Why Iranian Oil Refinery on Bulgaria's Black Sea Coast Could Be Good News
Iranian Ambassador to Bulgaria Golamreza Bageri Mogadam has announced Iran wants to build an oil refinery in Bulgaria's Black Sea port of Varna.
For the time being, such an investment project seems implausible and unlikely for a number of reasons. The fact that the news was broken at a relatively low profile meeting with the Varna District Governor, and district governors in Bulgaria have highly limited functions is an indication of that.
At the same time, however, I tend to think a potential Iranian investment in an oil refinery in Bulgaria would be good news for a number of reasons.
First, and most obvious, it would pour in some fresh FDI from an oil-rich country. Second, it will serve to boost competition in the entire region – don't forget the two major Black Sea ports that are closest to Varna each feature a major refinery – Lukoil Neftochim in Bulgaria's Burgas and KazMunayGas's Rompetrol Petromidia in Romania's Constanta. Third, a spillover benefit of an increased trade and investment would be to open more opportunities for wider ties between the EU/Balkans/Bulgaria and Iran, which is an exciting society below the surface of the Islamist regime. Fourth, such a major Iranian investment that far north into Europe would bring one more regional player in the energy game that can balance the interests of powers such as Russia and Turkey.
I don't think it would have any effect as a geopolitical project signifying international expansion by the Iranian regime whose nuclear program has turned into a pariah state at least as far as the West is concerned.
At the same time, however, an Iranian refinery in Varna can be questionable from an environmental point of view, not to mention it could complicate further the total mess of the urban and infrastructure planning of the "Bulgarian Black Sea capital" Varna which has the potential to be a major transcontinental port but is instead reduced to the status of a jammed third-rate facility thanks to the "PRUDENCE" of the Bulgarian state and the local authorities in the city of Varna.
Should Iran indeed have serious intentions with respect to such a project, it remains to be seen if the USA, Russia, Israel, the European Commission, Lukoil, the Varna Municipality, and certain major players in the Bulgarian oligarchy such as the Varna-based group TIM would let it happen.
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