Bulgaria, Austria Back South Stream Project Compliant With EU LawDiplomacy | October 30, 2014, Thursday // 20:00| views
Austrian President Heinz Fischer (L) and Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev (R) during an official welcome ceremony in Sofia, 30 October 2014. Photo EPA
Bulgaria and Austria both believe Europe needs energy diversification and support a South Stream gas pipeline project that would comply with EU law, their presidents said on Thursday.
Bulgaria’s President Rosen Plevneliev said at a joint news conference after talks with visiting Austrian head of state Heinz Fischer that the building of interconnection gas links with Bulgaria’s neighbours is of paramount importance in view of Sofia’s goal to reduce the country’s almost total dependence on Russian gas supplies.
The construction of the South Stream pipeline designed to carry 63 billion cubic metres of Russian gas a year to Europe across the Black Sea bypassing Ukraine and via Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, Slovenia and Austria was put on hold in Bulgaria earlier this year at the behest of the European Commission, which said the project violated the Union’s energy legislation.
Austria’s OMV is already prospecting for gas in Bulgaria’s territorial waters in the Black Sea and Bulgaria would be glad to welcome other Austrian companies to tenders for granting drilling concessions on other blocks in the Black Sea shelf which it is preparing, Plevneliev said.
Bulgaria will also rely on the expertise of Austrian construction companies in the implementation of planned complex road and railway infrastructure projects such as a tunnel under the Shipka Pass, the Bulgarian President said.
Bulgaria-Austria annual trade turnover has exceeded EUR 1B over the past few years and Austria’s investment in Bulgaria has topped EUR 6B during the period 1996-2013 but untapped opportunities still exist.
“Our country is affirming its position of a regional hub for information and communication technologies, production of components for the automotive industry and outsourcing services,” Plevneliev said, inviting more Austrian companies to invest in those sectors of the Bulgarian economy.
The two presidents also discussed the need for the EU to develop a common policy on refugees that will ensure fair distribution of the burden of the refugee influx among member states.
The EU can’t leave its individual members to cope with the refugee problem on their own, Fischer said.
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