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Bulgaria's Coastal Towns Rally against Oil Pipeline Project

Date: 28.07.2009

Environmentalists' protests will accompany the public debate of plans for an oil pipeline passing through the coastal town of Burgas and the neighboring municipalities, scheduled for July 9.

The rally comes on the heels of a referendum, in which a total of 99 % of the residents of the coastal town of Pomorie said no to the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil transit pipeline project.

Though it was the first of a series of similar referendums in neighbouring towns not to be declared void over low turnout, it is still unclear how the outcome can influence the plans to build the pipeline as local referendums have no binding legal power in Bulgaria.

Bulgaria, Greece and Russia agreed to build the pipeline between Burgas and Alexandroupolis, taking Caspian oil to the Mediterranean skirting the congested Bosphorus, in 2007 after more than a decade of intermittent talks.

The agreement for the company which will construct the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil transit pipeline was signed by Bulgaria during Russian President Putin's visit to Bulgaria in 2008. It is expected to be completed by the end of 2011 or beginning of 2012.

Municipalities neighbouring Pomorie and nearby Burgas are also harbouring fears that the pipeline could damage their lucrative tourism business, while environmental NGOs have branded the existing plans to build an oil terminal out at sea a disaster waiting to happen.

The 280-kilometre pipeline, with 166 kilometres passing through Bulgaria, would have an initial annual capacity of 35 million tonnes, which could be later expanded to 50 million tonnes. Its costs are estimated at up to USD 900 M.

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