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Bulgaria, Russia push for pipeline blocked by EU

July 7, 2014

SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) — Bulgaria and Russia on Monday voiced hope that work on the Russia-led South Stream gas pipeline project, which had been blocked by the European Union, can be resumed.

Last month, Bulgaria, an EU member, suspended work on the pipeline after the EU executive commission said Bulgaria hadn’t respected internal market rules covering the award of public contracts.

Bulgarian Prime Minister Oresharski said the pipeline project is very important to his country and its implementation will be resumed within the European legal framework. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who was visiting, called on the EU to restart dialogue with Russia on the pipeline project, adding that construction is still on deadline.

Oresharski said Bulgaria has addressed the issues the EU had raised and believes they will be resolved.

Since the outbreak of the Ukraine crisis, Bulgaria’s Socialist-led government has been trying to balance its allegiance to the EU and its almost total dependence on Russian gas.

The EU has taken aim at South Stream, which is being led by Russia’s state gas company Gazprom. The pipeline will allow Russia to send gas to Southern Europe via a route under the Black Sea, bypassing Ukraine as a transit country and consolidating Russia’s energy grip in that part of Europe. But Bulgaria, which stands to benefit both from improved energy security and from gas transit fees, staunchly supports the project.

Lavrov expressed hope that the dialogue between Moscow and the EU on South Stream will be restarted “because there is every reason to believe a mutually acceptable result can be achieved.”

“We are appealing to the European Commission to resume contact and we hope that the talks can be successful,” Lavrov told reporters after talks with his Bulgarian counterpart Kristian Vigenin. “We are expecting that the talks with the European Commission will be unfrozen.”

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