"Russia In The World" is a MEMRI Russian Media Studies Project review of Russia's geopolitical interests and areas of penetration. This installment will deal with Russia-Bulgaria relations.
The original image was taken from Studiya 13's Facebook page.
- Bulgaria's President Radev In Sochi: Putin And I Have Conducted A Strategic Review Of Relations Between Our Countries
- Radev's Interview With Kommersant: Bulgaria Needs Direct Supply Of Russian Gas Via The Black Sea
- Bulgaria PM Borisov-Putin News Conference – Borisov Apologizes With Putin
- Putin Welcomed Bulgarian PM Borisov with a Hug
The President of Bulgaria, Rumen Radev, with Putin. (Source: Kremlin.ru)
On May 22, Bulgarian President Rumen Radev met in Sochi with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Radev came on Russia's invitation to attend the events linked with the 140th anniversary of the liberation of the Bulgarian people from the Ottoman yoke, and the end of the liberation war.
During the meeting, Radev stated that restoring trust will be very difficult, because the two leaders will have to do this after major energy projects were suspended, due to the confrontation between the European Union and NATO on the one hand and Russia on the other hand.
Radev then added: "However, we have made the first step towards this. President Putin and I have conducted a strategic review of relations between our countries and identified the traditions and the huge potential of our countries in trade, energy, tourism, cultural development and transport." He then invited Putin to visit Bulgaria.
On May 21, Radev met with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. On that occasion, Radev said that Bulgaria hopes that the policy that denied direct gas supplies from Russia to his country via the Black Sea will be reviewed. Radev said: "Russia has always been our strategic partner in the energy sector - as a supplier of natural gas, oil, and nuclear fuel, as a participant in the modernization and support of Bulgaria's nuclear power capacities."
On December 1, 2014, during his visit to Ankara, Putin said that Russia was abandoning the South Stream gas pipeline project, which was to pass through the Black Sea to Bulgaria in order to supply gas to the countries of Southern and Central Europe. The project was abandoned since it faced strong opposition from the European Commission. Russia then announced that the project would be replaced with a pipeline that would pass through Turkey (the Turkish Stream project).
On the eve of his visit to Russia, Radev was interviewed by Kommersant's journalists Galina Dudina and Yuri Barsukov. In the interview, Radev said that sanctions were an invalid reason for freezing the relationship, but warned Moscow about interfering in Bulgarian domestic policy. Radev also stressed that "no sanctions are forever", referring to Western sanctions against Russia.
During the interview, Radev also expressed his desire to renew energy projects with Russia and particularly the direct shipments of Russian gas. Radev said: "As for gas supplies from Russia, I think that Bulgaria needs direct delivery of Russian gas via the Black Sea. Let’s call it 'Bulgarian Stream' … These aspirations are no different from Germany’s intentions to implement Nord Stream 2… I hope that both Russia and Brussels will receive this idea with understanding."
Below are excerpts from Radev's interview with Kommersant:
Radev: 'It Is Important To Restore Trust'
Q: "What do you expect from your visit to Russia?"
Rumen Radev: "This is the first meeting between the presidents of Bulgaria and Russia in ten years. Such a prolonged absence of dialogue on the highest level is not in the interest of our peoples, united by centuries-long spiritual and cultural ties. It is important to note that 'people’s diplomacy', i.e. communication between tourists, artists, professionals, journalists, cultural exchange, etc. never stopped.
"The absence of political will and courage has always been compensated by historical and human proximity. Today, it is important to restore trust and start taking specific steps. In the second half of 2018 it is necessary to hold yet another, 16th session of the Bulgarian-Russian Intergovernmental Commission on Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation. I expect that after the meeting of the two presidents, the governments of our two countries will outline specific measures and projects in all spheres."
Radev: I Will Renew To Putin My Invitation To Visit Russia
Q: "Earlier, you invited President Vladimir Putin to a visit on the 140th anniversary of the liberation of Bulgaria in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–1878. Did you manage to coordinate the dates of this visit?"
