Bulgaria backs Russian gas plan
Bulgaria backs South Stream gas pipe project with Russia
SOFIA, January 18 (RIA Novosti) - Bulgaria approved on Friday a $15 billion project to build a pipeline to pump Russian natural gas to southern Europe via the Black Sea, the country's prime minister announced.
Sergei Stanishev said Russia and Bulgaria had managed to settle differences over the project, to be implemented by Russia's Gazprom and Italy's Eni.
Opening talks with Russian First Deputy Prime Minister and Gazprom board chairman Dmitry Medvedev, which followed a Bulgarian Cabinet session, Stanishev said: "The government has approved the deal, and Economy and Energy Minister Petar Dimitrov is authorized to sign it."
The South Stream agreement will be signed later in the day as part of President Vladimir Putin's official visit to the country. Medvedev, who is widely expected to replace Putin as president in spring, is accompanying the incumbent on his trip.
Russia has been pushing for the South Stream, a rival project to the EU and U.S.-backed Nabucco pipeline, which aims to supply Europe with Central Asian gas via Turkey, bypassing Russia.
The new pipeline is set run from Russia's Black Sea coast under the sea to Bulgaria, where it will branch off to different destinations in the European Union, supplying 30 billion cu m of gas annually. Possible routes for the land section are still being discussed.
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Estimated at €10 bn and with an annual capacity of 30 billion cubic meters of gas, the project - a joint venture between Russia's Gazprom and Italian energy company Eni - in effect makes Bulgaria a gateway for Russian natural gas deliveries to southern Europe and beyond.
The new pipeline will rival a European Union-backed project, Nabucco, which aims to supply gas from Central Asia to Europe in an attempt to limit the EU dependence on Russian gas.
South Stream is planned to pass under the Black Sea into Bulgaria, then to split either to Romania, Hungary and Austria or to Greece and to reach Italy.
A breakthrough was reached overnight after the arrival of Putin and Dmitry Medvedev, Gazprom's chairman and the man Putin hopes will succeed him.
Moscow had so far rejected Bulgaria's attempts to negotiate a majority stake in the stretch that will pass through its territory.
The compromise solution, reached in Sofia, is for both sides to have an equal 50% stake.
Another two major deals in the energy sector have been signed during Putin's stay in Sofia. The first is a contract setting up the company that will build the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline, with Russian state-owned firms owning a majority 51% stake and the rest split between Bulgaria and Greece.
The second of the deals is a contract of Russia's Atomstroyexport to build two nuclear reactors at Belene on the Danube in northern Bulgaria .
Bulgaria to join South Stream gas pipeline project
SOFIA, January 18 (Itar-Tass) -The Bulgarian government said at its meeting on Friday that it had made the decision to join the South Stream gas pipeline project, Bulgarian mass media said, citing sources in the government.
Bulgarian Prime Ministry Sergei Stanishev confirmed that.
"The cabinet of ministers has reviewed the agreement on South Stream, on which we had held talks," he said in opening remarks at his meeting with Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in Sofia on Friday.
Stanishev said work on this document had been continuing until Thursday night.
"The result is good. The government has approved the document, and Mr. (Petar) Dimitrov (Bulgarian Minister of Economics and Energy) is authorized to sign it," he said.
"Bulgaria'd interests in the project are fully considered, because the company that will build and manage the gas pipeline in the territory of Bulgaria is established with equal 50 participation of each of the sides," Stanishev said
Russia has vast deposits of natural gas it is keen to export
Bulgaria has agreed to a gas pipeline deal with Russia that is expected to strengthen Moscow's monopoly of energy supplies to Europe.
The Bulgarian cabinet has agreed to allow the planned South Stream pipeline to pass through the country on its way from the Black Sea to southern Europe.
The South Stream project is a rival to the planned Nabucco pipeline, which has the backing of the EU and the US.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is currently on a state visit to Bulgaria.
He is accompanied by Dmitry Medvedev, the head of Russian gas giant Gazprom and Mr Putin's nominee to succeed him this year as president.
The South Stream gas scheme, said to be worth 10bn euros ($14.66bn; £7.4bn), is being jointly developed by Gazprom and the Italian firm, ENI.
The 900km (550-mile) pipeline is expected to take Russian gas under the Black Sea and overland across Bulgaria to markets in southern Europe, with a major gas hub to be sited in Serbia.
Bulgaria had received a competing offer from the US and EU to join the rival Nabucco project.
Nabucco is intended to pump Central Asian gas to Europe, in a move intended to reduce Europe's reliance on Russian resources.