Bulgarian President Roumen Radev described his meeting with Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev on May 21 as a “break-through” in relations between the two countries, “because it resumes dialogue between Bulgaria and Russia at the highest level after a long interruption.”
Radev’s visit to Russia, the first since he took office last year, was already yielding results, he said, claiming credit for the Bulgarian government’s decision last week to ask for parliamentary approval to restart the Belene nuclear power plant, for which Russia’s Atomstroyexport was previously picked to provide equipment, while at the same time describing Bulgarian Energy Minister Temenouzhka Petkova’s trip to Russia to meet with her Russian counterpart as “laudable, but not enough.”
Radev, who repeatedly has found himself at odds with the government of Prime Minister Boiko Borissov, appeared to put additional pressure on the cabinet to improve relations with Moscow. “The positive impulse of this visit, which I do with prime minister Medvedev and president [Vladimir] Putin tomorrow, must be used in the best way possible by the Bulgarian government,” he told reporters after the meeting with Medvedev, as quoted in a statement released by the presidency’s media office.
Asked about the ongoing EU sanctions levied on Russia for its annexation of Crimea, Radev said that the issue was not discussed in his meeting with Medvedev, but said that sanctions should not be a reason to freeze relations.
“You know my opinion about sanctions, but this is an issue for the European Council, where Bulgaria is represented by the prime minister,” Radev was quoted as saying.
Radev said that one of the issues that were discussed during the meeting was the prospect of direct natural gas deliveries from Russia to Bulgaria under the Black Sea, calling on the governments of the two countries to discuss the issue anew. Russia cancelled plans for the South Stream gas pipeline, meant to make landfall in Bulgaria, in December 2014, blaming the European Commission and Bulgaria’s failure to issue the necessary construction permits as the reason for the pipeline’s demise.
In an interview with Russian daily Kommersant published on May 21, Radev went into more detail on the issue, saying that “Bulgaria needs direct gas deliveries through the Black Sea,” saying that such a pipeline would be no different from the Nord Stream 2 proposed pipeline under the Baltic Sea.
In the same interview, however, Radev dismissed the prospects of Bulgaria buying Russian fighter jets in the future, saying that the tender requirements stipulated that new acquisitions should be manufactured and already be in use in at least one EU or Nato member state.
(Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev, left, and Bulgarian President Roumen Radev. Photo: president.bg)