Bulgarian MPs Agree to Change South Stream Status
MPs approved changes to Bulgaria's Energy Law which allow for the South Stream pipeline project to go around EU legislation.
With the latest decision by Bulgarian lawmakers, the South Stream segment passing through the country is given the status of a gas grid interconnection.
After three-hour-long debates on Thusday and a vote Friday, it was also stated that the pipe section entering Bulgaria's territorial waters (which will measure about 14 km) will obtain a legal status of "not crossing European territory," Bulgarian agency Mediapool has reported.
These legal loopholes cancel Bulgaria's obligation to provide third-party access to its South Stream section, thus excluding its parts of the pipeline from the EU's Third Energy Package.
Bulgaria's decision, which was adopted by a 115 to 64 majority (with 4 abstainers), was fully backed by MPs from the ruling Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) and their partners from the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, as well as from ultra-nationalist Ataka.
Center-right opposition GERB voted largely against, with four of its lawmakers choosing to abstain. BSP's Yavor Kuyumdzhiev, who was among the MPs proposing the legislation, drew a parallel between the construction of the pipeline and traveling by plane by saying that an aircraft is not considered to have landed in a certain country only because it flew over it.
GERB's lawmaker Delyan Dobrev, who was Economy Minister for some time in the 2009-2013 cabinet, said during the debates on Thursday he did not understand why his colleagues from the BSP decided not to wait for the EU's response whether the amendment violates common European rules.
The changes were approved despite a letter by EU Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger, who demanded an explanation as to what Bulgaria is planning to do with the South Stream's legal status.
Oettinger communicated to Bulgaria's government upon a call by both Dobrev and GERB's leader and former Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, who was accused of "slander" by some ruling party members.
Members states agreed in 2013 to be represented by the European Commission negotiations with Gazprom over the South Stream, so that the Commission is to have the final say in talks.
Countries involved in the project were also advised to review bilateral agreements signed with Russia on the gas pipeline in order to make them comply with EU law.
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