Bulgaria: US, Russia Relations Revisited Via Pipeline Politics

Bulgaria: US, Russia Relations Revisited Via Pipeline Politics

Bulgarian Foreign Minister notes Europe’s energy concerns.

Having visited Washington and New York a couple of times in the last months Rumiana Jeleva, Bulgaria’s Foreign Minister and now Europe’s potential European Commission Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response, spoke to New Europe about the shifting geopolitics of gas and the South East Europe region.

“Of course Nabucco is a European project, and many EU member states, but also EU institutions, especially the Commission, have expressed their interest in Nabucco,” Jeleva said, underlining however the fact that her country remains one of those that is almost 100% dependent on Russian gas supplies from Russia and transits from Ukraine, therefore … “every project giving us the possibility to diversify routes and supplies is good enough. Here I have to mention South Stream, because it is planned as a project giving an alternative to gas supply and the route through Ukraine.”

 
> Nabucco Pipeline Map
 

> Southern Corridor
 
Speculation has also been rife that Bulgaria may be shifting away from Russia, a move that the Foreign Minister did not want to speculate on but did not fail to remind that Bulgaria’s relations with Russia have been diplomatically excellent for the past 130 years, not wishing to confuse the two matters of energy and foreign policy.

In the context of Burgas-Alexandroopolis she mentioned environmental concerns being key and that if the Bulgarian government were to have “guarantees for new technologies to be implemented in this project I think there will be an opportunity for this project to be carried out.”

Revisiting Russia she commented that “Russia is a very important actor, very important player, when we are talking about the common European energy strategy.”
  
   
Excerpt of Interview:

On energy; Bulgaria’s leanings seem to have shifted from being closer to South Stream to edging more towards the Nabucco pipeline. Can you give us a clear answer as to whether Nabucco is now more important than South Stream for Bulgaria?

Of course Nabucco is a European project, and many EU member states, but also EU institutions, especially the Commission, have expressed their interest in Nabucco. At the same time, as you may know, my country is among these member states which are almost 100% dependent on gas supplies from Russia and that are also depending on a special route through Ukraine. In this context I would say every project giving us the possibility to diversify routes and supplies is good enough.

Here I have to also mention South Stream, because it is planned as a project giving an alternative gas supply with a route through Ukraine.
  
   
Russia is reportedly raising the pressure on Bulgaria over the issue of the pipelines; do you fear that the backlash for the perceived favouring of Nabucco will be the Russians setting aside the Bourgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline and opting for the Samsun–Ceyhan pipeline ?

I don’t know the exact answer. There is no simple answer to this question, but in the context of Burgas-Alexandroupolis – because this is a project of interest to Bulgaria -  there are concerns of people living on the Black Sea coast in Bulgaria about the environmental aspects of this project. And these are actually also the concerns of the government of Bulgaria. If we succeed in guarantees for new technologies to be implemented in this project I think there will be an opportunity for this project to be carried out.
  
  
In the shadow of all these pipeline politics, is Bulgaria re-evaluating its relations with Russia?

Political relations with Russia are excellent. We have more than 130 years of diplomatic relations between our countries. At the same time, the economic aspect of all the projects, among them Burgas-Alexandroupolis or South Stream, is another question. It’s a question of revision and exact assessment whether Bulgaria can participate or not.  The two issues have to be tackled differently and separately and I think that Russia is a very important actor, very important player, when we are talking about the common European energy strategy.
  
   
Energy today
  
  

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