Rumen Radev: "We have an agreement in principle with the Russian President about his visit to Bulgaria in 2018, when we celebrate the 140th anniversary of the end of the Russo-Turkish war and our liberation. But Mr. Putin could not set a specific date before the presidential election. I will renew my invitation in Sochi. I am certain that such a visit in the nearest future will create favorable conditions for expanding our bilateral cooperation."
Radev: Not To Expel Diplomats After The Events In Salisbury Was A Responsible Decision
Q: "In the context of exacerbation of relationship between Russia and the Western countries, after the events in Salisbury, Bulgaria is one of the few countries that decided not to expel Russian diplomats but only recalled its ambassador for a week. How did you explain this decision to your partners in EU?"
Rumen Radev: "As the acting chairman of the Council of European Union, Bulgaria aspires to a constructive and meaningful dialogue. I think that this responsible decision was the only possible one in that complex situation, which required principled and far-sighted behavior."
Rumen Radev: 'Sanctions Are Harmful To All Countries; They Are An Ineffective Tool'
Q: "Information appeared in the mass media about the possible further expansion of sanctions against Russia in connection with Crimea. Will Sofia support them?"
Rumen Radev: "My attitude towards the sanctions is known. They are not reason enough to freeze our relations. No sanctions are forever. Sanctions are harmful to all countries; they are an ineffective tool. Moreover, I think that free trade contributes more to the cause of peace, because it creates mutual ties that nobody wants to break.
"As for the restrictive measures of the EU against Russia, their purpose is the resolution of the conflict in Ukraine. Lifting of sanctions depends on full implementation of the Minsk agreements by all parties. Their implementation would restore trust between the EU and Russia, and, consequently, would help further intensification and expansion of bilateral Bulgarian-Russian cooperation.
"Russia and the EU must answer the question of where they want to take their relations further and how we must solve controversial issues — through dialogue or by renouncing dialogue. In the last few days, the dialogue has become more active. A few days ago, Chancellor Merkel visited Sochi, today and tomorrow we will discuss Bulgarian-Russian relations with Prime Minister Medvedev and President Putin, and in the next few days, President Macron will come to Russia as well. I think this is a very promising dynamics."
Radev: 'Over 450 Thousand Russian Citizens Have Acquired Property In Bulgaria'
Q: "Earlier, you said that Bulgaria 'is making every effort to relax visa requirements for tourists from Russia' (interview to Rossiyskaya Gazeta, March 2018). What measures are you talking about? Do you have any expectations as to the number of Russian tourists this year?"
Rumen Radev: "Tourism is one of the spheres where Bulgaria does not need any extra advertising. According to Russian data, our country is one of the most popular tourist destinations, and it is only natural — we offer great facilities for sea, mountain and ski vacations, and our peoples have common spiritual and cultural traditions.
"Bulgaria also has a lot of sites connected to the historical memory of the Russo-Turkish Liberation War of 1877–1878. Over 450 thousand Russian citizens have acquired property in Bulgaria, mostly in sea resorts. Bulgaria, like Russia, is already taking measures to relax visa requirements, and they are producing good results."
Radev: 'Despite The Fact That Bulgaria Is A NATO Member, It Continues To Protect Its Air Space With The Help Of MiG-29 Fighter Planes'
Q: "In March this year, your predecessor Rosen Plevneliev said that Russia was financing political parties and interfering into Bulgaria’s internal affairs. Do you think this accusation has any basis?"
Rumen Radev: "I prefer not to comment on the actions of any of my predecessors. As far as I know, it is not considered proper in Russia either. I can say for sure that in a country that historically has had great affection toward Russia, such actions can only damage it."
