Tuesday

24th Apr 2018

Bulgaria freezes work on South Stream pipeline

  • Construction of South Stream has begun (Photo: www.south-stream.info)

Bulgaria has frozen construction on Russia’s strategic South Stream gas pipeline due to EU and US pressure.

Bulgarian PM Plamen Oresharski announced the move on Sunday (8 June) after meeting three US senators in Sofia.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

“We discussed South Stream and the EC’s [European Commission] request regarding EU legal procedures. I pointed out the project will go forward only after we resolve all the issues which Brussels has”, he said.

“I have ordered to stop construction until the procedure is agreed with Brussels”.

The commission has taken legal action against Bulgaria on grounds that public tenders for South Stream contracts broke EU rules.

It has threatened other action on grounds that Bulgaria’s agreement with Russia violates EU law on competitors’ access to the pipeline.

Bulgaria’s official statement added that one of the US senators, Republican John McCain, highlighted the issue of Stroygazmontazh.

Bulgaria gave the Russian engineering firm a South Stream contract in May despite the fact it is on a US blacklist. “Senator McCain expressed hope that …sanctioned companies would not participate [in the project]”, the Bulgarian statement said.

The EU commission welcomed Oresharski’s decision.

“This is an important step in response to the concerns raised,” a spokeswoman told EUobserver on Monday. “The European Commission has called for a discussion on South Stream at the upcoming European Council [on 26 and 27 June] so that a common EU approach can be taken".

Bulgaria’s energy minister has said it will be built once the legal disputes are tidied up.

But its fate is becoming increasingly tied to the Ukraine crisis.

Russia’s ambassador to the EU, Vladimir Chizhov, also on Monday, told the Itar-Tass news agency “it is hard to shake off the feeling” that the commission is “blocking” the pipeline “for purely political purposes”.

He added that it represents a "creeping shift to economic sanctions against Russia".

South Stream is to go from Russia, under the Black Sea, via Bulgaria, to Italy.

It is to pump 63 billion cubic metres (bcm) of gas a year, equivalent to half of current Russian exports, and to start working in 2015.

But its critics say it would increase EU energy dependency on Russia and harm Ukraine by bypassing its gas transit network.

EU energy commissioner Gunther Oettinger told press last week the commission is unlikely to back down unless the crisis abates. “With civil war-like conditions in eastern Ukraine and without Moscow's recognition of the Kiev government, we will certainly not arrive at a political conclusion of our negotiations,” he said.

Oettinger held talks with Russia and Ukraine's energy ministers in Brussels on Monday.

Officials say they were due to speak about Ukraine gas prices, not South Stream.

Italian EU presidency backs South Stream

The Italian EU presidency has backed a controversial Russian pipeline, South Stream, which would circumvent Ukraine to bring gas to south-east Europe.

Analysis

Is Germany more hawkish on Russia?

Germany's socialist foreign minister just said the EU should "step up pressure" on Russia. Merkel aired "political" doubts on a Russian pipeline.

News in Brief

  1. Far-right attack migrants on Greek island
  2. Merkel defends accepting UN refugees
  3. EU commissioner plans Malta 'money laundering' inspection
  4. Survey: Half of high polluting farms receive CAP subsidies
  5. Commission will 'not shy away' from Malta killing repercussions
  6. EU Commission opens probe on Alitalia state loan
  7. Paris suspect given 20-year sentence for Brussels shoot-out
  8. Merkel and Pena Nieto praise EU-Mexico trade agreement

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of Ministers12 Recommendations for Nordic Leadership on Climate and Environment
  2. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOxford Professor Calls for an End to the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  3. ACCAPeople Who Speak-Up Should Feel Safe to Do So
  4. Mission of China to the EUProgress on China-EU Cooperation
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  6. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  7. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  8. Martens CentreJoin Us at NET@WORK2018 Featuring Debates on Migration, Foreign Policy, Populism & Disinformation
  9. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  10. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip
  11. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersImmigration and Integration in the Nordic Region - Getting the Facts Straight

Latest News

  1. How Russian propaganda depicts Europe - should we worry?
  2. MEPs tell Chinese ambassador of concerns on trade
  3. Greenland votes with eye on independence
  4. EU court delivers blow to anti-abortion activists
  5. Hungary activists defiant after 'Soros Mercenaries' attack
  6. European Commission proposes whistleblower protection law
  7. Secrecy of VW fraud report 'unacceptable', says MEP
  8. 'Strong suspicion' of corruption in Council of Europe assembly