Bulgaria, Russia Start Talks for New Gas Supply Contract

Bulgaria and Russia are starting negotiations for a new long-term gas supplies agreement at the beginning of 2010.

This has become clear Thursday during the conversations between the Bulgarian Economy and Energy Minister, Traicho Traikov, and his Russian counterpart Sergei Shmatko.

Traikov left for Moscow unexpectedly Wednesday night on a trip which had not been announced in advance. The specific reason for his rush to Russia was not revealed.

Traikov and Shmatko have also discussed the plans for the construction of the South Stream gas pipeline.

The talks for a new, long-term contract for supplies of Russian natural gas to Bulgaria are going to start in January or February 2010.

Russian Minister Shmatko has pointed out that some of the bilateral contracts in this field expire in 2010, and stressed that Russian energy giant Gazprom was going to make some new good offers to Bulgaria, and that a new agreement would be reached that would make the process of providing gas transparent.

The Bulgarian demand that all intermediaries be removed from the gas supply process will also be discussed during the upcoming negotiations.

The specific talks about the construction – specifically, about the project agreement and preliminary survey – of the South Stream gas pipeline on Bulgarian territory will also start in 2010.

The Energy Ministers of Russia and Bulgaria are reported to have agreed to craft a concrete plan for the realization of the Belene Nuclear Power Plant project in the coming 2-3 weeks. According to Traikov, the two parties have reached an agreement in principle and the details remain to be hammered out.

The specifics of the “principled agreement” have not been revealed but they might be connected with the offers of the Russian side to provide a state guaranteed loan for the construction of Bulgaria’s second nuclear power plant, or to become a partner in the joint venture by owing a sizable share in it.

“The concept for Belene will be discussed at cabinet levels in Bulgaria and Russia and after that the specific structure of the project will be determined within the bilateral talks,” Traikov said.

The Bulgarian Minister has been assured by his Russian counterpart that all measures had been taken in order to prevent a new gas supply crisis like the one in January 2009 when Russia-Ukraine disputes led to disruption of Russian gas supplies to Europe including Bulgaria.

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