Q: "In 2015, before you became president, you mentioned in an interview the dire situation of the Bulgarian combat air force; you explained that the defense ministry budget lacked sufficient resources to maintain the MiG-29 fighters in combat readiness condition, and there was a risk that you would be left with only two planes. You yourself used to pilot MiG-29, so you have first-hand knowledge of the problem. In March, the Bulgarian government signed a framework agreement on aircraft repair with the MiG Corporation to the sum of over €40.5 million. Will this solve the problem?"
Rumen Radev: "It is yet another proof of the necessity to resume mutually beneficial relations with the Russian Federation. Despite the fact that Bulgaria is a NATO member, it continues to protect its air space with the help of MiG-29 fighter planes, which requires their timely technical support and maintenance. Financially speaking, the sum of €40.5 million is not small, but from the perspective of our defensive capacity it is not enough to ensure that a sufficient number of aircraft are airworthy before a new generation fighters is introduced into service. The aircraft maintenance problem will not be solved, but this will enable Bulgaria to ensure its air sovereignty by itself."
Q: "Is there a chance that Bulgaria will buy more MiG fighter planes from Russia, or is it impossible now that your country is a NATO member?"
Rumen Radev: "Bulgaria has declared its intention to modernize its air force by buying a combat plane of a new type. According to the requirements approved by the Bulgarian government, fighter planes must be produced and be in operational service in at least one NATO or EU member, which makes sense from the perspective of our allied obligations. This requirement answers your question, so let’s be realistic – purchasing more MiG fighters is impossible."
Q: "Is Bulgaria still unwilling to join NATO’s Black Sea fleet? The idea of creating such a flotilla was proposed in 2016 by Romania."
Rumen Radev: "It should be pointed out that there is no decision by NATO to create a so-called flotilla in the Black Sea. Bulgaria has always thought that measures in the field of security should not lead to an escalation of tensions. This should be a common principle for NATO countries and Russia in the Black Sea region."
Radev: 'Bulgaria Is Interested In Becoming The Energy Hub Of South-East Europe'
Q: "Another important area of cooperation between Moscow and Sofia is energy. But after the abandonment of the South Stream gas pipeline project in 2014, Russia has developed mistrust towards Bulgaria as a partner in large infrastructure projects, because, from the Russian point of view, it was Bulgaria’s actions that resulted in the cancellation of the pipeline project. How, in your opinion, can Bulgaria convince the Russian government that in the event that TurkStream is extended into Bulgarian territory, it won’t create the same problems as with South Stream?"
Rumen Radev: "First of all, I think that this subject needs to be depoliticized, and we should heed the opinion of experts and economists. In any case, Bulgaria is interested in becoming the energy hub of South-East Europe, which also means becoming a state that distributes natural gas.
"As for gas supplies from Russia, I think that Bulgaria needs direct delivery of Russian gas via the Black Sea. Let’s call it 'Bulgarian Stream'. This approach is dictated by common sense and requirements of safety and efficacy, and not only regarding Bulgaria, but the EU on the whole. These aspirations are no different from Germany’s intentions to implement Nord Stream 2. Of course, Bulgaria and Germany are EU members and must abide by the rules of the Third Energy Package. I hope that both Russia and Brussels will receive this idea with understanding.
"Secondly, it’s a good step that our government is again raising the subject of the Belene nuclear power plant. There was a time when the same politicians were proud of having canceled that project. I think that this is a sign of realism and maturity. This project has its future, but with a clear legal, time and price framework."
Q: "Is there currently an agreement between Bulgaria and Brussels about the transit of Russian gas through Bulgaria via the TurkStream pipeline after 2019?"
Rumen Radev: "Bulgaria is determined to strengthen its position as the regional gas hub, and the European Union supports us in this. The Connecting Europe Facility allocated €920 thousand on a grant basis to front-end engineering and design. The work is already underway, and one of the chief goals of the project is increasing the transit of natural gas, including Russian, through the territory of Bulgaria."
Q: "As a result of replacing South Stream by TurkStream, it is Turkey that must become the transit country for the Russian gas, not Bulgaria. In your opinion, how will this influence the energy security of Bulgaria and EU? Did you propose that Russia should return to the idea of installing the gas pipeline through the Black Sea directly from Russia to Bulgaria?"
