Russian gas pipeline extension in Balkans mooted – report

Even as talks between Moscow and Ankara on the Turkish Stream gas pipeline remain deadlocked, four Balkan countries are set to discuss an extension of the pipeline into Central Europe, a report in Russian daily Vedomosti claimed on August 19, only a day after Bulgaria’s Energy Minister said that Sofia has not given up on the South Stream project.

South Stream was meant to take Russian gas into Hungary – crossing Bulgaria and Serbia, bypassing the existing Ukrainian transit route – but ran afoul of EU’s regulations that require gas pipelines to give access to third-party suppliers, a provision that Russia’s state-owned gas company Gazprom rejected. In December 2014, Russian President Vladimir Putin cancelled the project, blaming Bulgaria and the EC for its failure, and proposed redirecting the pipeline towards Turkey.

Bulgaria has continued preparatory work for the South Stream project and officials in Sofia have repeatedly said that they were interested in seeing the pipeline built as long as it meets EU regulations. Energy Minister Temenouzhka Petkova re-iterated that position on August 18 in reply to comments made by Putin earlier this week, when he said that Bulgaria had “given up” on the pipeline.

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(Map of proposed Turkish Stream pipeline by Gazprom.)