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Bulgaria Faces a Daily EUR 8000 Fine over South Stream.

The planned South Stream pipeline project is a display of the excellent relations the Kremlin has with the Bulgarian government, according to an article published in Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

The decision taken by Bulgaria's government in March regarding the South Stream was astonishing, the author, Florian Hassel, argues.

He is referring to the Energy Law amendments adopted end-March allowing for the Bulgarian section of the pipeline to go round European law and to be treated as part of the interconnection grid, so that the EU's Third Energy Package cannot be applied to it and no third parties can have access to its infrastructure.

The article reminds that, back in the summer of 2013, the European Commission warned all the states which were parties to the project that according to its blueprints Russia's energy concern Gazprom is virtually to have a monopoly over energy supplies.

Hassel says Bulgaria did not take the EU's words into sight and that was way the Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger asked an explanation as to why legislative changes were made.

He quotes a Western diplomat (without disclosing his name) as saying that "Bulgaria demonstratively showed the [middle] finger to the EU" by opting to go on with the amendments.

Ridden in corruption and EU funds abuse and stuck on its way to reforms as it is, Bulgaria is now threatened with a fine which could amount to EUR 8000 daily, or EUR 3 M a year, according to sources of the Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

"Economically the South Stream has no sense... But for [Russian President Vladimir] Putin it is a geopolitical project with which he could skip Ukraine once and for all as a transit destination for Russian gas," Ognyan Minchev, the head of the Institute for Regional and International Studies is quoted as saying.

He also notes that "many Bulgarians feel a connection to Russia" since Tsarist times, when Russia defeated the Ottoman Empire and this pave the way for an independent state.

In Bulgaria, decades after the end of the Soviet Union, Russia's hand can still be seen in the banking sector or in oil-processing industry, Hassel argues further.

He points at Bulgarian President (2002-2011) Georgi Parvanov as a lobbyist for three large-scale Russian projects: the Burgas-Alexandropoulos oil pipeline project, the Belene NPP (still a fervently discussed topic in Parliament) and the South Stream.

Former Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, in his words, managed to thwart "two of Putin's personal projects": Belene and Burgas-Alexandropoulos, but his government was toppled after week-long protests, and now "friends of Moscow" are once again at the top - "from [Bulgarian Socialist] party chief Sergey Stanishev to Nikolay Malinov, head of the Bulgarian-Russian Friendship Group, which comprises 131 of 240 MPs."

Citing Bulgarian experts, Hassel also holds that clear winners will emerge out of the fuss around the South Stream project - the Russian politicians and entrepreneurs blacklisted by the US, like Gennady Tymchenko, and four Bulgarian subcontractors.

In his words, this should explain why the South Stream costs EUR 4.2 B, when the EUR 1.2 B Opal pipeline from the Baltic Sea to the Czech Republic is not four times smaller in length and capacity.
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Publication:Sofia News Agency
Geographic Code:4EXBU
Date:Apr 14, 2014
Words:525
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