The news from Baku, that during his meeting with President Aliev Prime Minister Borisov confirmed the expansion of the capacity of the interconnector between Greece and Bulgaria to and possibly above 30 BCM came to many as surprise. It seems an ex prompt induced by latest developments, including other meetings Borisov held in Baku.
The Bulgarian leader was one of the very few if not the sole leader of an EU country present in Baku.
are good reasons why EU leaders did not show up in the Azeri capital
and even greater ones for the usually conservative and keeping the EU
foreign policy mainstream Bulgarian PM to show up.
important meeting however was the one held between President Putin and
President Erdogan dedicated mostly to the Turkish Stream. Whatever has
been discussed between the two leaders - the consequences will be felt
shortly or not at all. The only invariable in the equation will remain
the reluctance of the EU to play ball and accept the terms of play
offered by Gazprom on the Turkish Stream.
against this background the seemingly improvised move of the Bulgarian
PM to upscale the transit capacity aims at enhancing his bargaining chips
in anticipation of diverse and often competing gas flows potentially
reaching the interconnector between Greece and Bulgaria. He could have
either responded to concerns shared by the Azeri President (which given
the volumes of Azeri gas seems unlikely) or trying to position Bulgaria
as transit route for volumes of Russian gas via Turkish Stream. Meeting
Russian gas in Turkey or in Greece has stirred politician and
businessmen minds recently with OMV not wasting time to position
themselves as the prime partner to Gazrpom in a revived Nabucco.
sounds that the Austrians are playing solo and have not cleared their
initiative neither with Brussels, nor with their co-shareholders in the
Nabucco pipeline consortium or with Turkey. The pipeline epitomised
efforts of the CEE and the EC to diversify away from Russian gas - hence
the granted exemption. OMV are now playing the Third party exemption to
attract Gazprrom and to present the pipeline as the best match to to
Gazprom's demand for corresponding infrastructure as stated by President
Putin and Alexei Miller.
With such dramatic
increase in quantities the IGB should pre-qualify into a separate
transit cross border pipeline.The same applies to the ITB should the
Nabucco project is revived.
The Kremlin has decided
to go all out and push in all directions in order to make the Turkish
stream happen in one form or another - either through off shore segments
to Bulgaria and Turkey (this has never ceased to be part of ongoing
exchange) or to Turkey with an onshore segment.
President Putin is short on time and can hardly afford the standard time for all necessary permits and procedures in Turkey.
Bulgaria is now simply playing to preempt the option of Russian gas bypassing it.
moves come at a price and at a risk. The rationale is clear but the law
of unintended consequences might bring unexpected results. Therefore it
is still unclear whether the idea that emerged in Baku of a radical
interconnector capacity increase should be treated as a second phase of
the current project or as a parallel project.
It will be
too obvious a move counter to diversification efforts if all the play
around the Turkish stream and its follow on routes is allowed to
negatively impact the schedule of the IGB and the signing of the final
investment decision at the beginning of July.
The fact of the matter is that after six years of professed diversification not a single project has been implemented. Deeds are what matter at the end.
No doubt - Gazprom has a vested interest in blocking Bulgaria diversification projects and the use of its territory for alternative gas transit. The lobbying power at hand can hardly be underestimated - all the local intermediaries of Russian gas and their political off shoots.
The stakes are getting higher and the Bulgarian side might be risking too much if it bets too strongly on the alternative routes for Russian gas instead of alternative gas suppliers and seekers of transit services through Bulgaria.
One thing is certain as Capital Weekly article put it in its latest issue - if Bulgargas is unable or unwilling to buy gas from new suppliers and Bulgartransgaz is unable to transit new quantities from new suppliers the whole talk of Bulgaria as a transit hub will sound hollow.
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