The Bulgarian-Greek Gas Connection was officially launched in Sofia (UPDATED)

Business » ENERGY | October 1, 2022, Saturday // 12:17
Bulgaria: The Bulgarian-Greek Gas Connection was officially launched in Sofia (UPDATED) @Council of Ministers

In the presence of the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and five regional leaders, the Bulgarian-Greek gas connection, through which our country already receives Azeri natural gas, was officially launched in Sofia. In her speech she stated:

"The project for an interconnector between Bulgaria and Greece has been on the table for over 10 years. It was started back in 2009, at a time when Bulgaria was very badly affected by Gazprom's decision to stop the flow of gas through Ukraine. It took a lot of determination, to achieve the goal. It really takes a lot of desire, passion and will for such a project. I would like to express my sincere gratitude to you - the interconnector team and also thank all the Bulgarian and Greek governments and leaderships for helping let it happen. The EU has supported this project from the beginning both politically and financially with nearly 250 million euros. I would say that today a new era begins for Bulgaria and Southeast Europe. Bulgaria used to get 80% of its gas from Russia, but that was before Russia starts a terrible war against Ukraine, an energy war against Europe. This gas pipeline is a game-changer for both Bulgaria and Europe's energy security. This project means freedom from the bridge of Russian gas. The interconnector can cover the entire gas consumption of Bulgaria and this is great news in such difficult times".

The ceremony began shortly after 11:00 a.m. in the National Palace of Culture. In the hall are the presidents of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, of Serbia - Aleksandar Vucic and of North Macedonia Stevo Pendarovski, the prime ministers of Greece - Kyriakos Mitsotakis and of Romania - Nicolae Ciuca.

Ursula von der Leyen: A new era for Bulgaria and Southeast Europe begins today

From today, a new era begins for Bulgaria and for South-Eastern Europe, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said in Sofia. She reminded that the EU supports this project from the very beginning, both politically and financially with 250 million euros.

"Bulgaria used to get 80% of the gas it used from Russia. This was before Putin decided to start an energy war against Europe. This gas pipeline is a game-changer for both Bulgaria and Europe's energy security. This project means freedom from dependence from Russian gas. This interconnector can cover all gas consumption from Bulgaria, which is great news in these difficult times," she pointed out.

Thanks to projects like this, Europe will have enough gas for the winter and should continue to invest in renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power plants, stressed the president of the EC.

According to her, Europe has everything it needs to free itself from its dependence on Russia, and it is a matter of political will.

"We are at a crossroads. The energy crisis is serious and requires a united response from Europe to allow us to reduce energy costs for families and businesses. We have already taken serious steps in this direction, but in doing so we must preserve the foundations of our economy and in the single market. Without a single European response, we put ourselves at serious risk of fragmentation," she warned.

All this will be the topic of a meeting of European leaders in Prague.

The President of Azerbaijan: We plan to double gas supplies to Europe by 2027

The interconnector between Bulgaria and Greece will play a very important role in ensuring energy security and diversification of supplies for Europe. This was stated by the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev at the opening ceremony of the gas connection.

In July, Azerbaijan signed a memorandum of cooperation with the European Commission and by 2027, on the basis of this document, plans to double the supply of natural gas to Europe, Aliyev also said.

"Azerbaijani gas has been on the market in Europe for years, and the Southern Gas Corridor is one of the largest infrastructure projects in the region. Azerbaijan is proud to initiate this corridor and bring gas to consumers through a new route and from a new source. Until now, the only source is from the Caspian Sea, but there are several other gas fields in Azerbaijan that will soon start producing and will contribute to the increase in quantities," said Ilham Aliyev.

Based on the cooperation memorandum with the EC, Azerbaijan will soon supply electricity from renewable sources to Europe, the president announced.

Galab Donev: The interconnector makes Bulgaria less vulnerable and improves the possibility to conduct negotiations

The interconnector between Bulgaria and Greece makes our country less vulnerable and improves our ability to negotiate. This was stated by acting Prime Minister Galab Donev in his speech during the official commissioning ceremony of the gas connection with Greece.

As of today, the new gas pipeline is operational. It has sufficient capacity to satisfy all needs at the domestic level and will ensure the diversification of sources and supplies of natural gas for Bulgaria, which is of key importance,” said Donev.

The interconnector has the potential to contribute to ensuring the much-needed security of supplies at reasonable prices for Bulgaria and our partners in Europe, he added.

