in a curtailed form, it emerged on December 10.

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov told Cabinet ministers during the weekly government sitting that Sofia should offer a compromise solution in which Russia would still build the underwater stretch of the pipeline to Varna, where the EU would fund the construction of a gas hub. Bulgaria would meanwhile expand its gas grid capacity to ensure that gas from the new hub would reach neighbouring countries, according to the Cabinet discussion transcript, published by the government’s media service.

In this scenario, Russia would still get an alternative transit route into Europe – Moscow has sought to reduce transit through Ukraine for years and South Stream was envisioned as one of the main tools to do so – but no control over the gas once it reaches the hub.

EU’s main objection to the South Stream project has been the fact that the proposed pipeline did not meet EU rules on gas unbundling, which are meant to prevent gas traders from operating gas infrastructure, while also allowing third-party traders access to new pipelines. Bulgaria’s proposal envisions no land section of South Stream, thus no EU rules would be breached.

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(Photo: gazprom.ru)