Greece PM set to talk Bulgaria’s Borisov into oil pipeline project

Greece’s prime minister is planning a diplomatic initiative in order to “revive” the stalled Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline project in which his country is a partner together with Bulgaria and Russia, media reports say.

George Papandreou, the Greek prime minister, is expected to pay a visit to the Bulgarian capital Sofia this month in a bid to convince his counterpart Boyko Borisov to unfreeze the project, Russian media claimed on Monday.

Greece, which the European Union is saving from defaulting on its foreign debt, has repeatedly called for the plan to move ahead as soon as possible in anticipation of investment and future transit fees.

The Greek government even plans to adopt a law, which will ease the implementation of the project by simplifying all technical procedures.

The Greek initiative comes a month after Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Boyko Borisov unexpectedly said that his country was “giving up” on Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline project decision, and that construction on the planned Belene nuclear power plant had been suspended.

In a dramatic twist that left all of Europe confused, Borisov retracted his statements shortly afterwards, saying that the Bulgarian government hasn’t made a final decision regarding the construction of the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline and Belene nuclear power plant.

After it took office in July 2009, Bulgaria’s new center-right government of the GERB party made it clear it was going to reconsider the country’s participation in the three large-scale energy projects – South Stream gas pipeline, Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline, and Belene Nuclear Power Plant.

Construction of the line has been on ice even since after Bulgaria’s government balked at the potential environmental damage that the pipeline could inflict on its resort-dotted coastline.

Three Bulgarian Black Sea municipalities – Burgas, Pomorie, and Sozopol – have voted against the pipe in local referendums over environmental concerns.

Municipalities neighboring Pomorie and nearby Burgas are also harboring fears that the pipeline could damage their lucrative tourism business, while environmental NGOs have branded the existing plans to build an oil terminal out at sea a disaster waiting to happen.

Bulgaria, Greece and Russia agreed to build the pipeline between Burgas and Alexandroupolis, taking Caspian oil to the Mediterranean skirting the congested Bosphorus, in 2007 after more than a decade of intermittent talks.

The agreement for the company which will construct the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil transit pipeline was signed by Bulgaria during Russian President Putin’s visit to Bulgaria in 2008.

The 280-kilometer pipeline, with 166 kilometers passing through Bulgaria, would have an initial annual capacity of 35 million tonnes, which could be later expanded to 50 million tonnes. Its costs are estimated at up to USD 900 M.

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