Rumen Radev: "Undoubtedly, the safest, cheapest, and most reliable way is the direct one. Especially when we are talking about additional deliveries of Russian natural gas to Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, Austria, and northern Italy. Both for Russia and for Bulgaria, the most logical choice for expanding the supply of Russian natural gas to Europe is the way through the territory of Bulgaria.
"Therefore, it is in our common interest to obtain a direct line of Russian gas to the Black Sea coast of Bulgaria.
"I am certain of it.
"In this respect, a very strong argument in favor of Bulgaria is its existing gas transportation system, which is currently being expanded, and gas bridges with neighboring countries will provide access to the countries of Central Europe."
Q: "What is Bulgaria planning to do with the equipment bought from Russia for the Belene power plant?"
Rumen Radev: "Bulgaria is a nuclear country and must stay nuclear. We have many years of experience and strong traditions in nuclear energy, which ensures stability and the predictability of energy production in Bulgaria. This experience, as well as our plans for the future and energy projects must include nuclear power plants.
"As for the Belene plant construction, over the past few days the Bulgarian government has changed its position, and we expect the National Assembly to lift the moratorium on this project as well. One should keep in mind that 3 billion levs have already been invested, most of the equipment has been paid for and delivered, the European commission has been informed about the project, and the venue has been built and licensed.
"Foreign investors are showing interest in Belene, and I expect the government of Bulgaria to start implementing this project by choosing a strategic investor."
Bulgaria PM Borisov and Putin (Source: Kremlin.ru)
On May 30, Bulgarian PM Boyko Borisov met with Russian President Vladimir Putin. During the joint press conference, Borisov apologized to Putin for the failure of South Stream and for his responsibility in causing the deterioration of relations between the two countries. Borisov said: "We know about the difficult relations in the past and are grateful to our colleagues for not being vindictive and the fact that Russian-Bulgarian relations do not depend on the extent of guilt of some politicians…
"I would like to thank President Putin for his attitude once again. I am to blame for creating certain tensions… When it came to the worst and I wanted to talk, my calls were always answered. And I really accept part of the guilt for those developments."
Putin then added that he regrets that the South Stream project has not been implemented, since it would have "greatly benefited" Bulgaria.
In response, Borisov blamed the EU of having imposed Bulgaria diktats that other countries do not respect anyway. Borisov said: "We are the most loyal and the most disciplined country in the European Union. This is the reason why all the pipelines bypassed our territory. We hope that today we have redressed an injustice.
"These pipelines now go through Turkey, a NATO member, as well as Greece and Italy, who are also NATO members. We had backed out of these projects for the sake of principle, which complicated our relations with Russia. So I am very grateful that Russia holds no grudge against us. A senior partner is always more inclined to grant forgiveness."
During the joint conference, Borisov announced that Putin told us that yesterday they spoke with the Turkish President and there are no objections to the extension of the Turkish Stream gas pipeline towards Bulgaria.
The two leaders also discussed the construction of the Belene nuclear power plant, and Putin stated that Russia is interested in participating in the project.
It is worth noting that Borisov’s visit took place following the end of the seven yearlong EU’s antitrust regulators' investigation into Russian gas supplier Gazprom. On May 24, the EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager stated that Gazprom won't be fined, after the Russian company agreed to facilitate access for competitors to eastern European energy markets.
Below are excerpts from the joint press conference:
Putin: 'Our Relations Rest On Centuries-Old Traditions Of Friendship And Neighborliness'
Putin: "Mr. Prime Minister, ladies and gentlemen,
"Prime Minister of Bulgaria Boyko Borisov and I have just concluded talks. They were held in a business-like and constructive atmosphere and were fairly productive.
"Bulgaria is an important partner in Europe and on the Balkans. Our relations rest on centuries-old traditions of friendship and neighborliness, as well as the cultural and spiritual kinship of our peoples.