Galab Donev also pointed out that the deliberate violation of gas connections in the Baltic is another warning that the security of supplies to Europe can be compromised quickly.

Bulgaria welcomes the memorandum between Europe and Azerbaijan on strategic cooperation and increasing gas supplies.

"The interconnector will provide not only Bulgaria, but also the entire transmission from Greece to Romania, Moldova, Ukraine and Central Europe. The potential will be even more visible after they stratify the operations of the Alexandroupolis terminal. The operator of the interconnector will benefit from the Alexandroupolis terminal as a link to the Southern Gas Corridor," he said.

Teodora Georgieva, ICGB: Today we are taking a big step forward towards a stronger and more independent Europe

“October 1 is an important date for all of us - today we mark the beginning of a project that goes far beyond the borders of Greece and Bulgaria. Today we are entering a key stage in the development of the energy system in the region and we are taking a big step forward towards a stronger, more closely connected and more independent Europe”, said Teodora Georgieva - executive director of ICGB, the company - operator of the interconnector from the Bulgarian side.

The commissioning of the interconnector began after exceptional challenges and thanks to the political will of the governments of Bulgaria and Greece, the trust and support of the European Commission and the work of everyone in the energy sector, emphasized Georgieva.

"I want to express my gratitude to President Rumen Radev, who is personally committed to the completion of this project before the start of the heating season. I also want to thank Mrs. von der Leyen for her support and the energy companies of Bulgaria and Greece. It is no coincidence that I said that the interconnector will change the map not only for Bulgaria, where it will lead to energy independence, but also for the whole of Europe".

From today we can confirm and guarantee deliveries not only for Bulgaria and Greece, but for the whole of South-Eastern Europe. We can also provide supplies to Moldova and Ukraine in these extremely difficult times, Georgieva also said.

George Satlas - Executive Director of the ICGB, from the Greek side, also expressed gratitude to the governments of both countries.

"After celebrating today's success, I want to commit to very important next steps - to focus on energy security and environmental protection, so that the project works efficiently, justifying the investment of all who helped to ensure the energy security of Southeast Europe.”

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: The interconnector dramatically changes the energy map of the region

The commissioning of the interconnector with Greece is an important moment not only for South-East Europe, but also for Europe in a wider plan, because the gas pipeline will strengthen the security of supply and energy for all the countries of the Balkans and for the whole of Europe, said the Prime Minister of Greece Kyriakos Mitsotakis at the opening ceremony of the gas connection in Sofia.

"This dramatically changes the energy map of the region and is the result of the cooperation and coordination of efforts between our two governments. Gas supplies from Azerbaijan to Bulgaria will break the tight grip of Russian gas on the region and together with the other infrastructure projects that are underway, will contribute for the development of a gas network that can be relied on," the Greek Prime Minister pointed out.

Greece is playing an increasingly active role in the regional energy hub, which will serve not only Bulgaria, but also all the countries of the region, Mitsotakis emphasized, giving as an example the project in Alexandroupolis, where it will be possible to store and distribute supplies.

"The gas pipeline, moreover, connects European countries sharing the same values. It is also a concrete expression of our confidence that we will cope with the challenges of the future," he pointed out.

Mitsotakis backed EC President Ursula von der Leyen's call for a pan-European solution to the gas crisis and high prices and expressed hope that a solution would be reached at the summits in Prague and Brussels.

"If we can deal with covid together, then we can deal with this crisis together, so that the European market is not fragmented and we can be sure that solidarity will be above national interests," he added.

Rumen Radev: The interconnector is a symbol of the increasing potential of our region

The interconnector between Bulgaria and Greece is not only an infrastructure project, but a symbol of the increasing potential of our region, our successful cooperation and our connectivity. This was said by President Rumen Radev at the opening ceremony of the gas connection.

"We have been waiting for this interconnector for a long time. It was not easy to achieve it, several Bulgarian and Greek governments were seriously involved in it, we had to overcome many bureaucratic hurdles. Now is the time to express my sincere gratitude to ICGB, the company and the subcontractors who worked hard, Bulgarian and Greek institutions, to the EC for financial support".

We must realize how important it is to increase the technological capacity of our countries, commented the president.

"The interconnector achieved this - the Bulgarian and Greek engineers designed and built it as a new generation pipeline. The interconnector is already decisively changing the energy map of Europe, finally we have a real gas flow from Azerbaijan. President Aliyev is a very reliable partner, he worked with President Parvanov 10 years ago."

