Bulgaria Buys Time on Russian Oil Pipeline for Financial Reasons - Ex Official

Energy | November 10, 2010, Wednesday // 08:14|  views

The TBB is planning to unload oil from tankers into the Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline about 18 km into the sea away from the city of Burgas. However, the Bulgarian Environment Ministry has not approved this project. Map by istinatazaproekta.bg

The decision of the Bulgarian government that the environmental impact assessment of the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline is inadequate is aimed at buying time, according to Plamen Rusev, ex-director of Bulgarian branch of the project company.

Rusev, who was in charge of the Bulgarian branch of the Trans-Balkan Pipeline, the Bulgarian-Greek-Russian company created to build the oil pipeline from the Black Sea to the Aegean, told the Bulgarian National Radio that Tuesday's decision was "politically motivated" and was connected with the financial trouble of the Bulgarian state.

"All environmental standards have been observed in the Burgas-Alexandroupolis project, including with respect to the European network of protected areas NATURA 2000. It sound very funny that one and the same project could be approved in Greece but not be approved in Bulgaria since the technical parameters of the project are the same. It is not technically correct to say that the requirements have not been met," Rusev stated.

He believes that the environmental assessment decision of the Bulgarian Economy Ministry is brought about by the upcoming visit of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Saturday, November 13 in order to postpone the high-level talks about the oil pipeline by at least 2 months, and thus to put off the realization of the project for financial reasons.

"Bulgaria owes about EUR 6.5 M for the last and this year. Another EUR 1.3 M from this year have not been assumed as costs by anybody," Rusev stated.

Yet, he is convinced that the Bulgarian government will not ultimately kill the project but will seek to procrastinate it over time.

The Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline project will have tankers unload oil at Burgas port, to be transported via a 280-km long pipe to the Greek port of Alexandroupoli, where it will be shipped on. The pipe is set to pass through some Natura 2000 protected territories, as well as very close to Bulgaria's Strandzha Nature Park.

Environmentalists have claimed that the pipe is makes neither economic nor environmental sense.

Bulgarian PM Boyko Borisov has shown a chronic disaffection with the Burgas-Alexandroupolis project and has played the environmental card too, actually pre-empting the results from the EIA and claiming that there is no way it is going to be positive.

This development comes only days before the visit of Russian PM Vladimir Putin to Sofia this Saturday, which is expected to include talks on key joint energy projects, including the Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipe.

As Russia is strongly interested in the realization of Burgas-Alexandroupolis, the new protraction of the project on the Bulgarian side might give Bulgaria a better standing in negotiations on other, more important joint projects, such as the South Stream natural gas pipeline and Belene NPP, but might also act as an irritant to the Russian party.

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Tags: environmental assessment, Ministry of Environment, Boyko Borisov, Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline, Vladimir Putin, South stream, Belene NPP, Russia, greece


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