Russia bags key Bulgarian agreement to speed up South Stream
Russia bagged on Saturday a key agreement with Bulgaria to speed up work on its South Stream gas pipeline project as Sofia vied to secure lower prices for its gas deliveries, state BTA news agency reported.
Bulgarian Economy and Energy Minister Traicho Traikov and Russian Energy Minister Sergey Shmatko signed a "road map" for accelerating South Stream in Bulgaria's Black Sea resort of Varna in a ceremony also attended by Bulgarian Premier Boyko Borisov, BTA said, but did not immediately provide any further details.
The document was expected to map out a timetable for preparing the preliminary feasibility study for the project to channel an annual 63 billion cubic metres of Russian gas to Europe under the Black Sea.
It also put February 2011 as the target deadline for receiving the results of the study and setting up the joint company for building the Bulgarian stretch of the 900-kilometre (560-mile) pipeline, Traikov told journalists late Friday on the sidelines of the two-day talks in Varna.
Sofia has always said it was committed to both South Stream and its rival EU-backed Nabucco pipeline but progress on Russia's Gazprom and Italy ENI's project has been stalled over haggling as to how Sofia and Moscow would split ownership of the new pipelines going through Bulgaria.
But Sofia agreed on Saturday to give South Stream a push in a bid to secure cheaper prices for its own gas deliveries from Russia, the contracts for which expire in 2011 and 2012.
Bulgaria is almost 100-percent dependent on Russian gas supplies via Ukraine for its annual consumption of about 3.0 billion cubic metres and also channels 17 billion cubic metres of gas to neighbouring Turkey and Greece.
The small Balkan state, often regarded by analysts as one of Russia's staunchest satellites from the Soviet era, was among the worst hit by Russia's gas spat with Ukraine last January when it practically saw no gas coming down the pipes for days on end.
© 2010 AFP