It's Official: EU, Bulgaria Clash over South Stream

By MILENA HRISTOVA   March 29, 2014


The European Commission has approached Bulgaria's government over its plans to stand by South Stream project and adopt energy legislative amendments, which seek to steer clear of EU laws.


The changes in question concern the prospects of a major Russian-promoted project, the planned South Stream gas pipeline, aim to exclude its Bulgarian section from EU Third Energy Package and ban its use by other gas suppliers except Gazprom.


The European Commission is concerned that the legislative changes in the pipeline do not comply with EU legislation, a spokesman said, as cited by the national radio.


If Brussels' concerns evolve into an infringement procedure, this would put a big spoke in Bulgaria's energy mafia's wheel.


They had it all so nicely planned out!


When he left Sofia in the evening of January 18, 2008, Putin had good reasons to be content. He had achieved his main goal – secure Bulgaria's participation in his South Stream project. It would bypass Ukraine via the Black Sea to meet up to 15% of Europe's annual gas demand by 2018.


Getting the new EU member aboard was a serious coup and an important step in his plan to further increase Europe's dependence on Russian energy sources.


Not that it was a hard task.


Bulgarian politicians, giddy with excitement and weak at the knees, were all too willing to sign the deal even though it further deepened Bulgaria's reliance on Russian energy carriers with less than clear-cut benefits for Bulgaria.


Putin's historic two-day visit in Sofia in January 2008 stirred controversy with critics saying Bulgaria becomes the Trojan horse of Russia's energy policy in the European Union.


"The Trojan horse phrase makes no sense, “Europe is no Troja. Europe is not under a siege, it is open," argued the ruling Socialists back then.


Now, six years later and with a fresh escalation in the emerging Cold War between Russia and the West, Bulgaria's Socialist government and parliament are jumping through themselves to give Putin, his oligarchs and their Bulgarian partners, what they want and fawn to Moscow.


But they are very nervous.


It is not because of concerns over the protection of national interests, fewer investors, jobs and weakened security.


There's a simple reason why the ruling parties and the energy oligarchs close to them are getting nervous: if South Stream dies, there will be no backhanders in it for them!


The radical shift in EU energy policy came as Russia began to feel the chill of US sanctions imposed earlier this month.


To make matters worse there appeared media reports that a consortium led by Russia's Stroitransgaz, owned by sanctions-hit businessman Gennady Timchenko, will win a 3.5 billion-euro deal to build a section of the South Stream gas pipeline across Bulgaria.


The government, desperate to keep its energy oligarchs happy and calm, was quick to say they know nothing about it.


Bulgaria hasn't stopped preliminary work on the Russian-led South Stream gas pipeline project, its prime minister said, but stressed Sofia was "closely monitoring" relations between Brussels and Moscow.


Clearly it is high time for Bulgaria to define which bloc it will follow. Will it be EU or Balkan or Slavic or Russian? Which flag should we raise?