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Bulgaria Parliament ratifies South Stream gas pipeline agreement

Date: 25.07.2008

The Bulgarian Parliament approved Friday the ratification of the country's agreement with Russia for the construction of the South Stream gas transit pipeline with the overwhelming support of the governing three-way coalition parties.

Of the 189 MPs, who were present, 140 voted in favor, 47 voted against, and two abstained.

The agreement for South Stream, which is considered to be rivaling the EU-sponsored Nabucco gas pipeline, was signed on January 18, 2008, during President Vladimir Putin's visit to Sofia.

According to the terms of the contract, the two state monopolies Gazprom and Bulgargaz will set up a company for the construction and management of the pipeline on Bulgarian territory. Each of the two players will have a share of 50% in the joint venture.

The pipeline will have a transit capacity of 31 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year, with the Russian side guaranteeing it will be filling the pipe to the maximum.

The territorial exploration will start up to 18 months after the founding of the joint company, and the construction will be launched up to 2 years after its completion.

The agreement is for thirty years. After this term expires, it will be renewed automatically every five years unless one of the sides decides to terminate it.

The joint company will have to determine the transit taxes that Bulgaria will receive from the pipeline.

The agreement was approved after fierce debates and criticism by the rightist opposition, whose representatives pointed out that with this bilateral contract Bulgaria and Russia violated the rules of the Black Sea Cooperation Agreement, and that the Bulgarian Socialist Party was still trying to turn to the country into a sixteenth republic of the Soviet Union.

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