ECONOMY

In Brief

EIB agrees to help with Bulgarian highways SOFIA (AFP) – The European Investment Bank agreed yesterday to help build Bulgarian highways together and said it could also provide financing for Sofia’s part of the Nabucco gas pipeline project. «Bulgaria has the right to get funds from the EU budget but you have to be ready with projects,» EIB President Philippe Maystadt said after talks with Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov. «So we discussed not only what the EIB could do to finance but also what the EIB could do to help prepare the projects,» Maystadt said, noting that highway plans were a «priority» in the talks. «Next month we will start the technical assessment for the preparation of the Struma Highway… which is part of the EU Corridor 4 [between Germany and Turkey],» Maystadt said. According to Borisov, the EIB will help co-fund the 156-kilometer (97-mile) link from Sofia to the Kulata border checkpoint with Greece, which is to be built with money from the EU Transport Operational Program. EIB experts would also «monitor and control» the project, Borisov said without elaborating. Italian minister says three pipelines ‘incompatible’ Italian Industry Minister Paolo Romani said the South Stream, ITGI and Nabucco pipelines designed to bring natural gas to Europe from Russia, the Caspian and Central Asia are incompatible. «Nabucco, South Stream and ITGI are incompatible, given European financing, and Europe, through an accord among the large nations, has to find a definitive accord,» Romani told reporters in Rome yesterday. The European Union has agreed to help fund the 7.9-billion-euro ($10.7 billion) Nabucco pipeline, planned to ship Caspian gas via Turkey to Austria. The venture, led by OMV AG, is competing with South Stream, a project headed by OAO Gazprom and Italy’s Eni SpA. Interconnector Turkey-Greece-Italy, or ITGI, led by Edison SpA, Greek natural gas supplier Depa SA and Botas, is also vying for Caspian gas. The Nabucco partners, which also include Essen, Germany-based RWE AG, Budapest-based Mol Nyrt, Bulgargaz EAD, Romania’s Transgaz SA and Ankara-based Botas, have said they will decide on the investment this year. Nabucco, which has been bogged down by financing, pricing and politics, is aiming to get supplies from the Iraq and the Caspian. «Sooner or later Europe will have to face the problem either by making a choice or by making the three gas pipelines compatible,» Romani said. «We need more clarity on the strategy of the European Commission and in particular of Commissioner Guenther Oettinger.» Suggestions that the Nabucco and South Stream pipelines may merge were rejected by the EU’s executive body last week. Both the Nabucco and South Stream routes avoid Ukraine, with the EU project going through Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Austria, and South Stream running under the Black Sea from the Russian to the Bulgarian coast. (Bloomberg) Cypriot energy Israeli energy company Delek is proposing a partnership with neighboring Cyprus to build a facility on the island for processing and exporting natural gas discovered in the eastern Mediterranean. In a January 9 letter addressed to Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias, Delek CEO Assi Bartfeld says the multipurpose facility also would be used to meet Cyprus’s domestic energy needs «for decades.» The letter was shown to The Associated Press on Thursday by a Cyprus government official who requested anonymity because the potential deal was still being discussed. In the letter, Bartfeld says the gas would come from the Leviathan field discovered off Israel that contains more than 450 billion cubic meters (15.9 trillion cubic feet) of natural gas, as well as deposits believed to lie inside Cypriot waters near the Israeli finds. Delek also would build facilities at the site to liquefy the gas and produce other liquid fuels for export to «consumers all over the world.» «We are confident that this project will enable Cyprus to satisfy its domestic energy needs from a clean and cheap source and to transform Cyprus from an importer of energy to a regional hub for exporting natural gas,» the letter says. (AP)