"This year we celebrate the anniversary of a landmark date in our relations – 140 years since Bulgaria’s liberation from the Ottoman yoke. As is known, Russia made a major contribution to the victory of the Bulgarian people in the struggle for independence and did much to restore Bulgarian statehood.
"It is important for us that the durable, diverse ties that have historically existed between Russia and Bulgaria continue developing on a mutually beneficial and equitable basis.
"During today’s narrow and expanded format meetings, the Prime Minister and I discussed in detail the current situation, priorities and the most promising areas of joint work in the most diverse areas.
"Naturally, we paid special attention to expanding economic cooperation. Last year our trade increased by 24 percent to reach $3.5 billion. The total amount of Russian investment exceeded $3.3 billion.
"Russian companies are actively investing in the Bulgarian economy, primarily in oil processing, agriculture, construction, and real estate.
"Russia is a reliable energy supplier for Bulgaria. We meet all Bulgaria’s natural gas needs, for instance. About three billion cubic meters is supplied annually.
"I would like to note that transit flows of Russian hydrocarbons to South Eastern European countries pass through Bulgarian territory. We can further develop cooperation in this vital area, thereby making an even bigger contribution to ensuring European energy security.
"We discussed in detail cooperation in the nuclear power industry. The Rosatom State Corporation will continue supplying nuclear fuel to the Bulgarian Kozloduy Nuclear Power Plant. It will also help Bulgarians to upgrade this plant and extend the term of service of its sixth energy unit.
"In addition, Russia is ready to return to the idea of carrying out the project to build Belene Nuclear Power Plant – if, of course, the Bulgarian leadership decides to. Based on the market, of course.
"The Prime Minister and I were pleased to note the consolidation of interregional ties. Over 80 regions of the Russian Federation are developing partnerships with Bulgarian regions.
"Last year, Varna hosted the Forum of Sister Cities that was attended by almost 30 cities of the two countries. In autumn, the Days of Moscow festival is scheduled to be held in Sofia.
"One more important subject of our talks was cooperation in culture. As we have just recalled, guest performances of the Sofia Opera and Ballet Theatre were held with great success in the Bolshoi for the first time in 40 years.
"We are maintaining close ties in education. This year over 200 state scholarships have been allocated for Bulgarian students and we are planning to increase this quota.
"Importantly, Bulgarian citizens have remained steadily interested in studying the Russian language. I have thanked the Prime Minister for the Bulgarian Government’s efforts to maintain this interest.
"We intend to continue encouraging tourism contacts. Bulgarian resorts are traditionally highly popular in Russia. Last year half a million Russian tourists visited Bulgaria.
"About 300,000 Russians own housing on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast. Their investment in Bulgarian real estate amounts to $5 billion.
"I expressed my gratitude to the Prime Minister for showing care for our military memorials on Bulgarian soil where tens of thousands of Russian soldiers who perished fighting to liberate Bulgaria are buried.
"We agreed to draft a special agreement on cooperation on maintaining and protecting burial grounds.
"Mr. Borisov and I also exchanged views on pressing international and European issues.
"In conclusion, I would like to thank the Prime Minister and all our Bulgarian colleagues for the open and substantive discussion.
"Thank you for your attention."
Bulgarian PM Borisov: 'Considering The Large Amounts Of Russian Gas Coming From Ukrainian Territory And Via Turkish Stream, It Is Necessary To Find A Formula For Establishing A Gas Distribution Hub'
Prime Minister of Bulgaria Boyko Borisov: "Mr. President, colleagues,
"I think we have had a very important and pragmatic conversation. I subscribe to everything said by President Putin about our cultural, historical and religious affinity. I do not want to repeat these words for Bulgarian journalists. Bulgaria is in for the major developments that will become clear today – whether a second step will be taken in the effort to supply Russian gas via the Turkish Stream pipeline to Bulgaria. This is what we discussed. President Putin told us that yesterday they spoke with the Turkish President and there are no objections to the extension of the Turkish Stream gas pipeline towards Bulgaria.
