Russia, Bulgaria to speed up work on South Stream
Russia and Bulgaria's new government agreed to speed up work on Sofia's participation in the Moscow-backed South Stream gas pipeline.
Russia and Bulgaria's new government agreed on Friday to speed up work on Sofia's participation in the Moscow-backed South Stream gas pipeline.
Bulgaria's Prime Minister Boiko Borisov said after meeting Russian Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko that Sofia would benefit from the South Stream pipeline, designed to bring Russian gas to Europe under the Black Sea and bypass Ukraine.
Bulgaria's new centre-right government, which won July elections, has been reviewing South Stream as well as plans to build a nuclear plant and participate in a trans-Balkan oil pipeline, to check if they match national interests and the European Union agenda.
The new government has already said it will give priority to the EU-sponsored Nabucco pipeline project, due to bring Caspian gas via the Balkans to central Europe and thereby reduce the bloc's dependence on Russian gas.
"It was important for us to hear that Nabucco and South Stream are not rivals. We equally participate in both. The benefit for us is that the Russian gas will come to our border," Borisov told a joint news conference with Shmatko.
"We have given ourselves a deadline of two months to clarify all details on the project."
Shmatko told the same news conference that Moscow was ready to provide funding for some joint energy projects as Bulgaria struggled to raise money for the Belene nuclear power plant. He did not give details.
"We discussed the situation with Belene and we share the opinion of the Bulgarian side to make a quick audit of the project so that we can work out a joint approach...on funding the project," Shmatko said.
The previous Bulgarian government had contracted Russia's Atomstroiexport to build the 2,000 MW plant and picked Germany's RWE for a 49-percent stake.
Soaring costs, which Sofia say could reach 10 billion euros ($14.7 billion), dwindling budget revenues and lack of funding have prompted a rethink on Belene.
Bulgarian Economy and Energy Minister Traicho Traikov told the news conference Sofia would consider cutting its 51 percent stake in Belene to attract more investors. He did not rule out Russian companies buying a stake.
Reuters Last Mod: 19 Eylül 2009, 00:54