Russia says Bulgaria to complete pipeline stretch of TurkStream by 2020

Gazprom’s TurkStream gas pipeline, which will connect Russia and Turkey, runs through the Black Sea and Bulgaria, where there are concerns that it might fail to meet its forecasted completion date. (AFP)
Updated 21 October 2019

Russia says Bulgaria to complete pipeline stretch of TurkStream by 2020

  • Bulgaria last month struck a $1.2 billion deal with Saudi-based Arkad to complete the 474 km pipeline as early as 2020

SOFIA: Bulgaria has promised to complete its stretch of the TurkStream gas pipeline by 2020 as planned, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Monday, trying to tackle skepticism about the timescale of the project.

Last month Bulgaria signed a €1.1 billion ($1.2 billion) contract with Saudi-led group Arkad to build the 474 km pipeline across its territory.

Sofia hopes the whole pipeline, which Bulgaria has dubbed Balkan Stream, will become operational as early as 2020, but given that the contract with Saudi company was signed only in September, some industry officials are doubtful of the timeline.

Lavrov, speaking in Moscow at a briefing with his Bulgarian counterpart Ekaterina Zaharieva, said he was given assurances that the second part of TurkStream would be completed as planned.

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Last week, Russia’s Gazprom began filling the first part of the TurkStream pipeline, which runs via the Black Sea, with gas.

“The partners have underscored that the work will be finished on time, by 2020,” Lavrov said.

Russia, which is building TurkStream to bypass Ukraine to the south, has said its second portion, with an annual capacity of 15.75 billion cubic meters, will pass via Bulgaria to central Europe.

Earlier on Monday, Bulgaria opened the 11 km pipeline that links its gas transport network with Turkey as part of its push to transport Russian natural gas from TurkStream to central Europe and inspected the laying of pipes Arkad has started in northwestern Bulgaria.

The pipeline stretch is part of Bulgaria’s plans to link its southern border with Turkey to its western frontier with Serbia and provide a link to the Russia-backed TurkStream twin pipeline to Serbia, Hungary and Austria.

Last week, Russia’s Gazprom began filling the first part of the TurkStream pipeline, which runs via the Black Sea, with gas.

Moscow plans to launch the first part of the pipeline, with an annual capacity of 15.75 billion cubic meters, by the end of the year.

Speaking to officials at the opening in southern Bulgaria, Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said Balkan Stream was also a political highway ensuring peace along with its economic benefits.

Serbian Energy Minister Aleksandar Antic, who attended the inspection of construction works in northwestern Bulgaria, said Serbia will be ready with the pipeline on its territory by the end of the year and gas can flow once Bulgaria completes its part of the work.


EU pledges to stay green in virus recovery

Updated 29 May 2020

EU pledges to stay green in virus recovery

  • To help economies from the 27-nation bloc bounce back as quick as possible

BRUSSELS: The European Commission pledged on Thursday to stay away from fossil-fueled projects in its coronavirus recovery strategy, and to stick to its target of making Europe the first climate neutral continent by the middle of the century, but environmental groups said they were unimpressed.

To weather the deep recession triggered by the pandemic, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has proposed a €1.85 trillion ($2 trillion) package consisting of a revised long-term budget and a recovery fund, with 25 percent of the funding set aside for climate action.

To help economies from the 27-nation bloc bounce back as quick as possible, the EU’s executive arm wants to increase a €7.5-billion ($8.25 billion) fund presented earlier this year that was part of an investment plan aiming at making the continent more environmentally friendly.

Under the commission’s new plan, which requires the approval of member states, the mechanism will be expanded to €40 billion ($44 billion) and is expected to generate another €150 billion in public and private investment. The money is designed to help coal-dependent countries weather the costs of moving away from fossil fuels.

Environmental group WWF acknowledged the commission’s efforts but expressed fears the money could go to “harmful activities such as fossil fuels or building new airports and motorways.”

“It can’t be used to move from coal to coal,” Frans Timmermans, the commission executive vice president in charge the European Green Deal, responded on Thursday. “It is unthinkable that support will be given to go from coal to coal. That is how we are going to approach the issue. That’s the only way you can ensure you actually do not harm.”

Timmermans conceded, however, that projects involving fossil fuels could sometimes be necessary, especially the use of natural gas to help move away from coal.

The commission also wants to dedicate an extra €15 billion ($16.5 billion) to an agricultural fund supporting rural areas in their transition toward a greener model.

Von der Leyen, who took office last year, has made the fight against climate change the priority of her term. Timmermans insisted that her goal to make Europe the world’s first carbon-neutral continent by 2050 remained unchanged, confirming that upgraded targets for the 2030 horizon would be presented by September.

Reacting to the executive arm’s recovery plans, Greenpeace lashed out at a project it described as “contradictory at best and damaging at worst,” accusing the commission of sticking to a growth-driven mentality detrimental to the environment.

“The plan includes several eye-catching green `options,’ including home renovation schemes, taxes on single-use plastic waste and the revenues of digital giants like Google and Facebook. But it does not solve the problem of existing support for gas, oil, coal, and industrial farming — some of the main drivers of a mounting climate and environmental emergency,” Greenpeace said.

“The plan also fails to set strict social or green conditions on access to funding for polluters like airlines or carmakers.”

Timmermans said the EU would keep investing in the development of emission-free public transportation, and promoting clean private transport through the EU budget.