"In the past there was a different project. Now we are returning to the gas distribution pattern on the Balkans. It was possible to carry out a different project but it is now a thing of the past. You know what the situation was like at that time. Now we are absolutely certain that Mr. Miller, our ministers will find a pattern for redistributing gas under contract with other countries, selling it and transporting it to other countries in our region.
"Naturally, considering the large amounts of Russian gas coming from Ukrainian territory and via Turkish Stream, it is necessary to find a formula for establishing a gas distribution hub.
"As for the Belene Nuclear Power Plant, I know that many Bulgarians would like to hear about this. As we discussed with President Putin in Sofia, the units have been paid for and Russia refused interest payment. Bulgaria has two reactors and a certified site in Belene.
"Now that we have learned our lesson and are using the property we have – the reactors and the site – we are trying to find an investor to carry out the project on a market basis. We want this project not only to generate profits but also to provide for the reliable operation of the plant in the future, after a ten year period.
"We thanked our partners for extending the service life of the nuclear units at the Kozloduy Nuclear Power Plant. However, this plant is not eternal and we will have to build another one. So we are ready to welcome all candidates that offer the best conditions for this site.
"With regards to culture, I would like to mention that a wonderful exhibition of medieval icons will open in Moscow on June 27. This is a unique event and I invite all of you to come. These are miracle-working icons. We also jointly celebrated May 24 and are carrying out a number of cultural events. We hope this practice will continue and similar events will be held.
"Russian helicopters that are used in Afghanistan, MiG fighters the Bulgarian armed forces are equipped with an Su attack aircraft – before we buy any new hardware we will work on servicing and repairing them. The helicopters are already under repair and the fighters are waiting their turn.
"We have good prospects. The issues that we discussed on gas and other subjects have been approved by the European Commission. I conveyed greetings from Jean-Claude Juncker. We have invited President Putin to pay a reciprocal visit to Bulgaria and will be pleased to receive him. President Radev also said this.
"Building infrastructure on our part of the Balkan Peninsula has been a long-standing tradition since the Russian-Turkish war. We urge all representatives of this region to maintain peaceful relations, renounce armed conflicts, develop their industry and infrastructure, and increase GDP.
"We talked about ending the conflict in Syria to stop the flood of migrants to Europe. We are striving for peace, dialogue and compromise.
"There is no point in talking about the traditionally good relations between Bulgaria and Russia. In conclusion, I would like to wish you success in hosting the FIFA World Cup. You will be in the focus of attention.
"I would like to mention the good work that our respective special services did in terms of countering money laundering, terrorism and migration. I hope this will continued.
"I wish you success in holding the World Cup and wish the best in trying to win it.
Q&As - Borisov: 'We Know About The Difficult Relations In The Past And Are Grateful To Our Colleagues For Not Being Vindictive And The Fact That Russian-Bulgarian Relations Do Not Depend On The Extent Of Guilt Of Some Politicians'
Question: "As we understand it, Bulgaria plans to build a gas distribution center. Did you talk about gas volumes and prices?
"And, if you will, I would like to ask Mr. Putin an additional question. You noted that the meeting with Mr. Borisov is taking place after a fairly long time. Did you discuss the Skripal case?"
Vladimir Putin: "No, we did not talk about the Skripal case. I hope that at some point we will conduct a substantive discussion with our British colleagues on this issue.
"As for the meeting with Mr. Borisov, I talked about this. We discussed the issues in detail, including energy cooperation. I believe people in Bulgaria know that our company LUKOIL alone has invested over $3 billion in Bulgaria. The activities of this Russian company amount to 9 percent of Bulgaria’s GDP; a quarter of the Bulgarian budget revenue is generated from the activities of just this one Russian company. I think these are telling facts.
