Comeback of South Stream?
Bulgarian President Rumen Radev expressed hope for direct gas supplies from Russia to this country via the Black Sea.
Speaking at the meeting with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, he called the security of energy supplies very important for Sofia and for the EU as a whole. "Therefore, I hope that our governments will reconsider the possibility of direct gas supplies from Russia via the Black Sea," TASS cited Radev as saying.
Bulgaria's president stressed that Russia has always been a strategic energy partner to Bulgaria as a supplier of natural gas, oil and nuclear fuel and as a participant in the maintenance and upgrading of energy facilities.
Noting that discussions on the Belene nuclear power plant project have been resumed in Bulgaria, Radev said that "the resuscitation of the project implies Russian participation."
On December 1, 2014, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Russia was abandoning the South Stream gas pipeline project, which was to be laid along the Black Sea to Bulgaria in order to supply gas to the countries of Southern and Central Europe. This decision was made in connection with the fact that the project faced opposition from the European Commission, which demanded that the project needed to be brought into line with the European antimonopoly legislation.
A senior analyst of 'Uralsib Capital', Alexei Kokin, speaking with a correspondent of Vestnik Kavkaza, noted that Russia is interested in supplying gas to Europe via alternative to Ukraine routes, but Bulgaria's proposal is hindered by the already built infrastructure of the Turkish Stream. "The European market is necessary in order to turn the Turkish Stream into a European project, and Gazprom has never rejected the idea of gas supplies to Europe via the southern route. Now this idea looks like a proposal to extend the Turkish Stream to Europe via the hub in Greece, although so far no one has finished the pipeline with a hub that is not bound by contracts with end users. It can be said that plans to extend the Turkish Stream to Europe seemed fantastic before Radev's statement, but now, apparently, they have the first interested side. But Bulgaria should understand that Russia is unlikely to lay another line under the Black Sea and its desire should be inked to the Turkish Stream," he stressed.
"In general, the confidence in European statements is hardly high now - especially after the cancellation of the South Stream, when Bulgaria was a stumbling block. If there is a clear indication from Bulgaria about its readiness to guarantee the plan of turning Bulgaria into a regional gas hub with interception of this role from Turkey, then dialogue is possible. Gazprom needs guarantees that the proposals will not end as badly as last time, and still it will be based on what has already been done within the framework of the Turkish Stream," Alexei Kokin noted.
A leading analyst of the National Energy Security Fund, a lecturer at the Financial University under the Government of the Russian Federation, Igor Yushkov, recalled that the route from Russia to Bulgaria is economically the most profitable for European consumers, but after the South Stream was abandoned, no one will be talking about any new projects with Sofia. "Radev made an advantageous offer, because the route through Bulgaria to the Balkans without Turkey as a transit country allows to guarantee the supply of Russian gas to Europe - Serbia, Hungary and Austria. But Bulgaria has shown that it is not independent, which means it makes no sense to talk with it - it's better to speak directly to Brussels. Only after that it will possible to discuss the technical issues of laying a pipe to Bulgaria," he stressed.
"In fact, now all contacts with Europe will be focused on Nord Stream-2, all future projects for the supply of Russian gas to European consumers depend on it. When the Nord Stream-2 is put into operation, Sofia will be able to turn to Brussels, since Germany has got its own Russian pipe, which means that it will be acceptable for Bulgaria. In fact, the Bulgarians now want Germany to project their gas pipeline project, but they want to do nothing themselves. For example, they could vote against anti-Russia sanctions at the nearest summit of EU foreign ministers, but Bulgaria will never do that," Igor Yushkov concluded.