Russian energy firm Gazprom has prepared an alternative plan for the prospective South Stream natural gas pipeline’s route in the event that the project does not pass through Bulgaria, as originally intended, according to a Russian newspaper report.
The South Stream project, whose final destinations are seen being Italy and Austria, could pass through Greece and Turkey rather than Bulgaria, Russian newspaper Vzglyad noted on Monday.
Bulgaria’s interim government, which assumed control of the country on August 6, recently halted work on the project’s Bulgarian segment after being warned by the European Commission that it would be penalized if a bilateral agreement with Moscow on the project’s construction, deemed by the European Union’s executive body as a breach of EU law, were not renegotiated.
According to the Vzglyad report, Russian President Vladimir Putin had strongly suggested during a meeting with journalists late last May that alternative plans for the pipeline’s route were possible.
The newspaper article also quoted Turkish Energy and Natural Resources Minister Taner Yildiz as saying that Ankara supported the idea of a South Stream corridor through Turkey, rather than Bulgaria.
Likewise, Greek Energy Minister Yiannis Maniatis had asked Gazprom officials to examine the option of a South Stream corridor through Greece during talks at a recent energy conference in Athens.
Sources contacted by the Russian newspaper said that a route through Turkey was not a top preference for Moscow, as it was longer and Russia would prefer it to go via Serbia and Hungary.
Bulgaria is currently believed to be making revisions that would bring the project in line with EU law, before it seeks to restart development. The European Commission has commended the effort.
The European Union is believed to be preparing for talks with Bulgarian officials on the matter to ensure that it is realigned with EU law.
Also, Bulgaria Energy Holding, the firm responsible for the South Stream project’s Bulgarian segment, has suspended competitive bidding procedures and the signing of any contracts relevant to South Stream, the company has announced.