"We have very good experience in cooperating in the hydrocarbon and nuclear power industries. We discussed all these issues today. As Mr. Prime Minister said, and I can confirm this, we have always discussed the opportunities for Turkish Stream to reach Europe, including via Bulgaria, with our Turkish partners.
"President Erdogan of Turkey confirmed this again during our telephone conversation yesterday. We are working on this in practical terms with our Turkish and Bulgarian friends. I know that Bulgaria is building certain transit capacities on its territory. As for the volume and prices, this is up to the companies involved – there are many purely commercial economic issues that are within their competence."
Boyko Borisov: "I can say that the market will determine the prices depending on transit volumes. We have discussed this with our Russian colleagues. Having parted with the planned economy a long time ago, Russia has established a market. For those who offer us the best prices and contract terms, we are striving to become a transit country, receive proper revenue and remain within the gas distribution system that passes through Turkey, Greece, Italy and Albania…
"We know about the difficult relations in the past and are grateful to our colleagues for not being vindictive and the fact that Russian-Bulgarian relations do not depend on the extent of guilt of some politicians. We are thinking about the future economic development of our two countries.
"As for your question, we talked about this last March. I would like to thank President Putin for his attitude once again. I am to blame for creating certain tensions, but there were meetings in Gdansk and Sofia and we have spoken by telephone. When it came to the worst and I wanted to talk, my calls were always answered. And I really accept part of the guilt for those developments.
"As for Skripal, this has nothing to do with us."
Vladimir Putin: "I can only add that the issues of supply volumes, transit or hubs need to be resolved in the general context of our energy supplies to the European market.
"The construction of Nord Stream 2 is a big topic of discussion right now. How much will we distribute via the new pipeline? This is the question. How much will still be sent through Ukraine, and we are ready to maintain Ukrainian transit, – this is another question. How much do our consumers need now and how much in the short term?
"But what we talked about today with the Prime Minister are absolutely realistic points because the work on Turkish Stream is almost complete. We have already finished one line across the bottom of the Black Sea. This section is finished. Now we are beginning the onshore construction in Turkey.
"In addition, we signed the necessary agreements and documents with Turkey regarding the construction on Turkish territory. The second line is half-built. This is just over 200 km across the seabed; the entire distance is 400 km or so, I believe. Therefore, everything we are talking about is becoming reality – and very soon."
Boyko Borisov: "It is very important to clarify that it is impossible to lay a direct line because the second section of Turkish Stream has already been laid. But if we make sure that Bulgaria is a stable, reliable and predictable gas distribution center for European countries, the additional pipeline will cost around 9 billion euros.
"We can continue these talks and leave the door open if we prove our genuine interest. The Bulgarian public does not know this but Gazprom and Vladimir Putin relieved us from paying around 800 million euros to Italian companies for the platforms that they delivered to the Burgas port."
Vladimir Putin: "Gazprom covered the penalty. Gazprom’s total loss due to cancellation of the South Stream accounted for around 800 million euros, which was written off as a loss."
Question: "I have a question for Mr. President and Mr. Prime Minister. You spoke about energy cooperation and mentioned the Nord Stream 2 and South Stream projects. Here is my question: South Stream has not been implemented but Bulgaria has indicated its interest in new projects of this kind. Are there concerns that they could be jeopardized without guarantees from Bulgaria and the other EU countries?
"Also, I would like to ask your opinion about Azerbaijan’s Southern Gas Corridor. How does it relate to Turkish Stream, and what do you think about the EU support for Azerbaijan’s project and its exemption from the Third Energy Package?"
Vladimir Putin: "As for the first part of your question, I believe that Mr. Prime Minister and I have already spoken about this in detail. We regret, and, as far as I can see, Bulgaria regrets as well that the South Stream project has not been implemented, because everyone knows that it would have greatly benefited Bulgaria.
"We can approach the matter from a different side, in this case via Turkey. I can say once again that we are for it. I have told Mr. Prime Minister that we are ready to build this pipeline along the agreed route.
