Radio Sputnik has discussed this with William Powell, editor-in-chief of the Natural Gas World.
Sputnik: In your view, why is Bulgaria seeking to revive this contract now, given it was due to Sofia’s actions that the project was scrapped in 2014?
William Powell: The argument is, probably for the Bulgarian side, it will make Bulgarian gas deliveries more secure, because they will come directly from its major suppliers, its only supplier – Russia.
At the moment, the plan is for the gas to go to Bulgaria across Turkey. Now, in the past, they have been problems reported in Greece, because Turkey has been taking off gas for its own use, which has been coming from Azerbaijan. It’s been taking transit gas for a direct line to go to Bulgaria remove a transit country.
Sputnik: Do you think there are any political motivations behind this move though?
William Powell: I didn’t see that particularly; of course every country wants to have its own gas pipeline going directly to it, so it’s a sort of boost to the country’s goods supply, arguably, it’s a big project for Bulgaria: Bulgaria has long wanted to become a gas hub for the Balkans.
There are dozens of gas pipeline projects mooted for the region, mainly variations on the Southern corridor, which will take gas from Azerbaijan across Turkey into Greece, and then up north through Bulgaria and into Austria via Romania. It would improve Bulgaria’s standing, or the president’s standing in line with […] people possibly if he were to be an architect of that kind of project.
However, it would be a big turnaround for Russia, which just said that if the EU wants to buy Russian gas, it’ll pick it up at the order with Turkey, but that was after the European Union decided that Bulgaria had broken procurement rules in the gas pipeline project.
Sputnik: At the same time, Bulgaria had also faced pressure from Brussels and from Washington to limit its energy dependence on Russia – that seems to be a trend overall in Europe. Do you think the project will receive support from the blocs?
William Powell: As long as Gazprom follows European Union rules on third party access and competition, then there shouldn’t be a problem. Its settlement, as you remember there’s a big anti-trust case against Gazprom, which is yet to be finally settled, but in Gazprom’s proposals it will change the way in which it sells gas in the Balkans. So things are already moving towards a friendlier solution.