Bulgarian PM does not Deny that He will Negotiate with Gazprom

Business » ENERGY | March 21, 2022, Monday // 16:37
Bulgaria: Bulgarian PM does not Deny that He will Negotiate with Gazprom GIS

Today, Prime Minister Kiril Petkov surprisingly did not deny the possibility of Bulgaria negotiating a new agreement with Russian energy giant Gazprom after his Finance Minister Asen Vassilev (“We Continue the Change”) told BNR two days ago that Bulgaria would not want a new gas agreement with Russia.

Serbian President Vucic: Bulgaria is Obliged to Supply us with Russian Gas which we Pay for

In an interview with Kathimerini today, the Prime Minister was asked “Negotiations with Gazprom are pending, as the contract for the supply of natural gas to your country expires in 2022. At the same time, talks are underway on how Greece could contribute to Bulgaria's energy sufficiency. How do these two things ‘connect’?” The answer, unexpectedly, did not contain a statement that there would be no negotiations. Here is what the Prime Minister answered:

“After the latest developments, there is a need for greater diversification of energy sources. We are cooperating closely with the Prime Minister of Greece on this issue. The goal is to strengthen energy connectivity between our countries through the IGB gas pipeline so that Bulgaria has access to Azerbaijani gas. , as well as to the liquefied gas terminal in Alexandroupolis. These are two choices we are interested in moving forward as quickly as possible to have alternatives.”

“On this occasion, I would like to emphasize in a broader sense that I am particularly pleased to be cooperating with the Greek Government and I feel that we have an exceptional relationship with Kyriakos Mitsotakis, whom I consider to be an outstanding Prime Minister.”

Of course, there is the possibility for the interview to have been done in writing before Asen Vassilev's statement or have it been prepared by our embassy in Athens, but in that case, it should have been updated. Another possibility is that the government has reconsidered its firm position not to negotiate with Gazprom.

The data on the refugees accepted in Bulgaria, which the Prime Minister cites, are also strange, according to him they are 17,000, and according to his headquarters - 50,000.

Here is the whole interview:

What are your thoughts on the Russian invasion of Ukraine and how does it affect the traditionally close Bulgaria-Russia relations?

“This is an aggressive military action to the detriment of a neighboring country. The statistics sadden me: more than 700 civilians, 50 children and up to 6,000 Ukrainian soldiers have lost their lives. It is also said that 11,000 Russian soldiers have died because of Putin's actions, which are illogical. All these people were sacrificed in front of the altar of the imperial ambitions of an absolutist ruler who had gone too far. That is why I am particularly pleased that we all in Europe are speaking with one voice and saying that this cannot go unpunished. At least with economic sanctions, we have taken strong measures. We cannot afford military moves, as this would lead to a world war. But in any case, we support the Ukrainian people. One hundred percent.”

How does Bulgaria contribute to the West's support for Ukraine?

“We are sending humanitarian aid and opening our border to refugees - we already have more than 17,000 people in Bulgaria. We are voting in favor of all restrictive measures taken by the EU. We support our NATO partners in the framework of the Alliance's military presence in Eastern Europe.

Indeed, Bulgaria has close ties with the people and culture of Russia. But we distinguish between this fact and today's absolutist regime in Russia - the Putin regime. And we must note that this is a war between brothers, one Slavic nation against another Slavic nation.”

Moscow recently asked NATO to withdraw its troops from Bulgaria and Romania. How would you comment?

“I am completely against it. I don't like the idea of ​​anyone telling us what we should and shouldn't do. We are an independent state and we make our own choices. And I don't think there can be two types of countries in NATO, countries with armies and states without armies. This is a provocation from Moscow. Such a perspective is absolutely unrealistic.”

You recently emphasized that your country had asked to be excluded from a possible EU decision on an embargo on Russian gas imports. What is the idea and how likely do you think such a scenario is?

“It's not just us. Many European countries are taking harsh measures against Russia, and even countries like Germany or Austria could not completely rule out Russian gas, on which they are particularly dependent. This is the truth. We depend on more than 80% of Russia's energy. Therefore, we should essentially close our economy.”

You are about to negotiate with Gazprom, as the contract for the supply of natural gas to your country expires in 2022. At the same time, talks are underway on how Greece could contribute to Bulgaria's energy sufficiency. How do these two things “connect”?

“Following recent developments, there is a need for greater diversification of energy sources. We are cooperating closely with the Prime Minister of Greece on this issue. The goal is to strengthen the energy connection between our countries through the IGB gas pipeline so that Bulgaria has access to Azerbaijani gas, as well as to the liquefied gas terminal in Alexandroupolis. These are two choices that we are interested in moving forward as quickly as possible so that we have alternatives.”

“On this occasion, I would like to emphasize in a broader sense that I am particularly pleased to be cooperating with the Greek Government and I feel that we have an exceptional relationship with Kyriakos Mitsotakis, whom I consider to be an outstanding Prime Minister.”

Athens and Sofia are discussing the prospect of a bilateral agreement on the supply of nuclear energy from Bulgaria to Greece. What are these consultations about?

“Cheaper electricity is needed. We have nuclear energy, you don't. Putting these things together, we could work together as good neighbors, building long-term relationships by building nuclear power to generate common benefits, in a sector that is a significant alternative to energy shortages in our region.”

And how far have you come? Is there a schedule at the call table?

“We are considering the candidate suppliers and are preparing a rapid study of the feasibility of the site. Immediately after that we will come up with concrete proposals to Greece. I want to believe that in 12 months we will have a clear picture of what exactly and how we will do it.”

The Ukrainian crisis has sparked a wave of refugees. How does Bulgaria approach this new migration crisis, which is added to the flows we see from time to time (to pass) from Turkey - sometimes in extraordinary ways, if we recall the events on the border with the river Evros (Maritsa)?

“It really is. I was at our border a few days ago. In a very short time, we have organized a very good reception system. We welcome visitors and check what documents they have, separating tourists from refugees. We give temporary protection to those seeking asylum from the war in Ukraine, and then we look for accommodation, offering 20 euros per person per night in a hotel.”

“We try to find them a job as soon as possible and take care of providing education. We also work on the healthcare system, ensuring their vaccination.”

Your country has objections to the accession of North Macedonia to the EU. How do you approach the issue?

“We are all ‘for’ the European perspective of North Macedonia, as well as of Albania. But there are certain things that will have to be settled first, such as respecting the rights of Bulgarians in North Macedonia by guaranteeing them within the framework of the Constitution. We have a roadmap and very good communication with the government of North Macedonia, and we hope to make rapid progress.

/ClubZ /Kathimerini

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