Bulgaria fears new winter gas crisis

Bulgaria, the EU country worst hit by gas delivery disruptions last January following a dispute between Russia and Ukraine over transit, warned about delays to infrastructure work designed to boost energy security. The interconnectors are part of a “recovery plan” launched by Commission President José Manuel Barroso before his re-election. One such interconnector links the country with a pipeline in Greece and another one with the Romanian network. 

Speaking to journalists in Brussels, Bulgarian Foreign Minister Roumiana Jeleva said not a single euro had been received from the European Commission towards sums allocated last summer for two gas interconnectors, designed to reduce the country’s dependence on Russian gas supplies.

The interconnectors are part of a “recovery plan” launched by Commission President José Manuel Barroso before his re-election. One such interconnector links the country with a pipeline in Greece and another one with the Romanian network.

“We have a problem with our interconnectors. We will press with the Commission. We cannot just forego this money,” the minister said.

Jeleva, who is Bulgaria’s official candidate to become the country’s next European commissioner, denied that thedelays were a result of foot-dragging in Sofia and described the projects as a top priority for the country. The protracted procedures, she added, concerned all beneficiary countries, not only Bulgaria.

Jeleva admitted that even if the money were distributed, the country would still need between eight to ten years to protect itself from a crisis similar to the one which left part of Europe without supplies during the first three weeks of January 2009.

In this context, she expressed hope that EU-Russia relations would be strengthened by a summit in Stockholm today. She also said the recently agreed alert mechanism on gas disruptions was a step in the right direction However, she said that the alert mechanism could not palliate missing supplies in the event of a crisis. “Russia is always cooperative when gas prices are high. But when prices go down, they […] harden their positions,” Jeleva said.

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