Energy issues expected to dominate Putin-Borissov meeting in Moscow

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov was expected to lobby for direct Russian natural gas deliveries to the planned Balkan gas hub near Varna during talks with Russian president Vladimir Putin on May 30.

Borissov, who is on a two-day official visit to Moscow on May 30-31, has long sought to secure Russian gas for the gas hub, a pet project that he has championed in response to Putin’s decision to cancel the South Stream gas pipeline in December 2014.

The project currently lives on as Turkish Stream – crossing under the Black Sea but making landfall in the European part of Turkey, as opposed to near Varna in Bulgaria – and Bulgaria has shown interest in having one of the four planned lines, each with an annual capacity of 15.75 billion cubic metres, to extend to the gas hub.

But reports in Bulgarian media have said that Moscow wanted Bulgaria to be a transit country, same as under the South Stream scenario, as opposed to relinquishing control once the gas arrives at the hub. Having Bulgaria as a transit country would run into the same issues with breaching EU’s energy regulations that South Stream did.

Another major energy issue between Russia and Bulgaria was the Belene nuclear power plant, which Borissov’s first administration shelved in 2012.

Earlier this month, the Bulgarian government said that it would table a motion in Parliament asking for the legislative body’s approval to “resume activities to seek opportunities to build the Belene nuclear power plant”. Any plans to use the reactors, however, would require the approval of the Russian company that built them.

With Parliament yet to vote on that motion however, Borissov did not have a mandate to hold formal negotiations on Belene, public broadcaster Bulgarian National Radio reported.

Opening remarks by Borissov and Putin before their face-to-face meeting, however, made no reference to the energy issues.




The Sofia Globe staff

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