Bulgaria, Greece boost ties amid pipeline uncertainty
Bulgaria and Greece boosted bilateral ties in talks Tuesday that nonetheless failed to overcome uncertainties on the fate of a Russia-backed oil pipeline project, officials said.
Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou reiterated Greek interest in building the 280-kilometre (174-mile) pipeline from the Bulgarian port of Burgas to Alexandroupolis in Greece.
The line would carry Russian oil from the Caspian Sea to Europe, bypassing the busy Bosphorus strait.
"Our interest in implementing the Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline project remains," Papandreou said Tuesday.
But he was unable to get Bulgaria's immediate backing for the long-stalled deal that has already prompted protests by environmentalists in the Black Sea region of Burgas.
"Our position remains unchanged -- (we want) an international environmental impact assessment ... The Greek side has to understand that ecology comes first," Bulgarian Premier Boyko Borisov said.
Bulgaria hopes to have the assessment ready by February 2011 and Papandreou said Tuesday that Greece was ready to wait for the results and Bulgaria's final decision.
Both Russia and Greece have recently intensified diplomatic pressure on Bulgaria to back the pipeline, after Borisov hinted in June that Bulgaria might pull out.
And while Russian officials recently expressed hope that the environmental impact assessment would give the pipeline a clean bill of health, Papandreou said Tuesday that the fate of the deal should not prevent the development of bilateral ties.
"Our relations should not hang on Burgas-Alexandroupolis. Regardless of whether the project develops positively or not, there are many more opportunities for cooperation in different areas," Papandreou said.
The governments of Bulgaria and Greece on Tuesday signed 13 agreements in areas ranging from finance, energy, military cooperation, tourism, transport and water management to labour, healthcare and culture.
© 2010 AFP