According to Radev, this is an opportunity not only for Bulgaria, but also for Romania, Serbia, North Macedonia and many other countries from Central and Southeast Europe.

"Furthermore, anticipating the launch of the hub in Alexandroupolis, we will indeed get a real diversification. Therefore, the interconnector is not only an infrastructure project, but a symbol of the increasing potential of our region, successful cooperation and our connectivity, which contribute to our sustainable development, by implementing the joint European strategy for more reliable, cheap and secure energy," he pointed out.

Based on this strategy, Bulgaria will expand the storage capacity in Chiren to support its neighbors. We will insist on providing an interconnector with Serbia as well, maintaining our cooperation with Romania, Rumen Radev also said.

"We need to look at our region in a much broader perspective. The war in Ukraine is dramatically changing global supply chains and the only reliable route by land from Asia and Africa to Europe is through Turkey, Bulgaria and Greece, up to Serbia and Romania. We urgently need to increase and modernize our checkpoints, our roads and railways. To consolidate our efforts towards corridor number 8, which connects the Black Sea with the Adriatic Sea, as well as the Thessaloniki-Rousse transport corridor".

Radev said Europe should focus on designing and building new oil and gas pipelines, as well as developing digital infrastructure.

Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia should not remain outside Schengen, because this is not in Europe's favor and does not contribute to its stability and prosperity, Rumen Radev also said.

"I am convinced that we deserve our membership 11 years after we have covered all the technical criteria for it. Ursula, Kyriakos, thank you for your support, I am sure that together we can achieve this too. The start of the Greece-Bulgaria interconnector is a serious demonstration of our conviction and determination that we can always succeed when we are committed to our common future," the president concluded.

Aleksandar Vucic: I hope that the Serbia-Bulgaria interconnector will be ready by 2023

The President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic, said that he hopes that the interconnector that will connect his country with Bulgaria will be ready within a year.

At the commissioning ceremony of the gas connection with Greece, Vucic emphasized the importance of the project for the entire region.

"None of us believed at the beginning how important this project would turn out to be, because we met, talked to each other and mentioned it, but as some kind of luxury that we don't really need. Now the Bulgarian authorities will take advantage of the advantages that this project will provide. It is also very important for Serbia," he said.

In Sofia, Vucic also thanked the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, for the support to Belgrade and the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, for ensuring supplies to Europe.

"When I came here, I was wondering how she would treat me, I felt a bit like the black sheep in the company, so many thanks to her - she was very polite to us and helped us a lot, talking about the interconnector between Serbia and Bulgaria, and the planning of the interconnector between North Macedonia and Serbia. This will mean new infrastructure for Serbia and the Western Balkans and we will be able to reach other countries as well. But without the support of Europe, we would not have reached this goal. And without our friend Aliyev, well, there would not have been at all to be able to reach this diversification. So, Mr. Aliyev, you are now very popular in Europe - like a superstar."

Stevo Pendarovski: Pan-European solidarity in action will reduce Euroscepticism

The Bulgaria-Greece interconnector is very important for the region and for Europe, and pan-European solidarity in action can alleviate Euroscepticism, which has recently been a danger. This was stated by the President of North Macedonia Stevo Pendarovski in Sofia at the ceremony for the official commissioning of the gas connection.

"The more connected we are, the more flexible we will be, whatever the energy challenges. We have to face a difficult winter, high inflation, rising unemployment. Along with regional cooperation, we need wider European solidarity. Pan-European solidarity in action can ease Euroscepticism, which has been a danger lately. We expect less talk and more action, because in the current circumstances the easiest way to ease our economies is for the EU to strengthen the mechanisms for our European integration," he said.

Nicolae Ciuca: Energy diversification must be accelerated

Romanian Prime Minister Nicolae Ciuca called for the acceleration of diversification in Europe.

At the official ceremony in Sofia for the commissioning of the Bulgaria-Greece gas connection, Ciuca assured that Romania is ready to play its role as a reliable partner for European energy security.

"The launch of the interconnector contributes significantly to the diversification of natural gas, but we must remain realistic and recognize that diversification must be accelerated because Europe must free itself from its energy dependence on Russia. The artificial deficits that Russia has created have affected not only in Europe but also in the global energy market. This has led to high energy prices in all countries, so any steps to increase our cross-border cooperation will lead to reliable energy sources. We need to increase our production capacity, to do our homework when it comes to interconnectivity and share our energy supplies in solidarity. Our neighbors from Moldova, Ukraine and the Western Balkans are also counting on it."

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