Asked by this website about the Russian readout of the recent visits to Russia of the Bulgarian President Rumen Radev and of the Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, both of which focused on big energy projects, the Russian ambassador to the EU Vladimir Chizhov said today (5 June):
“Energy was very much in the focus of attention during both visits. We have a mixed history of energy cooperation with Bulgaria. The regional South Stream gas pipeline project did not materialise. The Bulgarian government, it was actually the same government, backtracked, citing certain conditions put by the European Commission. And it was only then that Russia and actually the Russian famous company Gazprom turned to Turkey, to revise the original project which resurfaced as the Turkish Stream.
The Turkish Stream is a pipeline across the Black Sea. It’s not the first one, because there is also the Blue Stream which crossed the Black Sea from Russia to Central Anatolia. The idea of Turkish Stream was somewhat different, because the Blue Stream left the European part of Turkey, with Istanbul, out of its reach, because nobody so far, perhaps thankfully, has attempted to build a pipeline across the Bosporus. So Istanbul and that part of Turkey were supplied again through Ukraine, as Bulgaria is. So the idea was to build two pipes, one would go to Western Turkey, to the European side of the straits, and the other would divert and go somewhere else. And there are practically two options: that fork to be onshore or offshore. If it is inshore, it may go North to Bulgaria or West to Greece. In either case I believe it would no longer be called Turkish Stream, for obvious reasons. The other option was to make that fork offshore and make that second pipe go to Bulgaria directly, somewhere near Varna perhaps. So this is linked to the idea of the Bulgarian side to make Varna a regional hub. It’s not that easy, there are certain obstacles along that route, the largest being the need to have guarantees from the European Commission, because we cannot afford to get engaged in huge investments only to see a ban coming from the European Commission. So whatever happens, we need to be clear with the European Commission first.
Gas is not the only energy project between Russia and Bulgaria. There was also a trilateral project with Greece of an oil pipeline from Burgas to Alexandroupoli. I haven’t heard about it lately. And the third one, which is more in the limelight, is the nuclear project, actually two of them. One is maintenance and renovation of existing reactors in Kozlodui, number 5 and 6, and the second is the new power station of Belene. Which could have been built long ago and would have been functioning, but the Bulgarian government had second thoughts, and now it appears to have third thoughts, similar to the firs ones. So as far as I understand, they have changed their mind and reverted back to that project. We’ll be ready to cooperate on it if this position is the final one.”