"As for Azerbaijan’s Southern Gas Corridor that you have mentioned, we welcome any economic activity in this sphere. We welcome diversification in the field of energy supplies to the European market, because this creates market conditions, which is exactly what we want.
"The only thing of concern to us, which we continue to discuss with our partners in Brussels, is that market conditions must be equal for all parties. As far as I know, the Southern Gas Corridor has been given special incentives, including exemption from the Third Energy Package.
"In this context, why were similar conditions not offered to South Stream, a project that has not been realized, unfortunately? Is Bulgaria inferior to any other country in this respect?
"We believe that these problems will be eventually settled during the talks and discussions with our Brussels partners. Ultimately, everyone wants the situation on the European energy market to satisfy the interests of all parties, including suppliers and consumers."
Boyko Borisov: "President Putin was very clear when he said that a market-based approach must guide our actions. Bulgaria has already built a pipeline linking it to Turkey, and the construction of pipelines to Romania and Serbia is underway. Another pipeline with Turkey will be built this year, and the pipeline to Greece has already been launched towards Thessaloniki, and a pipeline to Macedonia. We are developing our gas transportation infrastructure using our own funds, and new compressor stations have been installed. This means that we are creating wonderful opportunities for delivering cheap gas to the market. These efforts promote competition, which in turn is a major driver for economic development.
"Those who are able to offer gas at the lowest price will be able to gain a foothold in the market. Bulgaria has adopted a special approach on this matter. We are the most loyal and the most disciplined country in the European Union. This is the reason why all the pipelines bypassed our territory. We hope that today we have redressed an injustice.
"These pipelines now go through Turkey, a NATO member, as well as Greece and Italy, who are also NATO members. We had backed out of these projects for the sake of principle, which complicated our relations with Russia. So I am very grateful that Russia holds no grudge against us. A senior partner is always more inclined to grant forgiveness."
Vladimir Putin: "This matter was raised during talks with Mr. Prime Minister. The question of who should be viewed as a senior and who as a junior partner is quite confusing for me, since it is usually the senior partner that is expected to foot the bill. We do understand however what this is all about. We do understand, as does Bulgaria, that large-scale projects require guarantees, primarily financial guarantees, which could be executed as either sovereign guarantees granted by the Bulgarian Government or resolutions adopted by the European Commission to this effect. We intend to move forward along both of these tracks. Everyone has a clear understanding of what is going on, and no one wants to see any failures or disruptions again. On the contrary, what everyone wants is to move forward."
Boyko Borisov: "Jean-Claude Juncker headed a European Commission delegation that came to Sofia and presented a plan of the Balkan gas distribution hub to the media. This project is backed by our European partners, who met with President Putin over the past few days. I am referring to Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron and Sebastian Kurz. This time we stated our position with the utmost clarity, since this is a matter of principle for Bulgaria, as well as for the European Union."
Putin hugs Bulgarian PM Borisov (Source: Novinite.com)
- By the end of June, the Bulgarian Ministry of Energy must provide Russia with the various options for using the Belene NPP equipment. This is written in a summary of the talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Bulgarian counterpart Rumen Radev in Sochi. (Novinite.com, May 23, 2018; Read the full article)
- On May 30, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov and his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev, discussed the deepening of trade and economic cooperation, as well as in the field of energy, tourism and transport. (Novinite.com, May 30, 2018; Read the full article)
 Kremlin.ru, May 22, 2018.
See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 7493, Russia This Week – May 27, 2018, May 26, 2018.
 Tass.com, May 21, 2018.
 Kommersant.ru, May 21, 2018.
 Russian intervention followed the massacres perpetrated by the Turks in quelling an uprising in Bulgaria. It stirred pan-Slavic sentiment in Russia, and also immobilized Britain's Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, the architect of Britain's pro-Ottoman policy from coming to Turkey's assistance.
 Euronews.com, May 24, 2018.
 Kremlin.ru, May 30, 2018.