Bulgaria's Caretaker PM Vows to Disclose Information on South Stream

Domestic | August 7, 2014, Thursday // 10:48|  views

Ekaterina Zaharieva, caretaker Deputy Prime Minister, photo by Sofia Photo Agency

Ekaterina Zaharieva, caretaker Deputy Prime Minister, has vowed to make as much information as possible on the South Stream gas pipeline project publicly available.

In a Thursday interview for private TV station bTV, Zaharieva argued that at least the basic terms of contracts of this type had to be made public.

She went on to say that preparatory actions for the gas pipeline project had been carried out during the term in office of the socialist-led government of Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski despite the assurances that the scheme had been suspended.

Zaharieva announced that State Gazette publications made it clear that former Regional Development Minister Desislava Terzieva had issued a last-minute construction permit for a compressor station and for the Pasha Dere receiving terminal.

Bulgaria's caretaker Prime Minister declared that she had learned about the permit through media reports and had ordered a probe into the matter.

She went on to say that the stance of the Bulgarian President and the caretaker government was that the South Stream gas pipeline project was important for Bulgaria and it had to be built in line with EU rules.

Zaharieva underscored that the warning of the European Commission concerned possible breaches of EU law and competition rules, adding that this did not mean that the scheme had to be stopped.

She vowed to make as much information as possible publicly available.

Zaharieva also reminded that Bulgaria had stopped payments under the entire "Regional Development" Operational Program.

In early June, the European Commission froze payments under two axes of the program concerning urban development and tourism due to public procurement violations.

Zaharieva, as cited by mediapool.bg, did not specify the reason for the suspension of payments under the entire program.

She said, however, that Bulgaria risked losing EUR 150 M under the n+2 rule by end-2014 due to the deadline for the absorption of the budget.

Zaharieva argued that Bulgaria had a chance of restoring payments under the "Environment" Operational Program, which were suspended in end-November 2013, soon, while the "Regional Development" Operational Program was unlikely to be unblocked before end-October.

She noted that the results of the EU funds freeze were debts of over BGN 500 M to construction companies, which were on the verge of bankruptcy, as well as road rehabilitation projects abandoned mid-stream.

Zaharieva said that the caretaker government would strive to cover these payments with state budget money, adding that the public investment program "Growth and Regional Development" was one possible source of funding, the other one being loan financing.

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Tags: Ekaterina Zaharieva, European Commission, EU funds, operational program, Operational Program Environment, Operational Program Regional Development, South Stream gas pipeline, caretaker government, EU law


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