Bulgarian President Radev seeks Constitutional Court ruling on gas transit fee

Bulgarian President Roumen Radev has filed a complaint with the country’s Constitutional Court, asking it to rule on the provisions of a recent bill that introduced an extra fee on Russian gas imported into or transited through Bulgaria, the presidency’s media office said on October 26.

Earlier this month, Parliament approved amendments to the law on the implementation of restrictions related to Russia’s war on Ukraine, which introduced the fee of 20 leva, or about 10.2 euro, a MWh. The fee went into force on October 13.

Radev said that the bill did not provide clarity whether this was being imposed as a tax or a fee and argued that it breached a number of constitutional rights, including to own property, exercise free enterprise and the rule of law.

He also argued that Bulgaria did not have the right to impose additional sanctions on top of those agreed by the EU as a whole and breached EU customs regulations by unilaterally levying the new fee on gas transit.

Radev, who has strongly opposed the sanctions imposed on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine and Bulgarian military assistance for Kyiv, said that he was concerned that the introduction of the transit fee could lead to the decapitalisation and bankruptcy of state-owned gas grid operator Bulgartransgaz.

His statement did not say why Radev did not impose a veto on the bill and chose to challenge it at the Constitutional Court after promulgation in the State Gazette.

Hungary and Serbia, the main recipients of Russian gas transiting through Bulgaria via the TurkStream pipeline, have already reacted strongly to the announcement of the transit fee, with Hungary describing it as a “hostile move” and asking the European Commission to intervene.

Bulgaria itself is no longer receiving any Russian gas after Gazprom cut off deliveries in April 2022, over Sofia’s refusal to comply with Russia’s request that all payments be done in roubles.

Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Nikolai Denkov has repeatedly defended the transit tax, saying – including at a meeting with EU ambassadors in Sofia on October 25 – that it was aimed squarely at Gazprom and Russia.

(Photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)

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