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Burgas - Alexandroupolis Pipe Dream

Date: 06.07.2010

Kostis Geropoulos
New Europe

Greece and Bulgaria are members of the European Union, which abides by strict environmental regulations, and, therefore, the aim of both countries is to build a pipeline that will have absolutely no environmental impact on Burgas and Alexandroupolis, Greece’s Deputy Minister of Environment, Energy & Climate Change Yannis Maniatis told New Europe on 29 June on the sidelines of the 2010 Mediterranean Oil & Gas Conference here in Athens at the Hypatia Mansion.

“Regarding specifically the Burgas-Alexandroupolis project the issues concerning the environment are clear. Greece is a European country and abides to all the environmental protection rulesadopted almost all the European standards,” Maniatis said. “From the moment that our ministerial services examine the study, which will be submitted by the international company, and agree that this study fulfills the standards set by Greek and EU law then it is clear that there is absolutely no problem. I believe that it must be done by all sides, including, of course, Bulgaria, which is also a European country where the EU rules are in force and applied concerning the protection of the environment,” he added. The pending environmental impact study is conducted by the Trans-Balkan Pipeline BV involving prominent independent experts and institutions, selected by means of worldwide calls for tender.

Maniatis said that the project will also upgrade the geopolitical role of two countries. The Greek Ministerial Council approved on 1 July the draft law on the route – construction of the Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline, which is project of strategic importance, the Greek Ministry of Environment, Energy & Climate Change said in a statement.

In June, Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Boyko Borisov unexpectedly said that his country was giving up on Burgas-Alexandroupolis and suspending construction of the Belene nuclear power plant. He explained his decision citing environmental concerns, adding that the project’s effectiveness was also questionable. In a dramatic twist that gave all of Europe whiplash, Borisov retracted his statement on Burgas-Alexandroupolis hours later, saying that “the Bulgarian government hasn’t made a final decision.”

Russia, Bulgaria and Greece agreed in 2007 to build the pipeline from the Bulgarian Black Sea port of Burgas to Alexandroupolis in the Eastern Mediterranean, bypassing the crowded Bosporus. However, Russia said in August 2009 that it would join another pipeline project bypassing the Straits from Turkey’s Samsun to Ceyhan. Russia may sacrifice Burgas Alexandroupolis, opting instead for the Turkish oil pipeline in an effort to improve relations with Ankara and get its approval for Russian’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s favorite project – the South Stream gas pipeline – to cross Turkey’s territory, Konstantin Simonov, Executive Director of Russia’s National Security Fund, told New Europe on the sidelines of the Athens conference.

Under Borisov, the Bulgarian government has started to review Russian-backed energy projects. “It’s his political position,” Simonov said, adding that Borisov is under pressure from the United States. He noted that current relations between Sofia and Moscow are very bad. But in the case of Burgas Alexandroupolis, the Bulgarian Prime Minister may do Russia a favor. “Russia can say: ‘The Prime Minister of Bulgaria, he is crazy guy, he doesn’t want to build it. What can we do? It is a problem of Bulgaria. But in reality if Bulgaria will say ‘Yes’ to Burgas-Alexandroupolis, Russia will not build it now because the problem is this new strange friendship with Turkey.”

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