Lavrov Tells Bulgaria's Vigenin Russia Will Not Back on South Stream

Diplomacy | July 7, 2014, Monday // 17:48|  views

Foreign Ministers of Russia and Bulgaria, Sergey Lavrov (L) and Kristian Vigenin, at a joint press conference following their meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Sofia, July 7, 2014. Photo by BGNES

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has demanded that the South Stream pipeline be excluded from the scope of the EU's Third Energy package.

He told reporters after meeting Bulgarian counterpart Kristian Vigenin that Moscow would also insist that negotiations with Brussels be renewed on the project.

"The EU Commission has already made a derogation regarding a number of other gas pipelines. We consider that the EU's approach will be reasonable," Lavrov argued, citing the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) as a recent example.

Moscow, though respecting the Third Energy Package, believes it cannot include agreements that were signed before it entered force, he elaborated.

"Our position is clear: [Third Energy Package] rules cannot be applied retrospectively. This is a basic principle of international law," the Bulgarian National Radio quoted him as saying.

Lavrov added he had underscored in his talks with Vigenin the importance of the construction of South Stream and had restated his country's readiness to pursue "a constructive dialogue" with all sides interested in the project, which include both parties to South Stream and the EU Commission.

Asked what concessions Russia was ready to make in EU talks on South Stream, the Foreign Minister rebuked the idea that partners should perceive the need of Moscow to step back as the solution to every problem.

Russia's top diplomat also commented on the Belene NPP and the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline, two projects Bulgaria renounced in 2012 and 2011, respectively, by saying they were still "on the table".

In his view, common projects should be based on mutual benefit and not on political considerations.

Bulgarian Foreign Minister Kristian Vigenin, for his part, declared that the project would be carried out under EU rules and Bulgaria supports it if it meets Brussels' requirements.

Russia media earlier reported that Sergey Lavrov's two-day visit, which was announced as dedicated to the celebrations of 135 years of Bulgarian-Russian diplomatic relations, would actually have the frozen construction of South Stream as a core issue.

Parts of Sofia's city center are sealed off amid boosted security measures during Lavrov's visit.

Protests were held against the diplomatic event, with participants citing saying his real motive to come to Bulgaria was the South Stream issue.

Far-right party Ataka, which is staunchly Russophile, however set up a "counter-protest" to show support for a clearer Bulgarian allegiance to Moscow.

"Counter-protesters," who gathered in front of the Presidency and upon calls by far-right Ataka party, argued renouncing the Russian gas pipeline would lead to dependency on shale gas. Photo by BGNES

The Russian politician was also received by President Rosen Plevneliev and Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski.

Oresharski said regarding South Stream that the project was of utmost importance to Bulgaria and Sofia had tried to explain the EU Commission the pipeline did not contravene EU norms.

The Commission launched in June an infringement procedure against Bulgaria over a number of issues around the pipeline and said it went against the Third Energy Package and competition laws.

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Tags: Sergey Lavrov, Kristian Vigenin, South stream, Burgas-Alexandroupolis, Belene NPP, Plamen Oresharski, Rosen Plevneliev, Russia, Bulgaria


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